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Sun Devil Baseball Inks 26 During NCAA Early Signing Period
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 11/26/2001
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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Nov. 26, 2001

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State Sun Devil baseball coach Pat Murphy has announced the signing of 26 players who all signed and turned in National Letters-of-Intent during the NCAA's early signing period that ended last week. The class, which has already been classified as the best in the nation by Baseball America and TeamOneBaseball.com, is comprised of 13 pitchers, five infielders, five outfielders and three catchers. The class also includes 10 players from the state of Arizona, eight from California, two from Washington and one each from Indiana, Georgia, Texas, Oregon, Florida and the province of British Columbia.

"The coaching staff and everyone associated with Sun Devil baseball is excited about the talent and the quality of these 26 young men that we have signed," said ASU head coach Pat Murphy. "Our staff, especially recruiting coordinator Jay Sferra and assistant coach Mike Rooney deserve a lot of credit for going out and getting these players to buy into our program and our philosophy."

Included in the class are seven players that are rated in Baseball America's Top 100 and 14 players that are ranked in the TeamOneBaseball.com Top 200. ASU had the most Top 100 players (Baseball America) and Top 200 players (Team One Baseball) of any Division I school. ASU's next closest competitor on the Team One list was Florida with six signings amongst the top 200, and was one up on defending College World Series Champion Miami (Fla.), which signed six players on Baseball America's Top 100.

"From all indications we have, Arizona State had the most success signing impact talent during the early signing period," said Baseball America editor Allan Simpson. "It's a class with depth, talent, power, speed and pitching--all ingredients for College World Series teams. They key will be getting some of those top players, such as Adam Loewen, Chris Gruler and Tom Wilhelmsen through the draft and into school next fall, but this is a good start."

Loewen, a 6-5, 205-pound left-handed pitcher from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, is widely considered ASU's prize recruit. Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 4 high school prospect and No. 3 by Team One, Loewen has hit 95 mph on the radar gun and is also very good hitting outfielder. Loewen has participated in Little, Junior and Senior League level World Series' and played for Team Canada last summer. With Team Canada last summer, Loewen threw a no-hitter against a team comprised of Pittsburgh Pirate prospects. He was also named the 2000 Team Canada MVP, despite being the youngest player on the team.

"Arizona State clearly has the #1 recruiting class in the nation. They will likely lose a lot of their signees to pro baseball, but even if half of them turn pro, ASU still has the #1 class in the country," added Jeff Spelman of Team One Baseball. "The strength of their class is clearly the pitching, particularly the depth of quality left-handers. Adam Loewen has a chance to be one of the first picks in the Draft. There are probably 10-12 potential top-10 round draft picks in ASU's recruiting class. An amazing feat about ASU's class is that they went into the state of California and signed seven Top-200 national prospects. That's more than any California school signed. With all of the elite college baseball programs in the state of California, it really is quite remarkable."

Also ranked in Baseball America's Top 100 were Gruler (Brentwood, Calif., RHP, No. 12), Wilhelmsen (Tucson, Ariz., RHP, No. 17), Jon Lester (Puyallup, Wash., LHP/1B, No. 21), Alex Merricks (Oxnard, Calif., LHP, No. 39), Prince Fielder (Melbourne, Fla., 1B, No. 63) and Jake Blalock (San Diego, Calif., 3B, No. 71).

Rivaling the 2001 class that signed eventual first-round selections Kris Honel and Mike Jones, the additions of Gruler and Wilhelmsen give ASU three legitimate first-round selections that plan on playing next year in the Maroon and Gold. Gruler was rated as a top 30 prospect at this year's Area Code Games. Wilhelmsen is listed by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the state of Arizona and at 6-5 consistently throws in the low 90's.

Perhaps the most recognized name in this year's class is Prince Fielder. The son of Major League veteran Cecil Fielder, who hit 319 career home runs in 13 MLB seasons, is a power hitting first baseman who was ranked as the 19th top prospect at last summers Team One National showcase.

Ranked 71st by Baseball America and 56 by Team One Baseball, Jake Blalock also comes from thick bloodlines of baseball talent. His brother, Hank, is widely considered the top minor league prospect after hitting .327 with 11 home runs for the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A) in the Texas Ranger farm system. Hank also emerged as the top prospect out of the Arizona Fall League, batting .344 and leading the league with 11 home runs. Jake is a 6-4, 205 third baseman who plays his prep ball at San Diego high school power Rancho Bernardo.

