The 2014 class
In November, Ohio State announced the signing of a National Letter of Intent by four high school seniors set to join the Buckeyes baseball program next fall. With only three seniors of the roster, a big recruiting class was not expected. But the class is composed of players the coaching staff expects to contribute from the start.
Outfielder Tre Gantt is the next in line from Indiana, following the path of Curtiss Irving, Troy Kuhn, Troy Montgomery, Jake Post and Tanner Tully in crossing the border to join the Buckeye program. In the likeness of the three current starts, Ronnie Dawson, Pat Porter and Tim Wetzel, Gantt, from Fishers, Ind., is a fleet-footed left-handed hitting outfielder. Gantt is ranked No. 8 Indiana by Prep Baseball Report, a talent who is drawing the attention of professional scouts as the MLB Draft inches closer.
By PBR's accord, Ohio State is set to take in Ohio's No. 9 and No. 10 class of 2014 graduates, respectively right-handed pitcher Jacob Niggemeyer from Olentangy Liberty and Cincinnati St. Xavier catcher Jordan McDonough. Both committed to Ohio State prior to their sophomore seasons, believing the direction of the Buckeye program after only one season led by Greg Beals and staff. Niggemeyer is a physical pitcher, possessing a low-90s fastball with a big league frame at 6'5, 210 pounds. McDonough is getting back to his top form after being diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and not playing baseball his junior season while receiving treatment. McDonough was viewed as one of the Midwest's top catchers being being diagnosed, a coup for the recruiting class. McDonough showed well at PBR's Super 60, their top winter showcase, and could be on track to be the catcher of the future, with current catchers Aaron Gretz and Connor Sabanosh entering their final year of eligibility next year.
The final piece of Ohio State's four-member class is Walsh Jesuit infielder Nate Romans. Another early commit, Romans is a sure-handed defender with good speed. Romans has the ability to play both middle infield positions with second base his likely position. Romans will provide needed depth up the middle.
The possibility of Ohio State adding to the 2014 class is small, but not of the question. A lot hinges on what happens with the draft. Of the four signed players, Gantt is stands alone in being viewed as a draft risk, even then the odds appear low three months out. Favorable odds all four reach campus, outside of natural attrition due to transfers, walk-ons moving on, etc, if Ohio State's class is to grow, it will be due to an early departure to the draft.
Juniors Trace Dempsey, Josh Dezse and Pat Porter are the three players with the possibility to move on to the professional game. While Dezse is Ohio State's most ballyhooed prospect, he has yet to pitch this season. Though he is the team's DH, Dezse's professional prospects results on the mound. Without toeing the rubber, Dezse's stock is a mystery. Porter, a three-year starter with solid tool grades throughout, has mild interest from scouts, a big spring could propel him up draft boards. The same holds true for the all-america closer Dempsey. True relievers often hold little draft value, but Dempsey's makeup and offspeed has him in a position where scouts have intrigue. If Dempsey's fastball velo can consistently sit in the low-90s, it's likely he'll find his name selected.
None of the three are locks to be drafted, and drafted high enough to forego a final year of eligibility. But the possibility is there for all, and so the door may not be closed on Ohio State recruiting for the 2014 class.
A player the Buckeyes may add is JUCO infielder L. Grant Davis, a listed freshman at Orange Coast College, though three years removed from high school. Davis who signed with Arizona State out of JSerra Catholic High School (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), opting to join the Sun Devils of Arizona and Ohio State, it set to visit Ohio State March 14-15. Davis is batting .275 with two doubles and a triple in his first 40 at-bats at the JUCO.
The 2015 class
The 2015 class is set to be bigger than the '14 haul. If Dempsey, Dezse and Porter do not departure this season, their eligibility will expire next. Those three, along with Gretz, Sabanosh and left-hander starter Ryan Riga will provide Ohio State with quite a few holes.
The Buckeyes have done well to anticipate those holes, already with six commitments for the class.
Boyd Co. (Ky.) catcher Jacob Barnwell, PBR's No. 6 junior in Kentucky.
Grand Rapids Catholic (Mich.) outfielder Jake Vander Wal, PBR's No. 6 player in Michigan.
Alexandria-Monroe (Ind.) first baseman Owen Young, son of former MLB first baseman Dimitri Young.
Bellbrook shortstop Casey Demko.
Walsh Jesuit right-hander pitcher- Ryan Feltner, PBR's No. 7 player in Ohio.
Sandusky Perkins left-hander pitcher Braun Miller, PBR's No. 5 player, top southpaw.
Behind the plate, Ohio State will only have McDonough and current freshman Jalen Washington who should be with two more years of eligibility. Young represents the first first basemen Ohio State will have signed since the 2012 with current sophomore Zach Ratcliff, though current freshman Curtiss Irving provides Ratcliff depth. Vanderl Wal is another left-handed hitting, quick outfielder. By the time he arrives, current sophomore Jacob Brobst will be a senior, Dawson and Montgomery juniors, only Gantt an underclassmen.
You can never have enough pitching and Feltner and Miller are two of Ohio's top in their class. Demko, a slick-fielder shortstop, will join Romans as the next wave of middle infielders, set to replace the current twin-killing duo of Kuhn and Craig Neggin, two players set to be seniors when the class of 2015 arrives.
While there is enough talent secured to feel comfortable Ohio State will reload, not rebuild, over the next two years, roster composition is from an exact science, turnover for varies reasons will occur. The 2015 class presents the better opportunity for Ohio State to still add players, here's a look at who is at the top of the list.
Top 2015 targets
Lapel (Ind.) C/3B/RHP- Brady Cherry PBR recently announced Cherry has narrowed his list to three schools, Indiana, Indiana State and Ohio State. Cherry has been on the Buckeye wish list since last August with a standout performance in PBR's Midwest Futures Games, their premier event. Cherry has the ability to do it all, pitch, catch, play in the field. A commitment to Ohio State by Indiana's No. 6 player would be a major pickup, a player expected to contribute early regardless of where lands.
Toledo St. John's Jesuit OF- TJ Lake Stop me if you've heard this before, Ohio State is interested in a fast outfielder that bats left-handed. Lake fits the mold of what Beals and their staff wants in an outfield. One who can cover ground, be a force on the bases and possess gap-to-gap power, picking up doubles and triples. A future outfield of Gantt-Lake-Vander Wal will make the OSU outfield a no-flyball-zone.
Findlay LHP- Connor Curlis By the fall of 2015, Ohio State is only projected to have two left-handed pitchers in the program, southpaws Zach Farmer and Tanner Tully, a pair of pitchers consistently throwing in the low 90s as freshman where in two years an MLB could come call their name. Another lefty to join Miller is the class is desired. Curlis is a pitcher with a good feel for pitching, knowing how to command his pitches and be the aggressor in an at-bat. Curlis currently doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he has strong secondary offerings which will get guys out, and a bulldog mentality, thanks to time on the ice as a hockey player.
Cincinnati Moeller RHP- Joe Vranesic Vranesic enters the fall for Ohio powerhouse Moeller as one of Ohio's most sought after juniors. A solidly-built 6'1, 190, Vranesic already made visits to Furman, Indiana, Kent State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. According to PBR, Vranesic's fastball has a high velocity of 91. On a team rich with Division I commits and prospects,with the amount of coaches taking in Moeller games and practices, if Vranesic continues to show premium velocity, he may not stay uncommitted long.