What’s next for KU baseball?

photo by: AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Kansas pitcher Cooper Moore (11) warms up during an NCAA college baseball game on Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Lawrence.

Even without getting selected for Monday’s NCAA Tournament, the Kansas baseball team put together a 31-23 record that serves as a clear indication of the progress the Jayhawks have made in two years under Dan Fitzgerald.

“We have moved things in such an awesome direction,” Fitzgerald said after KU lost to Oklahoma on Friday. “The culture is rock-solid. It’s something we have to protect every day and we have to work on every day, but these guys love each other, and they play really hard for each other, and they represent the University of Kansas in an unbelievable way. As big a step as we’ve taken, we have more to go and we’re well on our way there.”

Where the Jayhawks’ future personnel is concerned, a college baseball roster is subject to about as many possible destabilizers as any roster in any sport.

A player can be selected in the MLB Draft prior to entering college, after at least one year of junior college, or after his junior year at a four-year college, or simply upon turning 21.

That means any number of possible opportunities for a player either set to come to Kansas as part of the Jayhawks’ 2024 recruiting class or currently at KU to seek greener pastures instead. The Jayhawks had to beat out the Arizona Diamondbacks just to get high school pitcher Dominic Voegele to campus, where he turned into the Big 12 Conference’s freshman of the year.

“That’s something that’s so unique to our sport,” Fitzgerald said in a press conference back in January. “And the draft is in July, so oftentimes you have guys moving on campus and then the draft a week later. So you know we do have some draft concerns with these (incoming) guys, but also, great problem to have. And some draft concerns with our current roster.”

And that’s not even to mention the transfer portal — or the prospect of further additions, which Fitzgerald said in that press conference were not just a possibility but a necessity. In short, everything it is possible to predict about the 2025 Kansas baseball roster is heavily subject to change.


KU had 13 athletes go through senior-day festivities on May 12, according to a press release: Lenny Ashby, Ethan Bradford, JD Callahan, Hunter Cashero, Collier Cranford, Hunter Cranton, Kolby Dougan, Reese Dutton, Jake English, Sam Hunt, John Nett, Janson Reeder and JJ Tylicki.

That includes a lot of the Jayhawks’ production at the plate and in the field. Cranford, a Louisiana native who came with Fitzgerald from LSU, and Nett, the Jayhawks’ ever-reliable leadoff hitter and center fielder, started every game. English, who stuck around after Ritch Price’s departure, backed up his defensive prowess as a catcher with improved hitting and became an all-conference first-team selection. And Ashby was a reliable starting option in right field and as the designated hitter, launching some home runs at key moments throughout the year.

Two more all-conference honorees will depart from the pitching staff in Dutton, KU’s dependable Friday night starter with a 3.78 ERA, and Cranton, who slid into the closer role as a redshirt senior and picked up seven saves. Dougan was a reliable option out of the bullpen who gave up just nine hits in 16 1/3 innings during the year.

The rest contributed less frequently in their last year with KU, including some players who had taken on significant roles in years past like Cashero and Reeder.

Possible returnees

The headliners among KU players with additional eligibility are back-to-back Big 12 freshmen of the year in Voegele, the Columbia, Illinois, native who mowed down lineup after lineup as KU’s Saturday night starter, and Kodey Shojinaga, the versatile infielder from Hawaii who started every game and hit .335.

The Jayhawks also have a couple more key contributors who were underclassmen, including freshmen Ty Wisdom, who fashioned himself into a regular starter in right field in his first exposure to the collegiate level, and Cooper Moore, a frequent pitcher in high-leverage situations, including all four of KU’s conference tournament games.

Just about everyone else is theoretically eligible for the draft.

Two key players who missed much of KU’s late-season push due to injury would be able to return as well. Michael Brooks broke a bone in his hand after 37 starts and has a redshirt senior year at his disposal, while Patrick Steitz, who made a strong impression with just six earned runs allowed in six starts as a transfer out of Central Arizona College, endured a season-ending injury that required surgery.

