Under-The-Radar Recruiting Classes
Last week, we unveiled the Top 25 recruiting classes in the country and 10 more that just missed the cut. But with 298 Division I college baseball programs, there are plenty of other notable recruiting classes beyond the top echelon. Here we look at some more schools that brought in strong classes relative to a normal recruiting class at their school or in their conference.
The Hornets’ first class since Jose Vasquez was promoted to head coach and Drew Clark was elevated to recruiting coordinator last summer is a strong one. Righthander Darrius Wright, a junior college transfer, has a loose, exciting arm, throwing his fastball in the low 90s and touching 95 mph, to go with a good slider. He struggled with his control at times in junior college, but if he can harness his stuff, he could move to the front of Alabama State’s rotation. Freshmen righthanders Gage Dollar, Channing Walker and Dalton Wilder all could compete for starting spots thanks to their pitchability. Outfielder/righthander Austin Gardner is physical and toolsy, and figures to help the Hornets as a two-way player. He is a plus runner and produces impressive bat speed. On the mound, he throws in the low 90s and mixes in a slider. Shortstop Christopher De Guzman is reminiscent of Emmanuel Marrero, a former Alabama State star and fellow Puerto Rican native. De Guzman will need to get stronger to reach his offensive potential, but he is a true shortstop with the hands, arm strength and infield actions to excel defensively.
The Trojans brought in a class laden with junior college transfers as they look to bounce back from a tough season in the ever-stout Sun Belt Conference. Outfielder Marcus Ragan was drafted in the 15th round out of East Mississippi JC and brings a dynamic skill set to Little Rock. He is a well above-average runner with a good feel for hitting and surprising power. Righthander Donivan Buck began his college career as a linebacker at San Diego State, but decided he wanted to pursue baseball instead and transferred to Trinidad State (Colo.) JC. He has made significant strides on the mound, but still has some rawness to his game, particularly with his secondary pitches. But his fastball sits in the low 90s and cuts an imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. Nick Perez has mostly been a third baseman during his college career at Texas State and San Jacinto (Texas) JC, and has the potential to hit in the middle of the order for Little Rock. He also showed a big arm on the mound in high school, running his fastball up to 93 mph and if he can return to form, he could also help out of the bullpen.
The Mustangs brought in some exciting position players and a large group of pitchers, which will add needed depth to their staff. Righthander/first baseman Darren Nelson stands out for his 6-foot-8, 255-pound frame, and he has a powerful arm and bat. He throws from a steep downhill angle, filling up the strike zone with a fastball that gets up to 91 mph. While his future is likely on the mound, he will continue to hit and will add power to the lineup. Outfielders Cole Cabrera and Blake Wagenseller both have intriguing toolsets. Cabrera may be the fastest player on the team and has a chance to be Cal Poly’s center fielder of the future. Wagenseller is more physical and has a good combination of speed and power. On the mound, righthanders Taylor Dollard and Jack Zigan both have a long track record of strike throwing that should allow them to quickly help the Mustangs. Dollard throws his fastball in the upper 80s and mixes in a good slider, and is coming off an excellent summer in the West Coast League. Zigan, a Minnesota native, has a projectable frame and some deception in his delivery.
The Huskies reinforced a strong returning team with a solid recruiting class that fills some of their immediate needs. UConn brought in four junior college transfers, an unusually high number for the program, and all are ready to help. Lefthander Chase Gardner is listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and leverages his size to throw his heavy 88-92 mph fastball from a downhill angle. He mixes in a good changeup and slider and could take a spot in the Huskies’ rotation. Righthander Jeffrey Kersten is a steady, veteran presence on the mound who also has a chance to start. Michael Woodworth can play nearly anywhere on the field and has good on-base skills. Thad Philips adds a powerful bat to the lineup and depth behind the plate. UConn’s freshman class is headlined by righthander Joe Simeone, who attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball and a sharp slider. He has a funky, high-energy delivery, but still throws strikes and should fit at the back of the bullpen. Infielder Christian Fedko, who played with Simeone in the Futures League this summer, is an advanced hitter with a line-drive stroke, who could quickly work into the lineup.
