...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
With recruiting news beginning to pick up as prospects make official and unofficial visits during football season and as the early signing period for the 2014 class (Nov. 13–20) nears, this seemed like a good time for a baseball recruiting update, especially one focusing on 2014. Since I first posted the chart showing the 2014 commits in April, there have been two changes:
Michael Hendrickson: committed to the Wolverines in July (see Hello post).
Brandon Hughes: decommitted from Michigan and then committed to Michigan State in August. Hughes was the last of the Michigan commits who had originally pledged to former coach Rich Maloney, so this wasn't that surprising a development.
In the revised 2014 chart (posted in a reply for technical reasons), Hendrickson takes the place of Hughes, and the class remains nine-strong. I've updated the rankings as much as possible (lacking access to the pay-walled Perfect Game rankings, the only ones listed for that site are a couple that were reported at the time of the player's commitment). Michigan has three commits in PBR's overall top 50, covering a ten-state region:
- #18 Grant Reuss (#1 in Michigan)
- #46 Jayce Vancena (#7 in Ohio)
- #48 Rahman Williams (#11 in Illinois)
The chart includes a few new scouting reports (viewable by cursoring over the underlined text in the rightmost column), including this one for Williams, posted by Perfect Game in July:
Medium build with good strength in his lower half. Switch hitter, natural right hander, short rotational swing right handed, pull line drive contact, has some strength and bat speed. Open stance left handed, stays on his back side, short swing, contact approach. Sound infield actions, feet work well through the ball, light on his feet, shows good body control and range to the ball, good arm strength.
At least two of Michigan's commits appear to be in the conversation as potential 2014 MLB draft picks. Reuss is one, as PBR indicated in a June article on ten 2014 players "creating buzz on summer circuit":
Reuss continues to climb on Major league boards. . . . Really high ceiling. Arm works well. Up to 89mph for us. Command needs to improve to really be considered elite. Still feeling out his mechanics. Breaking ball spins well (71mph). Potential to be swing and miss pitch. Should be a high follow for major league scouts this coming spring.
Another is Drew Lugbauer. At the Nine Baseball site, Jeff Sullivan placed Lugbauer at #38 in his top 100 high school prospects for the 2014 MLB draft. Kiley McDaniel, a national baseball analyst for Scout, ranked Lugbauer #13 in his list of high school MLB draft prospects from the Northeast, projecting him as a potential 5th-rounder. Lugbauer was also included in Jonathan Mayo's rundown of top performers at a recent showcase hosted by the Mets at Citi Field:
Left-handed hitting catcher with power. Big and strong, good arm strength, other parts of his defense are developing.
Finalist for Ockimey
Michigan apparently still has scholarship money left for the 2014 class as they are in the final three for a top uncommitted prospect from Philadelphia, Josh Ockimey. A 6-4, 220-pound first baseman out of Neumann-Goretti H.S., Ockimey had originally committed to Arkansas but decommitted in August when the Razorbacks' associate head coach, Todd Butler, left to become the head coach at Wichita State. Not coincidentally, Wichita State is one of Ockimey's finalists, and he'll take an official visit there this coming weekend. He officially visited Michigan this past weekend and Indiana the weekend before. According to what he told Chris Webb in this blog post, Ockimey will choose from those three by October 5.
PBR has Ockimey ranked #6 in Pennsylvania and #53 overall, and they offered this assessment in a hot list posted earlier this month:
Ockimey is a physical beast in the box, standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He has some holes in his swing, but shows raw power and is athletic. He has capable actions at first base with the potential to put it all together and be a run producing, middle-of-the-order hitter at next level.
He's also slotted at #98 in that Nine Baseball list of top high school prospects for the 2014 MLB draft.
That post from Webb mentions some 2016 prospects who have visited Michigan recently, including Dion Henderson (see PBR profile), a left-hand pitcher out of Dearborn Divine Child ranked #4 in the state by PBR. He's planning to make his college choice by the end of 2013. He holds a Michigan offer, with other possible destinations including Kentucky, LSU, and Vanderbilt. Another prospect recently offered by Michigan is Henderson's high school teammate Collin Goslin (PBR profile), also a lefty but in the class of 2015. PBR has Goslin ranked #3 in the state and #41 overall.
Note on title: The usual "Baseball Recruiting Update" for the main title seemed boring, so I tried to come up with something different. Also considered "Fishin'"—any thoughts, other ideas?
Last Monday (June 3), the Michigan baseball program secured its second commit in the 2015 class, Nick Azar, a 6-3, 205-lb. shortstop out of Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett High School. He joins Charlie Donovan (Hello post) in that class.
Info on Azar is limited. Prep Baseball Report, which doesn't currently have him in their top 10 for the state of Michigan in 2015, posted this brief bit in a recruiting rundown:
Nick Azar, SS, Univ. Liggett HS, 2015- Azar is an outstanding hockey player in addition to his baseball abilities. Azar becomes the fourth commitment in the state from the Class of 2015. He still has a ways to go in terms of polish but he stands at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds and has solid tools. Azar committed to Michigan on Monday.
Liggett is playing Concord tomorrow in an MHSAA Division 4 state tournament quarterfinal. The bracket for that division can found here.
