FAYETTEVILLE — For all the attention Sam Pittman and Eric Musselman get for their efforts on the recruiting trail, Dave Van Horn has quietly done something for Arkansas baseball that neither of them have yet to accomplish in their sport.
In the latest update to Perfect Game’s rankings for 2023, the Razorbacks have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country — just ahead of Vanderbilt. If that holds, it’d be the first time in program history that it topped the outlet’s recruiting rankings.
With a tip of the cap to Courtney Deifel and her top-ranked 2022 class by Extra Inning Softball, it would also be the first time any of Arkansas’ three major sports — football, men’s basketball and baseball — have brought in a No. 1-ranked signing class.
The basketball team came close in the most recent cycle, as Musselman signed a trio of five-star recruits and three more top-100, four-star recruits, but that class checked in at No. 2 behind a historic haul by Duke.
That has typically been viewed as the Razorbacks’ high-water mark in the recruiting rankings era, surpassing Musselman’s in-state group in 2020 that included future lottery pick Moses Moody. The football team has never sniffed the top 10, but could potentially crack the top 20 in this cycle.
Arkansas Baseball as a Recruiting Juggernaut
In baseball, though, Arkansas’ recruiting prowess mirrors its success on the field. It is among the country’s elite when it comes to winning games, as it has reached three of the last four College World Series and was ranked No. 1 the year it didn’t make it to Omaha, and on the recruiting trail.
This will almost certainly be the Razorbacks’ fifth straight top-five class. They’ve been in the top 12 each year since 2016 and have been outside the top 20 just once since Perfect Game started ranking classes in 2011.
Interestingly, that 2015 class — which was ranked 43rd — provided the core of Arkansas’ national runner-up finish in 2018, as it featured players like Grant Koch, Eric Cole, Blaine Knight, Kacey Murphy, Isaiah Campbell, Barrett Loseke, Jake Reindl and Cody Scroggins… Not to mention some guy named Kevin Kopps.
Arkansas’ highest finish in Perfect Game’s recruiting rankings was No. 2 a year before that, when it signed Keaton McKinney, Luke Bonfield, Chad Spanberger and several other highly-touted players that either never made it to campus or didn’t pan out.
The most top-100 players the Razorbacks have ever signed in one class was seven in 2021 — a number that they also would have hit in 2020 had Robert Moore not skipped his senior season and enrolled early.
Both of those marks are set to fall when signing day rolls around this November.
Breaking Down the Razorbacks’ Historic 2023 Class
Only Vanderbilt (22) and LSU (21) have signed more top-100 players than the 16 Arkansas — and Florida — have signed over the last three classes, so the Razorbacks are no strangers to landing top talent.
However, they have taken it up a notch in 2023. Arkansas has a Division I-leading 10 commitments currently ranked among the top 100 players in the country by Perfect Game.
A quick search through Perfect Game’s database seems to indicate that’d be a record, but the recruiting class rankings toss out signees who bypass college and sign professionally straight out of high school. That’s why LSU is shown with only six top-100 players in its 2022 class despite signing 11 — which is believed to be the actual record.
Still, it is rare for teams to hit double digits. In the 2023 class, in which only one top-100 player is uncommitted, the next closest teams to Arkansas’ 10 top-100 commits are Vanderbilt and UCLA, with seven apiece.
How Many Will Make it to Campus?
In addition to being a less popular sport, one reason baseball recruiting isn’t as widely followed as its counterparts is because of how unique it is compared to football and men’s basketball.
Not only do players have the ability to turn pro straight out of high school, similar to basketball before a 2006 rule-change, but those who do get drafted still have the option to go to college until almost the start of the fall semester. It is not uncommon for the best amateur players to skip school in favor of seven-figure signing bonuses.
That said, it is becoming more and more common for top prep players to choose college over riding around in buses and playing in front of sparse crowds in the minor leagues.
This year’s MLB Draft saw 46 of Perfect Game’s top-100 recruits go undrafted and another 11 who got drafted but didn’t sign. That means more than half of that list — 57 players, to be exact — will play college baseball.
A decade ago, in the 2012 MLB Draft, the number of top-100 recruits who didn’t sign professionally straight out of high school was just 33.
The opportunity to play in front of packed stadiums and develop in state-of-the-art facilities in conferences like the SEC is appealing to top-tier baseball players, plus they now have the ability to make money in college because Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policies have changed.
If you include Robert Moore with the 2020 group, the Razorbacks have convinced 10 of their 17 top-100 signees in the previous three classes to come to Fayetteville. At 58.8 percent, that’s about on par with the 57% rate seen in the 2022 cycle.
