Baseball reloads talent with highly touted recruiting class

Losing players like Sean Coughlin, Antone DeJesus and Mike Brown usually doesn’t bode well for a baseball team. But head coach John Cohen has put together another stellar recruiting class this year to replace the veterans he lost to graduation and professional baseball.

With 15 newcomers, including nine freshman, the UK recruiting class is ranked 31st in the nation, according to Collegiate Baseball. Although Cohen is proud of his class’ recognition, he does not put too much weight on its rank.

“I think that you have to take any rankings for what they’re worth, and what they’re worth is yet to be determined,” Cohen said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens.”

Although Cohen was pleased to see his recruiting class ranked for the second year in a row, he was disappointed the Cats were not higher than 31st.

“This class is better than where we’re ranked,” Cohen said.

The rankings are not a reflection on the team itself, Cohen said, but they serve as an important indicator when recruiting prospective players.

“It has a lot to do with how many players you recruit,” Cohen said. “If somebody signs 10 really good pitchers and improves their recruiting class, but you don’t need 10 pitchers, it’s going to affect you. When you have juniors that are drafted and you have senior guys that sign, you lose them, and you can really be affected by those things. The sheer size of your class can be affected by that.”

Besides the nine freshmen, the class includes five junior college transfers and one four-year college transfer. Outfielder Navarro Hall and catcher Dan Killian highlight the 2007 class, and both are expected make an immediate impact for the Cats this year.

The Philadelphia Phillies selected Hall, a native of Kennesaw, Ga., in the 49th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Although Hall has dreams of playing in the major leagues, he thought his game would improve if he played college ball.

“I felt that if I came here, I would get a lot better and have the opportunity to get better playing for good coaches, and I would learn a lot more and be ready,” Hall said.

The one aspect of Hall’s game that both he and Cohen would like him to work on most is his hitting.

“He can really, really run,” Cohen said. “It is something that you just can’t teach. He just needs some other elements in his game to step forward in order to be able to use the speed that he has.”

Hall is competing with fellow recruits Troy Frazier and Kevin Thulin for a starting outfield spot, Cohen said.

Killian, a Stanwood, Mich. native, was selected in the 32nd round by the Washington Nationals out of Chippewa Hills High School. With the loss of Coughlin to the major leagues, Killian could see time as a catcher right away.

“He is arguably one of the best high school catchers in the country,” Cohen said. “I think that he is an immediate impact player in our program. He has a chance to play a lot. Dan has a great opportunity to contribute as a freshman in a big way.”

Killian said he’s looking forward to having that impact on the team.

“College baseball is definitely more team-oriented,” Killian said. “I want to help the team get better and to make a difference.”