It wasn’t what anyone wanted, but Arkansas baseball’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament has allowed Dave Van Horn to get an early jump on the transfer portal this offseason.
By the first day of the College World Series, the Razorbacks had already landed three transfers who have been highly productive throughout their careers. A fourth committed over the weekend.
Here’s a look at how Best of Arkansas Sports sees each of them fitting in with the 2024 Arkansas baseball roster…
Arkansas Baseball Transfer Portal Additions
C Hudson White — Texas Tech
News of Arkansas’ first transfer portal addition broke Monday when Joe Doyle of Future Star Series revealed that Texas Tech’s Hudson White was heading to Fayetteville.
Even though the Razorbacks return all three catchers from their 2023 roster and have signed a few as incoming freshmen, White will almost certainly become their starter behind the plate next season.
After two seasons with the Red Raiders, he is considered one of the top catchers available in the 2024 MLB Draft and comes to Arkansas with a pretty solid resume in a premier conference.
White was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American in 2022, when he slashed .344/.438/.527 in 25 games against Big 12 opponents while starting at both catcher (39 games) and first base (19).
As a sophomore this past season, he was once again the Red Raiders’ primary catcher (35 starts), but also made starts at designated hitter (5), second base (2) and third base (2). What kept him in the lineup was a bat that produced a .296 average with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. It’s also worth noting that he has more career free passes (71 — 62 walks, 9 HBP) than strikeouts (68).
Needless to say, White is a significant offensive upgrade from the Razorbacks’ duo of Parker Rowland and Hudson Polk. They handled every inning of the 2023 season behind the plate, but combined to slash just .184/.308/.259 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. They also had nearly twice as many strikeouts (73) as free passes (37 — 29 walks, 8 HBP).
To boil it down to just one statistic, White posted a .947 OPS in 2023, compared to a combined .567 OPS by Rowland and Polk — a difference of 380 points.
Of course, catcher is one of the positions at which Dave Van Horn values defense more than offense. That’s what ultimately led to Rowland beating out Polk for the starting job this past season after they split time early.
The good news about White is he’s actually known for his prowess behind the plate. In his scouting report, Doyle — who tabbed him as the 45th-best overall college prospect and fifth-best college catcher for the 2024 MLB Draft — described White as a “decorated defensive backstop with a strong arm and a reputation for handling a staff.”
While he started only 74 of 125 games behind the plate for Texas Tech the last two seasons, White could — and probably will — become the full-time starter at Arkansas, with Rowland serving as an excellent defensive backup, assuming he returns.
Polk or Cal Kilgore, the New Mexico State transfer who redshirted last season, would also be candidates to be the backup if Rowland moves on.
The one thing that could throw a wrench into everything is whether or not Ryder Helfrick makes it to campus. The California native is ranked as the 44th-best overall recruit in the 2023 class and could push for immediate playing time if he doesn’t sign professionally, as he’ll likely be a high draft pick next month.
Even if Helfrick ends up in Fayetteville, Van Horn might be hesitant to turn over the reigns to a true freshman. In that scenario, Helfrick could learn the ropes as White’s backup while starting a handful of games without the pressure of being a full-time starter in the SEC as a freshman before taking over that role the next two years after White is drafted.
(Fellow 2023 signee Ty Waid from Texarkana is another top-100 recruit who’s listed as a catcher, but he’s expected to be more of a first baseman in college.)
OF Ty Wilmsmeyer — Missouri
Originally reported by HawgBeat, Best of Arkansas Sports confirmed Ty Wilmsmeyer’s commitment to Arkansas baseball just before he publicly announced it via Twitter.
Listed as a right-handed pitcher/infielder his first two years at Missouri, the Springfield, Mo., native ditched both positions and became the Tigers’ starting center fielder in 2022. He maintained that role this past season, too.
Wilmsmeyer had just one at bat as a pinch hitter in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but started 17 games as a sophomore and has started all 105 games the last two years. As his playing time has increased, so has his offensive production:
|.244/.424/.267, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 4-6 SB
|.273/.332/.355, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 8-9 SB
|.311/.380/.482, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 21-24 SB
Throw in the fact that he’s done all of that while playing in the SEC and that’s an encouraging trend for a guy who will be a super senior in 2024. Wilmsmeyer actually posted a slightly higher OPS in conference play (.888) than in the season overall, with all seven of his home runs coming against SEC competition.
Arkansas has a need for someone like that because it is replacing its entire starting outfield, including center fielder Tavian Josenberger. He could technically return for his senior year, but he climbed draft boards this year and is now No. 114 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 200 prospects for this summer’s MLB Draft.
