The baseball program didn't release their own info on the 2019 recruiting class. As with the 2018 class, we're happy to pick up the slack here at HOOS Place. Welcome to our introduction to the latest batch of future Wahoo baseball players. If they enroll, the players will enter the university this summer and be members of the 2020 UVA Baseball team.
As of this writing, the Hoos have the 22nd ranked class in 2019 per PerfectGame.org's class rankings. It's a 13 member class with two members ranked in Perfect Game's Top 100.
Hoos ready to meet the players?
3 months away pic.twitter.com/I4sUx2e4Vh— Griffin Agee (@griffinagee_18) March 31, 2019
The MLB Draft Risk
Last season we identified Mike Vasil and Mike Siani as potential flight risks due to the 2018 MLB Draft. Prior to the draft, Vasil pulled his name from consideration while indicating that he planned to enroll at UVA. As a result, Vasil was not drafted and made it to Charlottesville.
Siani was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 4th round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He signed with the Reds for a $2M signing bonus. The slot value for his spot in the 4th round was $512.8K. Needless to say, Siani was a priority for the Reds and they made it happen.
Current freshman Zack Gelof was also drafted in the 38th round by the Cleveland Indians but he elected to enroll at UVA. And like Mike Vasil, freshman Brandon Neeck withdrew from the draft because he was going to honor his commitment to the Hoos. We had Neeck in our One To Watch section while Gelof was classified as More Likely Than Not To Enroll.
Jack Kochanowicz (RHP/1B - Bala Cynwyd, PA): Listed at 6'6 and 220 pounds, Kochanowicz is a physically imposing presence on the baseball field. He's the top-rated recruit in UVA's 2019 class and profiles primarily as a pitcher. Although he throws with his right hand, Kochanowicz bats from the left side of the plate.
Kochanowicz's best Perfect Game showcase grade was a 7.5 on PG's 10 point scale. According to their rankings guide, a 7.5 falls between "College prospect, possible future draft pick with development" (7) and "Potential draft pick and/or excellent college prospect" (8). That's the least favorable evaluation I've seen for Kochanowicz. He was a Preseason First-Team Senior All American from Perfect Game, however. He's the site's top player in Pennsylvania and the 41st overall recruit in the 2019 class.
Prep Baseball Report ranked him as the top prospect in PA and the number 14 overall recruit in the 2019 class in their December 2018 rankings update.
Fan Graphs ranks Kochanowicz as the 60th best prospect in the 2019 MLB Draft in their rankings that were released just prior to the start of the 2019 college baseball season. They note that he's a "physical beast" and was clocked "90-94 in a highly-scouted appearance" during the fall of 2018. There are reports online that he's been clocked up to 95 MPH during his senior season of high school baseball.
MLB Pipeline's scouting report notes that he repeats his mechanics well which provides for throwing strikes. He's currently a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball, curve, and changeup. The changeup is the weakest of the three pitches but should get better with more reps. It has some nice sink to it. The curve is in the mid-70s right now with a high spin rate. Further development could see it turn into a hammer curve as he adds velocity to the pitch.
We've already covered his fastball, but MLB Pipeline also notes that Kochanowicz's height and arm slot add downhill plane and combine for an altogether excellent package.
On May 2, MLB Pipeline updated their 2019 MLB Draft Top 100 prospects. Kochanowicz was ranked 70th overall. And while that's an impressive ranking, they also state that sticking with the Hoos could see Kochanowicz develop into a first round pick in the 2022 draft after his junior season.
Unless he notes prior to the draft that he plans to honor his commitment, the Hoos will likely sweat this one out until the MLB signing deadline passes.
One To Watch
Chris Newell (OF - Newtown Square, PA): Perfect Game, who also has Newell as a Preseason First-Team Senior All American, lists him as 6-2 and 190 pounds. He bats and throws from the left side. Newell also has top level experience as a pitcher, but he had Tommy John surgery in high school. That could limit his ability to pitch at the college level. If not, then you've got a bonus in this recruit.
As an outfielder, Newell profiles as a possible center fielder due to his athleticism and defensive ability. His speed allows him to cover the field well. When healthy, his arm and accuracy are good enough to handle right field. As a result, Newell could fit in any of the outfield position at UVA.
