East Carolina, Florida State Among Other Top Classes
College baseball recruiting is a cyclical process by nature. A year after landing a monster class, teams typically fill needs with smaller classes. With just 11.7 scholarships at their disposal, college baseball teams can't afford to pursue big-ticket recruits annually.
Which is why Vanderbilt's recruiting success is unprecedented in college baseball's current era. For the second straight year, the Commodores top Baseball America's rankings of the top recruiting classes to show up on campuses in the fall (subscribers can see this chart for a detailed breakdown of the class). In the 13-year history of the rankings, the only other school to produce more than one top-ranked class is Arizona State (2000, 2008).
But this is Vandy's third No. 1 class—its first was the watershed 2005 class led by Pedro Alvarez. Since then, the 'Dores have produced a top 25 class every year, and they haven't ranked lower than 13th since 2006. Incidentally, a program that made no regionals between 1981 and 2003 has been to the NCAA tournament every year since 2006, including two super regionals and its first-ever trip to Omaha. During that stretch, the only other Southeastern Conference teams to make regionals every year are South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas.
It isn't easy to compete annually in the unrelentingly deep SEC, but Vanderbilt has certain advantages over its peers. As the only private school in the conference, Vandy can offer potential recruits the experience of playing in the nation's premier league along with an elite education.
"I really think it comes down to being able to recruit kids that have academics in mind as well as baseball and want to be very good at both," Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. "That type of kid is just more likely to come to school, so we profit from that. We've had fine coaches here that have done a great job at developing kids. It's the academics and the ability to develop within this culture."
The Commodores have employed some of the nation's best recruiters, from Erik Bakich (now the head coach at Michigan) to Josh Holliday (who left this summer for the head job at Oklahoma State). Corbin takes a hands-on approach as well, and pitching coach Derek Johnson and volunteer Larry Day are also heavily involved.
Holliday, who also reeled in a top-ranked class as Arizona State's recruiting coordinator in 2008, emphasized the importance of the Vanderbilt culture that Corbin has created.
"Tim Corbin is as good as there is in all phases; he's a wonderful human being, a great coach—I love him," Holliday said. "D.J. (Johnson) is as good as there is at what he does. They have great people in a great conference, in a beautiful city. There's a genuine family atmosphere there that I think people find very attractive. Corbs and his wife view that program as a family."
As a testament to the affection that Vandy players have for the program and for the city of Nashville, Corbin points out that Alvarez, David Price, Ryan Flaherty, Mike Minor and Sonny Gray are among the two dozen or so former 'Dores who have made Nashville their offseason home. Having those players around the program offers a significant benefit.
"They just have a unique sell: 'Come get a $250,000 degree, come play in the SEC, here's Pedro Alvarez and David Price,'" said one rival SEC recruiter. "Nashville's a great city, they have a great campus. They just have a really good package to sell right now, and they have an abnormal amount of institutional aid."
A certain amount of jealousy comes through when SEC rivals discuss Vanderbilt's ability to supplement their 11.7 scholarships with need-based and merit-based financial aid.
"They've got that incredible financial aid office—they're dealing with about 30 scholarships," says another SEC coach. "But how they beat the draft is they've got that incredible education. You have to really pay them to get them away from Vanderbilt. When you've got that kind of scholarship for that kind of education, it's hard to say no."
Of course, when the cost of attendance is $61,000 per year, even a 70 percent scholarship leaves families footing a significant bill. But the Vanderbilt education and baseball experience is worth it for most.
That isn't to say the Commodores don't lose recruits to professional baseball. Even this year, Vandy lost signees Matt Olson and Collin Wiles to pro contracts. But the incredibly talented group that arrived on campus was fully dedicated to the Vanderbilt experience. Corbin raved about the maturity of this class, and so did Holliday.
"I felt that group of kids was as good a group of kids as I've ever been around. I thought that group was really unique and special," Holliday said. "They're physically gifted, responsive, committed to Vanderbilt, and their attitudes were great. I was pretty proud of those kids. When I arrived there at a program on the brink of great things, you just hope you can leave it as good as you found it."
After two straight top-ranked recruiting classes, Vanderbilt sure seems to be on the brink of even greater things.
SEC coaches know better than to rest on their laurels. Teams at the bottom of the standings one year are liable to win their divisions the next. Every program in the league is well coached and blessed with good facilities and fan support.
So no one should be surprised that Alabama and Auburn are on the rebound after missing regionals in 2012. A year after Mississippi and Mississippi State each brought in strong recruiting classes, their neighbors to the east followed suit with banner hauls of their own.
