John Savage has himself another top recruiting class coming in for 2012 (Photo Credit: Official Site)
It's become the norm for the top players in California to commit to UCLA. Ever since John Savage took over as head coach in 2005, Westwood has become a go-to destination for many of the top players in the state. Year after year, the Bruins' recruiting class is ranked among the best in the country and that annual talent haul has helped the Bruins accomplish more in the last seven years than they have ever done before.
As any coach will tell you, they are only as good as their players and the old line that "recruiting is the lifeblood of a program" is complete true. That's a huge reason why the Bruins have been as successful as they have and it appears as if it will continue with the class of 2012. A handful of high schoolers committed to UCLA in the last year, making up the bulk of the Bruins' 2012 class and now that they are in the final summer of their high school career, the accolades are raining down on them.
Four of the most highly touted of the Bruin commits were recently named to what is arguably the most prestigious of high school All-American teams, being named a Perfect Game All-American. Unsurprisingly, all four are pitchers continuing a trend of the top pitchers choosing UCLA and to be coached by Savage, one of the nation's top pitching coaches.
Max Fried, Lucas Giolito, Cody Poteet and Hunter Virant were all named to the Perfect Game team, giving the Bruins two right-handers and two left-handers in the class who have proved plenty. The four pitchers check in at 6'0'', 6'3'', 6'5'' and 6'6'' so they're a crop of built, strong guys too who most feel still have plenty of room to improve.
The Bruin recruiting class is limited to those top four guys either. In fact, Ty Moore, who pitches and plays the outfield, can easily be thrown into that same class of elite players. He was named to the U.S. U-18 national team and is another in a long line of top Orange County players to hop on the UCLA bandwagon. Felipe Perez is another guy who's in the mix and has played for U.S. youth national teams as well, giving the UCLA class the kind of depth that can make it one of the best in the country.
The problem with baseball recruiting is that threat that you can put together the best class ever then have it torn apart by the draft when they're all drafted very high, get huge offers from pro teams and end up signing on the dotted line, leaving your once great class empty. Lucas Giolito is being pegged as a very high draft pick already and the rest can also make their way up the draft board.
Because guys are being tempted by the pros, Savage has another variable to deal with in recruiting. Coaches in all sports have to figure out how to deal with scouting, getting kids interested, closing the deal, finding the right balance in their classes and keeping good relationships for the future, but baseball coaches have to deal with figuring out how to recruit elite kids without leaving yourself in a ditch if they decide to go pro.
This is one area that Savage has excelled. First, he balances his class with his share of elite guys, but also other guys that for whatever reason aren't rated as highly by the pros. They're guys he knows he can get into school. He's also done an excellent job of getting to know the kids he recruits so he knows which players, no matter how high they're drafted, really want to go to school and would have to be completely overwhelmed to pass on Westwood. That's why Savage's classes have elite players, but still are consistently very good and aren't dependent on just the hit and miss of the top guys.
Savage has also made it clear that his program is built on pitching. There's no doubt that the offense was a disappointment last year and that the Bruins will have to make sure to recruit bats, but the program will always be heavy on pitching. He's built a reputation and as long as he continues to churn out top pitcher after top pitcher, he can go back to that well in recruiting without it ever drying up.
If nothing else, Savage undoubtedly has himself a blueprint for recruiting. He's scouted well and he's closed the deal time and time again. He's gotten to know the kids and has a plan for which kids are coming in and which are iffy. Since taking over the program he hasn't had an off year in recruiting. He's been getting his guys each and every year. UCLA baseball has themselves a blueprint and the results show it to be a damn successful blueprint.