Baseball America has described Newell's swing as short and quick with loft power to all fields. They also indicate that he's equally adept at handling velocity and off-speed stuff.
As of mid-April, Baseball America had Newell as the 97th best prospect in the 2019 MLB Draft. Fan Graphs had Newell ranked similarly at 100. Perfect Game ranks him as the best outfielder in Pennsylvania in this class and the number 44 overall recruit in 2019.
In a blog post dated April 30, Fan Graphs noted that Newell is a corner outfield power bat prospect. Fan Graphs states that after some rough summer 2018 performances at the plate, there are teams that are out on Newell as a prospect in this draft. That could work to UVA's advantage.
In MLB Pipeline's May 2, 2019 MLB Draft Top 100 prospects update, Newell was ranked 98th.
It's the raw tools for Newell that stick out although MLB calls them unrefined. He has good raw power and a swing that figures to allow it to flourish. But he still needs to work on his approach at the plate.
Scouts differ on whether his ultimate future is in center or left, but it seems like center field is the majority pick.
I've seen a couple comments that hint that Newell's commitment to the Hoos could be strong enough that he could get tagged with having signability issues. He was certainly very pro UVA on social media during March Madness. That's not to say the Hoos are out of the woods but there's some reason for guarded optimism. MLB Pipeline also noted that some scouts have questioned his motor this spring pointing towards a possible contentment with heading to college.
More Likely Than Not To Enroll
As we dive into this section, let's remember that the draft is a crapshoot. All it takes is one team with money to fall in love to break our hearts. The draft rules on signing bonuses are geared to allow smart teams to hoard enough money to entice high school prospects to join the professional ranks instead of playing college ball.
Evan Sleight (OF - Framingham, MA): Listed at 6-1 and 214 pounds by Perfect Game, Sleight is anything but that. Sleight bats lefty but throws from the right side.
Sleight's highest score at a Perfect Game showcase was a 10. On their scale, a 10 means "potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect". Despite that lofty ranking from Perfect Game, I don't see any MLB Draft buzz for Sleight who committed to the Hoos in August 2016. Perfect Game considers Sleight the top recruit in Massachusetts and 155th overall in the 2019 class.
Sleight seems to be a serious student. In an article from May 2019 from the local press in Framingham, Sleight noted that his favorite subject in school was calculus.
A March 2018 article in his prep school's periodical, The Panel, mentions that Sleight had decided to forego the option of signing with MLB out of high school. Perhaps that has removed Sleight from draft boards. It should be noted that the article is over a year old and it's not clear if the author is up to date on the MLB Draft process where signing with a college doesn't preclude one from participating in the draft. It is clear that Sleight has a strong bond with coach O'Connor, however.
Sleight was once a hockey prospect in his youth. In college baseball, he'll definitely play in the outfield. MLB.com attended the June 2018 East Coast Pro/Prospect Development Pipeline in Lowell, Massachusetts. The event was a showcase for some of the best prep talents in New England. It got them some face time in front of MLB scouts while trying out for the East Coast Pro showcase team. Sleight was selected as a player to remember by MLB.com.
They noted that he was most likely a corner outfielder due to his build. The scout that made the comment also said that Sleight's strong arm would be as asset in either RF or LF. He was really impressive getting the ball home from the outfield. The move would be a transition for him as he appears to play center field for his prep team.
Massachussetts prep OF Evan Sleight, a 2019 #MLBDraft prospect who is committed to @UVABaseball, takes some cuts during BP at today's @MLBPDP/@EastCoastPro1 event in Lowell, Mass.: https://t.co/hGAeC2wdly pic.twitter.com/7AomjHAYOs— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 13, 2018
Tate Ballestero (C/IF/OF - Morristown, NJ): How do you feel about switch hitting catcher prospects? Because that's what the Hoos have here in Ballestero who throws right handed. Perfect Game lists him at 6-4 and 192 pounds. They also rank him as the 201st best recruit in the 2019 class.
His top score at a Perfect Game showcase was 9.5. We covered what a 10 means in Evan Sleight's entry. For Perfect Game, a 9 represents a "potential top 10 round pick and/or high level college prospect".