The Cowboys are coming off their first regular-season Southland Conference title in 11 years and have brought in an impressive class as they look to continue that success. Lefthander Adam Goree is a native of Lake Charles and starred for powerhouse Barbe High, helping them to three straight state titles. He was sidelined last season by injury, but when he’s healthy he has a solid three-pitch mix and good pitchability. His twin brother Alex is a solid defender in the outfield and has a smooth lefthanded swing that will play well for the Cowboys. Third baseman Carson Maxwell, a junior college transfer, has a good feel for the barrel and should fit into the middle of the lineup. On the mound, righthanders John Boushelle, Chris Campbell and Cayne Ueckert all transferred from junior colleges and bring upside to McNeese’s staff if they can harness their stuff. Ueckert is the hardest thrower of the group, capable of running his fastball up to 93 mph. Boushelle began his college career at Kansas State and has an imposing 6-foot-6, 210 pound frame that helps his stuff play up. Campbell has a funky delivery and gets good movement on his fastball.
The Tigers brought in a couple key additions to shore up their pitching staff. Righthander Riley Cabral transfers in from Chipola (Fla.) JC after he went 11-1, 3.27 with a team-high 100 strikeouts in 74.1 innings this spring while helping the Indians win a national championship. He attacks hitters with a good fastball-slider combination and throws both pitches for strikes. Memphis has had success with sidearmers in the past, and righthander Carson Hall will hope to be the next in the Tigers’ bullpen. He throws a heavy fastball in the mid 80s and a sweeping slider that makes him a difficult matchup. Lefthander Tyler Mettetal was a late addition to the class, joining his twin brother Zach Mettetal, an infielder. Tyler Mettetal missed last spring due to Tommy John surgery and is still working to return to form, but he threw 88-91 mph with a good breaking ball before his injury. Zach Mettetal is a solid all-around player with a dirtbag mentality. Shortstop Ben Brooks stands out most for his athleticism and defense, which gives him a chance to immediately take over the position. Catcher Josh Rooker is the younger brother of former Mississippi State All-American Brent Rooker. His glove is ahead of his bat, but his older brother also needed time to develop before he broke out offensively.
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The Racers have shown steady improvement in coach Kevin Moulder’s three years at the program’s helm and this year’s recruiting class should help them build on that momentum. Righthanders Gray Dorsey and Peyton Hayes transfer in from junior college and should provide an immediate boost on the mound. Dorsey is coming off Tommy John surgery, but should be ready to go in time for the season and could quickly move to the front of the rotation thanks to his fastball-slider combination. Hayes attacks hitters with a fastball-changeup combination that played well out of the bullpen in junior college, but he could also factor into the rotation for the Racers. Infielders Dylan Letellier and Grant Wood should quickly step into Murray State’s lineup. Wood, the Missouri Gatorade player of the year, has a good feel for hitting and likely will settle at second or third base. Letellier isn’t as offensive as Wood, but is a solid defender and should be able to stay at shortstop. First baseman/outfielder Kyle Stevens hit 22 home runs in two seasons for St. Louis JC and adds a physical presence to the middle of the lineup for Murray State.
The Wolfpack again haul in a deep, talented class that should be able to quickly make an impact. Lefthander Austin Crowson, a transfer from Lane (Ore.) JC, was drafted this year in the 26th round and could significantly improve on that as he gets more comfortable with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. He has considerable upside, but already does a good job of throwing strikes with a developing three-pitch mix. Righthander Jake Jackson was named California’s Division I player of the year and led El Toro High to a championship in the ultra-competitive Southern Section. He stands out most for his pitchability and maturity, and, while he isn’t overpowering, should be able to quickly take on significant innings. He typically throws in the mid to upper 80s and mixes in a good changeup and curveball, and his stuff would likely play up in the bullpen if the Wolfpack use him there. Daniel Perry, a transfer from Lassen (Calif.) JC, was drafted in the 13th round out of high school. He has a disciplined approach at the plate and offers defensive versatility with a chance to stick in the infield. Catcher Josh Prinza has the potential to develop into a powerful hitter and is a solid defender behind the plate with enough athleticism to also play an outfield corner or first base.
