Florida International U

FIU baseball recruiting class ranked 19th in the nation

Mervyl Melendez is preparing for his third season as head coach at FIU and brings with him a top-25 recruiting class.
Mervyl Melendez is preparing for his third season as head coach at FIU and brings with him a top-25 recruiting class. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Baseball America just concluded an exhaustive study that proved that Miami is the No. 1 city in the nation for producing pro baseball players, and Florida is the No. 1 state.

The study showed that from 2011 to 2017, Miami produced 140 pro players — either major-leaguers or those in the minor leagues. San Diego was No. 2 with 125, and Florida also boasted No. 6 Tampa, No. 9 Orlando and No. 13 Fort Lauderdale among the top 15.

Given all the players coming out of Miami in particular and Florida in general, it’s no surprise that Baseball America’s ranking of recruiting classes for the 2019 season features four schools from the Sunshine State. FSU is No. 3, Florida is fifth, Miami is 10th and FIU is No. 19.

This is the second year in a row that FIU nailed a top-25 class. Last year, FIU’s recruiting class was ranked No. 21.

“I think we maybe should’ve been ranked a little higher this year,” said coach Mervyl Melendez, who is entering his third season at FIU. “But having said that, we’re excited to have a second straight top-25 class.”

FIU is the only team in Conference USA with a top-25 class this year. In fact, only two other schools from non-Power Five conferences made the top 25: Cal State Fullerton at No. 16 and No. 25 Coastal Carolina.

Melendez said John Rodriguez, a freshman shortstop from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, is his most underrated recruit in this class. Had he been ranked properly – as a top-200 player – FIU would’ve moved up in the rankings.

Even so, FIU recruiting coordinator Jered Goodwin, pitching coach Dax Norris and Melendez deserve credit for their recruiting work.

“Unfortunately for my family,” Melendez said, “I’m not a stay-at-home head coach. I do a lot of recruiting. It’s a group effort. Jered, Dax and I share notes, and we meet constantly.”

Perhaps the highest-profile signee in this class is outfielder/pitcher Christopher Williams, who was a 15th-round selection by the Cincinnati Reds but turned down pro money for the chance to play for FIU.

Williams’ fastball ranges from 88 to 92 mph, and he also has an effective slider that could make him a big factor out of the bullpen on a team that enters the fall looking for a closer.

“We recruited him as a two-way player, but we’re going to give him more time as a hitter this fall,” Melendez said. “He is a powerful lefty hitter, and he knows how to pitch.”

With starting pitcher Tyler Myrick set to miss the upcoming season due to injury, freshman Franco Aleman could join Logan Allen, Nick MacDonald and possibly Christian Santana in the rotation.

Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 38th round, Aleman was named the Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year by the Tampa Bay Times after going 9-1 with a 0.58 ERA. In 72 innings, he struck out 106 batters and walked just six.

“We’re lucky to get him,” Melendez said. “You never expect a power pitcher to have that good a strikeout-walk ratio. But he’s a strike-thrower.”

Melendez is excited about right-hander Angel Tiburcio, who tops out at 94 mph and is also a power-hitting first baseman.

“Wow, he has monster power,” Melendez said.

As for the hitters only in this recruiting class, start with Rodriguez, a 37t- round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a good chance to start right away because of his excellent defense.

Jarret Ford is a leadoff hitter who could play second base or center field, Kaber Rog is a switch-hitter who will play all over the infield, and FIU also signed three catchers in Nathan Housen, Humberto Torres and junior college transfer Luis Chavez.

THIS AND THAT

FIU fall baseball practice begins October 8.

Joris Ahlinvi scored both goals as FIU men’s soccer team defeated visiting UAB 2-1 in double overtime on Friday. Ahlinvi’s second goal came with just 23 seconds left in double OT. FIU is 2-4 overall and 2-0 in Conference USA.

FIU’s volleyball team improved to 7-5 on Saturday, rallying from a 2-1 sets deficit to defeat 1-11 Jacksonville on a neutral court in Gainesville.

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