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The UTSA Roadrunner baseball team looked to the future last week by signing a modest but promising 2024 class. Compared to the previous year’s NSD, the class of five for this year may seem incomplete. There are some things related to that to keep in mind.
First off, players are staying at the college level longer. With NIL and a drastically smaller MLB draft, players are able to monetize their collegiate careers, and it is more challenging than ever to break into professional baseball. Let’s not forget Covid. There are still ripples of players with eligibility from the free Covid year taking up roster spots. There is also the transfer portal. As that process continues to take shape, more and more coaches are looking to supplement their roster with talent looking for new homes. I look at JUCO signings similar to the high school guys, as UTSA has announced them on NSD in the past.
What I am getting at is there is no need to worry or be concerned about the modestly-sized class. There are also opportunities throughout the year to add to the class.
I celebrated National Signing Day this year by interviewing UTSA Baseball alumnus Karan Patel. I always enjoy hearing how players end up at UTSA. It seemed appropriate talking to Karan on NSD, as he himself is preparing for a new opportunity: playing in a winter ball league in the Middle East. You can listen to that episode here if you are a Patreon subscriber. For now, let’s take a glance at some of the baseball players who will be calling UTSA home next fall.
Sam Simmons – 6’3 170 – RHP – Manvel, TX; Manvel HS (2022) – Panola College
Sam went the JUCO route out of high school before signing with UTSA. He enrolled at Panola College, located in Carthage, Texas. Out of high school, Simmons was ranked as a middle infielder and had a state position ranking of 110. I’m curious about his story on transitioning to and signing as a pitcher at the Division I level. His time at Panola does back that switch up. In the 2023 season, he made twenty-six appearances and tossed forty-eight innings while posting an impressive 2.25 ERA and only giving up five home runs. While his strikeout-to-walk ratio is roughly 2:1, he doesn’t seem to be a huge strikeout guy. He did put up a WHIP of 1.06. Out of high school, his FB velo was 86 mph; however, I’m willing to bet that has improved.
Todd Rochelle – 5’11 185 – RHP – Mansfield, TX; Mansfield Legacy HS
The first thing that stood out about Todd was his national ranking—609 as a RHP but 500 overall. I don’t know if this is an error on the part of Perfect Game or if Todd has some secondary talent somewhere else in the field. He has an impressive 62 ranking for Texas and 188 overall. His most recent FB velo comes in at 88 mph. That was recorded in early January of this year. That is a + 3 mph improvement from the summer of ’22. Coach Butler has helped create improvements to the pitching staff year-over-year. I would love to see that velo creep into the low 90s. The UTSA Baseball team currently has some promising young arms. Todd will hopefully complement that next fall.
Dae Palomo – 5’6 146 – Catcher – Corpus Christi, TX – Carroll HS
His full name is Israel Damon Palomo, but presumably, he goes by Dae. Palomo receives the highest Perfect Game ranking of the class. With a catcher ranking in the top 50 for Texas (31) and 230 nationally, he offers stability at a crucial position in the field. I’m unsurprised that a catcher pulls the highest ranking in this class given Coach Hallmark’s background. While I don’t have an official pop time for Dae (time from the ball hitting his mit to his throw down to second), back in 2020, he had a registered FB velocity of 75 mph. I imagine his arm strength has improved. It is no secret that the next everyday catcher at UTSA will have big shoes to fill. With the current crop of talent, Dao should have some good teammates from whom to learn. Perfect Game also lists Dao as a switch hitter, which is rare.
Mason Jacob – 5’10 175 – Shortstop – Corpus Christi, TX – London HS
While from Corpus Christi, Jacob also plays for the Texas Twelve, a well-known and nationally recognized program. They provide a unique opportunity for developmental, competitive, and visible playing time. One thing that stands out is the gap between Jacob’s state position ranking and national ranking. In Texas, he is the 73rd-ranked shortstop but 835 nationally. For a mid-major program, there is nothing wrong with that; it just seems further apart than what you usually see. It is important to note that per his Perfect Game profile, while he is listed as a shortstop, he also has utility potential.
Jordan Ballin – 5’8 170 – Infielder – Fair Oaks Ranch, TX – Boerne Champion HS
I saved Jordan for last because keeping the local kids home is always nice. He has a profile very similar to that of signing classmate Mason Jacob. While Ballin is graded as a shortstop, he is able to play a plethora of positions. His rankings are slightly higher than Jacob’s, with a 60 for Texas. At a quick glance, you may mistake him for a friend of the show, Jonathan Tapia. Perhaps Coach Hallmark is trying to get Tap some more eligibility. (For the sake of compliance and to prevent an investigation, I am completely joking). Ballin also provides a nice lefty bat. Last but not least, what a great last name for athletics and baseball.
Something always interesting about the spring sports signings is that by the time their first collegiate season rolls around, it will have been roughly fifteen months from when they signed. It is nice with baseball that you get the Fall Ball “season” to catch first looks at the incoming players. As mentioned in my Fall Ball World Series Recap, we have already seen some of the 2023 class show they will be vying for a starting spot in mid-February. I hope to bring you all a blog similar to Jared’s Summer series, getting to know the new members of the AAC – Baseball Edition – soon! For now, go Roadrunners and Birds Up!
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