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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Elite incoming freshmen

Kendall Rogers        

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement in professional baseball was rather kind to several college programs around the country, as many top flight high school prospects either decided to go to college as high-round picks, or saw their stock slip because they were deemed incredibly tough to sign.

Though few players in the top 10 rounds of the MLB draft decided on college, a significant number outside of those rounds are attending school this fall.

There are some interesting figures to report when looking at the final Perfect Game Top 100 high school prospect rankings. Of the 100 prospects, 33 decided on college, with 31 headed the Division I rout. The exceptions are Trey Williams and Teddy Stankiewicz, who are headed to junior college instead of Pepperdine and Arkansas, respectively.

Furthermore, UCLA signee and outstanding left-handed pitcher Hunter Virant is the highest-ranked prospect, by PG standards, attending college. Virant has big-time stuff on the mound, but slipped to the Astros in the 11th-round because of his commitment to the Bruins.

Plenty of other programs were big winners and will have some big-time freshmen on campus this fall, including North Carolina and Vanderbilt, which each had three Top 100 prospects decide to attend college.

In addition to taking an in-depth look at the top 10 freshmen, rankings-wise, we also will breakdown 30 more freshmen to watch as fall workouts near. That piece is coming Thursday.

ALSO SEE: The next 30 incoming prospects

LHP Hunter Virant, UCLA 

After shining on the mound last summer, the Bruins certainly were worried about losing Virant to the draft this summer. Virant, though, was viewed as a very difficult sign, and was an 11th-round pick of the Houston Astros as a result. Virant didn't come close to signing and is a big-time arm for UCLA to have going into the fall. Virant topped out at 93 last summer and competed in the PG All-American Game. In addition to being ranked No. 23 nationally by PG, the 6-foot-3, 172-pounder, is a very good athlete with room to grow. He has an outstanding feel for pitching and should immediately help John Savage's club.

RHP Taylore Cherry, North Carolina

The good news is the Tar Heels never had to worry about Cherry going the professional route, as he wasn't drafted due to signability concerns. Cherry certainly could become more refined, but has a massive and intimidating frame, standing at 6-foot-9, 260 pounds. The Ohio native was ranked No. 30 nationally by Perfect Game for the 2012 recruiting class, and he flashed an impressive 94 fastball last summer. He sits in the low 90s on a consistent basis with that fastball. Cherry also sits in the mid-to-upper 70s with his curveball, while he has a hard changeup in the low-to-mid 80s. Could immediately help the Heels.

RHP Clate Schmidt, Clemson

He was expected to be a tough sign and thus was a 36th-round pick to the Detroit Tigers. The Clemson Tigers sure are thankful for that with the departures of quality arms such as Kevin Brady and Dominic Leone. Schmidt was a PG All-American last summer, and has big-time stuff. He was ranked No. 31 nationally for the 2012 class and was clocked at 96 with his fastball last August. Additionally, the talented righty and 6-foot-2, 175-pounder, is a great athlete having run the 60-yard-dash in 6.68 seconds. Stuff-wise, in addition to his fastball, Schmidt has a hard slider in the 83-85 range and a changeup that comes in around 82.

SS CJ Hinojosa, Texas

Hinojosa certainly had an interesting road to the University of Texas. He originally was scheduled to enroll early at Texas this past spring. However, he decided against it and ended up missing a lot of his senior high school season because of shoulder surgery. Because of that, Hinojosa's draft stock dropped, and the Astros took him in the 26th round. Hinojosa has big-time power and is a good shortstop. He was ranked No. 32 nationally by PG for the 2012 class, and also is a former PG All-American. There's little doubt Hinojosa steps in and starts in February for the Longhorns.

RHP Alec Rash, Missouri

Considering he was a rather tough sign leading up to the MLB draft, color us surprised the Phillies took a bold chance at him in the second round, nevertheless. The Phillies, as expected by many sources, struck out. Rash is an immediate contributor type of guy for the Tigers. He's a physical-looking 6-foot-5, 200-pounder, and he was ranked No. 37 in the country by PG for the 2012 recruiting class. In addition to a fastball that touches 95, he's 90-94 one a consistent basis with that pitch, while he has a slider that sits around 81 and a changeup that sits around 84.

SS Alex Bregman, Louisiana State

It's safe to say that Bregman had some tough luck when it comes to the MLB draft. Once expected to be a very high draft pick, Bregman suffered a broken middle finger during his high school senior season that sidelined him until the summer. As a result, he dropped to the 29th round to the Red Sox. Bregman arrives at LSU at the right time with the departure of slick shortstop Austin Nola. He was ranked No. 42 nationally by PG last year, and is a very good all-around player. Also known as a good hitter with solid power. Bregman was selected a PG All-American last summer.

OF/RHP Jameis Winston, Florida State

Winston likely will help the Seminoles in more ways than one, both on the baseball diamond and football gridiron. Once expected to be a very high pick in the MLB draft, it became obvious to MLB clubs that Winston wanted to play football at the collegiate level. That hurt his stock a bit. Winston is a big pickup for the 'Noles, as he was ranked No. 48 nationally by PG in this class, and has exceptional speed having run a 6.59 60-yard-dash at last year's PG National. Winston also can help on the mound, where he has a fastball that has touched 92. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, is a big-time athlete the Seminoles can utilize.

LHP Nathan Kirby, Virginia

Speaking of catching a big-time break, how about the situation with Kirby? There's no question, as a projectable left-handed pitcher, that Kirby would've been a top-round draft pick. However, he pulled his name out of the draft because a team could have a chance to select him. That's huge news for the Cavaliers, who really could use a premier arm in 2013. Kirby is a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, who ranked No. 54 nationally by PG as a senior this past season. Really blossomed last October in Jupiter, Fla., where he topped out at 92 and showed good breaking stuff.

RHP Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt has become the home of snagging some tough signs, and that's exactly what Carson Fulmer was this past summer. Though he didn't have a sensational spring in high school, chances are good he still would've been a much higher draft pick had he been deemed signable. As it stands, Fulmer turned down overtures from the Red Sox as a 15th-round pick. Fulmer was ranked No. 57 nationally by PG going into the draft, and has an electric arm with a fastball that topped out at 95 last August. Fulmer was a Perfect Game All-American last summer.

OF Rhett Wiseman, Vanderbilt

Yet another Commodores signee who was deemed rather unsignable going into the draft, Wiseman gives the 'Dores a very versatile package going into the fall and the 2013 campaign. Wiseman was a 25th-round pick to the Cubs, but chose to go to college. He was ranked No. 58 nationally by PG going into the draft, and has excellent speed, running a 6.51 60-yard-dash last August. The 2011 Perfect Game All-American has great speed, good power and is a very solid defensive outfielder. He should immediately help Tim Corbin's club.

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