With all the focus on Hugh Freeze's crootin, folks are missing out on what the #TheNetwork has cooked up for Mike Bianco and the Ole Miss baseball team. The Rebs' absurd 2016 haul, which Perfect Game currently ranks seventh nationally, includes five top-100 prospects and 17 players who are nationally ranked. For comparison's sake, Freeze's record-breaking 2016 class also ranked No. 7 in the country and included five top-100 players.
Now, baseball class rankings typically come with the caveat that the top croots will be pilfered by the MLB Draft—unlike footballers, prospects on the diamond can go pro immediately out of high school. In 2012, the same year Freeze was putting together his historic second class, Bianco watched three commits ranked in the top six at their respective positions leave to sign contracts with MLB clubs. That's roughly the equivalent of Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell going straight to the NFL.
But this year's draft, which was held over the weekend, couldn't have gone any better for Ole Miss. Of the five commits ranked in D1 Baseball's top 100, none went higher than the 26th round (the MLB Draft has a whopping 40 rounds). Grae Kessinger, the 14th-ranked high school shortstop in the country and the first of the Rebel commits to be drafted, told The Oxford Eagle he stopped watching the draft after the fourth round on Friday and immediately called the Rebel coaches.
"At some point, I realized that teams just weren't going to have the money to give me what I wanted," Kessinger said. "That's when I knew I was going (to Ole Miss)."
[Insert bag man joke]
Kessinger is one of five elite players who have confirmed they're Ole Miss-bound. Here's the second-ranked catcher and the No. 36 overall prospect, Cooper Johnson.
So excited to get on campus this summer and start my career as a rebel! Big things coming from this class. Hotty Toddy @Swayze_CrazyBSB— Cooper Johnson (@coopj325) June 10, 2016
This from Ryan Rolison, a lefty fireballer who ranks sixth at his position and 44th overall.
Here's Kessinger's Oxford High teammate Thomas Dillard, a power-hitting catcher who led the country in homers and ranks No. 7 at his position and No. 70 overall.
Will Ethridge, No. 29 right-handed pitcher, No. 88 overall:
Bianco's unprecedented top 10 class will deliver five more pitchers and six more position players to campus. This is a complete class stacked with immediate contributors in the field, on the mound and at the plate. I expect Barber, Dillard, Ethridge, Johnson, Kessinger and Houston Roth (another nationally ranked player from Oxford) to all play big roles next season.
Mike Bianco and Co. also received good news from Brady Schanuel, the top JUCO pitcher in the country. The Parkland College right-hander was drafted in the 36th round (1,072nd overall) by the Oakland A's on Saturday but will enroll at Ole Miss and begin his career as a sophomore. Brady is a 6'3 dude who throws straight diesel (clocked as high as 97 mph). He went 10-3 this past season with a 1.83 ERA and 131K in 83.2 innings.
Here is the full list of 2016 signees.
The draft wasn't all good news
Bianco will almost certainly lose three key members of his lineup in J.B. Woodman, Errol Robinson and Henri Lartigue (all of whom were picked in the first seven rounds), and might have to replace Chad Smith, Brady Bramlett and Wyatt Short (a trio that came off the board on Day 3) on the mound.
Woodman, the first Rebel off the board in the second round to the Blue Jays, ain't coming back. Robinson and Lartigue followed in the sixth and seven round, respectively. Errol already made his decision public on Twitter and I fully expect Lartigue to follow after his All-SEC year.
Smith's command issues could potentially convince him to come back and bolster his stock, but scouts obviously saw his elite stuff and I don't expect him back. Bramlett could return to focus on his goal of one day becoming an athletic director, but he already has his degree and I'm not holding my breath. Short had another stellar year as the backend stud for Bianco's staff so don't look for him to be back in the red and blue.
Update: Bramlett's gone.
It was an honor and privilege to be drafted by the Boston @RedSox organization. Can't wait to get started, but, as always, Hotty Toddy!— Brady Bramlett (@bradyb2821) June 13, 2016
Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles, however, went undrafted and will be back to man second and third base, respectively. It's possible that Blackman's less than stellar glove in the field may have scared off potential suitors. As for the big man, an inconsistent bat is probably what made it a disappointing weekend for Bortles. These two will be huge pieces to next year's squad, no doubt.
Here's the projected 2017 lineup and rotation
- Ryan Olenek, RF
- Will Golsan, 1B
- Tate Blackman, 2B
- Thomas Dillard, LF
- Colby Bortles, 3B
- Cooper Johnson, C
- Kyle Watson, CF
- Michael Fitzsimmons, DH
- Grae Kessinger, SS
- Friday - David Parkinson
- Saturday - Ryan Rolison
- Sunday - James McArthur
- Midweek - Jason Barber, Houston Roth
- Closer - Will Stokes