Alabama's No. 4 ranking is its highest ever, and its first Top 10 appearance since 2004. Auburn checks in at No. 9, its highest recruiting class ranking since 2007. Both rivals brought in deep, balanced classes filled with both upside and immediate contributors. For the Crimson Tide, which struggled through a 9-21 SEC campaign last year, this class is vital.
"Most of these guys were Alabama kids. The state was real good and we were able to take advantage of it," Tide recruiting coordinator Dax Norris said. "This class will get us back to where we were in the late '90s. We feel pretty strongly about that."
The poster boy is shortstop Mikey White, whose toughness and savvy could set the tone for Alabama for the next three years. "He's got all the extra things like leadership and game presence," a National League scout said. "I think he'll be a huge difference maker."
Auburn was hit harder than 'Bama in the draft, losing three of its marquee signees, but recruiting coordinator Scott Foxhall said a number of recruits who were originally viewed more as long-term projects wound up turning corners and developing more quickly than anticipated. Outfielder Sam Gillikin and righty Trey Wingenter, in particular, became the new linchpins of the class.
"I think there's some impact guys and some projectability guys in here," Foxhall said. "We lost two first-rounders and a third-rounder, and I was excited that our class was deep enough that I think it withstood those losses and is still really strong."
THE NEXT 10
With around 300 Division I college baseball programs, it isn't easy to break into the top 25 in the recruiting class rankings. Every fall, there is an endless supply of coaches who are convinced their class belongs in the rankings, but there are many more quality classes than there are spots in the top 25. Here's a list of the 10 teams that fell just outside our rankings, listed in alphabetical order. Below that, we present a region-by-region look at some other schools that brought in strong classes relative to a normal recruiting class at their school, in their conference or in their region.
Unsigned eighth-round pick Nick Halamandaris is a physically mature corner bat who figures to hit for both average and power. OF Devin Pearson was a three-sport star in high school whose premium athleticism and righthanded bat speed make him very intriguing. Max Dutto and Mitchell Kranson give this class two more physical lefty bats, while Ryan Mason, Jake Schulz, Jordan Talbot and Collin Monsour offer projection on the mound.
RHP Justin Taylor (No. 313 in the predraft BA 500) has an athletic pitcher's frame at 6-foot-4, a fastball that bumps 94 and a promising slider. Juco transfer Zach Houchins (No. 416) ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Coastal Plain League this summer thanks to his plus arm, good defensive footwork and gap-to-gap bat. Undersized OF Garrett Brooks is a gamer with good speed and baseball instincts, and C Luke Lowery brings righthanded power potential.
OF Jameis Winston (No. 59), the latest Florida State football quarterback who plans to also play baseball, is one of the nation's most intriguing wild cards. He has plus speed, good bat speed from both sides and a plus arm, but his high-profile football career clouds his baseball status. Expect OF D.J. Stewart (No. 405)—himself a former star running back in high school—to make a bigger impact thanks to his compact, strong lefthanded stroke and hard-nosed approach. 2B Alvin Swoope is another undersized sparkplug in the mold of former Seminole Devon Travis. RHP Robby Coles is a low-slot sinkerballer in the 86-89 range, evoking former FSU reliever Daniel Bennett.
The Bulldogs brought in the best class in the West Coast Conference, highlighted by RHPs Taylor Jones (No. 383) and Andrew Sopko (an unsigned 14th-round pick by the Padres). A former basketball player, the 6-foot-7 Jones is a good athlete who oozes projection, though his 85-89 fastball and inconsistent curveball need more power. Sopko has surprising polish for a product of Montana (which doesn't have high school baseball); he throws strikes with three pitches, including a high-80s fastball that bumps 91. C Jimmy Sinatro has good catch-and-throw skills and a promising line-drive bat, and SS Cabe Reiten also has a chance to be a defensive standout. RHP Michael Rucker can reach the low 90s and has a closer's mentality.
Long Beach State
RHP David Hill (No. 188) throws strikes with an 89-93 mph fastball and a tight 80-83 slider, and if his promising changeup develops into a reliable third pitch he can an ace for the Dirtbags. LHP J.C. Cloney is a strike-thrower with feel for pitching and a fastball in the 84-88 range—one evaluator called him "a poor man's Tommy Milone." Long Beach hopes JC transfers Shane Carle and Ryan Millison can bolster the pitching staff, but scouts aren't convinced either is an impact recruit. 3B Zack Rivera might be, thanks to the strength in his righthanded swing. Baseball rat Eric Hutting (younger brother of Fullerton's Anthony Hutting) should be a solid contributor.