Perfect Game's 2018 National Showcase scouting report notes that Ballestero has good balance and quickness behind the plate with "compact arm action from a lower slot, makes accurate on line throws with good accuracy" and "should continue to improve with additional strength".
Prep Baseball Report has Ballestero as the best high school catcher in New Jersey. They also tab him as one of the best defensive catchers in the high school and prep school ranks.
Ballestero seems to be a better batter from the left side and has more potential there. As a right hander, he profiles more as a solid, line drive hitter.
A late April article from NJ.com exploring whether New Jersey high school baseball will have a first round pick in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft has Ballestero as one of the featured players. An anonymous scout provides some good nuggets. The scout projects Ballestero to play first base at UVA while noting that he can also play third. As a junior, Ballestero volunteered to play shortstop for his high school team when the team didn't have one on the roster. Not surprisingly, the scout points to his versatility and athleticism. He believes that Ballestero is a future MLB player. He also believes there could be signability issues in this draft because of his UVA scholarship.
NJ.com projects Ballestero as a late round draft pick this year.
Tate Ballestero doubles off Findley to open the 6 th for Morristown pic.twitter.com/K5iY8Hyvvc— Jt kroeger (@JkroegerJt) April 3, 2019
Jayson Hoopes (RHP - Northfield, NJ): The 6-3 and 170 pounds right hander was originally committed to Wagner before flipping to the Hoos in July 2018. Hoopes is ranked 308th in the 2019 class by Perfect Game.
Hoopes, who also had offers from Tulane, Wake Forest, Texas Tech, UNC, and NC State, told The Press of Atlantic City that "it was better for me to face tough competition" when explaining his decision to flip from Wagner to UVA. The academics, baseball facilities, Grounds, and Coach Kuhn were the factors that ultimately made UVA the choice.
UVA's ability to get players drafted also made a big difference. Hoopes told The Press at the time of his commitment to UVA that playing professionally is his ultimate goal but not after first getting three years of development at the college level.
As a junior, Hoopes pitched mostly in relief for his high school after a minor arm issue early in the season. He was fully recovered from that issue by the time he picked the Hoos. His high school coach noted that his fast ball has lots of pop but also said that he possesses excellent off-speed talents.
Perfect Game, whose highest showcase score for Hoopes was a 9.5, had his velocity as high as 93 in the summer of 2018. They peg him as a three-pitch pitcher. Besides the noted fastball and off-speed pitch, PG spotlights a slurve as well. They say he has a good spin rate and good feel for the pitch. But when he throws it, his mechanics change a bit making it possible that he'll easily tip the pitch at the next level without cleaning things up first.
Prep Baseball Report believes that Hoopes will be a power arm at the back of the bullpen at the next level. Perhaps a future UVA closer?
Liam Deegan (OF/3B/RHP - Richmond, VA): Deegan, who attends Mills Godwin High School, committed to the Hoos back in September 2016. Checking in at 6-3 and 210 pounds per Perfect Game, Deegan figures to play the outfield for UVA despite the other positions listed on his player profile.
Deegan appears to be a fundamentally solid outfielder with good accuracy and carry in his throws. But his power potential at the plate is Deegan's calling card. At his size, it's obvious to see why. That being said, Perfect Game does think that Deegan needs a bit of polish in his hitting mechanics to realize his true potential. Despite that caveat, Deegan still managed a 9 score as his top from a Perfect Game showcase.
Prep Baseball Reports tabs third as Deegan's expected position with outfield as the secondary choice.
In the 2019 class rankings, Perfect Game has Deegan 338th overall.
Griffin Agee (LHP/1B - Goode, VA): UVA may have found a Daniel Lynch clone at Jefferson Forest High School in Agee. Agee is a left-handed pitcher that stands 6-5 and weighs 205 pounds according to Perfect Game. They note that he looks taller than advertised and has rather long arms.
At the 2018 National Showcase, Perfect Game's scouting report notes that Agee has consistent mechanics while using a three-quarter and three-quarter mid arm slot. He was consistent in locating his fastball which has very good action. Despite topping out at only 88 MPH at the showcase, Perfect Game felt like Agree really knew how to use the pitch. Agee has a good second pitch with his curveball that has good spin. Perfect Game felt like it was an effective pitch that Agee can get more out of in the upcoming years.
