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UCLA baseball’s 2023 incoming and outgoing talent

Coach John Savage looks out towards the field from the dugout. Savage is bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation according to Perfect Game. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Benjamin Royer

July 29, 2023 6:46 p.m.

The 2023 MLB Draft signing deadline has passed, and the Bruins are assembling their roster for the season ahead.

UCLA baseball will attempt to replace 12 players leaving the program after the 2023 season. In recent weeks, coach John Savage secured two transfer commitments and swayed a draft pick away from the Boston Red Sox and back to Westwood.

There are still months ahead for more roster moves, but here is where the Bruins stand with their incoming and outgoing talent.

Players are listed in alphabetical order and all rankings mentioned are from Perfect Game.

Incoming
Freshmen: Catcher Blake Balsz, infielder Phoenix Call, catcher Cashel Dugger, infielder Roch Cholowsky, outfielder Owen Egan, outfielder Aidan Espinoza, outfielder Grant Gray, infielder Cameron Kim, right-hander Justin Lee, infielder Roman Martin, right-hander Cal Randall, right-hander Luke Rodriguez, right-hander Landon Stump and outfielder Dean West.

Transfers: Graduate student catcher Quintt Landis (Pepperdine) and rising redshirt senior right-hander Rashad Ruff (Coppin State).

Perfect Game named UCLA as its No. 1 recruiting class in the nation Friday morning, and the Bruins reaped the rewards of their prospects who dropped out – or went unsigned – of the MLB Draft.

The college baseball recruiting service ranked Cholowsky – who was a potential first-round pick – as its No. 17 prospect in the nation, while his possible future middle-infield partner, Martin, is ranked No. 23 overall.

Rounding out the infield, Call and Kim are also on their way to Westwood. The West Coast League, a collegiate summer league, ranked Call No. 1 on its “WCL Spotlight” list, a few days after the Calabasas local decided to honor his UCLA commitment instead of playing professionally for the Boston Red Sox, who drafted him in the 15th round.

Gray, a two-sport athlete, will be a wide receiver for UCLA football and an outfielder on the diamond. Egan, Espinoza and West round out the outfielder signees, all of whom are ranked in Perfect Game’s top 500 players in the class of 2023.

Balsz and Dugger give Savage depth behind the plate after the Bruins’ starting catcher Darius Perry left for the Colorado Rockies and rising junior Jack Holman shifted over to first base during the 2023 campaign.

On the pitching side, Lee and Randall are ranked in the top 100, both of whom sit in the low-90s with their fastballs. The former was selected as the Los Angeles Times Player of the Year after going 9-1 with a 1.24 ERA at Notre Dame High School, using his splitter to strike out 102 batters in 67.2 innings.

Rodriguez and Stump offer similar velocity with their fastballs and all four pitchers could contribute immediately to a pitching staff with numerous spots to fill in 2024.

Savage also dipped into the transfer portal, adding veteran transfers for the second-consecutive campaign.

Landis, a former Pepperdine catcher, slashed .305/.435/.417, hit one home run and tallied 28 RBIs for the Waves.

Ruff, on the other hand, played for Coppin State, an HBCU in Maryland, and emerged as a high-leverage bullpen arm for the Eagles this past season with a mid-90s fastball. The right-hander recorded a 3.82 ERA, striking out 41 and walking 14 over 33.0 innings.

Outgoing
Professional baseball: Right-hander Kelly Austin, right-hander Jake Brooks, left-hander Ethan Flanagan, third baseman Kyle Karros, catcher Darius Perry and right-hander Alonzo Tredwell.

Transfers: Outfielder/left-hander Josh Hahn (Notre Dame), left-hander Ben Jacobs (Arizona State), left-hander Gage Jump (LSU), left-hander Jake Saum (Tulane) and infielder Andrew Walters.

No eligibility left: Catcher Knox Loposer.

Savage is left to replace a large group of veterans – primarily on the pitching staff – and will likely have to trust the youth to fill the now-open gaps.

Austin, Brooks, Flanagan, Jacobs, Jump and Tredwell all held starting pitching experience, and with the quartet on its way to the minor leagues, rising sophomore right-hander Michael Barnett is the only returning hurler who started a game last season.

Third base and catcher are up for grabs for the first time since 2021 after the Colorado Rockies drafted Karros and Perry in the MLB Draft. Both veteran Bruins hit over .275 in their last years in Westwood – leaving both steady defense and hits vacant in the lineup.

Hahn and Saum graduated from UCLA and moved on to graduate programs elsewhere, while Loposer finished his athletic eligibility as a graduate student. Walters, on the other hand, did not appear in a game for the Bruins during his freshman season and entered the transfer portal.

Time will only tell how the young roster will look come winter, and with 16 incoming players – a number that could still increase in the coming weeks – the Bruins will likely have a new look next season.

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Benjamin Royer | Assistant Sports editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
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