Scouts are excited about C Stuart Turner, a physical junior-college transfer with very good receiving skills, a solid arm, and a powerful righthanded bat that should fit in the middle of the Rebels' lineup. Six-foot-6 RHP Jacob Waguespack has plenty of upside and present stuff that is already solid: an 88-92 fastball that bumps 94 and a promising 80 mph slider. RHP Brady Bramlett runs his heater up to 92-93 with good extension and life, and his secondary stuff is developing. Christian Helsel has good infield actions and should compete for the starting second base job.
Like Ole Miss, the Bulldogs followed up last year's banner haul with a smaller class, but MSU is very excited about a pair of undersized, dynamic Canadian freshmen: IF Kyle Hahn and OF Jacob Robson. The barrel-chested, 5-foot-8 Hahn reminds coach John Cohen of Kirby Puckett physically; he moves well on the infield, and the ball jumps off his bat. Robson is a premium runner with a good feel for hitting from the left side. C Daniel Garner has big-time righthanded power potential and a strong arm behind the plate, though his defense still has a ways to go. Undersized RHP John-Marc Shelly has run his fastball up to 95 and has a power slider around 85, giving him a chance to be a valuable max-effort bullpen piece.
Unsigned 12th-round pick Billy Waltrip (No. 181) is one of the better junior-college recruits in the nation, with a fastball that reaches 95 from the left side and a slider with late action and depth. OU's pitching coach, Jack Giese, is a former assistant at Howard (Texas) JC, and this class is loaded with Howard transfers: SS/2B Hector Lorenzana (a defense-oriented middle infielder who handles the bat), OF Colt Bickerstaff (who brings some lefthanded pop and could start in right field) and LHP Ethan Carnes (a touch-and-feel lefty who throws four pitches for strikes). Scrappy OF Craig Aikin has good speed and could be a disruptive catalyst.
LHP Cole Irvin (No. 273) has both serious projection and uncommon feel for pitching, helping him rank as the No. 5 prospect in the West Coast League this summer. He pitches mostly in the 86-88 range currently but bumped the low 90s this summer, and he has good feel for a changeup—he should be a big star for the Ducks. RHP Clayton Crum (No. 238), another transfer from Howard (Texas) JC, is a Tommy John surgery survivor with a 90-94 fastball, a quality slider and average changeup. C/RHP Josh Graham has flashed mid-90s heat off the mound, but the Ducks will focus on developing him as a catcher first. He also has some strength in his righthanded swing.
RHP Kevin McCanna (No. 407) isn't overly physical and lacks big-time velocity (87-91), but he more than makes up for it with his polish. He locates his fastball well and has advanced feel for his slider and changeup. SS/CF Leon Byrd is a 5-foot-7 switch-hitter with gap power, plus speed, good arm strength, excellent baseball instincts and loads of energy. Connor Tekyl stands out for his fluid lefthanded swing and soft hands in the infield. C Hunter Kopycinski has a plus arm and good athleticism, but his bat needs to develop.
TOP 25 RECRUITING CLASSES
5. North Carolina
8. Arizona State
11. Texas Christian
12. UC Santa Barbara
14. Louisiana State
15. Texas A&M
16. South Carolina
17. Fresno State
19. Southern California
23. Cal State Fullerton
Off the Bat: Texas Proves Its Resiliency, UCLA Gets Marquee Series Win
Texas and UCLA both grabbed marquee series wins, among the highlights around college baseball this weekend.
OTHER TOP CLASSES BY REGION
• Washington's small class is headlined by OF/RHP Braden Bishop (No. 284), a toolsy former football player with a nice line-drive swing, plus speed, plus arm strength in center field and a 92 mph fastball off the mound. He could quickly establish himself as UW's centerpiece for the next three years. C Austin Rei stands out for his advanced catch-and-throw skills, but his bat is a work in progress. Six-foot-7 RHP Trevor Dunlap, a juco transfer, has an 89-93 mph fastball and could find a spot in the rotation.
• Washington State landed three intriguing position players. 2B Shea Donlin has a knack for grinding out at-bats, reminding new WSU recruiting coordinator Pat Waer of former Fresno State star Erik Wetzel. Quick-twitch OF Austin Pernell has serious bat speed in his lefthanded swing and plus-plus speed. C/RHP J.J. Robinson has lefthanded power potential and a strong arm, which produces 93 mph heat off the mound. Also keep an eye on 6-foot-6 RHP Chris McDowell, who owns a very good changeup and a high-80s fastball that bumps the low 90s.
