College : : Story
Friday, October 31, 2014

The Elite 25: Best recruiting classes

Kendall Rogers        

How they stack up: 1. Arkansas, 2. Miami, 3. Florida, 4. South Carolina, 5. LSU, 6. Virginia, 7. Oregon State, 8. Florida International, 9. North Carolina, 10. Arizona State, 11. Stanford, 12. UCLA, 13. Tennessee, 14. Vanderbilt, 15. Texas, 16. Duke, 17. North Carolina State, 18. Mississippi, 19. Florida State, 20. Texas A&M, 21. Oregon, 22. Missouri, 23. Oklahoma State, 24. Cal State Fullerton, 25. San Diego State.

NOTE: To see the team reports for the teams 9-25, subscribe to the College Baseball Ticket

1. ARKANSAS | Total points: 89, Average player points: 6.36

OVERVIEW: The Razorbacks have a history of recruiting at a high level, and recruiting coordinator Tony Vitello and the rest of the Hogs staff did yet another terrific job over the past year. Despite signing several highly touted prospects, the Razorbacks avoided major draft defections, getting studs such as righthanded pitcher Keaton McKinney (42) and outstanding outfielder Luke Bonfield (60) to attend college. The list also includes other highly touted prospects such as catcher Nathan Rodriguez (261), who spent the summer playing in a collegiate summer league, and righthanded pitcher Jonah Patten (155), who would've been a high draft pick if not for his tough signability. Bonfield had a terrific summer offensively in the Northeast, and showed advanced skills in the field, along with good speed and big-time raw power. Meanwhile, Rodriguez showed to be a very good defender in the California Collegiate League, while Patten is an impressive 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, who can get up to 93 with his fastball, along with a four-pitch mix that also includes a curveball, slider and changeup. The list goes on in terms of the talented prospects in this class, including outfielder Keith Grieshaber (186), among others.


High school commits: 14

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 2

Class jewel: OF Luke Bonfield (Skillman, N.J.)

The Razorbacks certainly expect big things out of the impressive righthanded pitcher in Keaton McKinney, but in terms of game ready at this point, you have to give the nod to Bonfield, who showed very well against college competition this past summer. Bonfield is a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, who is very athletic, has good pop and just has an advanced and impressive overall skill set. He should be an immediate high impact guy for the Hogs come February.

2. MIAMI (FLA.) | Total points: 88, Average player points: 7.33

OVERVIEW: There certainly have been some years when the Hurricanes struggled to keep guys from signing each summer in the Major League Baseball draft. However, here recently they've had a little more success in that department. The Hurricanes have a very talented freshman class, which includes talented outfielders Justin Smith (51) and Carl Chester (68), in addition to others such as righthanded pitchers Kevin Pimentel and Jesse Lepore, along with lefthander Luke Spangler, among others. Chester, a former Perfect Game All-American, is a 6-foot, 190-pounder, who turned down overtures as a 38th-round pick to the Brewers. Chester has very good speed and athleticism, while he has a quality bat that should translate to the next level. Pimentel and Lepore both are power pitchers that should be immediate impact arms. Lepore touched 92 at times during the summer before his senior season, while Pimentel has the ability to get up to 94 at times, and in part, is at Miami because he suffered an injury. The Hurricanes certainly didn't hit up the junior college ranks hard, but did add former South Carolina infielder George Iskenderian. Iskenderian is an athletic guy who hit .373 at Indian River (Fla.) CC last spring.


High school commits: 12

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 2

Class jewel: OF Justin Smith (St. John's, Fla.)

The Hurricanes got a terrific one in the ultra-talented Smith. Smith absolutely looks the part with a physical 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, along with other impressive attributes. Smith, ranked No. 51 nationally out of high school, has above-average speed and solid arm strength in the outfield. Smith was primarily a contact type of hitter during his high school career, but absolutely has the power ability needed to be a long threat with the Hurricanes.

