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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Baseball recruiting turns out to far more byzantine and arcane than football or basketball recruiting. There are thousands of players coming into college and no authoritative, free scouting service to cover it. Players can come in with as little as a quarter of a scholarship, and a huge number of top kids sign big-bucks contracts after the draft. Who has the top recruiting class? Ask on August 16th, the day after the deadline for major league teams to sign their draft picks. It won't be Michigan, or anyone in the Big Ten. does have a primitive ranking where their top recruit is worth 1585 points, their number 1584 is worth one point, and you can extrapolate from there. The Big Ten according to them:

Rank College Recruits Total Points Top Ranked Recruit Ranked Top 200 Conference
49 Iowa 10 6857 Phil Schreiber 0 Big 10
72 Michigan 7 4017 Tyler Mills 0 Big 10
76 Michigan State 4 3783 Clayton Vanderlaan 0 Big 10
84 Illinois 5 3205 Corey Kimes 0 Big 10
108 Penn State 3 2300 Joey DeBernardis 0 Big 10
109 Indiana 4 2226 Blake Monar 0 Big 10
127 Minnesota 5 1483 Kurt Schlangen 0 Big 10
129 Purdue 6 1415 Joe Haase 0 Big 10
133 Ohio State 1 1350 Ross Oltorik 0 Big 10
192 Northwestern 3 205 Zachary Morton 0 Big 10

Providing points per recruit here is pointless since no one knows exactly how many scholarship are being spent: Ohio State's one guy might be taking up a full slot and Indiana's four might all be on the minimum.

Only six members of Rivals' top 100 (via) are from Big Ten states, and none are from Michigan. It's a different world out there.

Some guidance from a couple guys who are more familiar with the scene then I am. First, Dan Kittell:

I assume you have seen the list of guys Maloney signed in the fall. [uh... now I have! -ed] lots of pitchers (one from Pioneer & one from Mass. they are high on, among others), a catcher from Cali and a couple SSs (one from TC, one from Ill who is ranked the #8 guy in the state, apparently). i wouldn't worry about finding out how good these guys are until the MLB draft in June. unless there is a Putnam-type kid (i don't think there is), there won't be much to read about. even if there is a putnam type kid, he would be a late rounder b/c they have signed w/ M and are probably firm commits (putnam was drafted out of HS IIRC, but was a late flyer pick by the local Tigers b/c he knew he wanted to go to M).

I think the usual mode of operations at this level is to sign pitchers w/ potential, RS them to develop their fundamentals and hope they come around by year 2-3. rules of thumb at this level: RHers w/ low 90s fastballs are a dime a dozen. they need other pitches (ZPs splitter, actually he throws 4-5 pitches for strikes according to maloney). ANY lefty that throws in the 90s is a good pitcher & most likely a high end guy.

As far as position players, they signed 2 SSs, so expect Christian to bolt. not sure how to gauge position players at this level, unless they are obvious high end guys. Abraham was a hockey player, Reck started out at Oakland. guys who hit .450-.500 in HS are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to tell who the high end guys are until the draft.
A slight correction from Colin:
I think Dan was a little much with 90+ from RHP being standard. ~92 is average MLB from a RHP, iirc, so for the Big Ten it isn't quite that. But if the program is thinking of itself as a national power, then it needs a little more than Big Ten average. But Dan is right about secondary offerings. Everyone I saw out there yesterday had a hell of a time throwing anything but a fastball belt high for a strike. That has to change.
So bear all that in mind.

Position Players

C Coley Crank

Kittell offered this up on Crank:
This catcher from Cali might be a good one... 6-2 220 or so and can hit for power. played on plenty of Cali HS all star travel teams i think. Size is the only thing (w/o the benefit of draft evals) that i can use as a gauge. Berset is a good player, but a 5-10 185lb catcher is not a good prospect at any level. Look for him to get pushed. on Crank:
Coley Crank is a 2008 C from Pinole Valley HS, residing in Pinole, CA, listed at 5'11" 215 lbs. Body - strong, physical, stocky. Offense - 2 for 4 with a 2BL, 3 Rs in two games, strong, flat swing, physical, good present power, balanced, easy power, short swing, ball exits bat well, power to all fields, middle of order bat. Defense - ok arm, consistent pop times, simple technique, takes time, flashes competitive pop times.
That scouting report was from '06 and may be a little outdated. They gave him an 8 -- "solid D-I prospect, mid-round draft pick" on their ten point rating scale. Maloney echoes the assessment:
A catcher out of Berkeley, Calif., Crank is an all-league selection in both baseball and football, and will add power to U-M's lineup. He was named to the 2007 Junior Sun Belt Oklahoma All-Tournament team, and played in the 2007 Area Code Games in Long Beach. "Coley Crank is a really strong, young man," Maloney said. "He's six-foot, 220, just built like a house. He'll give us added depth at the catcher position, and provide a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup."
A possible replacement for Recknagel's power, it appears, and probably a guy who will see significant time as both a catcher and a DH.

SS John Lorenz

According to someone -- who, exactly, is never revealed -- Lorenz was the #8 prospect in Illinois this year:
An honor roll student, Lorenz is listed as the No. 8 player in Illinois' class of 2008 as a shortstop and is captain of both the baseball and basketball teams. As a junior, he set school records with 9 home runs and 45 RBIs while hitting .422 and was named MVP of the Griffins' conference and regional champion team.

"John Lorenz is an outstanding infield prospect. He has a strong arm, a good bat and is very athletic," Michigan coach Rich Maloney said.

Lorenz only looked at Big Ten schools, visiting a "plethora" of them before deciding on Michigan. Do you need more evidence Jason Christian is outta herrrre? Everything you need to know is encapsulated here:
Lorenz, who will automatically be entered in to the amateur baseball draft, has talked with several professional scouts and expects to be drafted. However, Lorenz will only forgo his freshman year at Michigan if the contract offered is substantial.

Meanwhile, the Griffin shortstop expects to get immediate playing time at Michigan as the Wolverines' current shortstop is expected to leave after this season to play professionally.
Lorenz was a three-sport star early in his high school career and only recently gave up serious travel basketball, so his skills are a little more raw than guys who've played every day. He may have more upside than most.

SS Kevin Krantz

Krantz is an instate kid with the usual insane stats (.475, 8HR, .848 slugging and .617 OBP) garnered against questionable competition: Krantz is from Traverse City. Though he was a D-I caliber pitcher (Michigan State recruited him there), he'll be a position player at Michigan:
"The recruited me solely as an infielder and a shortstop," Krantz said. "I feel my best position is shortstop."
There's another article that says basically the same things, with one more confirmation that Christian is gonzo:
Michigan has a returning junior at shortstop in Jason Christian. But Maloney told Krantz that he expects Christian to be a high draft pick next June and leave school early.
Is Jason Christian returning for his senior year? It's hard to tell.

Krantz doesn't have any accolades or rankings, and the articles on him specifically state his scholarship is a partial one. (That may be an artifact of his home state: if you're from California or Illinois tuition is like 30 grand.)