• Oregon State's class isn't as strong as many of its recent groups, but it meets the Beavers' needs. 3B Jerad Casper has some sock in his bat and a strong arm, reminding the coaches of former Beaver Stefan Romero. RHP Andrew Moore is a Sam Gaviglio type with good feel for pitching, an 87-91 fastball and the makings of a good curveball. LHP Tyler Painton and RHP Clay Bauer offer projection.
• Pacific landed its best recruit in years: OF Giovanni Brusa (No. 177) is a switch-hitter with power from both sides, average speed in the outfield and a decent arm. The Tigers are also excited about 6-foot-7 RHP Patrick Weigel, who can reach 94 mph but needs to develop his secondary stuff. 3B J.J. Wagner has good hands and a strong arm at third base, and intriguing bat speed at the plate.
• New Mexico reeled in a strong group of juco transfers, headlined by Western Nevada JC righthanders Tyler Spencer (No. 272) and Anthony Consiglio. Spencer has late life on a 91-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and mixes in a solid cutter and changeup. Consiglio, fellow transfer A.J. Carman and freshmen Taylor Duree and Tyler Rowe give UNM's pitching depth a nice boost. The slightly built Duree has touched 92 from a low three-quarters slot but needs to add strength and improve his secondary stuff. Switch-hitting infielder Sam Haggerty should compete for an everyday role immediately.
• San Diego State built its class around polished defensive catcher C.J. Saylor (No. 426), who has a plus arm and a quick release. Scouts aren't sold on his bat, however. The arms in this class did not generate much buzz in the spring, but the Aztecs say RHP Bowdien Derby can run his fastball into the 92-94 range to go with a good slider. 3B Ty France has some righthanded power potential.
• Cal State Bakersfield believes its recruiting class is the strongest in the five-year history of the program. Speedy, athletic SS Mylz Jones could be a cornerstone piece, and SS/RHP Chance Gusbeth has good arm strength and defensive versatility. The Roadrunners hope Chris Mallon is their catcher of the future, citing his promising defensive skills and pop in his righthanded bat.
UPPER MIDWEST/GREAT PLAINS
• Michigan landed the top-ranked recruit in the Big Ten: lean, projectable LHP Evan Hill (No. 165) has an effortless delivery, an 86-88 mph fastball that bumps 91, a promising curveball and changeup. SS/3B Travis Maezes gives this class a second potential impact player, thanks to his advanced feel for hitting from the left side and solid athleticism.
• The No. 2 high school prospect in the state of Michigan—and the No. 2 incoming prospect in the Big Ten—is RHP Justin Alleman (No. 318), who anchors Michigan State's class. Alleman flashes better present stuff than Hill, touching 94 with his fastball and flashing a hard three-quarters breaking ball, but he's still learning to repeat his delivery and fine-tune his command. OF Cameron Gibson followed his father Kirk's path to Michigan State, where his high energy level and lefthanded power potential could make him an impact player with some refinement.
• While there isn't a clear-cut standout class in the Big Ten, there are a number of very solid classes that have legitimate cases for best class in the conference. Iowa landed a physical specimen with a power arm and a power bat in 6-foot-5 C/1B/RHP Blake Hickman. RHP Calvin Mathews has an 89-92 mph fastball and good feel for his breaking ball, and his Iowa high school teammate Josh Martsching could make a difference in the infield and off the mound.
• Illinois might have the deepest class in the league. Projectable LHP J.D. Nielsen repeats his delivery well and has good feel for his breaking ball. C Jason Goldstein has good blocking and receiving skills, a solid arm and gap power. RHP Ryan Castellanos, younger brother of Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos, is a winner with a good three-pitch mix. Athletic SS Adam Walton has plus speed, good range and soft hands at short. And OF/IF Ryan Nagle's smooth lefthanded swing could get him into the lineup early on.
• Ohio State's centerpiece is RHP Jake Post, whose athletic frame and clean arm action suggest he'll add more velocity to a fastball that already reaches 92 mph. He looks ticketed for the midweek starter role as a freshman, but he could earn a weekend spot if his secondary stuff takes a step forward. 3B Jake Bosiokovic is a long-levered slugger with significant offensive upside, and SS/2B Troy Kuhn stands out for his energy and slick infield actions.