3. FLORIDA | Total points: 83, Average player points: 7.55

OVERVIEW: Like clockwork, the University of Florida put together yet another outstanding recruiting class, and actually got through the MLB draft in good shape with only righthanded pitchers Grant Holmes and Weston Davis being significant losses. The Gators feel very good about the catcher position moving forward with the additions of JJ Schwarz (58) and Michael Rivera (181), while shortstop Dalton Guthrie (82) and righthanded pitcher Alex Faedo (78) are impressive prospects to watch come spring. Schwarz, drafted in the 17th round by the Brewers, is considered to be a very steady defensive catcher, and also has a lot of offensive potential, particularly from a power standpoint. Meanwhile, Rivera has a very balanced overall skill set with some raw power at the plate, along with athletic actions behind the plate. On the mound, watch out for Faedo, a physical 6-foot-5, 210-pounder, with the ability to get up to 93-94 at times with his fastball. He also possesses a pair of secondary offerings. The Gators also are excited about the potential with Chipola (Fla.) JC transfer righthanded pitcher Taylor Lewis. Lewis has a good arm with the ability to get up to 92-93 mph at times. Last spring, he tallied a 3.54 ERA in 53 1/3 innings of work, along with 55 strikeouts.


High school commits: 11

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 3

Class jewel: C JJ Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)

Schwarz is a good-looking overall prospect going into his freshman season with the Florida Gators. Schwarz has both strength and durability behind the plate with an impressive level of athleticism. He also has some polish from an offensive standpoint and should be able to generate plenty of power at the plate during his Florida career. Schwarz, ranked 58 nationally out of high school, was a true steal for the Gators, as many thought he might go higher than the 17th round.

4. SOUTH CAROLINA | Total points: 79, Average player points: 6.08

OVERVIEW: The Gamecocks are in great shape when it comes to the current freshman class. The Gamecocks landed several instant impact type of players, beginning with lefthanded pitcher Alex Destino (53) and righthanded pitcher Brandon Murray (83), among others. South Carolina also is excited about the addition of catcher Hunter Taylor (169) and another righty in Clarke Schmidt (230). The Gamecocks are very excited about the potential of Murray, who is vying to occupy for club’s closer role in the spring. Murray is an impressive-looking 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, who has a huge arm, showing the potential to get up to 97-98 mph with his fastball in the past. Murray is extremely difficult to hit when he works down in the zone, inducing a lot of ground balls as a result. Meanwhile, Schmidt, another righty, could have a significant role for the Gamecocks in 2015. Schmidt has a chance to nail down a job in the starting rotation, and, too, has a nice arm, showing a nice velocity spike with his fastball earlier this past summer, getting up to 94 mph with his fastball, along with a curveball, slider and changeup. Taylor and outfielder Clark Scolamiero also are worth watching, with Taylor being a guy who could help the Gamecocks in a variety of ways moving forward. 


High school commits: 13

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 2

Class jewel: LHP Alex Destino (Weaverville, N.C.)

The Gamecocks have several talented prospects to watch in the spring, including the two-way Destino. Destino is a physical 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, who has a quality arm with a lot of projection and upside. The lefty has easy arm action and can get up to 91-92 with his fastball, while also showing good feel for a changeup and sitting in the 78-80 range with his breaking ball. The Gamecocks have a pair of very talented young arms with Destino and hard-throwing righty Brandon Murray.

5. LOUISIANA STATE | Total points: 78, Average player points: 7.80

OVERVIEW: Like everyone else on this list, the Tigers suffered some setbacks surrounding the draft and incoming freshman class, but they recovered very well. The Tigers actually had the top recruiting class in the country before lefthanded pitcher Mac Marshall decided, after a couple of weeks on campus, that he wanted to transfer to Chipola (Fla.) JC. However, this is a terrific class even without Marshall. Shortstop Gregory Deichmann (49) spearheads this talented group, while the Tigers have a three-headed monster on the mound with the additions of righthanders Jake Godfrey (64), Alex Lange (134) and lefty Jake Latz. Godfrey, a 21st-round pick of the Braves, has a physical 6-foot-3, 215-pound, frame, with a big-time arm and fastball that can get up to 93-94 mph at times. Meanwhile, Lange, too, is showing an impressive power arm so far this fall, along with a pair of quality secondary offerings in a slider and changeup. Latz is a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, who tops out at 90 from the left side, and who has a quality curveball as his primary secondary offering. Overall, this is a class that really helps the Tigers moving forward, particularly from a pitching standpoint.


High school commits: 10

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 2

Class jewel: SS/2B Gregory Deichmann 

The former Perfect Game All-American Classic participant made it abundantly clear he was heading to LSU instead of heading the professional route of high school, and the Tigers are ecstatic to have his services. Deichmann, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, has a slender frame, but has some deceptive pop when he squares up balls with his bat. Deichmann should have an impact for the Tigers in the spring, but obviously, will not start at shortstop over outstanding Alex Bregman.

