This past week was the first opportunity college baseball players could sign with a college and they have the rest of the summer to make their decision once and for all. Michigan, who has played their way to the top of the Big Ten, has boasted some excellent recruiting classes in the past few years under Coach Bakich and staff and has pulled some excellent signees from all across the country; the class of 2016 is no exception.
A brief recap of the nature of baseball recruiting. The MLB draft occurs in the middle of June, shortly after the College World Series concludes. With the massive depth of the MLB draft and expansive minor league system, MLB teams can draft either high school players or collegiate upperclassmen and assign them to various affiliates.
- For example, Michigan’s star second baseman of 2015, Jake Cronenworth, was drafted by the Rays and chose to forego his senior year at Michigan and played a season at Short Season Hudson Valley and has now moved up to Low A Bowling Green.
- Another example, Michigan freshman Jonathan Engelmann was drafted by the Twins in the 28th round of last year’s draft, but chose to forego a professional career to sign with Michigan.
High school players have a tough decision to make; sign a professional contract and try their hand in the minor leagues, or go to college and develop their talent in the NCAA, so not every player you see on this list will end up in Ann Arbor. Baseball players are rarely offered full scholarships, and the ones that are are more likely to sign with a professional team. It’s a sort of chess match with the recruits in hopes that they will choose the college path first, but it’s always hard to turn down a million dollar signing bonus.
Without further adieu, I present to you a brief list of Michigan baseball’s 2016 recruiting class.
Karl Kauffmann, RHP
Kauffmann is a native of my very own hometown and attends Brother Rice High School, a powerhouse in nearly every sport (I personally went 0-6 against them in my years playing varsity baseball). Their premier pitcher this year, Kauffmann stands 6’2″ and is listed anywhere from 180 to 200 pounds, depending on where you look, and can throw a fastball as high as 95, a curveball, and a changeup.
- His fastball has been recorded anywhere from 93-95, but will hover around the upper 80s consistently, putting him right on par with most of the Big Ten pitchers already.
- He also boasts a curveball and changeup, which both will sit in the mid-70s.
Most Big Ten pitchers will come to college with 2 pitches in their pocket and developing a 3rd, but Kauffmann is already steps ahead of most other recruits. He was “lights out at PG National” (one of the top showcases in the country), and was named to the First Team of the Rawlings Regional All American teams.
At last summer’s Perfect Game All-American Classic, his pitching performance earned him a perfect 10.0 grade, which, and I quote, means “potential very high draft pick and/or Elite level college prospect.” He is the top ranked player in Michigan and sixth in the region according to Prep Baseball Report, making him likely to get drafted this summer, though he includes “University of Michigan ’20” in his Twitter bio. This is like Rashan-Gary-level huge signing.
Jack Weisenburger, RHP
Like Kauffmann, Weisenburger is a Michigan native, and the grandson of former Michigan football legend Jack Weisenburger. At 6′ 3″ and 210, the Rockford pitcher is a huge kid that uses his size to his advantage to reach 93 on the gun; he will normally sit in the upper-80s and rely on a bevy of secondary pitches as “out pitches.”
- His curveball and slider sit in the low 70s, and his changeup will reach the upper-80s. These differences in velocity are incredibly advanced for a high school senior, and shows “well above average feel for the change“; if he can keep his arm slot the same for all four pitches, he could be an absolutely dominant Big Ten pitcher.
At the WWBA showcase, a summer tournament featuring handpicked players from the Perfect Game staff, Weisenburger was throwing “easy 80s”, which is a promising sign that this young arm could reach the mid-90s on his fastball with a college conditioning program. Weisenburger, who can be found on Twitter, is the 40th ranked player in the region from Prep Baseball Report.
Tommy Henry, LHP
Junior lefties Carmen Benedetti and Brett Adcock are likely to be drafted this summer, and senior Evan Hill is set to graduate, so another lefty pitcher will be welcome to the staff. A native of Portage, and summer teammate of Kauffmann and fall teammate of Weisenburger on Midwest Athletics, Henry is a crafty pitcher who has yet to grow into his 6’4″ frame.
