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College  | Story  | 12/9/2022

Top 10 JUCO to Four-Year Recruiting Classes

Brian Sakowski     
Photo: Perfect Game
1. Kansas

-Izack Tiger, RHP, Butler CC
-Patrick Steitz, RHP, Central Arizona
-Devin Bennett, RHP, McLennan
-Evan Shaw, LHP, Cochise
-Cooper Combs, OF, Johnson County
-Chase Diggins, SS, Odessa
-Ben Hartl, C, Heartland
-Cayden Collins, RHP, Scottsdale

Kansas leads the way by a fair margin in this exercise, which is no surprise given the known styles of new head coach Dan Fitzgerald and new recruiting coordinator Jon Coyne. Both have extensive experience both coaching in and recruiting from the junior college level, and clearly have executed a plan for hitting the level hard right away. There’s some star power here, with Kansas winning recruiting battles for some of these players against programs of much higher recent success, which can be taken as nothing but a positive sign for the path of the program moving forward. McLennan’s Devin Bennett and Butler’s Izack Tiger are two of the better right-handed JUCO pitching prospects in the country, and are potential draft picks in 2023. Bennett has mid-90s heat with a sharp-tilting slider and performed really well as a freshman against tough competition, while Tiger really impressed this fall with higher-spin stuff, intriguing projection and a lot of strikes. Patrick Steitz has a huge frame at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds and mixes three good pitches to great success with starter upside. Cayden Collins is a changeup artist who gets consistent whiffs on the pitch and has low-90s velocity, fellow Arizonan Evan Shaw is the one lefty of the group and has good size with some deception to him, working in the upper-80s with a full mix and a tough look for hitters. Cooper Combs is a physical right-handed bat with good performance history who should hit right away, and catcher Ben Hartl has similar offensive tools with catch-and-throw tools behind the plate. Chase Diggins from Odessa is a native Australian who can really rake and has a chance to play short. There’s good offensive pieces here, but this class of arms especially has some serious upside for the Jayhawks.

2. Charlotte

-Adam Stanton, RHP, Iowa Western
-Jake Goolsby, 1B, Lawson State
-Noah Furcht, SS, Kirkwood
-Troy Butler, RHP, Herkimer
-Rhett Hendricks, OF, Johnson County
-Jorge De Cardenas, RHP, Indian River State
-Chase Carson, LHP, State Fair
-Ryan Degges, RHP/OF, Columbia State

Charlotte under head coach Robert Woodard and recruiting coordinator Toby Bicknell have made recruiting the JUCO level a priority since their arrival on campus, and remain a significant presence on the JUCO recruiting scene. Troy Butler, a right-hander from Herkimer, leads the class as far as impact potential goes. He was really good in the fall, reaching the mid-90s with his fastball and showing good sweep to his slider. Adam Stanton is a physical up-tempo righty from Iowa Western with low-90s velocity, Ryan Degges from Columbia State has real bat-missing traits on his slider and can run the fastball into the low-90s, and we liked our look earlier this fall at Indian River State righty Jorge De Cardenas, who worked 91-93 mph with heavy sink and good delivery traits. Chase Carson has really intriguing projection traits in a long and lanky build, working upper-80s from the left side at present. Offensively, Jake Goolsby is a physical left-handed bat from Lawson State who should mash with power and Rhett Hendricks from Johnson County is an above-average runner and outfield defender with right-handed bat speed and pop. Perhaps their highest positional upside belongs to Noah Furcht from Kirkwood, a shortstop who performed in a huge way as a freshman in 2022 and has serious tools.

