FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas baseball team announced the addition of five players to the 2011-12 roster. The five pitchers and catchers are the first of a large class that head coach Dave Van Horn expects to sign to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period.
The Razorbacks are coming off back-to-back trips to the NCAA Super Regional and lost several high profile players to the 2010 Major League Baseball draft. With big holes to fill over the next several years, Van Horn is assembling a large class that has the potential to be one of the best in the nation.
"Overall this is a really balanced class," Van Horn said. "Our game plan coming in was to get about a dozen players, but that number grew with the departure of several players because of the draft. We lost three or four more than we thought we would lose, so there was a need to go out and replace them. I think that the coaching staff did a great job of evaluating talent this year. The success of the program over the last couple of seasons and the number of players that have been drafted have a lot of kids interested. This class as a whole should keep us on track."
The first installment of the Razorback baseball recruiting class includes three pitchers and two catchers. Right-handed pitchers Conor Costello and Michael Fulmer of Edmond, Okla., are joined by left-handed pitcher Mark Reyes of Hot Springs Village, Ark. Arkansas’ crop of catchers includes Jean (John) Ramirez of Fort Worth, Texas, and John Reeves of Monroe, La.
Costello attends Edmond Santa Fe High School where he led his team to a No. 2 ranking during his junior season and was a major part of the Wolves 6A state runner-up finish when he was a sophomore. The 6-3 right-hander has good command of his pitches whose talent continues to rise.
"Conor throws in the upper 80s to low 90s with his fastball," Van Horn said. "He has a plus change up and is developing his slider. I see him as a player that can contribute as a freshman, perhaps in the weekend rotation."
Fulmer is a late bloomer who popped onto the radars of colleges and scouts last season. He is rated the No. 220 player in the nation by Perfect Game USA and the No. 6 prospect out of the state of Oklahoma. Fulmer is 6-2, 180 pounds and plays for Deer Creek High School.
"Fulmer made great strides last year," Van Horn said. "He is an outstanding student with a fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s. He has a plus pitch for a breaking ball that he can throw for strikes."
Reyes plays for Jessieville High School and is one of several athletes that Van Horn and his coaching staff have added to the roster. Although he throws left handed, Reyes lists first base and third base as positions on the diamond that he plays proving his versatility.
"Mark moved to Arkansas from Alabama and from what I’ve seen he has the potential to be an immediate contributor," Van Horn said. "He has a very good breaking ball and is an outstanding athlete."
Ramirez has incredible credentials through his first three-years of high school ball with Boswell High School. He was named the district 6, 4A Offensive Player of the Year and team MVP for the second straight year as a junior after batting .438 with three home runs and 35 RBI. As a sophomore he batted .566 with one home run and 23 RBI.
"Ramirez can really swing the bat and has a good arm," Van Horn said. "He is an athlete that has definitely generated some interest from the professional scouts. He has a chance to battle for the starting catcher position next season."
Arkansas’ other catcher, Reeves, comes from a lineage of athletes as his mother played basketball at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and both his grandfathers played college athletics. Reeves was an honorable mention all-state catcher last season and has a pair of first-team all-district honors to his credit. He has batted .343, .448 and .379 in each of his last three seasons with 23 home runs.
"Reeves is a big, strong catcher that has power," Van Horn said. "He has a very good arm and is coming off a tremendous summer. Both catchers that we signed can really hit so there will be a big battle for that spot next fall."