The Buckeyes landed the highest-ranked recruit in the Big Ten Conference in lefthander Seth Lonsway (No. 127). He made a jump during his senior year and his fastball now comfortably sits in the low 90s and he mixes in a solid, if inconsistent, curveball. He looks like he’ll be able to step right into Ohio State’s rotation. In addition to Lonsway, the Buckeyes added three more prep lefthanders. Luke Duermit, Griffan Smith and Alex Theis are all projectable, but compete well with a combination of a mid- to upper-80s fastball and breaking ball. Catcher Dillon Dingler was a three-sport star in high school and won state titles last year in baseball and basketball, while earning league player of the year honors in baseball and football. He is a good defender and has a plus arm, and will find a way into the lineup. Malik Jones, a junior college transfer, and Jake Ruby are expected to compete for the job in center field, where their speed plays well. Shortstop Kobie Foppe, a junior college transfer, adds a steady defender to Ohio State’s infield.
Coach Eric Valenzuela and recruiting coordinator Matt Fonteno arrived at St. Mary’s four years ago and have quickly improved the Gaels’ profile, including guiding the program to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2016. This year’s class should help St. Mary’s continue to build on that momentum. Righthander Carlos Lomeli (No. 337) highlights the newcomers with a projectable frame and a fastball that gets up to 94 mph with sinking action. A shoulder injury sidelined him at the start of the spring and helped push him to college, but he is healthy now and could immediately step into the rotation. While Lomeli has a slight frame, righthander Mike Hobbs has a sturdier build and is coming off a solid summer in the Alaska League. His fastball sits 88-92 mph and he mixes in a curveball and a changeup, giving him the arsenal to help the Gaels in a variety of roles. Righthander Nick Frank, a junior college transfer, gives St. Mary’s a veteran whose upper-80s fastball and pitchability will fit well on the staff. Among position players, infielder Gio Diaz and outfielder Daniel Ydens stand out. Diaz was high school teammates with Gaels two-way star Kevin Milam, a Freshman All-American this spring, who has the tools for the left side of the infield and the speed to profile at the top of the order. Ydens, the younger brother of UCLA outfielder Jeremy Ydens, is an above-average runner and exciting raw tools.
Shortstop Greg Jones (No. 75) headlines the class and has the potential to be an instantly impactful addition to the Seahawks’ lineup. The switch hitter is a well above-average runner and has a chance to develop average power in time. His late rise and lack of track record helped push him to college, where he figures this spring to take over at shortstop and hit at the top of the order. Outfielder Kep Brown was a highly rated player and committed to Miami when he was coming out of high school, but ultimately wound up at junior college. He has lost much of his luster as a prospect, but he still has plenty of raw power to tap into if he can get back on track. Second baseman Douglas Angeli is physical and a strong hitter, reminiscent of former UNCW star Brian Mims. On the mound, lefthanders Blake Morgan and Justin Walke transfer in from Pitt (N.C.) JC, where they had solid seasons. Walke offers more pitchability, while Morgan has a bigger arm and throws his fastball 88-92 mph from a downhill angle.
After a last-place finish in Conference USA this spring, Western Kentucky brought in a large crop of junior college transfers who should be able to help spur a quick turnaround. Lefthander Troy Newell was drafted this year in the 33rd round by the Rangers and provides plenty of upside for the Hilltoppers. He was sidelined for the 2016 season, but got stronger as his redshirt-sophomore season went on, running his fastball up to 92 mph to go with a good breaking ball. Righthander Malcolm Grady also offers solid upside if he can get a bit more consistent. At his best, his fastball sits around 90 mph and he mixes in a hard slider. Outfielders Dillon Nelson and Jacob Rhinesmith are coming off strong seasons at Indian Hills (Iowa) JC and have similar skill sets. Rhinesmith is toolsier, while Nelson has more polish, but both have intriguing power-speed combinations and figure to hit in the middle of the order. Catcher Colin Butkiewicz has good catch-and-throw skills, and should solidify the Hilltoppers defense behind the plate. Righthander Maddex Richardson stands out among the freshman class. He is projectable and his fastball-slider combination gives him a chance to immediately work out of the bullpen as he further develops.