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Baseball Recruiting Class Earns Third No. 1 Ranking

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Add another No. 1 ranking to the ledger for the Miami Hurricanes’ 2020 recruiting class.

D1 Baseball became the third publication to rate the Canes’ newcomers as the top group in the country, joining Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. But recruiting rankings are not as meaningful to Miami head coach Gino DiMare as what the class produces in its time at The U.

“I think that the class being ranked number one is nice now. But, to me, the real truth in that ranking will be when they leave here and show us how talented they are,” DiMare said. ”It’s certainly nice to hear that your class is ranked No. 1 and it’s a testament to the hard work the coaches and everybody else on the staff has put in to get this class on campus, but the proof of how good this class really is will be in two or three years when these guys leave and they get drafted. That is when we find out if the class lived up to being the number one class.”

The Hurricanes landed three top-100 recruits and five top-200 players among Baseball America’s individual player rankings, leading the nation in both categories.

Right-handed pitcher Victor Mederos is Miami’s top-rated recruit according to Baseball America, coming in at No. 59 overall. Fellow right-hander Alejandro Rosario (60) and shortstop Yohandy Morales (77) round out the trio of top 100 prospects that helped vault Miami to the top spot in the rankings.

“I have been part of some great teams but this team, in particular, I feel like it will make history and we will conquer all our goals,” Rosario said. “There’s a saying that says, ‘If you want to kill an alligator, kill it after it eats because after it eats it gets satisfied.’ We are not the team to be satisfied because we are the number one recruiting class; We want to be more than that and it’s a privilege and an honor to be around a group of guys that are never satisfied and always want to get better and it still shocks me that I can call them my brothers.”

“We mean business,” Morales said. “We know everybody is hunting us, but we know what we have in this program and we are ready for anything.”

Catcher Carlos Perez (137) and right-handed pitcher Jake Smith (146) round out the top-200 prospects, while outfielder/first baseman CJ Kayfus (344) gives Miami six of the top 350 prospects in the 2020 MLB Draft class, according to Baseball America.

“It’s a deep class across the board. The talent that we have coming in touches everything,” Miami recruiting coordinator Norberto Lopez said. “We’ve got great arms and big-time position players. We were able to land some of the top recruits in the country. These are top 100 guys and that’s what will make you have the number one class in the country.”

Earning a trio of No. 1 rankings, Miami’s recruiting class has lofty expectations to live up to. But Mederos believes the group is up to the challenge of proving it is the best in the nation.

“I love expectations, just because you have pressure on yourself,” Mederos said. “Yeah, we have this great class, but so what? Those are just rankings and people’s opinions. What matters is what we do about it. We have to do what we are supposed to do. We have to work hard. It’s an expectation that we do great things. Now we need to put in the work to make sure that we accomplish what we set out to do.”

DiMare believes the newest crop of 20 Hurricanes has the right combination of talent, work ethic and coachability to have a ton of success at the college level.

“I have no doubt in my mind, that it certainly should be the top class because it’s a very talented class and just the makeup of the guys in general of that class, to me, is what makes it really good,” DiMare said. “I think the guys are all good character guys that are going to work hard and are going to be coachable. When you combine those characteristics with the talent they have, usually, that formula right there means a lot of success down the road.

“The character of this group is excellent,” DiMare added. “I don’t think anybody walks around like they are better than anyone else. They’re all working hard, they’re all listening. We’ve got a number of veteran guys on this team and they’re looking up to those guys and listening to those guys, so it makes for a really good combination.”

Lopez, who spearheads the Hurricanes’ recruiting efforts, is proud of the balance the 2020 class features. With impact players coming in as hitters, pitchers and defenders, the newest crop of Canes elevates Miami’s talent and depth across the roster.

“This class is strong in all areas. We brought in athletic guys that can really defend, we brought in big-time arms that can really pitch and we brought in some guys that can be middle of the order bats that can be impact hitters,” Lopez said. “We are very fortunate and very happy that these guys are here. We gave them good information and developed strong relationships with them where they wanted to be here and play for the Canes.”

Several of the newcomers excelled in the fall, garnering praise from Miami’s coaches and putting themselves in position to contribute when the 2021 season begins in February.

“Chad Born certainly stood out from the freshmen on the hitters’ side of it,” DiMare said. “I thought he played very solid in centerfield and made really good plays and threw some guys out. I liked his approach at the plate and I really liked his swing, it’s very efficient swing and a simple swing. He’s got a good body that’s going to develop a lot and he’s another good, high character guy that doesn’t say a whole lot. Chad mostly listens and works hard and doesn’t complain. He just got better and better in the fall so we’re very excited about him.“

Jacoby Long was another true freshman that caught DiMare’s eye, using his athleticism and speed to make plays on offense and in the outfield.

