Wichita State baseball: Fun with recruiting rankings

Wichita State coach Todd Butler.
Wichita State coach Todd Butler. The Wichita Eagle

We love to rank things. So why not rank recruits, an exercise that asks someone to assign value to athletes they likely haven’t watched perform and predict their future.

Tough job, but it’s fun. On Monday Collegiate Baseball ranked Wichita State’s 2014 recruiting class No. 2 in the nation (losing again to LSU in a national title contest). It is the fifth time Collegiate Baseball ranked a Shocker class in the top 10, first since the 1999 group came in No. 9. Collegiate Baseball, relying on information from the schools, gives players points for draft status and post-season honors. WSU, with six drafted players among 27 newcomers, came up with 185 points, 10 behind LSU and its five draft picks and five high school All-Americans (none of whom were drafted).

Collegiate Baseball started ranking class in 1983.

How did WSU’s previous top 10 classes turn out?

1983 - No. 4

Outfielder Tim Raley leads a class that produced several standouts, but limited NCAA success. He earned All-American and MVC Player of the Year honors in 1987. He ranks in the top 10 in WSU’s career list in 10 hitting categories, including 5th with a career batting average of .394. Outfielder Kent Headley, No. 2 on the career list with 174 steals, catcher Terry Elliot, infielder Arnie Beyeler (now coaching the Boston Red Sox), pitcher Rich McIntyre, first baseman Dan Juenke (like Beyeler an All-MVC pick) and pitcher Shawn Pumphrey also were part of the class.

The class of 1983 missed the NCAAs in 1984 and 1986. In 1985 it lost at Oklahoma State and in 1987 at Stanford.

1989 - No. 5

This class lived up to its billing with stars such as catcher Doug Mirabelli (major leaguer) and All-Americans such as pitcher Kennie Steenstra (briefly a big leaguer), shortstop Chris Wimmer, second baseman Billy Hall, 1994 MVC Player of the Year Carl Hall and infielder Scot McCloughan. Those player played major roles in WSU’s trips to Omaha in 1991 and 1992.

1992 - No. 7

Another star-studded class, one that helped WSU return to the CWS in 1993 and make another trip in 1996. Third baseman Casey Blake earned 1996 MVC Player of the Year honors on his way to the major leagues. First baseman Toby Smith, a transfer, gave the Shockers one big season with 18 home runs and 82 RBI in 1993. Catcher Adam McCullough, outfielder Randy Young (third career with 170 steals), pitchers Brandon Baird and Mike Drumright (a first round pick in 1995) and pitcher/outfielder Travis Wyckoff all played major roles in their careers.

The 1993 Shockers returned to Omaha despite losing much of the core group from 1991 and 1992. In 1996, WSU won a regional at Eck Stadium to qualify for the CWS, its most recent appearance.

1999 - No. 9

WSU brought in 11 newcomers for the 2000 season amidst major changes in college baseball. More schools invested in the sport and the formation of the Big 12 forced Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri to improve. John Tetuan earned MVC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2002 after struggling for two seasons. Infielder Brian Burgamy was named MVC Player of the Year in 2002 after hitting .400. No other player earned All-American honors. Pitchers Reuben Kerbs and Mike Dennison (14 saves in 2003) played large roles and outfielder Randy Walter and catcher Ryan Owen started most of their career. Bryan Erstad, perhaps the biggest name in the group, hit .292 and started 73 games in his career.

WSU’s fall from the elite in college baseball was starting. In 2000, Nebraska ran the Shockers out of a regional in Minneapolis. In 2001, the season ended with an 0-2 showing in the MVC Tournament and WSU missed a regional for the first time since 1986. The Shockers rebounded in 2002 and hosted a regional, only to go 1-2.

The most underrated WSU class?

How about the 1986 group, which received votes, but not enough to crack the rankings. It produced infielders P.J. Forbes and Mike Lansing, catcher Eric Wedge and pitcher Jim Newlin, all key figures in the 1989 NCAA championship team.