3. Southern Miss

-Cole Boswell, RHP, Meridian
-Dalton McIntyre, LHP, Meridian
-Gabe Broadus, IF/OF, Pearl River
-Landen Payne, RHP, Pearl River
-Sawyer Toney, RHP, Shelton State
-Drew Druckenmiller, RHP, Jones
-Charlie Keller, CIF, Mississippi Gulf Coast
-Will Verdung, INF, Itawamba

Just on the surface, it’s easy to glean that Southern Miss prioritized pitching in this JUCO cycle, and perhaps most notably, the vast majority of these commits come from Mississippi JUCOs. Charlie Keller and Will Verdung represent the sole position player commits as of this writing, along with Gabe Broadus. Keller is a freshman lefthanded bat who swings it well with bat speed and a strong performance track record in PG events, Verdung is a right-handed hitting shortstop with some twitch to him who hit for a lot of power this fall and represents immediate impact, while Broadus is a versatile piece who can really handle the bat and potentially fill a couple spots defensively. Southern Miss clearly wanted to add pitching depth and has done so with five commitments. Sawyer Toney is a big physical righty from Shelton State who pitched extremely well as a freshman and has a full mix of 3 solid pitches, Landen Payne pitched well as a reliever as a freshman and brings a steadiness factor, Drew Druckenmiller is a good-sized righty with success in JUCO baseball as well, who has intriguing arm speed and overall projection. Dalton McIntyre is an interesting two-way talent with a quick left-handed stroke and good arm speed from the left side as well, he’ll be joined by fellow Meridian arm Cole Boswell, a veteran arm with lots of experience.

4. Florida State

-Carson Dorsey, LHP, Gulf Coast State
-Gavin Adams, RHP, Indian River State
-Nelson Taylor, OF, Polk State

I’ve said this before when doing this exercise in years past — class size doesn’t necessarily matter when doing these rankings, projected impact is. Furthermore, potential loss of listed players to the draft isn’t considered at all. Those reasons are why you see Florida State, with a three-player class right now, ranked so highly. Carson Dorsey is a lanky lefty who has a chance to be the No. 1-ranked JUCO prospect in the country, projecting well as a starter long term with a big spring in front of him. Gavin Adams has a chance to be in the top-5 overall in his own right, working in the mid-90s in short stints with a dynamic breaking ball, showing plus-plus arm speed with lots of enviable traits. Nelson Taylor is the lone positional commit right now, and has a knack for getting on base and using his plus-plus speed. If he can continue developing his contact skills, he’ll hit leadoff and steal a bunch of bags for the Seminoles. Florida State has always done fairly well in the JUCO ranks, especially in Florida, but it’s good to see Link Jarrett and staff continuing to prioritize the level in building rosters.

5. Louisiana

-Byrion Robinson, LHP, Pearl River
-Jose Luis Torres, C, San Jacinto
-Mathias Lacombe, RHP, Cochise
-Patrick Vienne, RHP, LSU-Eunice
-Josh Alexander, IF/OF, Delgado
-Bryan Broussard, OF/RHP, Delgado
-Louis Langevin, RHP, Wabash Valley

The Sun Belt is a very active conference when it comes to recruiting the junior college level, and Louisiana definitely adds to tally that year in and year out. The Ragin Cajuns got one of the better JUCO defenders behind the plate in San Jac’s Jose Torres, a very talented receiver and thrower who can handle a staff and should add a fair bit of offense from the right side of the plate. Byrion Robinson is an electric-armed left-hander from Pearl River who could be a dynamic bullpen piece and Mathias Lacombe reached the mid-90s with a big sweeper this fall and should miss bats with both, with those two guys representing some serious bullpen firepower. Patrick Vienne from LSU-Eunice will come in as an extremely experienced and reliable righty who fills the zone and can really pitch, while Wabash Valley righty Louis Langevin can flirt with the mid-90s and showed good feel for a hard-biting slider this fall. Delgado teammates Bryan Broussard and Josh Alexander are headed to Lafayette as well, both bring consistency in terms of performance and should be eventual lineup pieces.

6. Western Kentucky

-Hunter Small, RHP, Olney Central
-Zach Duenas, RHP, Olney Central
-Grant Burleson, RHP, Columbia State
-Ethan Adkison, LHP, Calhoun CC
-Zayd Brannigan, SS, Georgia Highlands
-Kyle Hayes, 1B, Kirkwood
-Brady Browning, 3B, Chipola
-Zac Carroll, OF, Rose State
-Blake Cavill, IF, Northwest Florida State
-Eli Burwash, IF, Lawson State