6. VIRGINIA | Total points: 75, Average player points: 7.50

OVERVIEW: The Cavaliers have created quite the recruiting machine over the past few seasons under head coach Brian O'Connor, and that didn't change with this recruiting class. The Cavaliers put together an outstanding recruiting class and had few setbacks, with catcher Devon Fisher being the only real loss from a draft standpoint. Virginia has a pair of very talented two-way players to watch moving forward in Pavin Smith (137) and Adam Haseley (88), among others. Smith is a talented first baseman/lefthanded pitcher, who has a nice 6-foot-3, 210-pound, frame, and possesses good bat speed with a smooth swing. On the mound, Smith can get up to the low-90s with his fastball and has good overall stuff. Meanwhile, Haseley can get up to 91-92 from the left side with a hard 80 mph breaking ball, while at the plate, he has good hand quickness, which allows him to hit the ball to all fields. The Cavaliers have plenty of others to keep an eye on moving forward, including righthanded pitcher Derek Casey, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, who sits 91-92 mph with his fastball, but has the ability to get up to 93-94 at times. He also has a sharp upper-70s curveball and 79-81 mph changeup that, too, is a quality offering.


High school commits: 10

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 1

Class jewel: OF Adam Haseley (Windermere, Fla.)

The Cavaliers have had a lot of success over the years in getting some high-profile Florida prospects to head to the Mid-Atlantic region, and Haseley is yet another example of that. Haseley should help the Cavaliers in a variety of ways, but plenty of scouts out there feel his future eventually will be in the field.

7. OREGON STATE | Total points: 70, Average player points: 4.67

OVERVIEW: Pitching coach Nate Yeskie and the rest of the Oregon State coaching staff did yet another impressive job in putting together an elite recruiting class. The Beavers fared very well in the MLB draft, and received yet another boost when talented lefthanded pitcher Luke Heimlich, a 2015 prospect, decided to reclassify as a 2014 prospect, and enroll at OSU this fall. Heimlich could be a weekend rotation type of guy from the start in the spring. With that said, this class is loaded with toolsy guys, including righthanded pitcher Drew Rasmussen (151) and outfielder Elliott Cary (307), among others. The Beavers also have a good one in catcher KJ Harrison (85) and third baseman Joe Gillette (95). Harrison is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, power hitting catcher with a lot of upside, while Gillette is an athletic 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, who has good bat speed and gap potential, along with adequate defensive skills. OSU also has a good one in imposing lefthanded pitcher, 6-foot-4, 224-pound, Christian Martinek, who sits in the 89-91 range with a collection of secondary offerings.


High school commits: 15

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 2

Class jewel: RHP Drew Rasmussen (Colbert, Wash.)

In terms of prospects who could have the biggest impact from the start, Rasmussen definitely fits that bill. Rasmussen, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, was drafted this past summer, but chose to play collegiate summer baseball. He shined in the West Coast League, sitting 88-92, touching 93, and possessing an 80-81 mph breaking ball.

8. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL | Total points: 69, Average player points: 4.60

OVERVIEW: In a way, the recruiting job the Panthers consistently do in South Florida is more impressive than anyone else. Despite having stalwart programs such as Florida State, Florida and Miami, among others, trying to earn signatures from players in the region, FIU, as it tries to become one of those premier programs, continues to recruit at a very high level. Talented righthanded pitcher Garrett Cave (109) is having a strong fall and looks to be an immediate contributor for the Panthers, while catchers Spencer Levine (190) and Mitchell Robinson (266) and outfielder Jack Schaaf (218) are other talented prospects. Levine is a physical 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, with a lot of potential from an offensive standpoint, while Robinson, a Canadian, has a strong, physical, frame, with good overall arm strength. Then there's Schaaf, who has good speed, and who has excellent speed in the field with an impressive ability to close on balls.


High school commits: 15

Perfect Game Top 100 signees: 0

Class jewel: RHP Garrett Cave (Sumterville, Fla.)

The Panthers have high hopes for the 2014 campaign, and feel like Cave could be a big-time contributor from the start. The athletic 6-foot-3, 180-pounder, has consistently been 93-94 mph with his fastball throughout fall workouts, while his breaking stuff has also made strides over the past year.

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