Arizona Baseball needs increased, local recruiting presence

As MLB Draft currently takes place and Arizona Baseball likely to be impacted, that got me thinking how we need an increased, local recruiting presence.

For starters, I think Arizona Baseball recruits very well, and since 2018, they have brought in the No. 6 recruiting class, the No. 19 recruiting class for 2019 and so far have the No. 12 class for 2020 according to Perfect Game.

However, the recruiting results are really turning into “desired” results on the field. Since Arizona’s miraculous College World Series runner-up finish in 2016, the Wildcats’ play has seemingly diminished.

In 2017 the Cats finished 38-21, losing in the Regional round, before finishing 34-22 and 32-24 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons respectively, missing the NCAA Tournament all together.

Unfortunately, it’s not fair to judge the 2020 season, as the year was cut short due to Covid. Nonetheless, the diminishing record is at least a little concerning.

So that leads to my question(s): is Arizona recruiting a little too well? And, also would we be better off by recruiting more locally as well?

Look, baseball is a constantly evolving game, and there is talent everywhere that can’t always be appropriately evaluated, but as New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales was drafted No. 7 overall in the MLB Draft last night, that got me thinking about the previous points above.

What’s so special about Nick? Well, he is a local player to Southern Arizona that prepped at Cienega High School, roughly 23 miles from campus. Despite hitting .543 with four home runs and 38 RBI’s through 27 games as a senior, the Southern Arizona star had to walk-on at New Mexico Sate before being named the National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball this past season.

Talk about a major miss! And it doesn’t seem to stop there either. Over the years, here’s who the Wildcats have also seemingly missed out on as well:

  • Ian Kinsler – went to Central Arizona Community College out of Canyon Del Oro HS, before going on to play at ASU and Missouri before becoming an MLB All-Star second baseman.
  • Erubiel Durazo – Went to Pima Community College out of Amphi High School before landing in the Major Leagues.
  • Tom Pagnozzi – A standout at Rincon HS in Tucson, Tom played at Arkansas and Central Arizona before becoming a Major League All-Star with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1992.
  • Stefen Romero – Played with Sunnyside HS in Tucson, before becoming a star at Pima and later Oregon State before being selected in the 12th Round of the 2010 MLB Draft.
  • Andre Jackson – A star pitcher at Cienega High School, Andre was drafted in the 32nd round coming out of HS, before attending Utah to eventually become a 12th round pick in 2017.
  • Chris Saenz – A standout at Tucson High School before heading to Pima Community College, Chris would be drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001
  • Tristan Peterson – went to Kansas State out of Canyon Del Oro before transferring Howard Junior College, before landing at New Mexico State and hitting .400 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs for the 2019 season.

And these are just to name a few! Arizona can’t keep missing on local talent like this. As the Wildcats will undoubtedly lose yet another incoming freshman to the Draft in Nick Yorke, perhaps head coach Jay Johnson and the Wildcats would be better suited to ensure the best talent in Tucson stays!

Now granted not all of these players were available while Johnson was head coach, however, this shows Tucson has lots of baseball talent, and we’re not recruiting it that well in my opinion, and that needs to change!