• Minnesota's offense should get a much-needed boost from SS Connor Schaefbauer, CF Dan Moti and 1B Alex LaShomb. Schaefbauer and Moti bring speed and athleticism, while juco transfer LaShomb provides righthanded pop. RHP Alex Crawford has good command of an 88-92 mph fastball with plenty of sink.
• Louisville brought in one of its smaller classes to fill needs, but it still landed a nice headliner in RHP Kyle Funkhouser (No. 360), a physical power pitcher with good feel for his 87-93 mph fastball and 79-81 slurve. 3B Dan Rosenbaum is the top position player in this class—a physical doubles machine with solid athleticism and defensive skills at the hot corner.
• Cincinnati brought in its best recruiting class in years—and one of the best in the Big East. The anchor is two-way talent Mitch Patishall, who touched 92-93 from the right side in the spring and features a promising 75-77 curveball and mid-70s changeup, making him a potential weekend starter from the get-go. Switch-hitting SS Ian Happ is a quality all-around player with solid speed, plus arm strength, and the ability to handle the bat from both sides of the plate. He has a good chance to play as a freshman, as do grinders Devin Wenzel and Forrest Perron. 1B Jeff Murray brings intriguing lefthanded pop.
• Notre Dame also brought in a solid group, led by SS Lane Richards, a slick defender with a strong arm, a quick release, average range and an improving bat. C Ricky Sanchez has good bat speed and a feel for hitting to all fields, as well as a strong catch-and-throw foundation. LHP/OF Zac Kutsulis can run his fastball up to 89 with good run and sink, and he brings a smooth lefthanded stroke at the plate.
• Coming off its College World Series trip, Kent State's class stands out in the Mid-American Conference. Smallish RHP Taylor Williams, a transfer from Mount Hood (Ore.) CC, could be a valuable late-innings piece in the bullpen thanks to a fastball that reaches 95 and a solid slider. RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg is a strike-thrower with command of four pitches and a fastball that bumps 90. Infielders Justin Wagler and Curtis Olvey have good pop and should be middle-of-the-order bats at Kent State in time.
• Western Kentucky got immediate help with five solid juco transfers, led by a pair of hard-throwing righties who can reach 94 mph in Andrew Edwards and Mason Justice. On the prep side, OF/LHP Anderson Miller should be a quality two-way contributor; he has a smooth arm action that produces 86-89 mph fastballs currently, and an easy lefthanded stroke at the plate.
• Missouri State might have found the next in its long line of aces in RHP Jonathan Harris, a projectable 6-foot-4 beanpole with a fastball that scrapes 91 and a pair of promising secondary pitches. As he gets stronger, his stuff should gain power. Strike-throwing LHP Matt Hall is a winner who could be ready for a starting role as a freshman. OF Tate Matheny, son of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, is a high-energy grinder with athleticism, though scouts aren't convinced he has impact ability.
• Indiana State built on the momentum of its Missouri Valley Conference championship with a big class anchored by a group of solid juco transfers. LHP Jeff Degano can reach the low 90s with a good breaking ball, and 6-foot-6 RHP Daniel Peterson figures to add more velocity to his 88-90 mph fastball in time. The Sycamores are counting on powerful OF/C Mike Fitzgerald to help replace Valley player of the year Jeremy Lucas in the heart of their order.
• Kansas brought in a solid group led by three drafted players: IF Tommy Mirabelli, LHP Tyler Watson and RHP Hayden Edwards. The undersized Mirabelli, son of the Indians' assistant GM, has a compact lefthanded swing and a mature approach, and he can play all over the infield. The 5-foot-10 Watson and the 6-7 Edwards present a contrast in styles, but both are polished enough to earn valuable innings as freshmen.
• Seven players in Todd Whitting's first class at Houston were drafted, and four of them signed, but three potential impact arms showed up on campus. RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon (No. 438), a transfer from Cypress (Calif.) JC, has touched 94 and shown a promising slider/cutter and curveball at his best, though he had an inconsistent spring. RHP Jacob Lemoine was similarly uneven this spring, but at his best he reaches 91-92 and flashes a potential out pitch in his slider. Like Lemoine, LHP Jared West has a projectable frame and could turn into a premium pick in three years if his 85-89 mph fastball adds velocity and his promising curveball/changeup combination continues to improve.
• Dallas Baptist believes its large recruiting class is its most talented ever. Des Moines Area CC righthanders Paul Voelker and Cody Beam have power arms and should earn key innings this spring. Voelker's 90-92 fastball 82-83 slider should fit well in the late innings, while Beam's three-pitch mix (including a fastball that bumps 94) could ticket him for the rotation. Freshman RHPs Cory Taylor and Joseph Shaw are cornerstone arms to build around, both capable of reaching 94 mph as well.