Agee's top grade at a Perfect Game showcase was a 9.5 out of 10. They rank him as the number 344 recruit in 2019.
When Prep Baseball Report scouted Agee in April 2018, his fastball topped out at 90 MPH. They feel like he needs to add strength to his frame. They saw a quick, compact delivery from a pitcher that repeats his delivery well. Their one nitpick was release point consistency but their scouting notes admitted that even that was searching for something to pick at.
It should be music to Virginia fans ears' that Prep Baseball Report was impressed with his control and ability to work both sides of the plate already. They noted that at the college level it should only improve.
Prep Baseball Report was also impressed with Agee's breaking ball but did note that he did not seem to have a third pitch back in April 2018.
They rank Agee as the number 363 recruit in his class and the number 41 pitcher. As of late August 2018, Agree was the second rated recruit in Virginia for 2019. Prep Baseball Report noted that he could finish the year as the top-rated recruit if his velocity continued to increase.
Jake Baldino (LHP - Marietta, GA): From the same travel program in Georgia that produced current freshmen Drew Hamrock and Ben Harris, Baldino is another pitcher with size. Perfect Game lists him at 6-4 and 175 pounds.
Baldino did not participate in any showcase events that Perfect Game was present at, so he doesn't have a score from them. They do note, however, that he's easily in the upper 80s already and really projects. As a result, they've ranked Baldino 374th in the 2019 class.
Baseball America has a more complete read on Baldino from their article The Next 5: 2019 College Baseball Recruiting Classes from November 2018. The article highlights five classes that fell just outside their top 12 classes for the recruiting cycle.
Baseball America calls Baldino solid while saying that he has "advanced pitchability and a projectable frame". They also state that he was banged up recently. I don't see anything online detailing a troubling injury, so we'll assume that it was a minor issue for now.
Prep Baseball Report offers a March 2018 scouting report on Baldino. They have his fastball in the mid-80s a year ago maxing out at 88 MPH. He also had a soft breaking ball that sat in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While he did not have a true swing and miss pitch in March 2018, Prep Baseball Report felt that Baldino has the ceiling and projectability to develop one.
Baldino's travel program, 6-4-3 Athletics, described him as deceptive with control of three pitches. They noted that Baldino hides the ball well and has late life on his fastball. They describe his breaking ball as sharp with a two-plane break. They also claim that his change-up is indeed a swing and miss pitch.
Max Cotier (SS/2B - New Milford, CT): Listed at 6-0 and 165 pounds, Cotier is a classic middle infield prospect. He's currently a standout shortstop for his prep school in Connecticut. Some think he can stick at the position in college while there's also a chance he transitions to second base. There's a lot of support online for Cotier as the best high school / prep shortstop in the Nutmeg State right now.
Whatever his position, Cotier looks like he could use some S&C work to fill out his frame while spending a season as an understudy for Nic Kent and/or Tanner Morris.
And despite batting left handed, Cotier throws from the right side.
There's an encouraging profile from a local publication covering sports in CT, Gametime CT, that's full of excellent nuggets. We learn that Cotier was the Western New England Prep League's Player of the Year in 2018. As a junior that season, the left handed batting Cotier hit at least .500. Like many UVA Baseball players, he is a multi-sport athlete in high school. And his prep team's coach offers effusive praise stating "he really is a five-tool player. He runs really well, he fields well and has a good arm." The story is a good read to learn more about Cotier's upbringing and when he was discovered by the Hoos' coaching staff.
Cotier did not appear at any showcases attended by Perfect Game, so he doesn't have any grades on that site. They did name him Second Team All-American at middle infield for the 2018 17U Perfect Game Tournament, however. Cotier hit .444 with an OPS of 1.071 in 39 plate appearances in the qualifying events. He also picked up 6 stolen bases in those games.
Judging from Zack Gelof's experience last summer, there could be a hint that the staff is fast tracking Cotier for contributing next season. He'll play for the Saugerties Stallions of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League over the summer.
Perfect Game has Cotier ranked 429th in the 2019 class. I've already decided that he's severely underrated as a prospect.
