x

As is customary, the baseball program has not released any info on the 2020 recruiting class that will enroll at UVA when classes resume. In order to fill that void, we'll continue our practice of profiling the newest crop of Wahoo baseball players.

The 2020 class is a bit atypical as far as baseball recruiting classes go.

First year pitcher Nate Savino was originally going to be part of this class. However, he elected to accelerate his baseball career by graduating from high school in December 2019 so that he could enroll at UVA in January 2020. That removed Nate from this recruiting class.

Instead, Pennsylvania phenom Nate Bitsko filled the elite pitching prospect void left by Savino's early enrollment. Bitsko was to graduate from high school in 2021. However, he reclassed into the 2020 baseball recruiting class. That made him eligible to enroll at UVA this year or pursue professional baseball a year sooner than originally possible. 

Unfortunately for the Hoos, Bitsko was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays 24th overall in the 2020 MLB Draft in June. Bitsko quickly agreed to terms with the Rays, securing a $3 million bonus from the club. Thus, he'll never suit up for the Hoos.

Finally, as the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic knocked the college sports world off its axis, it quickly became apparent that business as usual would not exist in the near-term future. The NCAA responded by granting all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility (essentially a do over for the 2020 season). In baseball, seniors could return without an impact to scholarship money limitations as long as they did not receive more than their 2020 season allotment.

Further, the Division 1 Committee for Legislative Relief made sweeping changes for the 2021 college baseball season.

Baseball programs are left to make roster management decisions amidst possibly severe budgetary restrictions. It may be prudent for programs to take a conservative approach to roster management despite the eligibility waivers and monetary waivers instituted. 

It appears that the Hoos are taking that approach. Five players have transferred (Griffin Agee, Jayson Hoopes, Walker Jenkins, Kyle Petri, and Evan Sleight). And redshirt senior Chesdin Harrington announced that he and pitcher Evan Sperling would not return for a 6th season. The Hoos have lost one member of their recruiting class in the interim too. Catcher Blake Badman from Maryland, who had signed with UVA out of DeMatha, will now attend Maryland instead.

As the dust settles, the Hoos are left with an 11-player recruiting class set to enroll when the University reopens. Perfect Game ranks the class 18th in the country. It features one Gatorade Player of the Year award winner for their state in New Jersey's Kyle Teel.

Lets meet those players now.

 

 

Jake Berry (LHP - Great Falls, VA):

Berry may be the recruit I'm looking forward to seeing the most. He's a towering LHP prospect at 6-10 and 230 pounds per his profile at Perfect Game. For comparison, Randy Johnson was listed at 6-10 and 225 pounds during his career per Baseball Reference. Now, Berry isn't expected to be Randy Johnson while at UVA, but the Bishop O'Connell product is a quality prospect, nonetheless.

Perfect Game ranks Berry as the top player in Virginia and the 63rd overall player in the 2020 class. 

It's typical that UVA targets multi-sport athletes for the baseball program. And Berry is no different. Once a potential basketball recruit as well, Berry earned a write up on Maryland's 247 Sports site InsideMDSports back in June 2018 along with high school teammate Charlie Weber. And while it appeared that Weber was the better hoops prospect, the article's comments about Berry showcase a plus athlete for his size. The author, Terps site poster JLK33, noted that Berry had range out to the three-point line, can get to the rim off the dribble, rebound, and protect the rim. Jake's toughness on the court was also noted. 

Injuries and illness have slowed down Berry's development over the years. His basketball career required that he get operations to repair the MPFL (Medial Patellofemoral Ligament) in each knee. The MPFL holds the kneecap in place in the thighbone groove that it sits. When one bends their knee, the MPFL provides stabilization for the kneecap. MPFL injuries, especially tears, increase the odds of a kneecap dislocation. Manny Machado is likely the most famous baseball player to have this injury in recent memory.

Berry will also join Billy Price as another cancer survivor in the program. Berry beat cancer during his time in high school as well. 

It's clear that the Hoos have a resilient player joining the program here.