“Jacoby is an exciting player,” DiMare said. “He missed some of the fall but when he did come out, he showed that he’s a guy that probably runs as well as any of our guys and he’s probably one of our two fastest guys on the team along with Jordan Lala. Jacoby is an exciting player that I’m looking forward to seeing more of. I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked to in the fall, but what I did see certainly stood out.”

A new face with a familiar last name made a big impression in his first fall at The U.

“Christian Del Castillo really stood out in the fall,” DiMare said. “We weren’t sure how much we were even going to have him in practice because of his class schedule. Being a graduate student, he has to take a lot of classes and they’re not easy classes and they’re all at crazy times, but he ended up doing a lot of things online and that gave him flexibility to where he could be at practice and he really made an impression. He stood out because he made a number of great plays in the outfield, he threw some guys out and he was hitting balls all over the place. Delly is just a scrappy player, a very good college player and we’re very happy with him.”

An ambidextrous player who can fill in at multiple positions, Adam Frank is a jack-of-all-trades in the field. But the junior college transfer was a hitting machine in the fall.

“As a transfer guy coming in, Adam Frank swung the bat really well,” DiMare said. “He was one of our top hitters in the fall. Adam is a very good gap hitter, line drive hitter who just hits the ball all over the place. He’s a guy that you’ve got to find somewhere to play and he’s played a little bit everywhere like second, third, left field and right field. He’s a guy that we’ve got to try to find somewhere to put if he’s going to swing the bat like that.”

Then there is a pair of freshman infielders battling a veteran for the starting shortstop position and both players impressed DiMare in the fall.  

“With the infielders, Yoyo Morales is a very talented guy and we’re excited to see where his career goes,” DiMare Said. “He’s got a very high ceiling and should be one of the high picks in three years in the draft down the road. Dominic Pitelli certainly played well also, and we’ve got a three-way battle at shortstop between those two guys and Anthony Vilar. All three guys played well in the fall and we’re excited to see how that competition pushes all three of those players.”

“We mean business. We know everybody is hunting us, but we know what we have in this program and we are ready for anything.”

Miami infielder Yohandy Morales

While the position players in the 2020 class are filled with talent, there is a lot to be excited about the arms the Hurricanes added to their pitching staff.

“On the pitching side, the guy that really stood out from the rookie standpoint was Alejandro Rosario,” DiMare said. “He’s a high-profile guy and another guy that should be taken very high in the draft in a few years. He’s got just unbelievable ability. He’s a strike-thrower and very, very competitive on the mound. And Victor Mederos threw well in the second half of the fall. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does because he is a very talented guy that was highly touted coming in.”

Just like Del Castillo and Frank, Miami has several transfers on the mound that are poised to factor into the Canes’ success in 2021.

“Ben Wanger is our big-name transfer. He didn’t pitch much in the fall, so I’m looking forward to seeing him here in the spring,” DiMare said. “We know from what we’ve seen in the past that he’s got a chance to be very, very big for us in our bullpen as a closer. Then Jake Smith and Jordan Dubberly are two other transfers that I think have a chance to honestly be very, very big for us as starters.”

Wanger came to Miami as a graduate transfer after earning Second Team All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball while at USC a season ago. The two-way standout, who began his career at Yale, is eager to join the tradition-rich Hurricanes.

“The first time I heard about Miami was back in 2015 before I was going to start at Yale,” Wanger said. “When Columbia came down here and they actually stole a game from Miami during that regional. Miami went on to win the regional, but I remember these people making a huge deal out about how Columbia just beat Miami, who was like a god to them. And I realized that was special because of the reputation that Miami has. They’re expected to win whenever they step on the field, so that’s something I want to be a part of and I’m excited to be a part of that culture.”

Smith, who is expected to compete for a spot in the Hurricanes’ starting rotation, is motivated to be a leader in this recruiting class’ success at Miami.

“The expectations here at Miami are to go to Omaha every year. Gino, J.D. [Arteaga], Lopes and everyone makes sure we know that every day,” Smith said. “It’s awesome knowing that we’ve got a great team and a great shot of getting there, but we know we have to work for it.

“It’s a winning program here and I’m just honored to be a part of it,” Smith added. “It’s an honor to be able to wear a Miami baseball t-shirt, but I know I have to work hard to live up to the tradition of success here. All my family and my buddies back home know Miami is one of those top programs, so it’s amazing to be part of it now. But just being here isn’t enough. I want to make a difference and help this team get to Omaha and win a championship.”

The 20 newcomers in Miami’s 2020 recruiting class joined 15 returners from last season’s roster to form a Hurricanes squad that can accomplish a lot in 2021 and beyond.

“COVID canceled our season last year and shortened the draft, but that allowed a lot of our veteran guys to come back and we had these young, talented guys come in and they’re all on the same team,” DiMare said. “That’s what you  want to have, a mix of good veteran guys that have been there and can show the young guys the proper way to go about things and that’s what we have here. I’m excited to see what this team can do when the season starts.”