Zach Root Strengthens Hogs’ Shot at Best Rotation in College Baseball

Jamie Arnold, Zach Root, Arkansas baseball, transfer portal, college baseball
photo credit: FSU Athletics / ECU Athletics

Arkansas wasn’t satisfied with just one top-4 pitcher out of the transfer portal, so it went out and landed another in Zach Root.

The left-hander out of East Carolina is widely considered one of the best players, regardless of position, in the portal this cycle and announced his commitment to the Razorbacks on Monday.

Root, who checks in at No. 4 overall in 64Analytics’ rankings, is the 11th portal commitment Arkansas has received so far. He is just ahead of former Ohio State left-hander Landon Beidelschies, who went public with his pledge last week.

The only two pitchers ranked ahead of that pair are Cade Fisher from Florida and Thatcher Hurd from LSU.

Arkansas’ portal haul is up to No. 3 nationally on 64Analytics, trailing a couple of SEC foes in Georgia and Kentucky. That ranking is even more impressive when considering it hasn’t lost much itself.

Five Razorbacks have entered the transfer portal, which officially closes Tuesday. That is the fewest in the SEC, with the other schools losing an average of 11.2 and Texas being the closest with seven.

The last two departures got in just ahead of the deadline, as outfielder Will Edmunson and pitcher Adam Hachman entered Tuesday. They join former teammates Jayson Jones, Kade Smith and Hunter Grimes. Hachman and the latter two didn’t appear in a game this season, but Edmunson and Jones were among the group who split time in Arkansas’ struggling outfield.

Needless to say, the Razorbacks’ additions have far outweighed their losses when it comes to the transfer portal. They’ve landed five top-100 transfers, according to 64Analytics, with the others being the outfielder trio of Logan Maxwell from TCU (No. 29), Rocco Peppi from Fresno State (No. 31) and Charles Davalan from Florida Gulf Coast (No. 61). That’s tied with Alabama, Georgia and LSU for the most such commitments.

The Commitment of Zach Root

Even though he spent the last two years at a mid-major program, Zach Root has been a known commodity in the baseball scouting world for a while.

Coming out of Fort Myers High School in Florida, the left-hander was a legitimate pro prospect in the Class of 2022. He was ranked as the No. 178 overall recruit by Perfect Game, while MLB Pipeline tabbed him as the 233rd-best overall prospect for the 2022 MLB Draft — a list that also included college players.

Root even participated in the MLB Draft Combine that year, but ultimately decided to honor his commitment to East Carolina, which has arguably been the most consistent mid-major program in college baseball the last two-plus decades.

The Pirates have made 20 of the last 25 NCAA Tournaments and, although they’ve yet to break through and make it to Omaha, they’ve reached the super regionals seven times and consistently finished ranked inside the top 25.

As a freshman in that program, Root started 13 of his 20 appearances and posted a 5.53 ERA and 1.49 WHIP to go along with 54 strikeouts and 27 walks in 53 2/3 innings. That landed him on the AAC All-Freshman Team.

This past season, Root was East Carolina’s No. 2 starter behind All-American and projected first-round pick Trey Yesavage.

An arm injury sidelined him for about a month late in the season, but the 6-foot-1, 177-pounder returned for the postseason and finished the year with a 3.56 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, plus 76 strikeouts to only 21 walks in 68 1/3 innings.

Before getting hurt, Root’s numbers were even better, as he had a 3.14 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through his first 10 starts. That made him the D1Baseball’s 19th-best starting pitcher in college baseball in its rankings through Week 12 of the season.

Root checks in at No. 63 overall on Future Star Series’ list of the top prospects for the 2025 MLB Draft.

What it Means for Arkansas Baseball

Heading into the 2024 season, Arkansas had what was widely considered the top starting rotation in the country. Hagen Smith lived up to the hype, earning multiple National Pitcher of the Year awards, and so did Brady Tygart and Mason Molina for about half of the season.

For various reasons, both of them struggled down the stretch and actually fell out of the rotation, but they’re still expected to be taken in the upcoming MLB Draft. In fact, they check in at No. 181 and No. 225, respectively, in MLB Pipeline’s latest prospects list.

That makes Arkansas one of only five programs with its entire starting rotation among the top 250 prospects, with the others being Iowa, LSU, Mississippi State and Wake Forest.

With all three of them moving on, the Razorbacks will have a new-look rotation in 2025. They figure to stretch out freshman phenom Gabe Gaeckle as a sophomore and Gage Wood showed flashes late in the season, but there was still a need for starting pitching in the transfer portal.

Instead of just getting one starter, though, Arkansas opted to bring in two of the best available in Landon Beidelschies from Ohio State and Zach Root from East Carolina. Even fellow transfer Aiden Jimenez was competing for a spot in Oregon State’s rotation before going down with a preseason injury.

Throw in rising sophomores Colin Fisher and Hunter Dietz coming back from injuries and Tate McGuire dominating in the Cape Cod League, and the Razorbacks have legitimate options for its weekend rotation next season — not to mention any of the incoming freshmen.

That’s a stark contrast to last year when Smith-Tygart-Molina was pretty much set in stone before fall ball even started, with the order of the last two being the only question mark.

Regardless of how it shakes out, Arkansas should once again have one of the premier rotations in all of college baseball.

Florida State will be in that conversation, as well. It has arguably the best returning starter in left-hander Jamie Arnold. Right-hander Cam Leiter, the staff ace before going down with an injury, is also back. The Seminoles have added right-hander Evan Chrest as a transfer from Jacksonville, as well. He’s the No. 16 overall portal prospect, according to 64Analytics.

Even with Jim Schlossnagle jumping ship, Texas A&M has the potential to be very good on the mound again in 2025, too. The Aggies will lose ace Ryan Prager to the MLB Draft, but most of the others have said they’ll return — including projected first-rounder Shane Sdao. Another key arm is Justin Lamkin.

It’s also worth noting that LSU has loaded up via the transfer portal, landing four pitchers among 64Analytics’ top 100 overall transfers: Jacob Mayers from Nicholls (No. 18), Luke Hayden from Indiana State (No. 21), Deven Sheerin from Mount St. Mary’s (No. 35) and Zac Cowan from Wofford (No. 65).

Another SEC program who could challenge Arkansas in terms of weekend rotation is Florida. Left-hander Pierce Coppola has been plagued by injuries, but looked like a potential ace against Arkansas this season, while right-hander Liam Peterson started 16 games as a freshman. The Gators have also landed Billy Barlow from Clemson (No. 34) and Michael Ross from Samford (No. 58) out of the portal.

It’s hard to know exactly how any of these rotations, including in Fayetteville, are going to shake out by next February. Still, pitching coach Matt Hobbs should have plenty of options to once again have the Razorbacks’ staff among the nation’s elite.

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Hear from Zach Root from before this past season:

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Check out how the 2025 Arkansas baseball stands as of now:

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More coverage of Arkansas baseball and the transfer portal from BoAS… 

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