SS Max Cotier (@PBRNewEngland) is making the most of the #AreaCodeGames. The @UVABaseball recruit has 3 hits yesterday & hammers a double into the gap here. Good looking ball player #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/bWnhrQg8Lc— Shooter Hunt (@ShooterHunt) August 9, 2018
Jacob Gooch (LHP - Daytona Beach, FL): Gooch is a bit of a mystery man in this class, but for "good" reason. Listed at 5'10 and 165 pounds, he's another left-handed pitching option being added to the staff.
Gooch has not appeared at a showcase attended by Perfect Game, so there's no grade available on the site.
Back to why we have a bit of a mystery man on our hands.
Approximately seventeen months ago, Gooch tore a ligament in his elbow during a high school game. He required Tommy John surgery to address the injury. The surgery was a success and Gooch was doing rehab including yoga to improve his flexibility.
As of early March, he had yet to return to game action.
Prior to the injury, Gooch's fastball was topping out at 88 MPH. His curveball, however, was his specialty pitch due to a spin rate that was on par with many major league pitchers.
The Hoos discovered Gooch when he was 15 at a Perfect Game D1 College Tournament event in Jupiter, Florida, an event normally reserved for high school upperclassmen. The Hoos quickly arranged a campus visit and offered Gooch when he was in town. Gooch committed on the spot.
Jacob Hodorovich (RHP - Scott Township, PA): If you were starting to get the impression that the Hoos were trying to address their pitching staff with this class then Hodorovich will not dissuade that notion. He's another pitcher on the board, this time from the right side.
Listed at 6-0 and 195 pounds by Perfect Game, his best showcase score from the site is a 9.5 Hodorovich looks to be another quality arm possibility for the coaching staff in Charlottesville to develop.
Perfect Game's scouting report describes him as strong with an over the top release. The scouting report says his fastball tops out at 90 MPH but his player profile on the site gives him credit for hitting 92 at a PG attended event in the summer of 2017. Whether 90 or 92, we have a good idea of what sort of velocity to expect out the gate.
Hodorovich is currently a three-pitch pitcher. PG describes his fastball as "mostly straight with good downhill angle". His curve is his next best pitch which is said to have "hard spin and biting action" and has a lot of potential. Finally, he brings a still developing change up to the plate.
A scouting report from Prep Baseball Report in 2017 says that Hodorovich's fastball "whisked through the bottom of the zone." His curveball was said to have "multiple tier break and tight spin".
And I will not forgive his UVA teammates if they don't stick Jake with the obvious Hodor nickname when he arrives on Grounds as a first year.
Gerardo Rodriguez (C - Miami, FL): The second catching prospect in this class, Rodriguez may be destined to be a multi-position player as he's listed at 5-10 and 180 pounds by Perfect Game. Prep Baseball Report has Rodriguez at 6-0 and 205 pounds. They describe him as physical and durable. Based on their description, I'm more inclined to believe he will be a catching prospect first and foremost.
Prep Baseball Report saw Rodriguez twice during fall 2018. In mid-September he hit a three-run homer to left. After that viewing, the site described Rodriguez as having "above average bat speed and present pull side power".
In late October, they saw Rodriguez in action a second time. Profiling his game as a catcher, the site said that he "receives well with strong hands and wrists". He also "moves with fluid footwork, quick on transfer to release."
He committed to UVA in August 2017.
Matthew Wyatt (RHP - Timonium, MD): The class wraps up with one final pitching prospect. Listed at 6-4 and 210 pounds by Perfect Game, Wyatt has the type of size that you come to expect from a UVA pitcher.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Wyatt is a preseason all-state selection in Maryland. The paper credits Wyatt with a 7-2 record, 2.90 ERA, and 61 strikeouts as a junior. They describe him as the ace of a talented and deep pitching staff.
Prep Baseball Report credits Wyatt with 56 strikeouts in 45.1 innings as a junior. They describe his arm as electric and list him as an RHP to watch in Maryland in 2019. In December 2018, they ranked Wyatt as the seventh best recruit in Maryland for the 2019 class.
PBR has Wyatt's max velocity on his fastball at 87 MPH. Perfect Game recorded his max velocity at 91 MPH.