- Clocked at a mid-80s fastball (maxed at 89), Henry threw a slider, curveball, and changeup in addition to the fastball at the 2014 WWBA tournament, but only threw a curve at the 2015 tournament, which shows that he has elected to focus on perfecting two pitches before enrolling in Ann Arbor.
Henry doesn’t have the same velocity as Weisenburger or Kauffmann, but he doesn’t get outs with velocity – never a bad thing.
Christian Bullock, OF
Bullock is a classic speedy outfielder from Chicago who “showed loads of potential at PG National.” At 6′, 180 pounds, Bullock was clocked running a 6.69 60-yard dash last summer, which is jaw dropping fast for a high school rising senior.
- He’s got excellent footwork in the outfield and a quick, inside-out lefty swing that I can eventually see at the top of the order after Bivens and Engelmann.
- Bullock, who generated interest from Notre Dame and Missouri, was named the Top Overall Prospect at Prep Baseball Report’s Illinois Class of 2016 Showcase back in October of 2014, showing off that speed that I mentioned and “the most explosive bat speed.”
Outfielders Cody Bruder and Matt Ramsay will graduate after this season, so Bullock should compete for a starting spot next spring.
Dominic Clementi, OF
Clementi is a pseudo-legacy of sorts, he attends the same Wisconsin high school (Arrowhead), as football commit Ben Bredeson and freshman RHP Jack Bredeson.
- Like Bullock, he runs a wicked fast 6.74 60-yard dash and an absolutely insane 4.12 home to first (Ichiro ran a 3.6).
- Clementi was named to the All Tournament Team at the WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship in 2015, and is “one of the top defenders in his class” who has been clocked at throwing 88 from the outfield. He and Bullock could rule the outfield in the future.
Marcus Chavez, C
With the tremendous season junior catcher Harrison Wenson is having and senior Dominic Jamett set to graduate, Michigan will only have one catcher on the roster; Drew Lugbauer, who has played most of his time at first base this year.
- Hailing from the same Brooklyn, NY high school as Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Chavez does not have as fancy of a resume as Kauffmann or Weisenburger in terms of showcases or summer tournaments, but there is only one number that you need to know about Chavez: 1.84.
- When a runner is stealing a base, a catcher’s “pop time” is the time it takes from the second the ball hits the glove to when the fielder receives the throw; all times are measured from home to second base, and the best of the best hover around 1.88 to 1.92. Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals catcher who has won the last 8 Gold Gloves, and is considered to be one of the best defensive catchers ever, is consistently at 1.88. A 1.84 from a high schooler is just…
Harrison Salter, C
Salter is soon to graduate from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s a rival of Brother Rice’s in the parochial league, so he and Kauffmann are no strangers to each other. Salter was named Honorable Mention to the Rawlings 2016 Preseason Central Region team, and a 2015 Underclass Honorable Mention according to Perfect Game.
- A commit since January of 2015, he’s got a wicked fast and beautiful swing, and likely could be the offensive juggernaut that Wenson is once he arrives on campus.
If Bakich can somehow work Chavez’s defense in with Salter’s offense, Michigan will be set at catcher for a very long time. Fun fact: he is also the grandson of Bill Freehan, former U of M coach and Tigers catcher.
Bakich recruited relentlessly in this cycle, and it shows. He filled the needs of the team perfectly, and only time will tell who will get drafted from this year’s team. We have a good idea, but it looks like Michigan won’t skip a beat moving from 2016 to 2017.
While 7 commits may be a little on the low side (compared to UNC’s 19 or Arizona State’s 20), it is quality over quantity with this bunch. Perfect Game ranks Michigan’s 2016 class 50th (2nd in the Big Ten to Indiana at 31) in the country; to be that high on the list with this small of a group gives good testament to how stacked this class really is.
Kauffmann is the class’s only player in Perfect Game’s Top 100, but that is right on par with the Big Ten average; Indiana (31st) has one as well, but Purdue (58th), Iowa (60th), Penn State (75th), Illinois (85th), and OSU (100th) don’t have any. This is a grand slam of a recruiting class for Bakich and the Wolverines.
Header photo: Patrick Record, Ann Arbor News