On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns baseball program added 15 signees in the 2019 recruiting class for head coach David Pierce and his staff, including the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Lake Travis infielder Brett Baty.
“Today marks another step in the right direction for the Texas baseball program,” Pierce said in a statement released by the school. “I am very proud of Sean Allen and Philip Miller’s efforts to recruit with integrity and patience in order to land the best players in the country for our program and for The University of Texas.
”In an age of early commitments, Sean and Philip have done an outstanding job of juggling what’s best for The University of Texas and also the incoming student-athletes and their families. Coach Allen, Coach Miller, Drew Bishop, Phil Haig, Carli Todd, and all our support staff in the baseball program, the athletic department, and the university have represented our brand in an incredible way during the recruiting process for this 2019 class.”
A Texas-heavy class that features 13 players from the Lone Star State, it’s also made up entirely of high school prospects, with a targeted mix that fills program needs.
With catchers DJ Petrinsky and Michael McCann both seniors this season, Pierce and his staff needed catchers, so they went out and signed three.
With a dearth of left-handed pitchers on the roster, Pierce and his staff went out and signed three left-handed pitchers and another left-handed two-way player.
With a need for a power bat, Pierce and his staff landed the local star, Baty, a left-handed hitter who can play either of the corner positions in the infield.
As the headliner of the class, the 6’3, 210-pounder hit .435 with 12 home runs and 27 RBIs as a junior, a performance that helped him earn recognition as the state’s top player. Since he also pitches for Lake Travis and is extremely successful doing so — he posted a 1.35 ERA last season — he’s a strong candidate to translate his strong arm to playing third base or even right field at Texas.
“Pure hitters are very hard to find and, in my opinion, Brett is one of the best pure hitters in the country,” Pierce said. “He has exceptional work ethic, character, and leadership abilities and because of that, I can see him starting at first or third as a first-year player. I really consider Brett as one of those players that ignites the culture of your program immediately.”
When Pierce and his staff arrived in Austin, they made Baty a priority and landed his commitment more than two years ago. Now the question is whether the lifetime Longhorns fan will forgo a chance to play professional baseball to play in Austin.
In that regard, Baty mostly said the right things on Wednesday, but big, left-handed hitters with a pure swing like the Lake Travis star are difficult to find, so he will surely be a hot commodity in the 2019 MLB Draft, especially if he has a senior season that builds on his remarkable successful as a junior.
Texas currently has three young catchers on the roster, but signees like Lake Charles (La.) Sam Houston product Silas Ardoin will have a chance to compete for the starting job in 2019, according to Pierce.
His pedigree should give him an edge, as his father, Danny, spent 15 years playing professional baseball, including five years in the majors.
“Silas is a very polished catch-and-throw type catcher that really understands the position,” assistant coach Sean Allen said. “His father was a big-league catcher and you can tell Silas has grown up around the game. With his advanced approach to the game we look forward to getting Silas on campus.”
Robinson catcher Peyton Powell was a late-rising prospect who played with Ardoin in the Area Code Games this summer, impressing a longtime Texas Rangers scout in the process. As a rare left-handed hitter who plays catcher, Powell has significant value in that regard, in addition to major upside.
One clear trend with Pierce and his staff is that they love recruiting high school quarterbacks, so McKinney North’s Cameron Constantine, another catcher signee, fits that mold as a three-year letterman. And even if he doesn’t stick at catcher, he has the versatility to contribute somewhere else, most likely in the outfield.
“Cameron is versatile, athletic, and presents options to play multiple positions. He is a catcher by trade but has the ability to play other positions. Cam was one of the first players we committed in the 2019 class. He bleeds burnt orange and we are excited he’ll be spending the next four years on the 40 Acres.”
Constantine is also a switch hitter, which provides some extra value to the program.
Argyle infielder Brenden Dixon is another accomplished athlete as an all-state defensive back with a bat good enough to create the expectation that he will quickly become a middle-of-the-order fixture in addition to manning the middle infield.
“Brenden is a proven winner with great leadership qualities,” Pierce said. “He loves to compete and has high expectations for himself as well as his teammates. I like his attitude, athleticism, and his desire to be a Longhorn. He has a chance to be a fixture in the infield for years to come.”