As if anyone expected anything else, the combo platter of new head coach Marc Rardin (983 wins at the JUCO level) and new recruiting coordinator Rob Fournier (1,106 win at the JUCO level) are recruiting the JUCO level with intensity, and finding immediate success. It’s clear that they have a preference for physicality on the mound, with each committed arm standing at least 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Hunter Small and Zach Duenas, both of Olney Central, form a formidable right-hander duo, with Small working 90-93 mph and diving in a slider while Duenas, who is 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, has all kinds of upside remaining on his frame and works 88-92 mph with a three-pitch mix. Grant Burleson from Columbia State is a spin monster, with high-level raw spin on his full mix, including a fastball, slider and cutter, while Calhoun CC lefty Ethan Adkison works upper-80s with plenty of ride. Kyle Hayes and Blake Cavill are a pair of boppers, both projected to bring power to the middle of the WKU order upon arrival. Zayd Brannigan from Georgia Highlands has been a consistent performer offensively with a chance to play in the middle, as does Eli Burwash from Lawson State. Brady Browning hit consistently well as a freshman and should be a key piece for Chipola this spring, and Zac Carroll from Rose State represents yet another JUCO performer who will get a shot.

7. Coastal Carolina

-Sam Antonacci, SS, Heartland
-Bobby Atkinson, 1B/OF, Heartland
-Alexander Meckley, RHP, Potomac State

In the early goings of every JUCO recruiting cycle, generally starting in late August, names start to be bandied about almost immediately as far as who the premier players at the level might be. One name I heard a ton about early was Heartland shortstop Sam Antonacci, a huge performer who hit an astounding .471 for Heartland a year ago with good power and more walks than strikeouts. He’s a left-handed stick with huge offensive upside and plays a solid middle infield defense, making him a draft name to watch this cycle. Heartland teammate Bobby Atkinson will head to Coastal as well, another left-handed hitter with a massive performance track record who has power to all fields and should play 1B/OF. Alexander Meckley from Potomac State is the lone arm in this class for now, and offers excellent physicality and good bat-missing capabilities who could start or relieve for the Chanticleers long term.

8. Arizona State

-Matt Wilkinson, LHP, Central Arizona
-Ryan Schiefer, RHP, Central Arizona
-AJ Ehrlicher, RHP/OF, Santa Rosa

This is another example of a class whose quality far outstrips the quantity of others, with three seriously impactful pieces comprising it right now. Central Arizona should once again be amongst JUCO powerhouses in 2023 and it fits that ASU has established another year of recruiting from there, with two CAC arms committed right now. Matt Wilkinson is an experienced lefty with lots of deception and command, moving around 87-90 mph and missing a ton of bats. Ryan Schiefer started his career at Grand Canyon and took a step forward this fall in terms of command, working in the 91-94 mph range with the heater and missing bats with breaking ball. AJ Ehrlicher is one of the more intriguing wildcard-type players in NorCal. He’s a two-way guy who was drafted a year ago as a right-handed pitcher, opted to return to Santa Rosa and is now committed to ASU. His slider is his trademark on the mound, backed up by 91-93 mph velocity, and he brings significant left-handed power to the offensive side as well. Arizona State is inherently an easy draw in the portal as far as recruiting goes, but it’s good to see them continue treating JUCO as a priority.

9. Southern California

-Will Watson, RHP, San Joaquin Delta
-Dylan Tostrup, LHP, San Joaquin Delta
-Gavin Mez, C, Southern Nevada

It’s a new coaching staff at USC, what with Andy Stankiewicz coming over from Grand Canyon in a well-deserved promotion and bringing former Tulane HC/Vanderbilt RC Travis Jewett with him. Southern Cal will likely be recruiting differently and while we’ve yet to see the full effects of that, their work on the JUCO scene this fall is encouraging and notable. This is another small class on this list, but with a significant amount of tangible upside to it nonetheless. Will Watson and Dylan Tostrup, both of NorCal powerhouse San Joaquin Delta, represent pretty substantial upside on the mound. Watson is a good-sized righty who generally works in the 90-94 mph range with heavy arm side life and a bat-misser of a slider, while Tostrup is a slender, athletic lefty with a very repeatable operation and a full mix, working in the 87-91 mph range with his fastball most times out. Gavin Mez out of CSN is a high-upside catcher, bringing both strong catch-and-throw skills and significant offensive impact from the left side of the plate. USC will assuredly continue to monitor the JUCO ranks this spring and could add to this class in time.