Josenberger posted a .904 OPS for the season, but that dropped to .849 in SEC play. Prior to his hamstring injury, though, he had a .924 OPS in 21 conference games. No matter how you slice it, Wilmsmeyer’s .888 OPS in SEC play should fit in nicely – especially if he continues his upward trajectory.
Going to the transfer portal for someone like Wilmsmeyer was predictable because the Razorbacks likely won’t have anyone else who could slide in behind Josenberger as the starting center fielder and produce at the same level.
When he turned down the MLB Draft to come to school, Mason Neville seemed like a logical fit in center field considering his elite speed and status as a top-100 recruit, but he struggled mightily in his first season with the Razorbacks. In addition to going just 3 for 27 (.111), Neville struck out 20 times.
The Razorbacks also signed only one true outfielder in the 2023 class. He’s a great one, but that’s also a problem. As mentioned with Ryder Helfrick above, there’s a good chance Kendall George gets drafted next month and never makes it to campus. He is the No. 86 overall recruit in the class, according to Perfect Game.
If he did come to school, George would likely push for early playing time. However, as seen with Neville – who, coincidentally, was also ranked 86th overall in his class – it’s never a guarantee that a freshman will be able to start from Day 1. For every Dominic Fletcher, there’s a Mason Neville.
Wilmsmeyer has made seven career appearances on the mound, as well, allowing only three earned runs in 11 innings, but it’s unlikely he’ll pitch for the Razorbacks – barring multiple injuries like last season, which forced Ben McLaughlin to pitch some.
(READ NEXT: In an exclusive interview with BoAS, Ty Wilmsmeyer discusses his decision to transfer away from his “dream school” and play for Arkansas baseball in 2024.)
UTL Jack Wagner — Tarleton State
Last season, the Razorbacks landed an under-the-radar transfer coming off a breakout year at Creighton named Jared Wegner. It proved to be a huge pickup, even though there was confusion surrounding the pronunciation of his last name.
Dave Van Horn is likely hoping for similar results from Jack Wagner out of Tarleton State – minus the confusion, as his last name is spelled like it’s pronounced.
Wagner actually began his career at Kansas. The Wichita, Kan., native spent four years with the Jayhawks, but missed his last season because of Tommy John surgery. It was following that 2022 season that he decided to drop down a level and transfer to Tarleton State. The move from the Big 12 to the WAC resulted in a large uptick in his offensive production:
|.254/.389/.354, 12 2B, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 36 BB/59 K, 7 HBP
|Tarleton State (2023)
|.337/.451/.692, 8 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 28 BB/42 K, 11 HBP
Those numbers are eerily similar to what Wegner did his first three years at Creighton before breaking out in 2022 – the year before he transferred to Arkansas.
|.269/.360/.351, 8 2B, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 23 BB/66 K, 8 HBP
|.343/.459/.635, 14 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 30 BB/42 K, 13 HBP
Wagner’s OPS actually jumped 400 points from his first three seasons to last year at Tarleton State, while Wegner’s increased by 383 points in his final season at Creighton.
That’s not to say Wagner will have a similar season in 2024 as Wegner had in 2023, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to still be productive against a higher level of competition than the one he just came from. It might also help that he has experience playing in the Big 12.
The bigger question with Wagner might be where he slots in defensively. Listed as a utility player on Tarleton State’s roster, he was primarily a first baseman for the Texans, while also starting games at designated hitter, third base and right field. That latter position is where he played his final year at Kansas, where he was listed as an outfielder. Interestingly enough, he played alongside a freshman center fielder named Tavian Josenberger.
As mentioned above, the Razorbacks must replace all three of their starting outfielders from this season. If Ty Wilmsmeyer takes over for Josenberger in center, that leaves just the two corner outfield spots.
Because of injuries, Kendall Diggs was forced to start 19 games right field and, despite a shaky start, evolved into a solid defender – especially for a guy who came to Arkansas as an infielder. Considering his improvements throughout the season and the fact that Van Horn has openly talked about that being his position of the future, it’s not too much of a stretch to say he’ll take one of those spots.
That’d leave just one outfield position still up for grabs. Wagner would make a lot of sense, but the Razorbacks have also landed JUCO honorable mention All-American Will Edmunson from Hutchinson C.C. He put up huge numbers, hitting .454 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs, but the track record of junior college production translating to the SEC is much more hit-and-miss than transfers from other Division I programs.
Of course, the Razorbacks will also need a new first baseman because Brady Slavens is out of eligibility. Wagner could fill in there, but that could also depend on the health of second baseman Peyton Stovall, who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum.
If his shoulder isn’t fully recovered by the time next season rolls around, he could slide over to first base much like Trevor Ezell did a few years ago. It’s also a spot he’s familiar with, playing there as a freshman in 2021. Such a move would also open the door for Peyton Holt to play his natural position of second base.
