Show of hands, who thought this year’s World Series was awesome?
I concur. Even though I stayed up way too late every single night watching the waning few moments of baseball in 103 degree Los Angeles, I loved this year’s World Series. It was a good way to send us off into the weekly aneurysms of the College Football Playoff rankings, and for a few more of us, it was a good way to send us into irrational excitement about college basketball.
In the meantime, if you need a baseball fix like I do, then I highly encourage you look into the future of the Michigan baseball team. The 2017 recruiting class ended on a hotter streak than the football class did (maybe not that extreme but when you look at program expectations, it’s true), finishing as Baseball America’s 10th best recruiting class, the highest ever for a Big Ten team. Perfect Game has their 2017 class at 23rd in the country, highest of the Big Ten by a considerable margin until Maryland appears at 43rd, and the only program north of the Mason/Dixon line to be in the Top 25. The SEC had 10 teams in the top 25, and the ACC had 7; for a Big Ten team to finish that high in the rankings is unheard of (well, duh, Bill, that’s why they set a record), but they also did it by taking recruits straight from those territories. The 2017 class, the freshman on campus right now as I write this and you read this, has 5 California residents in it (RHP Cody Bolton signed with the Pirates in June so 4 of the 5 enrolled). For more on the new guys, read more from U of M’s Katie Gwinn Hewitt about Michigan’s new faces here and here.
Earlier this week, the high school class of 2018 had a chance to sign their letter of intent to enroll at U of M for next fall. The 2018 class is not as highly ranked across the board as the 2017 class, 35th in Perfect Game for right now, but there is still time to sign and commit; Wednesday the 8th was just the first day a player could sign. I wanted to introduce you to these players here.
- Keaton Carattini, Encinitas, CA (La Costa Canyon); @keatoncarattini
- Carattini, coming from a hot bed of baseball talent, has garnered a lot of interest from D1 programs across the country. A Perfect Game profile from 2014 praises his mechanics but slow arm speed (considering he was 14, makes sense) and ability to fool hitters. Not two months ago he was clocked hitting 88 mph on the mound, a good sign that he has maintained those mechanics while adding velocity. Getting him into a stiffer and more regular throwing and weightlifting program will do wonders for him; I bet he will be hitting 90 before he enrolls at Michigan.
- Walker Cleveland, Suwanee, GA (North Gwinnett); @w_cleveland10
- At 6′ 2″ and only 150 pounds, Cleveland reminds me of Chris Sale when he was young. He’ll hover in the mid-80s with a fastball from the left side, and mix in a curveball and changeup in the low-70s to keep hitters off balance. Reports of those nature have appeared all autumn long as he’s worked his way through the WWBA Qualifier circuit down south. While his velocity has not been dominant, he clearly knows his way around the plate; in the Southeast Qualifier #2, he struck out 12 over 6.2 innings and also started to feature a slider into his arsenal, which can be devastating from the left side (cough, Chris Sale, cough).
NGBaseball 2018 Early Signees – Chase Clark (Oglethorpe), @w_cleveland10 (Michigan), @michael_Goehrig (Western Carolina), @ryanwatson2525 (Georgia State) Congratulations Guys! #NGBASEBALL2018 pic.twitter.com/f2Qh2CBp64
— NGHS Baseball (@NGDawgsBaseball) November 9, 2017
- Steven Hajjar, North Andover, MA (Central Catholic); @StevenHajjar
- Hajjar is probably my favorite signee, and for a few reasons. Like mine, his last name is confusing to spell and probably gives people fits. He was committed to Maryland as recently as July and flipped to Michigan. He somehow has a GPA of 4.4 and got a 1330 on his SATs. And he is really freaking good at baseball. At the July Perfect Game National Showcase, his scouting report was a perfect 10/10, hitting as high as 93 on the gun as well as a slider that “was very consistent with plenty of depth and biting action” that can get up to 79 mph. His mechanics remind me of fellow Michigan pitcher Rich Hill, who had an excellent postseason for the Dodgers. Unconventional, but wicked offspeed pitches make hitters look foolish. Combine those mechanics with a 6′ 4″ frame and long arms and hitters will feel that the ball is being released from about 50 feet away. Good luck.
Steven Hajjar along with his family signing his NLI to Michigan Baseball pic.twitter.com/6eheOdy0Kb
— CCHS Raiders (@CCRaider_sports) November 8, 2017
- Dillon Nowicki, Stoughton, WI (Stoughton); @Dilphinn12
- Like Hajjar, Nowicki graded out beautifully at the Perfect Game showcase over the summer, earning a 9.5 with commendations in fastball location and curveball movement. He throws a heavy fastball that can touch 90 and will cut or sink naturally based on his grip and arm angle. He committed during his on-campus visit that coincided with the football team getting blown out by OSU in Harbaugh’s first season and hasn’t looked back since.
