Diamond Hogs assembling 'best recruiting class in 2020'

By: Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Owasso, Okla., pitcher Nate Wohlgemuth is considered one of the top 15 prospects in the high school class of 2020.
Photo by Joey Johnson, Tulsa World
Owasso, Okla., pitcher Nate Wohlgemuth is considered one of the top 15 prospects in the high school class of 2020.

— Arkansas finished runner-up at the College World Series earlier this year, but a No. 1 finish could be in the program's future.

The Razorbacks have received three commitments from elite national recruits in the past 11 days that could push Arkansas to the top of the 2020 recruiting class rankings. Some within baseball circles in the state are calling it the best class ever assembled by the Razorbacks.

Two-way players Nate Wohlegmuth and Ethan Long, and middle infielder Michael Brooks all took official visits to Fayetteville on Sept. 14-15, which included a trip to the Razorbacks' football game against North Texas. Brooks committed Sept. 15, Wohlgemuth committed Sept. 18 and Long committed Tuesday.

Wohlgemuth is ranked the No. 15 prospect nationally by Perfect Game, while Long is ranked No. 32 and Brooks is rated No. 51. Add infielders Cayden Wallace and Robert Moore, and left-handed pitcher Nick Griffin, and the Razorbacks have six players ranked in the top 51 of the Perfect Game rankings, with more commitments possible after the program's big recruiting weekend Oct. 5-6.

"I think it's going to be the best recruiting class in 2020 in the entire nation," Brooks said.

Long calls several of the other 2020 commits "good buddies" who have grown up playing together on various travel teams and with Team USA.

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List of Arkansas baseball commitments

"This is a recruiting class that is going to be pretty legit," Long said. "Knowing how good we're going to be makes it fun to go out and work hard and play together."

Wohlgemuth (5-11, 195 pounds) is rated highest of the recent 2020 commitments. The right-handed Owasso, Okla., native has a fastball that has been clocked at 96 mph, and also throws an 80-84 mph changeup and and 72-76 mph curveball. He also plays in the outfield.

"What's unusual about me is that I'll be 92-95, touching 96 in the first, and I'll be 92-94 in the sixth and seventh," Wohlgemuth said. "A lot of people don't really notice that, and only (Arkansas pitching coach) Wes Johnson has noticed that. He's witnessed that and he's told me it's unbelievable and 'I've never seen someone your age throw it that hard, that consistently.'

"I can swing it a little bit. The pitching kind of hides the hitting, but I put in a lot of work and a lot of time into hitting."

Wohlgemuth was recruited by a who's who of schools in the SEC and Big 12, including LSU, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU.

"It was a battle between TCU and Arkansas the entire time," Wohlgemuth said. "There are a lot more things about Arkansas that I liked and I thought it was the better decision."

Long, from Mountain Pointe High School in Gilbert, Ariz., is a 6-3, 215-pound right-handed pitcher and third baseman. In a season that was abbreviated because of a transfer, he hit "around .400 with 4 home runs and around 20 RBI" as a high school sophomore earlier this year. His fastball has been clocked at 93-94 with a high of 95 mph, and he also throws a changeup and a curveball.

He has hit 101 mph on a throw from the outfield and 100 mph on a throw in the infield.

Brooks (5-10, 165) is a shortstop from Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, Fla., where as a sophomore he batted .315. Brooks previously was committed to Mississippi State, but de-committed after a coaching change. He also had been recruited by Auburn and Florida.

"I'm very versatile in the field," Brooks said. "I'm quick to the ball at short, and I've only played there for the past three seasons. I used to be an outfielder. I'm short and I have a very high IQ, so I know what I'm doing.

"Offensively, I'm short and simple. I'm not trying to hit any home runs; just line drives. Sometimes some might carry out, but otherwise I'm just line drives."

Wallace, from Greenbrier, and Griffin, from Monticello, committed to the Razorbacks last fall, but the other top players have committed since Arkansas played for the national championship in June. Moore, the son of Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore, committed in July.

While it was fun to watch the Razorbacks play on that stage, all said their commitments have more to do with relationships with the coaching staff - Johnson, hitting coach Nate Thompson and head coach Dave Van Horn - and other recruits.

"I just got this feeling and vibe when I was down there that was just different," said Long, who previously committed to Arizona as a seventh grader. "I came home and got to where (Arkansas was where) I wanted to go. Coach Johnson, Coach Thompson, Coach Van Horn are all just great dudes and great people to be around who do the right things and work hard. The fan base down there is insane. I fell in love with everything about it."

One of the selling points for the 2020 class was the proposed 40,000-square-foot baseball operations center that will include a new clubhouse and other amenities for players to use on a daily basis. The facility, which has yet to be approved by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, could be completed sometime in 2020 or 2021.

"That was a big selling point," Brooks said.

The question with every highly-rated class is whether some of the players will turn down college in favor of playing professional baseball out of high school.

All of the new commitments indicated their focus is on making it to Arkansas and that money would have to be significant - or "life-changing" - to turn down the opportunity to play in college.

"I love being in school and making friends," Long said. "Going down to Arkansas would be a dream come true. Whatever happens after that happens, but I'm just focused on getting down to Arkansas right now and getting better."

Wohlgemuth said seeing the quick professional success and improved draft stock of former college players has caught his eye.

"It plays a big role," said Wohlgemuth, who, like Long, would be eligible to be drafted as a college sophomore because of his age. "You go and look and see what they were worth when they came in, and then when they came out of there what they were worth, and it's just amazing."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Nick Griffin's hometown as Magnolia. The story has been corrected to include his correct hometown, Monticello.

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