Prep Baseball Report

Who are the Class of '23 grads making impacts in college already?

By Andy Sroka
Managing Editor, Scouting

The ‘Hotlist’ is a series that provides weekly insight into the high school baseball scene spanning the country, curated by Prep Baseball’s state directors who are situated nationwide, with vital intel on the prospects who are in their own backyards. Each week, we’ll publish our ‘Hotlist’ on varying topics that are timeliest to the national baseball calendar at that point in time.

This week’s topic: In celebration of Friday's Opening Day of the NCAA Division I season, our state directors were asked to highlight a Class of 2023 grad from their state who is poised to make an impact right away at his new home.

+ Learn of our directors stationed nationwide by visiting the staff directory.
+ View which Prep Baseball events are headed your way next at this page.
+ Read about previously published ‘Hotlist’ topics here.

♨️ The ‘Hotlist’ (2/14):



+ UCLA | Roch Cholowsky, SS (Hamilton HS):

“Cholowsky has always been an electric player to watch – in high school, he played with passion, energy, and tons of swagger. It seemed like every time he stepped in the box, he did something. He was one of the top prep prospects to make it to campus, and he's off to a strong start for the Bruins. I think he is going to make a strong impact for UCLA right out of the gate.”

Shea Sbranti, Arizona Scouting Director



+ Texas A&M | Gavin Grahovac, INF (Villa Park HS):

“One of the premier hitters in all of California during his four-year high school career, Grahovac was a Prep Baseball California First Team, All-State member his junior and senior seasons at Villa Park. With the type of power and the ability to hit for average that is a very desirable tool for pro scouts, Grahovac was among the section's hitting leaders all four years of high school. He also showed plenty of positional versatility, moving to shortstop after coming in as a catcher while even playing some outfield during his career, thanks to his above-average arm strength. After withdrawing his name from the '23 Draft, Grahovac set his eyes on College Station where all reports indicate he's made a strong impression during the fall, to the point where all indications are that he'll find himself in the starting lineup on Opening Day for the Aggies.”

Les Lukach, California State Director



+ Morehead State | Alex Kean, 1B/RHP (Great Lake Canadians HS):

“Not often do Canadians end up with starting time as freshmen in the DI ranks, but Kean is a two-way player at Morehead who is already collecting preseason accolades. His power from the left side separated him in high school, with advanced hand and bat speed at the plate. We're curious to see how it pans out on the mound, but he's as proven as possible coming out of high school. Playing for a conference contender at a hitter-friendly park, I can picture Kean leaving the yard a lot this season.”

George Halim, Canada Director


+ Oregon State | Laif Palmer, RHP (Golden HS):

“Palmer was regarded as a projectable college arm within the state throughout his first three years of high school, but during his senior year he absolutely surged into national consideration. The fastball on Palmer reached the mid-90s during the spring of 2023, which helped launch him onto draft boards of many MLB teams. Oregon State had already signed Palmer heading into his senior year, though Palmer was drafted in the 20th round by the Texas Rangers. Palmer ultimately decided to stick to his Oregon State commitment, where he is now projected to be an impact freshman arm for the Beavers this season. Palmer comes in with an electric mid-90s fastball that he can spin into the 2,600 rpm range, along with a tight slider, and a quality changeup. The tall and athletic frame on Palmer projects quite well, and with genuine Major League aspirations.”

Caleb Dameron, Colorado Staff



+ UConn | Thomas Galusha, RHP (Salisbury Prep HS):

“This big, physical right-hander runs a power fastball up there at 90-92 mph, with a hard breaker in the upper-70s. Galusha competes and attacks hitters. He should be able to help UConn out of the bullpen on the weekends, with midweek starting possibilities. Look for Thomas to have a solid college career that should begin right away.”

Trevor Brown, New England Co-Scouting Director



+ Georgia Tech | Drew Burress, OF (Houston County HS):

“Burress has always been the guy, so there's no surprise he was one of top freshman in the country this fall. He's a former Future Gamer who went on to attend the 2023 Super 60 before earning the title of PBR Georgia Player of the Year. Now, at Georgia Tech, Burress is one of the preseason picks to be the ACC's top freshmen, as a starting center fielder who packs an offensive punch at the plate.”

Hudson Graham, Georgia State Director


+ Hawaii | Elijah Ickes, SS (KS Kapālama HS):

“Ickes is a true five-tool player who would have been the clear No. 1-ranked player in Hawaii's Class of 2023. He went on to be drafted in the 19th round by the Rangers, but he opted to attend college instead. He earned all kinds of 'player of the year' accolades in the state after hitting .500 for Kamehameha, en route to a state title, of which he was instrumental in winning after he scored the championship-winning run in a 3-for-3 performance at the plate.