With English gone, Ben Hartl could slide into the full-time catcher spot next year and help provide a similar level of both powerful hitting and consistent defense.

Many of the pitchers who helped make up for the loss of Steitz, as well as those who solidified the bullpen, could be back next year. That includes the likes of J’Briell Easley, Ethan Lanthier, Evan Shaw and Tegan Cain. The Jayhawks could also have a chance to see more from Grant Adler, who came in with high expectations from Wichita State but played in just four games with one start.

Other position players of note with additional eligibility include outfielders Chase Jans and Mike Koszewski and infielders Chase Diggins and Luke Leto.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Journal-World

Kansas pitcher Evan Shaw fires in a pitch against Missouri on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas catcher Ben Hartl connects for a home run against Houston on Saturday, May 11th, 2024, at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence.

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas’ Kodey Shojinaga (18) high-fives teammate Luke Leto (9) after a home run against Texas Southern Friday, March 1, 2024, at Hoglund Ballpark.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas infielder Chase Diggins tosses the ball to first for an out against Houston on Saturday, May 11th, 2024, at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence.

New additions

The Jayhawks’ set of early signings for the class of 2024, 13 in all to match the 13 departing seniors, included a group of eight ranked as the top JUCO group in the country by The JBB.

JUCO signees in the early group included:

• Pitcher Maddox Burkitt, a Lawrence native from Johnson County Community College. “Super competitive kid, and he’s really excited to be coming back home,” Fitzgerald said.

• First baseman Ángel Cano Orozco, a Cartagena, Colombia, native from Western Oklahoma State College. Fitzgerald said he “reminds us quite a bit of Caleb Upshaw.”

• Pitcher Kannon Carr, a Poplar Bluff, Missouri, native from Jefferson College. “Really good curveball, throws a slider but they’re two different pitches, which is kind of rare,” Fitzgerald said.

• Outfielder Derek Cerda, a Santiago, Dominican Republic, native from Western Oklahoma State College. He has an “enormous arm in the outfield,” according to Fitzgerald.

• Pitcher Porter Conn, a LeRoy, Illinois, native from Lincoln Land Community College. Fitzgerald was “super impressed with his swing-and-miss in the strike zone” with his fastball.

• Pitcher Brian Hallum, a Plano, Texas, native from Dodge City Community College. “He’s a good hitter and he brings that mentality to the mound,” Fitzgerald said.

• Pitcher Naun Haro, a La Quinta, California, native from College of Southern Nevada. A left-handed starter, which was “a real focus of ours in the process,” Fitzgerald said.

• Infielder TJ Williams, a Racine, Wisconsin, native from Heartland Community College. “I’m fairly certain he’s the fastest guy I’ve ever recruited,” Fitzgerald said.

A ninth who committed soon after was Dariel Osoria, another infielder from Western Oklahoma State College.

In the months since, KU has gotten additional JUCO commitments, including from Kansas City Kansas Community College pitcher Dalton Smith and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M center fielder Kaiden Ashton. The Jayhawks also got a transfer portal commitment from the Division II level in shortstop Sawyer Smith, the latest player to join KU from St. Cloud State.

Signed freshmen from the early group included:

• Pitcher Jeremy Allen, from Arlington Heights, Illinois. Fitzgerald said he “kind of reminds us of Dom Voegele.”

• Catcher Cal Elvis, from Vacaville, California. The younger brother of former KU standout Cole Elvis, “very, very similar in terms of who they are as people,” but Cal is more “catch and throw,” Fitzgerald said.

• Pitcher and outfielder Blake O’Brien, from Overland Park. Fitzgerald called him an “all-everything” guy based on his multi-sport prowess and wide-ranging skills. “His best years are way ahead of him.”

• Catcher and outfielder Xander Schmitt, from Wildwood, Missouri. Fitzgerald described him as “hard-nosed,” “super toolsy” and similar to Hartl.


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