Unlike most of his peers in high school baseball, Berry did get one outing in the 2020 season before COVID-19 put an end to the season. He pitched in Bishop O'Connell's season opening win over Gonzaga College High School. In front of approximately 20 scouts, Berry tossed 3.2 innings and struck out five batters. He also threw in front of about 40 scouts during a preseason scrimmage.

 

Alex Greene (OF - Edgewater, MD):

The DeMatha product committed to the Hoos back in November 2016. He finally made it official when he signed with UVA in November 2019.

 
Rece Ritchey (LHP - Huntingdon, PA):

Let's get this out of the way quickly. Because if you follow UVA or ACC baseball, you're going to hear this a ton over the next three years.

Rece Ritchey has a high school teammate named Jackson Ritchey. They're both 2020 baseball recruits. And they're first cousins. Rece signed with UVA. And Jackson signed with Virginia Tech.

Channing Austin (3B/RHP - Brooklyn, NY):

Baseball history and Brooklyn go hand in hand. So, it's fun to see the Hoos tapping into that for an addition to the program. Austin attends Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn.

Ranked 318th in the 2020 class by Perfect Game, Austin is listed at 6-3 and 200 pounds. Perfect Game has Austin slotted at 3B and ranks him as the top player at the hot corner in New York for the 2020 class.

The Hoos, on the other hand, appear to have a different role in mind for Austin. In a recent chat with Jeff White, Coach O'Connor identified Austin as one of two incoming first year players that could be an immediate contributor. On Austin, "he's got a great arm. He's a really good athlete, and I think the sky's the limit for him." In that article, Jeff White lists Austin as an RHP instead of a 3B.

With his build, it's easy to see why the coaching staff is excited to have Austin join the pitching staff. Once he gets a full season of strength and conditioning under his belt, the Hoos could have a bulldog on the mound.

And as usual, UVA is adding a versatile athlete to the baseball program. Austin's ability to play 3B while projecting as a high-level D1 pitcher speaks to that. Prep Baseball Report also lists 3B as his primary position with pitcher as the secondary option.

Otherwise, Austin is a bit of a mystery man online. That Coach O'Connor called him out as an immediate contributor adds a ton of intrigue here.

Avery Mabe (RHP - Wytheville, VA):

Mabe, out of George Wythe High School in Wytheville, Virginia, is another pitcher with good size joining the program. Perfect Game, who ranks Mabe as the 392nd best recruit in the 2020 class, lists him at 6-4 and 200 pounds. Becoming a member of the baseball program at UVA is special for Mabe. His mother is an alum and Mabe is a lifelong Wahoo fan as a result.

Like most newcomers to the Virginia program, Mabe is an outstanding student and multi-sport athlete. Late into the 2020 school year, Mabe was reported to have a GPA in excess of 4.0. And he's excelled in competition off the diamond and out of the classroom as well. Mabe played three seasons of hoops at George Wythe. Mabe was a starter for the Maroons who were state runners up once. And as a member of George Wythe's golf team, Mabe was a state champion in the fall 2019 season.

While Mabe plays the other sports to hone his competitive nature, it's baseball that's his true passion. Baseball came naturally to Mabe who excelled at the sport very early in life. In fact, he skipped the rec league experience entirely playing exclusively travel baseball once the baseballs were no longer resting on a tee. 

And like most of his peers in the 2020 class, Mabe did not get a senior season of high school baseball. If his junior stats are any indication, Mabe was well on his way to having a monster senior year. As a junior, Mabe posted a .429 average with 1 homer and 14 RBI. On the mound, Mabe finished with a 1.04 ERA and 101 strikeouts in just 54 innings.

In 2018, Mabe was a member of the 17-U National Development Team Program for USA Baseball. In fact, on Ebay, you could find his autographed baseball card in a USA Baseball uniform for sale.

His last competitive baseball action was last fall for his travel team, the Royals Scout Team. Since then, and especially since his senior season was not to be, Mabe has been using a workout program provided by the Hoos' coaching staff. 