Where exactly Wagner ends up playing next season could depend on how the Razorbacks come out of the MLB Draft, too, as they have several highly ranked infielders in their incoming freshman class who could either skip college or compete for playing time right away.
There are still a lot of moving parts when it comes to the 2024 Arkansas baseball roster, but Wagner’s veteran bat figures to get him in the lineup somehow, someway.
SS Wehiwa Aloy — Sacramento State
The Razorbacks’ fourth transfer portal commitment of the offseason came from Wehiwa Aloy, who spent last season at Sacramento State.
A native of Hawaii, he was the WAC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American by multiple outlets after a tremendous 2023 campaign. Aloy slashed .376/.427/.662 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. That gave him a 1.089 OPS.
Even if his OPS dips at a similar rate as last year’s transfer shortstop from a smaller conference, that’s a solid starting point and would still make him an effective hitter in the SEC.
Speaking of that previous transfer, John Bolton – who came to Arkansas after posting a .783 OPS at Austin Peay in the OVC – is out of eligibility. On top of that, backup Harold Coll entered the transfer portal, leaving the Razorbacks without a true shortstop on the roster.
Peyton Stovall, Peyton Holt and Jayson Jones each played the position in high school, but are more natural fits at other infield spots in college and at the next level. By adding Aloy, Arkansas has someone who has played shortstop in Division I – even if it was just for one year and at a lower level.
The biggest question surrounding Aloy might be whether or not his glove can keep him on the field. He committed 17 errors at Sacramento State, resulting in a .928 fielding percentage. For a comparison, Bolton – whom Van Horn repeatedly said was in the lineup because of his defense – committed only eight errors and had a .960 fielding percentage.
By the end of the season, he was borderline elite defensively. That’s why Van Horn was willing to live with Bolton hitting just .206 with a .606 OPS. There’s a good chance that Aloy hits much better than that, but will his defense be up to Van Horn’s standard?
That remains to be seen, but it should be noted that Joe Doyle of Future Star Series – who ranks him as the No. 23 overall college prospect in the 2025 MLB Draft – describes him as “an athletic, physical specimen.” If that’s accurate, then it’s safe to assume he’ll have natural improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. Plus, he’ll be playing on an immaculate playing surface at Baum-Walker Stadium and other SEC fields that are likely much better than what he dealt with in the WAC.
It’s also worth noting that some, including Doyle, have speculated that he could end up playing second or third base if he keeps bulking up.
LHP Stone Hewlett — Kansas
The Razorbacks’ first transfer portal addition on the mound comes in the form of a left-hander from Kansas, Stone Hewlett.
A rising senior with only one year of eligibility remaining, Hewlett hails from the Kansas City area in which Arkansas baseball is known to have a heavy recruiting presence.
His career numbers – 5.86 ERA, 1.49 WHIP – don’t exactly jump off the page, but he will be an experienced left-handed arm with 93 2/3 career innings in 65 appearances at a high-major program in the Big 12.
It’s also worth noting that his strikeouts increased and walks decreased each season he was at Kansas, leading to an improved strikeout-to-walk ratio year over year.
If that trend continues and he takes another step under pitching coach Matt Hobbs next season, Hewlett could become a key left-handed arm in the Razorbacks’ bullpen. What remains to be seen is exactly what that looks like – whether he could be a bridge or just a situational guy.
Considering he has just one career start and has averaged less than 1.5 innings per outing, it’s highly unlikely Hewlett would be asked to do much more than that. Left-hander Hagen Smith and right-hander Brady Tygart figure to be two-thirds of the starting rotation and right-handers Will McEntire and Koty Frank will eat up a lot of the innings out of the bullpen.
When it comes to left-handed relievers, though, Arkansas doesn’t have many proven options currently on the roster – especially if Zack Morris doesn’t return for his super senior season, and even he struggled for much of the year before becoming a reliable arm down the stretch.
Parker Coil threw 22 innings across 15 outings as a freshman last season, but had a 6.55 ERA and opponents hit .344 against him. The only other lefty who got on the mound was freshman Sean Fitzpatrick, a side-armer who threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in three appearances, but he allowed five hits and two walks.
Nick Griffin and Jordan Huskey each redshirted last season, with the former being a heralded prospect who’s battled injuries through three college seasons and the latter being a true freshman.
The Razorbacks also signed five left-handers in the 2023 class, but some of them may not make it to campus because of the MLB Draft and it’s hard to project who might be able to contribute right away – as seen with the previous crop of freshmen. If nothing else, Hewlett appears to be a lefty Van Horn can count on to throw strikes out of the bullpen.
RHP Craig Yoho — Indiana
Arkansas has added arguably the most intriguing player in the transfer portal, as Craig Yoho was recently named to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-American team despite being in his fifth year of college baseball. How is that possible?