This summer, the Razorbacks went 2 for 3 on getting their top-100 signees to campus. They lost flame-throwing right-hander Cole Phillips (No. 38) to the pros, but power-hitting infielder Jayson Jones (No. 35) and speedy outfielder Mason Neville (No. 86) are enrolled at Arkansas.
Members of the 2023 Arkansas Baseball Recruiting Class
The crown jewel of the 2023 Arkansas baseball recruiting class is Aidan Miller, an infielder out of J.W. Mitchell High School in Trinity, Fla. At No. 4 overall, he’d be the highest-ranked player to sign with the Razorbacks during the Perfect Game era (since 2002).
He’s been ranked in the top 10 since committing to the Razorbacks in October 2020, but Miller’s stock has continued to rise. Just this summer, he was named the MVP of the High School All-American Game and won the High School Home Run Derby, both of which took place at Dodger Stadium as part of MLB’s All-Star Week festivities.
Miller — who also earned Perfect Game’s Jackie Robinson Player of the Year Award — is one of five Arkansas commitments who participated in Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He was the Razorbacks’ lone representative on the East squad, but the West featured four Arkansas signees — including the game’s MVP.
Ryder Helfrick, a catcher from California who’s ranked No. 40 overall in the class, broke up a no-hitter with a triple in the seventh inning and later scored the game-tying run. That forced extra innings, when Helfrick once again delivered with a go-ahead two-run single.
Two other Arkansas commitments — right-handers Dylan Questad (No. 34) from Wisconsin and Gabe Gaeckle (No. 38) from California, the latter of which flipped from UCLA to the Razorbacks on Aug. 13 — were among the West pitchers who put up scoreless frames, according to Perfect Game’s recap.
He wasn’t mentioned in the recap, but right-hander Barrett Kent (No. 57) from Texas was also on the West roster. He’s had an impressive summer with strong showings at the Area Code Games in San Diego — six strikeouts in three no-hit innings while touching 96 mph, landing on the All-Tournament Team — and at the Perfect Game National Showcase.
Perhaps the most incredible part about Arkansas’ 2023 recruiting class is that none of its top-100 commitments are from the Natural State.
In addition to the five previously mentioned prospects, the Razorbacks also have commitments from left-hander Tucker Holland (No. 70) from Missouri, shortstop Nolan Souza (No. 72) from Hawaii, left-hander Adam Hachman (No. 81) from Missouri, outfielder Kendall George (No. 95) from Texas and shortstop Walker Martin (No. 98) from Colorado.
According to Perfect Game, Arkansas has 12 other players outside of the top 100 who are pledged in the 2023 class.
Arkansas Baseball Top-100 Signees
- No. 16 — Kyle Hancock — RHP
- No. 70 — Travis Wood — LHP
- No. 25 — Tyler Sample — RHP
- No. 47 — Zack Cox — RHP
- No. 58 — Bobby Bundy — RHP
- No. 79 — Austin Wright — LHP
- No. 86 — Jarrod McKinney — OF
- No. 6 — Justin O’Conner — INF
- No. 20 — Ryne Stanek — RHP
- No. 52 — Dominic Ficociello — INF
- No. 78 — Jared Lakind — OF
- No. 96 — Robbie Ray — LHP
- No. 14 — Dillon Howard — RHP
- No. 30 — Brandon Nimmo — OF
- No. 72 — Michael Fulmer — RHP
- No. 27 — Ty Buttrey — RHP
- No. 96 — Teddy Stankiewicz — RHP
- No. 10 — Jon Denny — C
- No. 42 — Keaton McKinney — RHP
- No. 60 — Luke Bonfield — OF
- No. 17 — Cole Stobbe — SS
- No. 18 — Cole Turney — OF
- No. 29 — Ben Rortvedt — C
- No. 82 — Dominic Fletcher — OF
- No. 86 — Tyler Benninghoff — RHP
- No. 99 — Jordan McFarland — INF
- No. 41 — Jason Hodges — OF
- No. 11 — Masyn Winn — SS
- No. 20 — Robert Moore — SS (signed a year early)
- No. 25 — Cayden Wallace — 3B
- No. 44 — Nate Wohlgemuth — RHP
- No. 57 — David Calabrese — OF
- No. 64 — Markevian Hence — RHP
- No. 86 — Nick Griffin — LHP
- No. 47 — Peyton Stovall — SS
- No. 48 — Maxwell Muncy — INF
- No. 54 — Braylon Bishop — OF
- No. 61 — Drew Gray — OF
- No. 71 — Hagen Smith — LHP
- No. 73 — Brady Tygart — RHP
- No. 93 — Drake Varnado — SS
- No. 35 — Jayson Jones — SS
- No. 38 — Cole Phillips — RHP
- No. 86 — Mason Neville — OF
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…