I recruited him to Hawaii, where I was on staff at the time, and he decided to turn down money from the Rangers to play for his hometown team, and in front of his family and friends which was a dream for him.

Ickes will be a big part of Hawaii's program as a freshman on both sides of the ball. He profiles as a top-of-the-order shortstop – strong '26 MLB Draft follow who likely will improve his draft stock over three years.”

Dan Cox, Hawaii State Director



+ SIU-Edwardsville | Ryan Niedzwiedz, INF (West Aurora HS):

“Niedzwiedz was a staff favorite in high school who earned pro attention this time last year, following Illinois' ProCase. He swings a premier left-handed bat, and he appears to be destined to make an immediate impact in Edwardsville. He has a mature feel to hit with power, and he should be middle-of-the-order type run-producer for the Cougars. A must-follow prospect in the Midwest's mid-major ranks.”

Peter Hamot, Illinois & Wisconsin Asst. Director



+ Evansville | Kevin Reed, LHP (Martinsville HS):

“A super strike-thrower with an even-keeled presence on the mound, Reed established himself as one of the top in-game competitors in Indiana's 2023 class, a trait that has allowed him to step into a weekend starter role entering his freshman season for the Purple Aces. As a senior, the 5-foot-10 southpaw showed a fastball up to 92 mph, along with two offspeed pitches that induced swings and misses. Reed showed the ability to hold low-90s velocity deep into games during his senior season, and he left a lasting impression on our staff after he tossed a complete-game, 12-K shutout against the No. 1-ranked team in the state in the first round of the playoffs, advancing his team to the next round.”

Cooper Trinkle, Indiana Lead Scout



+ LSU | Jake Brown, OF/LHP (Sulphur HS):

“Brown was viewed by many in the industry as a pitching prospect coming out of Sulphur last year, thanks to an athletic delivery and low-90s heater. Since his arrival at LSU, he’s performed at a high-level as an outfielder and he will likely be the opening day starter in left or right field for the Tigers. He’s an extremely talented athlete who can cover a lot of ground and he also possesses really good bat-to-ball skills combined with a mature approach. Brown isn’t done with his days as a pitcher just yet, but it’s clear that he’ll be helping LSU this spring with his bat and his defense, as they look to defend the national title.”

Alex Armand, Louisiana Scouting Director


+ St. John's | Jayder Raifstanger, MINF (Monument Mountain HS):

“He'll be a very interesting prospect to monitor, as he developed quickly right before committing to St John's. The bat has a chance to be elite, and I assume he will play somewhere in the infield in Queens. Raifstanger is a grinder, though he's got tools at the same time. It will be interested to see how he progresses.”

Dennis Healy, New England Co-Scouting Director



+ Minnesota | Will Whelan, LHP (Centennial HS):

“Whelan looks to make an immediate impact for the Golden Gophers this spring. The 2021 Future Games participant has made significant strides and looks to carry that into his freshman campaign. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Whelan has a low-90s fastball with heavy run/sink. A Centennial grad who decided to stay home and play for the Maroon and Gold, he could be a significant addition to the staff at Minnesota.”

Andy Judkins, Minnesota State Director


+ Ole Miss | Campbell Smithwick, C (Oxford HS):

“Smithwick is projected to be the starting catching to begin the season at Ole Miss following a superb senior year at Oxford in 2023. The left-handed-hitting slugger finished last spring with a .463 batting average with six home runs and 29 RBIs for the Chargers. Rebels head coach Mike Bianco recently said 'He’s as talented as any freshman catcher we’ve ever had. Tremendous offensive player but he’s a really athletic kid behind the plate.'”

Matt Miller, Mississippi State Director



+ Mizzou | Kaden Peer, OF (CBC HS):

“Peer left his mark on the Missouri high school scene last spring as a main anchor for CBC's historically talented lineup. Over 132 plate appearances, Peer slashed .393/.504/.888 with 11 home runs, 14 doubles, three triples, and 40 RBIs. His powerful left-handed swing was on display a handful of times to our staff last spring and it seems like that type of impact may show in CoMO for the Tigers early on. Peer should draw opportunities early on for this young Mizzou squad in the daunting league that is the SEC. ”

Diego Solares, Central Region Director of Media, Scouting

New York

+ Coastal Carolina | Dominic Carbone, LHP/OF (Rocky Point HS):

“The uber athletic two-way prospect shined on both sides of the ball in high school. Carbone was '21 league MVP on Long Island, he followed that up with a another big year as a junior – .424 batting average, 1.125 OPS, four home runs to go along with 42 innings, a 0.93 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP. He finished up his prep career going 6-0 with a 0.67 ERA as a senior. With a heavy, running fastball in the low-90s and feel for his offspeed, Carbone is equipped to make an immediate impact in 2024 at Coastal.”