As a member of Prep Baseball Report's 2020 All Virginia-DC Preseason 3rd Team, Mabe features a fastball that's topped out at 91 MPH per Perfect Game. And Prep Baseball Report shows Mabe as primarily a three-pitch pitcher at this point in his career. Besides the fastball that now sits in the upper 80s, Mabe also features a curveball and changeup. Perfect Game notes that the changeup has good fading action in the lower 80s. And they indicate he's also developing a slider that possesses good bite while sitting in the mid to upper 70s. In his player profile at Prep Baseball Report, Mabe's curveball is pegged to sit 71 to 74 MPH.

 
Addie Burrow (OF - Spotsylvania, VA):

Let's get this out of the way now because you're going to hear it a ton during Addie's time at UVA. He has a famous cousin that plays football - Heisman Trophy Winner, national champion, #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Yes, that guy - Joe Burrow. 

But Addie, listed at 6-1 and 185, is worthy of recognition on his own merits as well.

Burrow, who announced his commitment to the Hoos on May 31, 2019, was a late addition to this class. Like most players this year, Burrow was robbed of his senior season by the pandemic. But his high school junior numbers show a talented player. It's no surprise that he eventually earned the opportunity to play in the orange and blue.

As a junior, Burrow batted .338 and sported a 1.000 fielding percentage as an outfielder. Burrow hit one homer and drove in thirteen while going a perfect fourteen of fourteen in stolen base attempts. To round out his stats, Burrow scored twenty-nine runs while hitting seven doubles and five triples (tied for a school record). For his career, Burrow hit .349 with nine triples, nine doubles, and scored fifty runs while driving in thirty. He also finished nineteen for twenty in stolen bases. The school record at Addie's high school, Courtland, was twenty-eight. His biggest personal goal as a senior was to break that record.

But it may be Burrow's leadership talents that project the best for the lefty that's ranked the 440th overall recruit in the 2020 class by Perfect Game.  In this thread on Twitter, Addie's high school stated:

"Those who know him understand that though he is quiet - he is thoughtful. Though he is confident - he is NEVER arrogant. Addie has never taken one second of his time for granted, nor one ounce of talent and ability. Addie you are humble, kind, driven, highly competitive, sincere, and genuine. You have helped me more than you know, through your honesty and willingness to speak up to grow more as a coach than I have in many years. I wish I had one more opportunity to not only see you suit up, but to give you the very best of me. I'm sad I won't get that opportunity. Many young men with your talent write off those who challenge them or shun the teachings of people who push them or make them uncomfortable - but you never did. I truly value you as a baseball player, but more so as a man."

 

  

Prep Baseball Report, who last scouted Coppedge in May 2019, notes that his defensive abilities are currently ahead of his offense. They had previously scouted him at shortstop but were seeing him at third in this event. They indicated "Coppedge looked really comfortable at third. Works low and has a quick reaction with nice lateral range and a solid first step. Nice fluid defensive movements with a strong arm short arm action and is accurate on throws." On offense they noted pull side power but were looking for more consistency.

Perfect Game saw Coppedge in July 2019 and came away more impressed with his abilities at the plate than Prep Baseball Report did. At the 2019 17U WWBA National Championship event, Coppedge, playing second base for the Virginia Cardinals, was 3 for 3 on the day with a homer, two singles, an RBI, and three runs scored. Perfect Game noted Coppedge's bat speed and swing leverage project for average power in the future. He displays fairly typical batting mechanics as well. They saw him again in October 2019 and came away with essentially the same impression.

Like most Virginia players, Coppedge is a good athlete. Perfect Game called out his movement on the basepaths and range in the field defensively. They were impressed with his fundamentals and think he projects well at shortstop. Perfect Game also made note to call out his confidence and emphasized that Coppedge plays the game the right way.