Boerne outfielder Douglas Hodo III is a Texas legacy and another excellent athlete, as he’s run a 10.84 100m and served as a standout wide receiver on the gridiron, setting records as the school’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Those exploits in track and football earned him interest from colleges in both sports.
“He is a great athlete and one of the fastest players in the state,” Allen said. “He really started to develop body-wise last summer and with that added size and strength, he has turned into a very good offensive player with some gap to gap power. Our fans are going to love watching him run around the field as he is an elite runner.”
The other outfielder in the class, Houston Episcopal’s Colton Rathjen, has an extremely impressive athletic pedigree. His father, Craig, played football at LSU and his mother was a gymnast in Baton Rouge. Colton’s sister was a gymnast at Arkansas, while both of his older brothers played college baseball at Rice, including Jeremy, who was coached by Pierce during his time in Houston.
“We really had a need to bolster our left-handed bats with this class and Colton will help us do that right away,” Allen said. “He comes from a family of baseball players and has really good tools and the makeup to be really good for us. He is long and rangy and runs well. He fits the type of outfielders that we need at Texas and we are lucky to have him.”
Pierce likes Rathjen’s speed on the bases and thinks he has enough power potential to make him a sleeper in the class.
Humble Summer Creek prospect Andre Duplantier is another signee with versatility — he’ll be a two-way player at Texas (he’s a right-handed pitcher and infielder) and features a fastball that reaches into the low 90s and a plus slider that makes Allen think he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.
Want to find the heir to Jake McKenzie’s success playing all nine positions in a single game for the Longhorns? Pay attention to Richmond Travis product Trey Faltine, who has played every position for Travis, earning honors as the 2017 Area Code Pitcher of the Year.
“I would argue that Trey is the most versatile player in the country,” Allen said. “He has represented Team USA on several occasions and plays all over the field for them. He is very, very athletic and can really run. The great thing about him along with all his tools is how well he knows the game and much he loves to play. He is a very polished pitcher that is only going to improve his stuff as he continues to grow and add weight. He legitimately can play any position on the field, but I’m looking forward to see how well he does at shortstop when he shows up on campus.”
Austin Rouse right-hander Jared Southard is already a sturdy 6’2, 215 pounds and features a power arm for the class — he’s reached 98 miles per hour throwing from the outfield in showcase settings.
The Woodlands two-way player Will Swope has a similar build at 6’2, 210 pounds. Known as a strike thrower, Swope reaches the low 90s with his sinking fastball and features a deceptive delivery. If he can polish his secondary pitches, he could become a starter, but if not, his sinker could make him extremely effective out of the bullpen.
The final two-way player is Flower Mound Marcus product Austin Wallace, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder who is already 6’4 and 220 pounds and the son of his head coach.
“Austin is a very big and strong two-way player that should contribute both ways right away,” Allen said. “Austin has quality stuff that will only continue to get better while on campus. His best pitch is an 86-90 mph fastball that has plus life to it. He will develop into a low 90s power-type lefty. As a hitter, he has shown the ability to square balls up consistently while at Flower Mound.”
One of the two out-of-state signees is California product Peter Hansen, a savvy left-hander who has three plus pitches, including a big-time curveball. A second left-handed pitcher in the class is Texas legacy Chase Lummus, a Godley standout who has a 22-0 record in high school and features a “devastating” changeup he can throw in any count. San Antonio St. Mary’s Hall product Sam Walbridge is the third left-handed pitcher in the class. At 6’5 and 185 pounds, he throws with an excellent arm angle from his lanky frame and should improve his velocity from the upper 80s as he gains strength.
Other than filling needs, two things stand out about this class — Pierce and his staff didn’t have to find short-term fixes by signing junior college prospects and focused on adding recruits who have significant upside, but aren’t likely to leave for professional baseball.
The only exception there is Baty, and he may well never swing a bat at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, but his ties to Austin as a local product could help ensure that he plays college baseball.
At the least, Pierce appears to have the program on the right trajectory following a phenomenal finish to the 2018 season that included a berth in the College World Series.
“The future looks bright for Texas baseball,” Pierce said. “I want to thank the high school and summer league coaches for their continued support for our program and for the time and dedication they’ve put in with our 2019 signing class. Today is a great day for all the recruits and their families, our coaches, our support staff, the university, the current players, and especially The University of Texas fan base. We can’t wait for these young men to get to the Forty Acres.”