• Baylor has had success in recent years targeting blue-collar players with solid but not standout tools, and this class fits that same mold. The anchor is LHP Sterling Wynn, who sits at 89-90 and bumps 92-93 with a good changeup and the makings of a solid breaking ball. C Matt Menard, a physical former football player, has a nice righthanded stroke with power potential. West Tunnell and Brett Doe bring athleticism and strong defensive skills to the infield.
• Oral Roberts upgraded its speed and athleticism with the additions of juco transfers OF Tyler Boss and 2B Matt Brandy. 1B Garrett Greenwell, another mature junior-college transfer, brings good power to the middle of the order. RHPs Guillermo Trujillo, Gavin Glanz and Pepe Gomez all work in the 88-91 range and have decent feel for pitching.
• The top class in the Southland Conference belongs to Southeastern Louisiana, which brought in a deep, balanced class led by C Jameson Fisher, a gifted lefthanded hitter whose defense needs to improve. 2B/3B Gabe Woods, who started his collegiate career at Mississippi, has a compact righthanded swing and a good feel for his barrel. Projectable three-quarters RHP Mason Klotz has an outstanding slider and an average changeup, while RHP/3B Vito Perna has an 87-90 changeup, a stellar changeup and some righthanded pop at the plate.
• The other Southland class that stands out belongs to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which overhauled its roster with 25 newcomers, addressing key needs around the infield and behind the plate. A trio of two-way players—Zach Nichols, Oshea Dumes and Kaleb Keith—provide physicality and versatility, while Brad Lamberti stabilizes the catching position thanks to his rifle arm and leadership skills. SS Brandon Tierney, who spent his freshman season as a kicker for Arkansas' football team before transferring to Iowa Western to play baseball, has a solid righthanded bat and plenty of intangibles.
• In the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Monroe brought in its best group of high school recruits in recent years and supplemented it with a large collection of solid junior-college transfers. SS Kodie Tidwell brings good infield actions, a strong arm and a good feel for hitting from the left side. OF Dalton Herrington, a transfer from LSU-Eunice, is a standout defender with some arm strength in center field, and he flashes occasional pop at the plate. C Dalton Todd produces consistent sub-2.0 pop times and has an advanced feel for receiving and game-calling.
• Elsewhere in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State focused on upgrading its athleticism and stockpiling power arms with its strong class. RHP/OF Adam Grantham addresses both of those goals, touching 93-94 off the mound while also bringing solid speed, good outfield defense, a knack for hitting and developing power. But he isn't the only potential impact two-way talent in this class: RHP/2B Tanner Ring is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed and a very good feel for pitching, while RHP/OF Derek Birginske brings big righthanded power and the ability to locate a mid-to-upper-80s fastball.
• Georgia Tech's seven-man class is led by SS Matt Gonzalez (No. 308), a tough-as-nails winner with legit bat speed from the right side, soft hands at shortstop and an average arm. He'll be a big star in college, and LHP Sam Clay (No. 366) should make an impact thanks to his 87-92 fastball from a three-quarters slot, plus curveball and promising change.
• Sean McNally and Edwin Thompson's final class at Duke has a marquee centerpiece in RHP James Marvel (No. 206), who mixes a 90-92 mph fastball with a curveball that flashes plus and a developing changeup. He has a good feel for pitching and also could contribute offensively. Kenny Koplove and Jake Cosart give this class two more quality two-way players. Koplove is an athletic shortstop who has touched 94 off the mound, and Cosart (brother of Astros prospect Jared Cosart) has a bazooka arm from the outfield and plenty of projection.
• Wake Forest found a couple of gems in the Sunshine State in SS Jack Curtis and CF/2B Joey Rodriguez. Curtis has a strong righthanded bat and a good arm, while Rodriguez has flashed five-tool potential, though his game needs refinement. Athletic LHP Mark McCoy from New Jersey has the makings of three average pitches in his fastball, changeup and curveball.
• Charlotte's class stands out in the Atlantic 10, as usual, and the 49ers believe their balanced group will help them make the transition to Conference USA in 2014. SS Matt Creech, OF Desmond Roberts and C Nick Daddio could all earn playing time early in their careers. Lanky LHPs Sean Geoghegan and Jason Harris have plenty of potential but need to get stronger.