Connor Hincks (SS - Western Springs, IL):

The Hoos took a swing through the Midwest to sign another infield prospect in Connor Hincks from Illinois. Despite hailing from the same state as UVA pitching coach Drew Dickinson, Hincks was committed to the Hoos long prior to Dickinson arriving on the scene in Charlottesville. Hincks, who bats lefty while throwing from the right side, committed to the Hoos out of Benet Academy in Lisle, IL in October 2018. Listed at 6-2 and 170 by Perfect Game, he's ranked the 500th overall rated recruit in the class by the site. Prep Baseball Report ranks Hincks 404th in the 2020 class.

Hincks is routinely described as a smooth, rangy defender with soft hands. He's capable of handling shortstop for the Hoos if that's where UVA slots him. But he's versatile enough to play around the infield as well. Growing up near Chicago, he patterned his defensive game after former White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez

He's also a plus runner. With his build, athleticism, and skills, Hincks appears to be another UVA player cloned from the typical Wahoo template.

Where Hincks gets really interesting is from the plate. While he excels on defense, it's clear that Hincks takes the most pride in his ability with the bat. In April, he told Patrick McGavin of the Chicago Tribune "I love to hit. That is my biggest strength, especially my ability to hit for contact. I could hit for power, but I think my focus is on singles and doubles and getting the ball between the gaps." With that approach, it seems as if Hincks is tailor made to hit at Davenport Field. 

He continued, "I just think of myself as a natural hitter - being from the left side, very fluid and smooth in my swing. I am not trying to hit home runs, just be nice and easy."

Like nearly everyone else, Hincks's didn't get a senior season in high school. But his junior season stats back up his own self-assessment. As a junior, Hincks batted .433 and posted a 1.084 OPS. He scored 28 runs, drove in 20, and stole 12 bases. 

Prep Baseball Report pegged Hincks as a possible breakout performer at the Super 60 event on February 2, 2020. They noted that Hincks made big strides at the plate in the last year and was driving the ball to all fields with authority recently. In August 2019, while noting that Hincks was a big riser in their Illinois state rankings, Prep Baseball Report Illinois said that Hincks "hit at a high level every time we saw him this summer. The left-handed hitter has loose, quick hands, has feel for the barrel, is consistently on time and works gap-to-gap."

Luke Schauer (LHP - Washington, DC):

Last, but not least, is St. John's College High School lefty Luke Schauer. Listed at 6-2 and 205 by Perfect Game, Schauer is the third LHP in the recruiting class for the Hoos. Ranked as the top LHP in Washington DC for the 2020 class, Perfect Game ranks Schauer as the number 500 recruit in the class nationally. 

 

Final Thoughts

This is an interesting class because of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It's filled with quality players but may not have many instant impact members.

In a regular cycle, there are likely several players that win or push for playing time. But due to COVID-19 roster concessions stemming from the canceled 2020 season, the Hoos had very little meaningful roster turnover. Five players transferred and two grad students moved on. Of the seven departures, only Chesdin Harrington saw any significant playing time.

There simply aren't spots up for grabs in what figures to be a loaded Wahoo baseball team.

The class headliner, catcher Kyle Teel, figures to earn a role if he lives up to the substantial hype that's starting to build. But Coach O'Connor surprised me when he also called out pitcher Channing Austin. One reason that surprised was because the larger baseball world profiled Austin heavily as an infield prospect with pitching as the secondary option.

Where I find the most intrigue in the class is the slotting decisions on the infield prospects: Jake Gelof, David Coppedge, and Connor Hincks. It's possible that the younger Gelof is his brother's heir apparent at the hot corner. But it's also possible that he spends his career as a corner outfielder and pitcher. Coppedge feels like a middle infielder for sure. Maybe second base? And Hincks seems destined to slide in somewhere on the left side of the infield.

And speaking of Hincks, he feels like one of two sleepers in this class that I'll be watching closely. The other player on that list is outfielder Addie Burrow. Burrow oozes leadership and underrated athletic ability.

Here's to hoping we get to watch the returning and incoming Hoos play the game they love in 2021.

 

 

This article contains the tags:

Baseball, 2020, Recruiting