10. Southern Illinois

-Jackson McCoy, OF, Northeast Mississippi
-Cole Yearsley, OF, Southeastern
-Ryan Birr, CIF, Kaskaskia
-Gunnar Magrann, IF/OF, Dyersburg State
-Tyler Leroy, C, Arizona Western
-Alec Nigut, LHP, Kirkwood
-Cole Askew, RHP, Cloud County
-Cole Koonce, RHP, Johnson County
-Andrew Yusypchuk, RHP, Chandler-Gilbert

Southern Illinois has been heavy on the JUCO scene since Lance Rhodes took over as head coach a few years back, and that insistence on JC recruiting has helped him turn SIU into a winner, winning over 40 games in each of the last two seasons. It’s a well-balanced and stocked class, focusing heavily on offensive production and projectable pitching. Cole Koonce from Johnson County and Cole Askew from Cloud County were both standout performers at the Jayhawk Showcase, with Koonce at 90-93 and Askew at 87-91 with a big slider. Lefty Alec Nigut has a clean delivery and mixes a full array of pitches, working in the 88-91 mph range with the heater. Andrew Yusypchuk is a solid-sized righty with a power slider that misses bats, he can also get into the low-90s. It’s a versatile mix of arms, with plenty of guys who should help right away. Jackson McCoy of NEMCC and Cole Yearsley of Southeastern are both high-performance guys with a fair bit of experience already, with Yearsley also a notable CF talent. Tyler Leroy from Arizona Western has a good bit of experience behind the plate, and versatile pieces Ryan Birr and Gunnar Magrann both bring well-rounded offensive profiles to the table. It’s no secret that the Salukis like to head into battle with an experienced bunch, and this group all have plenty of that.

Honorable Mention

Several schools are putting together high-quality classes either in terms of volume or selective value, and while we won’t be breaking their classes down in detail, they warrant some kind of mention. The following are in no ranked order.

-Tennessee: As expected, the Vols can more or less do whatever they want on the recruiting scene, and they continue to recruit the JUCO level while sustaining success even in both prep recruiting as well as the transfer portal. Their class includes: Alex Perry (IF-Pearl River CC), Marcus Phillips (RHP-Iowa Western), and Trip Brown (RHP-Spartanburg Methodist).

-Georgia State: The Sun Belt, as we’ve touched on already in this article, is well-represented when it comes to recruiting the JUCO level, and Georgia State has done a nice job identifying and securing a handful of good pieces in the 2023 class to date. Their class includes: Caleb White (RHP-Eastern Oklahoma State), Chay Yeager (RHP/3B-Pasco Hernando) and Evan Ames (1B-Chipola).

-Oklahoma: It’s certainly unsurprising to see Oklahoma here, as the Sooners do a very good job at the JUCO level annually. It’s a smaller class for now, but Oklahoma is also known for jumping on late-rising JUCO talents later in the cycle, and it’s reasonable to expect them to do the same in 2023. Their class includes: Barrett Riebock (CF-Paris), Houston Russell (C/IF-Seminole State), and Colby Langford (LHP-Murray State).

-Memphis: Under new head coach Kerrick Jackson, Memphis is making a notable push towards replenishing their roster with new talent and are using JUCO recruiting to help kickstart the process, as well as their use of the transfer portal. Their JUCO class so far looks very promising with some potential star power, and look for the Tigers to continue mining the JUCO ranks once we get playing in the spring. Their class includes: Pierre Seals (OF-Dyersburg State), Brayden Sanders (RHP-Northwest Mississippi), Jacob Roettgen (LHP-Jefferson) and Waylon Sebren (RHP-Meridian).

-Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are in a JUCO-rich environment, smack dab in the middle of the Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas JUCO belt, and are annually a good evaluator and procurer of JUCO talent. They like to identify the select handful of players they truly want early on, close on them, and then continue evaluating into the spring to potentially add more to the cupboard. Their 2023 class includes: Xavier Casserilla (CIF-Seminole State), Max Galvin (OF-Miami Dade), and Brian Holiday (RHP-Central Florida).