Outfielder Ryan Bosch (6-0, 180) from Livermore, Calif., has the tools and athleticism to step right in and be an impact player according to Murphy. Bosch was rated the 32nd best prospect in this year's Area Code Games and is No. 48 on Team One's Top 200 list. Baseball America ranks him as the 26th best prospect in California and No. 154 overall on its list.

In addition to the signing of in-state star Wilhelmsen (Tucson), ASU also inked nine other top Arizona prospects. They include infielder Josh Asonovich (Highland/Central Arizona CC), two-sport star Dallas Bates (Chandler HS), LHP/OF Brett Bordes (Dobson HS), RHP Ryan Coffin (Desert Vista/ASU/Chandler-Gilbert CC), catcher Anthony Franco (Cactus HS), Derrik Lytle (Mesa/Mesa CC), outfielder Adam Mannon (Hamilton HS), infielder Frank Mesa (Kofa/Arizona Western) and catcher Tommy Vega (Canyon del Oro HS).

"I am proud of what we are adding to the program and I always enjoy watching what goes on from here," added Murphy. "Obviously some of these kids are going to get the chance to move on to the next level with a strong draft, but we signed them with the intent of them coming to school. We have had a lot of players sign to play at ASU, but opt for professional baseball and end up in the Major Leagues only a few years later. Players like Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Paul Konerko (White Sox) and Ben Petrick (Rockies) are fun to watch knowing they were set to become future Sun Devils. This year's class could have some of those elite players who end up in the big leagues in a few years."

NamePos.HometownLast SchoolB/THt/WtTeam One
Ranking
Baseball America
Ranking
Josh AsonovichINF/OFGilbert, Ariz.Central Arizona JCR/R5-11/175N/AN/AN/A
Erik AverillLHPOrange, Calif.Villa Park HSL/L6-2/175101S: 37O: 210
Dallas BatesOFChandler, Ariz.Chandler HSL/L5-9/175NRS: NRO: NR
Chris Beatty LHPKokimo, Ind.Kokomo HSR/L6-2/16084S: 8O:353
Jake Blalock 3BSan Diego, Calif.Rancho Bernardo HSR/R6-4/20556S: 12O: 70
Brett BordesLHP/OFMesa, Ariz.Dobson HSL/L5-7/160NRS: NRO: NR
Ryan BoschOF/RHPLivermore, Calif.Grenada HSR/R6-0/18048S: 26O: 154
Eric BrockRHPLaguna Niguel, Calif.Santa Margarita HSB/R6-2/18091S: 69O: NR
Travis BuckINFRichland, Wash.Richland HSL/R6-2/190NRS: 5O: 245
Sean Clark RHPWoodland Hills, Calif.Chaminade PrepR/R6-3/185143S: 56O: 335
Ryan CoffinRHPTempe, Ariz.Chandler-Gilbert CCR/R6-5/200N/AN/AN/A
Justin EhlersOF/LHPAloha, Ore.Century HSL/L5-10/165133S: 5O: NR
Prince Fielder1BMelbourne, Fla.Eau Gallie HSL/R6-0/24041S: 13O: 61
Anthony FrancoCGlendale, Ariz.Cactus HSR/R5-9/215NRS: NRO: NR
Chris GrulerRHPBrentwood, Calif.Liberty HSR/R6-2/19514S: 3O: 28
Adam KitchenRHP Savannah, Ga.Savannah ChristianR/R6-0/180200S: 9O: 203
Jon LesterLHP/1BPuyallup, Wash.Bellarmine PrepL/L6-3/19516S: 2O: 23
Javier LopezRHPEl Paso, TexasEl Paso CCR/R--N/AN/AN/A
Adam LoewenLHPSurrey, BC, CanadaFraser Valley ChristianL/L6-5/1953S: 1O: 4
Derrik LytleCFMesa, Ariz.Mesa CC----NRS: NRO: NR
Adam MannonOFQueen Creek, Ariz.Hamilton HSR/R6-3/200NRS: 6O: 321
Alex MerricksLHPOxnard, Calif.Oxnard HSL/L5-11/18066S: 10O: 65
Frank MesaINFYuma, Ariz.Arizona Western----N/AN/AN/A
Tommy VegaCTucson, Ariz.Canyon del Oro HS----NRS: NRO: NR
Tyler WardeinCSan Diego, Calif.Univ. of S.D. HSB/R5-10/185NRS: NRO: NR
Tom WilhelmsenRHPTucson, Ariz.Tucson HSB/R6-5/21027S: 2O: 18

**Rankings for Baseball America are: S= State Ranking, O= Overall Top 400 Ranking
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