• UNC Wilmington landed the CAA's best class, loaded with promising lefthanded bats and righthanded pitching. SS Terence Connelly is a dirtbag without a standout tool but plenty of advanced baseball skills; the Seahawks think he could be a four-year starter at shortstop. Sweet-swinging 1B/OF Andy Austin, athletic 3B Steven Linkous and physical C Gavin Stupienski give this class three more talented lefty bats. RHPs Evan Phillips and Nick Monroe each have average fastballs and good feel for their breaking balls.
• Coastal Carolina casts a wide net on the recruiting trail, landing key recruits from New York, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Washington, Illinois and Indiana. But perhaps its most interesting newcomer is one of its few in-state products: RHP Alex Cunningham, who sits at 88-92 and commands two solid offspeed pitches. The Chanticleers are also excited about 3B Zach Remillard, a New York prep product with good righthanded power and solid defensive skills.
• Samford's program has wind in its sails, as the Bulldogs followed their strong showing in regionals with the best recruiting class in the Southern Conference. A handful of juco transfers will provide immediate returns, as RHP Alex Milazzo and LHP Patrick McGavin are both very polished. That duo could comprise two-thirds of the weekend rotation, and 1B Caleb Bryson could step into the middle of the order thanks to his solid righthanded power. Slick-fielding middle infielders Fransico Navarette and Danny Rodriguez key building blocks in the freshman class.
• Kennesaw State's class stands out in the Atlantic Sun for its depth as well as the pair of drafted players who headline it. Physical RHP Jordan Hillyer (Marlins, 20th round) is an aggressive three-quarters guy with a power sinker and solid slider. OF Alex Liquori (Twins, 39) is a physical specimen with easy plus speed and plus raw power, though he needs to learn to translate his tools into game action. SS Kal Simmons, who originally committed to Florida State, is a switch-hitter with a nice lefthanded stroke and a strong arm on the left side of the infield. Skinny RHP Kendall Hawkins can bump 92-93 but needs to add strength.
• Sticking in the A-Sun, Stetson brought in its largest class in years, led by a trio of drafted players. Carlos Garmendia (Brewers, 19th round) can play all over the infield but could start immediately at third base, where his sure hands, quick feet and strong arm will be assets. He also has a nice righthanded swing with easy loft. Juco transfer K'Shawn Smith brings athleticism to the middle infield and a good line-drive swing, while two-way talent Kevin Fagan has a power bat and an arm that has generated 93 mph heat. 1B/C Patrick Mazeika also should be an impact hitter from the left side.
• Central Florida took some hits in the draft and did not land its deepest class in the Terry Rooney era, but it still ranks as one of the best classes in Conference USA. Big-bodied RHP Spencer Davis, one of a host of Howard (Texas) JC transfers scattered across the country, has an 89-93 fastball with good life and solid secondary stuff. RHP Zac Favre has deception and power from a sidearm slot, and RHP Tyler Martin has a solid three-pitch mix. Wiry OF Bo Decker has a knack for hitting despite an unorthodox approach.
• Like UCF, Memphis focused on upgrading its pitching depth. RHP Jon Reed stands out for his ability to locate three quality pitches, and crafty LHP Alex Gunn has an advanced feel for pitching. RHP/1B Xander Helton has an average fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and good lefthanded bat speed.
• Middle Tennessee State brought in a tiny class with just five newcomers, but one of them is a blue-chip recruit: RHP/IF Heath Slatton (No. 172) owns a 90-94 mph fastball and a clean arm action off the mound, and intriguing lefthanded power potential at the plate. OF Jake Ellison also brings power—from the right side—and a strong arm in right field.
• Troy has a deeper Sun Belt class, with a nice anchor in SS Garrett Pitts, a hard-nosed sparkplug with table-setter skills and good infield instincts. He started his collegiate career at Mississippi State before winding up in juco ball, and RHP Austin Sullivan began as a catcher at Ole Miss before finding success in the bullpen at Northwest Florida State JC. Matthew Howard provides infield depth and could see valuable innings late in games thanks to his deception, command and tenacity.
• Austin Peay State focused on rebuilding its pitching staff and landed the Ohio Valley Conference's top class. RHP/DH Lee Ridenhour was an impact freshman at Kansas in 2009 before winding up at Johnson County (Kan.) CC, and he could step into the Friday starter role for the Governors thanks to a 90-93 mph fastball and feel for three quality secondary pitches. LHP Zach Hall also should step into the weekend rotation thanks to his command of a fringe-average fastball and 12-to-6 curve. RHP Jared Carkuff ran his fastball into the mid-90s at times last spring and can get swings-and-misses with his slider.