Joe Walentin, New York Scouting Director

North Carolina


+ North Carolina | Luke Stevenson, C (Wake Forest HS):

“Stevenson had a big 2023, winning the Prep Baseball North Carolina Player of the Year while leading Wake Forest High to the state championship series, after he lit it up in the preseason at the prestigious Super 60. Stevenson took that momentum to North Carolina where he turned in a good fall and set himself up to be in the lineup for the Tarheels in 2024. A left-handed bat with power, plus his ability to receive and calm a pitching staff, Stevenson could be one of several freshmen leading the Tarheels this spring.”

Brandon Hall, Mid-Atlantic Scouting Director


+ Louisville | Colton Hartman, LHP (Lebanon HS):

“Hartman is a premium prospect who made it to campus and he will have a chance to make an immediate impact. Fastball will sit 90-93 mph and touch 94 with 20-plus vert. Multiple secondary options highlighted by a plus changeup that will miss plenty of bats.”

Kyle Weldon, Ohio Scouting Director


+ Oral Roberts | Braydon Sanford, RHP (Owasso HS):

“Sanford always showed high potential thanks to his projectable size and power arm potential. He battled injuries throughout his high school career at Owasso but he continued to put in the work to become a more finished product. While the freshman still has more work and development to go, he is poised to take on important innings on the mound this spring as he tries to help Oral Roberts return back to postseason prominence.

Sanford has always shown strike-throwing abilities with a high-riding fastball in the upper-80s to low-90s, and there's reports of the breaking ball showing signs of improvement, which should give him a more complete arsenal to attack hitters at the DI level.”

Scott Hood, Oklahoma State Director



+ South Carolina | Tyler Pitzer, RHP (South Fayette HS):

“Pitzer looks set to play a big role in South Carolina's success in 2024. He has a low-90s fastball that plays at the top of the zone, in a three-pitch mix that can each generate swings and misses, a combination that will find success. Given this early outlook, we hope to see Pitzer play a significant role out of the bullpen, or even as midweek starter, for the Gamecocks.”

Nathan Ocker, Pennsylvania Director



+ Vanderbilt | Ethan McElvain, LHP (Nolensville HS):

“McElvain looked like a guy who wasn't supposed to make it to college, and many thought that he would be gearing up for his first Spring Training, but with not being able to come to terms on a specific number in the '23 Draft, McElvain elected to go the college route.

With a strong frame that gives the presence of a grown man, McEvain is poised to breakout this season for a deep Vanderbilt pitching staff. He may start the year out in the 'pen or even in a closer-type role, but do not be surprised to see him start getting middle week starts as he grows his innings total for a late push in the starting rotation as the season progresses. His fastball has continued to climb where he was up to 97 mph this fall with extra life behind it. The slider has true wipeout potential as he develops. The three-pitch mix is already established with comfortability for throwing strikes and he offers the mental capabilities to handle the pressure of the SEC. McElvain has a chance to be among the best arms that have come through the Vandy pitching factory, with eyes on possibly becoming the first pick of the 2026 MLB Draft.”

Hunter Martin, Tennessee Scouting Director


(Thomas Burns; 6/6/23)

+ Arizona State | Thomas Burns, RHP (Hortonville HS):

“Burns is the latest example of a Wisconsin-raised prospect who kept getting better and better throughout high school, but one that pro scouts felt more comfortable evaluating while on campus. Well, it didn't take long for Burns to look like a future high-end pick out of Arizona State, after a breakout fall has him poised to grab a role near the front of the Sun Devils' rotation, if not in No. 1 role itself.

According to Mike Rooney's report on ASU from the fall on, he said: 'If the season started today, 6-foot-3 freshman [Burns] would be the Friday starter.' In that same report, he spoke to Burns' stuff, which includes a fastball that's climbed to 96 mph, in addition to two go-to secondaries we're plenty familiar with, a slider and changeup.

He starred for Hortonville last spring, leading them to a runner-up finish at D1 state, and he's hit the ground running out west since.”

(Cal Fisher; 2/5/23)

+ Florida State | Cal Fisher, SS (Deerfield HS):

“Fisher was a steady, reliable, consistent performer throughout his prep career, both in Wisconsin and on the national circuit. He went on to represent the state at the 2023 Super 60 where he was more of the same – a quality athlete with a simple right-handed swing, sneaky power, and smooth middle-infield defense.

Fast-forward to the present, and Fisher's still managing to stand out, only this time at a powerhouse program, Florida State. Fresh off a stellar summer in the Northwoods League, Fisher has kept up his momentum in the fall at Tallahassee, positioning himself in a spot to contribute right away for the Seminoles, as soon as opening day. His reliable defense boosts his floor, and his bat-to-ball skills remain impressive even as the quality of competition rises.”

Andy Sroka, Managing Editor, Scouting

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