In Division 1 (bracket here), four of the eight teams remaining feature Michigan signees or commits on their rosters. Bay City Western (Brett Adcock) faces Rockford, Temperance Bedford (Jackson Lamb) plays Howell, and U-D Jesuit (T.J. Shook and Harrison Wenson) is matched up against Sterling Heights Stevenson (Brandon Hughes).
2014 Michigan commit Drew Lugbauer helped lead Arlington to the New York state semifinals. MSG Varsity has a rundown and highlights of the team's loss in the semis, including an interview with Lugbauer.
Last month, a local Toledo-area newspaper called The Press published a nice feature article on another 2014 commit, Jayce Vancena—Michigan-bound Vancena: "Work hard, stay humble." Here's an excerpt:
“Michigan was always my No. 1 the whole time, and once they did that, I knew I didn’t want to wait, I knew I wanted to be a Michigan Wolverine,” continues Jayce. “I’ve been up to Ann Arbor a couple of times now to meet the coaches and players, and they’ve been awesome. The baseball field is just beautiful up there, the locker room is awesome, and they have an academic hall that has tutors in every subject…just for the athletes. That is what is so great about it. It’s all academics first, and baseball second.
“Out of all the players I’ve met, the one that stands out the most is fifth-year senior Ben Ballentine,” offers Vancena. “He’s just another one of those guys who loves the game of baseball and just plays it with so much heart and passion. That’s the way I try to be. I’m still the same guy who goes out to the mound every game, and plays with all of my heart and passion. I work hard to give my best effort every time I’m out there. I haven’t changed at all.
“I’ve been a Michigan fan my whole life, I’ve bled maize and blue since the day I was born, and that day Michigan offered me a scholarship…it showed me that all of my hard work over the years had really paid off to help me achieve my lifelong dream of playing college baseball,” he concludes.
Finally, I'm throwing this item in as well, even though it's not strictly about recruiting. Chris Webb of the B1G Baseball blog spoke to Erik Bakich earlier today and got some good insight into future Michigan baseball scheduling, specifically some big-name additions for 2014 and beyond.
The 2014 schedule is highlighted by a three-game set against the Houston Cougars during the second weekend of the season. After playing in the Lone Star State Michigan heads to the Irish Classic hosted by Notre Dame where such elite programs as UCLA and NC State, both participants in the 2013 College World Series, have committed to play. Michigan’s Big Ten bye week will flip in 2014, instead of occurring at the beginning of the conference schedule the Wolverines end the regular season with a bye which features a visit from Kansas.
2015 tentatively features a return visit to Kansas, a series against Oklahoma State in Ann Arbor, a season opener at Pepperdine, and a trip to Gainesville for a series versus Florida. Tentative plans for 2016 include a season-opening series at North Carolina and a return visit to Oklahoma State.
Hello: Jayce Vancena
Prep Baseball Repot (PBR) reported in mid-October the verbal commitment for the 2014 class of Jayce Vancena, a 6-4, 210-lb. right-handed pitcher out of Lake H.S. (near Millbury, Ohio, southeast of Toledo). His PBR profile has this scouting report:
Vancena is a big, projectable right-handed pitcher and definite follow over the next two years. On the mound, he uses an over the top arm slot and short arm action. With his delivery, he hides the ball well. His fastball sits between 79-82 mph. When throwing his 59-62 mph curveball, he tends to slow down his arm speed. His changeup, which sits between 69-72 mph, shows some fading action. At the plate, the right-handed hitter shows pull tendencies has he creates solid contact with power potential.
Hello: Oliver Jaskie
Also in mid-October, another 2014 prospect committed to Michigan: Oliver Jaskie, a 6-4 southpaw pitcher from Forest Hills H.S. (Ada Twp., near Grand Rapids). In addition his profile, PBR has this brief scouting report from a September scouting notes item:
Jaskie continues to show that he knows how to pitch and pitch effectively. His breaking ball was tighter than what he have seen in the past and his change up again was a really effective pitch. His change is advanced for such a young age.
An earlier rundown indicates that PBR had Jaskie ranked #12 in the state:
Jaskie continues to improve this summer. A Midwest Futures Games invitee, Jaskie is an intriguing lefty that is only going to get better. His velo might not jump off the page right now but he knows how to pitch. His changeup is his best pitch and he uses his height, 6-foot-4, to create good tilt. Jaskie is currently ranked No. 12 in his class.
Hello: Grant Reuss
Apparently the most highly ranked of this trio of 2014 commits is Grant Reuss, another left-handed pitcher, who's 6-5, 210 lbs., out of Cranbrook Kingswood in Bloomfield Hills. Reuss verbally committed to the Wolverines earlier today. PBR has Reuss as their #3 prospect in Michigan for 2014 and offered the following scouting report in this July rundown:
Reuss is one of the best lefties in his class and currently checks in at No. 4 [now #3] ] in the class of 2014. He has been up to 89 mph in the past and he was 86-88 mph on this day. Reuss continues to raise his stock. Standing at 6-foot-6 Reuss is long and loose. He also has the makings of a good breaking ball. Consistency in his delivery will be the key to Reuss' development.
MBP ranks Reuss #2 in the state, and they also have a profile page for him with several videos.
With the addition of these three commits, Erik Bakich now has six commits for the class of 2014, with the others being Jake Bivens, Brandon Hughes, and Drew Lugbauer (see the previous recruiting update for details).
Michigan's 2013 baseball class includes about a dozen commits, including Ethan Cohen.