Well, the 2023 campaign was Yoho’s first full season. His freshman season in 2019 was cut short by injury, his 2021 and 2022 seasons were wiped out entirely, and the pandemic erased the 2020 season for everyone. He did appear in eight games in 2019 and one in 2020, but he received a medical redshirt for the first and the NCAA didn’t count the second for anyone.
Indiana listed Yoho as a redshirt senior on its roster this year, but his lack of any real experience was apparently enough for Collegiate Baseball to treat him as a freshman.
If that wasn’t enough to make him a fascinating player, Yoho is also a converted fielder. He was listed as an infielder and played some outfield at Houston before transferring back home to Indiana (he’s from Fishers, Ind., which is a suburb of Indianapolis) and moving to the mound.
So that begs another question: Why would Arkansas risk bringing in an injury prone pitcher with very little collegiate experience? Simply put, it’s because his stuff is nasty.
In 18 relief appearances for the Hoosiers, Yoho posted a 3.41 ERA with 63 strikeouts in just 37 innings. That’s an incredible 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings — roughly the same rate as LSU’s Paul Skenes, albeit on a much smaller sample size. He also held opponents to a .232 batting average and was 4-1 with one save.
The one issue for him was command. On their own, Yoho’s 19 walks in 37 innings isn’t terrible. It’s certainly not great, but it’s not unplayable. However, he also plunked 12 batters and threw four wild pitches. That’s nearly one free pass or wild pitch per inning.
If he can get that figured out, which isn’t outside the realm of possibility considering his relative inexperience, Yoho could be a weapon in Arkansas’ bullpen in 2024.
Of course, that assumes he makes it to campus. Yoho is on record saying that his goal is to play professional baseball and his strikeout rate and raw stuff might be enough for a team to take a flyer on him in the back half of the MLB Draft. Considering he’s nearly 24 years old, that might be an enticing offer over pitching for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas experienced that last year when South Carolina left-hander Julian Bosnic committed out of the transfer portal after missing the 2022 season with an elbow injury, but never made it to campus because he was drafted by the Pirates in the 14th round and signed a professional contract.
2024 Arkansas Baseball Roster Tracker
Exhausted Eligibility (3)
- John Bolton
- Brady Slavens
- Jared Wegner
Can Return, but Eligible for MLB Draft (16)
- Cody Adcock – senior
- Jace Bohrofen – senior
- Caleb Cali – fifth-year senior
- Dylan Carter – fifth-year senior
- Koty Frank – sixth-year super senior
- Nick Griffin – redshirt junior
- Hunter Grimes – sixth-year super senior
- Hunter Hollan – senior
- Peyton Holt – super senior
- Tavian Josenberger – senior
- Will McEntire – fifth-year senior
- Ben McLaughlin – senior
- Zack Morris – super senior
- Hudson Polk – senior
- Parker Rowland – senior
- Jaxon Wiggins – senior
Can Return, but Not Draft Eligible (18)
- Ben Bybee – sophomore
- Parker Coil – sophomore
- Kendall Diggs – junior
- Cooper Dossett – sophomore
- Jake Faherty – redshirt sophomore
- Sean Fitzpatrick – sophomore
- Christian Foutch – sophomore
- Jordan Huskey – redshirt freshman
- Josh Hyneman – redshirt freshman
- Jayson Jones – sophomore
- Cal Kilgore – redshirt sophomore
- Austin Ledbetter – junior
- Mason Neville – sophomore
- Reese Robinett – sophomore
- Hagen Smith – junior
- Peyton Stovall – junior
- Brady Tygart – junior
- Gage Wood – sophomore
Incoming Freshmen (21)
- RHP Jaewoo Choo
- RHP Jonah Conradt
- LHP Hunter Dietz
- LHP Colin Fisher
- C/UTL Nate Franco
- RHP Gabe Gaeckle
- OF Kendall George
- LHP Adam Hachman
- C Ryder Helfrick
- LHP Tucker Holland
- RHP Barrett Kent
- INF Walker Martin
- RHP Tate McGuire
- INF Aidan Miller
- RHP Dylan Questad
- INF/RHP Diego Ramos
- LHP Jack Smith
- INF/RHP Kade Smith
- INF Nolan Souza
- C/INF Ty Waid
- INF Nazzan Zanetello
Incoming Transfers (7)
- OF Will Edmunson (Hutchinson C.C.)
- C Hudson White (Texas Tech)
- OF Ty Wilmsmeyer (Missouri)
- UTL Jack Wagner (Tarleton State)
- SS Wehiwa Aloy (Sacramento State)
- LHP Stone Hewlett (Kansas)
- RHP Craig Yoho (Indiana)
Outgoing Transfers (2)
- Isaac Webb
- Harold Coll (story)
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…