UM baseball reloads with Big Ten’s top recruiting class
Michigan baseball had a program-record 11 players selected in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft, no question a feather in coach Erik Bakich’s cap. But it also left Bakich battling to reload — as all 11 drafted players signed — and he appears to have done it in impressive fashion.
This week, Baseball America ranked Michigan’s 2017-18 recruiting class the 10th-best in the nation, which is the highest-ranked recruiting class in the history of the Big Ten.
The incoming class includes four players who were drafted in 2017, and another, a junior-college transfer, who was drafted out of high school.
The class is strong, despite losing two other players — right-hander Cody Bolton (sixth round, Pirates) and corner infielder Jason Pineda (17th round, Padres) — to professional contracts.
Among the highlights of Michigan’s draft class: Portage, Mich., right-hander Jeff Criswell (drafted by Tigers), Illinois catcher Joe Donovan (drafted by Cubs), Washington outfielder Jesse Franklin (drafted by Mariners) and Illinois left-hander Angelo Smith (drafted by White Sox). JUCO transfer Matthew Schmidt, an infielder, was drafted out of high school by the Rockies before spending his freshman year at Texas. He left after longtime, legendary coach Augie Garrido retired.
Franklin was the Gatorade player of the year for the state of Washington, and left-hander Ben Dragani was the Gatorade player of the year for Wisconsin.
The rest of the class includes: California right-hander Blake Beers, Wisconsin infielder Jack Blomgren, Ann Arbor Pioneer outfielder Jordan George-Nwogu, Washington infielder Blake Nelson, California right-hander Isaiah Paige, California infielder Logan Pollack, New York infielder Zack Semler, New York outfielder Cameron Tomaiko and California outfielder Danny Zimmerman.
Bakich, 39, is entering his sixth season as head coach at Michigan, after briefly considering other marquee opportunities, including Stanford, this offseason. He decided to stay at Michigan and agreed to a new, five-year contract.
Michigan was 42-17 last season, making the NCAA Tournament for the second time in Bakich’s tenure — and second time in three years.
The Wolverines are a couple weeks into fall ball, and are mostly healthy, though Franklin had summer surgery on a torn labrum and is mostly out for the fall. He’s playing some defense, but he’s not throwing or batting.