Officially a Michigan Wolverine! pic.twitter.com/UDmkiuESgV
— Dillon Nowicki (@Dilphinn12) November 9, 2017
- Drew Rom, Fort Thomas, KY (Highlands); @Drew_Rom10
- At the 2017 Great Lakes Indoor Showcase this past February, Rom, an excellent student who pulled a 32 on his ACT, threw incredibly well, earning a 9/10 grade and earning a nod to the showcase’s All Prospect Team. His heavy and running fastball will hover in the upper-80s and can touch 91 with a “repeatable delivery” and he will put hitters away with another nasty slider that is more 11 to 4 than it is 9 to 3. He was named to the WWBA World Championships All Tournament Team in October, striking out 9 in 32 innings and will sign Friday, November 10.
- Jack White, Athens, GA (Athens Academy); @etihwkcaj
- No, not the musician, but equally as talented in a different regard. White’s fastball is not overpowering, maxing out at 87, but his naturally sinking changeup is what gets batters off balance. He struck out 5 batters in 4 innings at 18U Summer Showdown in July, earning All Tournament Team honors and taking home the trophy for Rawlings Southeast National squad. He is another crafty lefty that reminds me of 2017 draftee Oliver Jaskie.
- Riley Bertram, SS, Zionsville, IN (Zionsville), @rileyb_4_3
- Betram is a well built middle infielder with a strong arm and quick feet; Prep Baseball Report has his infield velocity clocked at 86 mph, quite good for a high school senior and he will be coming to the school at a time of transition for the infielders. Last year’s SS Michael Brdar was one of the best defensive shortstops in the conference, so Bertram will have big shoes to fill.
- Casey Buckley, C, Long Beach, CA (Los Alamitos), @casey_buckley5
- One of two catchers on the roster, Buckley committed just over a year ago and signed on Wednesday. One of two catchers in the class and one of two California players, Buckley has played competitive baseball all throughout his life. This past summer, he hit .273 in the Perfect Game 17U World Series for the Playa Vista Orioles after earning an Underclass High Honorable Mention for the 2017 season. Unfortunately, I could not find any non-paywalled info regarding pop-time or defensive statistics.
- Jordon Rogers, C, Chicago, IL (Simeon Career Academy), @Jrogers_42
- The other catcher that comes from much closer than Buckley, Rogers committed almost exactly a year ago and signed on Wednesday. Rogers has been clocked at a pop time of 1.97 (MLB average is approximately 1.90), and runs a 6.6 60-yard dash. As a catcher. Think about that for a minute. Having that type of speed at catcher can offer Bakich a valuable pinch runner/defensive substitution late in close games when runs are at a premium. Also a switch hitter, Rogers is an incredible get for the staff out of Chicago.
- Jack Van Remortel, 3B, Carmel, IN (Carmel), @jackvan44
- Van Remortel, at 6′ 2″ and 215 pounds is already a full grown man playing high school baseball. Perfect Game records show he was clocked at 89 mph off the mound this past summer, which is good enough for the 98th percentile of the 2018 class at that specific showcase. Over the summer, he was named to the All Tournament Team at the 17U Perfect Game National Championship in Georgia, where he hit .364 and stole a base. He plays on the same summer and fall team as the aforementioned Riley Bertram.
Feels so good to make it official! Proud to be a Michigan Wolverine〽️! Go Blue! pic.twitter.com/S5ombryJms
— Jack Van Remortel (@jackvan44) November 9, 2017
- Willie Weiss, 3B, Beaverton, OR (Westview), @WeissWillie
- Similar in build to Van Remortel, Weiss is a large corner infielder that has really grown into his body throughout high school. A 2015 Perfect Game scouting report lists him as 165 pounds, but still able to hit 82 mph from the mound, which bodes well for how he will be able to throw across the diamond at his current 200 pound frame. In the 2017 Upperclass Fall National Championship, Weiss was named to the pitching and batting All Tournament Teams, allowing 2 earned runs in 9.1 innings pitched and a .385/.500/.962 slash line at the plate. With powerhouse Oregon State not 2 hours down the road from his hometown, adding Weiss to the class is massive.
— Willie Weiss (@WeissWillie) November 8, 2017
There are some gems in this class. It is evident that Bakich felt a shortage of lefties on the roster after a number of them were drafted this summer, so what better way to replenish the bullpen than by recruiting some top-100 lefties? And each pitcher brings a different strength; Hajjar’s is the fastball, Cleveland’s and Rom’s are the slider, Nowicki’s is the curveball. There’s something for everyone on the pitching staff this year. You’ll notice that there are no outfielders in the class; part of the huge class that enrolled for this fall included three freshmen as well as two stud sophomores that showed tons of potential. There will be lots of competition in the outfield in the coming years.
The 2018 signees may not be seem as flashy as the 2017 recruiting class but I think this group of pitchers could really be special. Any one of these gentlemen could still be drafted and turn pro, and for many of them I think that is a legitimate possibility, but for the time being, the class and the future of the program are in great shape. JJ Putz, MLB All-Star, 11-year vet and Michigan graduate, certainly thinks so:
Welcome to the best 4 years of your life. Go Blue!
— JJ Putz (@jjputz40) November 9, 2017
Thanks for reading!
Header photo: DeMaria Archiecture