• Mervyl Melendez and Jose Vasquez continue to upgrade the talent level at Alabama State, which brought in the top class in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The lone juco transfer in the class, RHP/3B Dexter Price, can reach 94 off the mound and provides righthanded power at the plate. SS/RHP Branden Castro is another impact two-way talent, with a chance to hit in the middle of the order and earn meaningful innings off the mound thanks to a 90-91 fastball and good slider. RHP Hunter McIntosh has a chance to be a front-line pitcher thanks to his swing-and-miss breaking ball and solid fastball.
• Melendez's successor at Bethune-Cookman, Jason Beverlin, brought in the best class in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. B-CU's big class includes nine freshmen and eight juco transfers, headlined by athletic middle-of-the-order bat Jordan Robinson and sure-handed SS Shaun McCarty.
• Erik Bakich's final class at Maryland before leaving for Michigan was built around a pair of quality arms in RHP Jared Price (No. 232) and LHP Alexander Robinson (No. 317). Price, the top draft prospect in Pennsylvania this spring, works in the 87-94 range and features a second plus pitch in his downer curveball. Robinson hides the ball well thanks to his herky-jerky delivery, high leg kick and low slot. He also has good stuff, with a fastball that bumps 93-94, a solid slider and sinking changeup.
• LHP Nathan Kirby would have been the top draft prospect in the state of Virginia if he hadn't been so emphatic about honoring his commitment to Virginia that he did not participate in the MLB Scouting Bureau's Top 200 Prospect Program, making him ineligible for the draft. With good command of an 88-92 fastball and a plus curveball with hard bite, Kirby could be a first-rounder in three years. RHP John Sborz has a quality three-pitch mix and can touch 93-94 on occasion. C Scott Williams has a strong arm behind the plate and plenty of strength in his durable 6-foot-1 frame.
• Boston College landed recruits from coast to coast, from Canada to Florida to California, but its biggest prize is Massachusetts 1B Chris Shaw, who has provocative raw power from the left side. LHP Austin Solecitto and RHP Michael Clouthier are proven winners with good pitchers' frame who should develop into key mound pieces for the Eagles.
• The other top classes in the Northeast belong to familiar names: Big East rivals Connecticut and St. John's, and America East Conference juggernaut Stony Brook. The Huskies built their class around a pair of undersized gamers with good infield actions and feel for hitting: Vin Siena and Brian Daniello. Competitive LHP Christian Coletti works in the mid- to upper 80s and spins a good curve.
• The Red Storm had plenty of holes to fill on its pitching staff, and replenished its staff with this class. Undersized LHP Alex Katz can touch 92 mph and has a good feel for pitching. RHP Mike McCormick offers projectability and solid current stuff: an 88-89 fastball and quality curve. RHP Anthony Rosati reaches 90-91 with a good slider.
• The Seawolves landed the region's highest-drafted recruit in 3B Johnny Caputo, a 12th-round pick by the Athletics. Physical and polished, Caputo has experience on a big stage with the Canadian Junior National Team, and his gap-to-gap bat will play early on. Projectable LHP Daniel Zamora is a strike-thrower with an 86-89 fastball, sharp curve and developing change. Quick-twitch infielder Brett Tenuto is an above-average runner with solid defensive actions and a nice line-drive stroke at the plate.
• Radford reeled in one of the top classes in the Big South, with a nice group of up-the-middle talents and a few interesting arms. SS Chris Coia and C Jordan Taylor are both quality defenders who will need to add strength offensively. RHP Dylan Nelson could be Radford's ace of the future thanks to his good feel for an average fastball, promising slider and changeup. LHP Michael Boyle also has a nice three-pitch mix, and RHP/IF Nygeal Andrews has intriguing bat speed and arm strength.
• Chris Finwood's first class at Old Dominion overhauls the roster with 13 freshmen and seven juco transfers. LHPs Andy Roberts and Ryan Yarbrough are polished juco transfers with command of three-pitches, including deceptive mid-80s fastballs. RHP Tommy Alexander, a freshman from Pennsylvania, attacks the zone with a mid-to-upper-80s fastball, a nice 73-76 curve and solid changeup. A pair of Yavapai (Ariz.) CC transfers—Jordan Negrini and Tyler Urps—could step into starting roles on the left side of the infield, as Urps is a slick defender at short and Negrini is a quality hitter with power potential and solid defense at third.