After a solid first season under Mervyl Melendez, the FIU Panthers will be in the hunt to win the Conference USA title. Coach Melendez has done a good job since he was hired back in 2016. The biggest impact he has made in his tenure at FIU is his recruiting. Once FIU hired Melendez, top prospects from Puerto Rico and South Florida have started to flock to the Panthers. Florida International finished inside the top 15 in their first recruiting class under Melendez with some elite prospects. Here are five incoming freshman that can make an immediate impact for the FIU Panthers in the 2018 season.
LHP Logan Allen
The biggest surprise for the FIU Panthers recruiting class was when their top pitching prospect, Logan Allen, was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 16th round and decided to go to FIU instead of pro ball. The Panthers have really landed an elite pitching prospect who should take the FIU pitching staff to the next level. Logan Allen is a 6’0” 170 pound left-handed pitcher out of University High School out of Deltona, Florida. Allen was a top 50 ranked prospect in the country and 8th ranked LHP. The lefty freshman is one of the polished freshman pitchers in the country. Allen’s fastball sits in the high 80s-low 90s and tops out at 92 mph. He throws a really good changeup with a lot of adding action. Allen also throws a really solid curve ball and slider and pounding the strike zone. Perfect Game All-American.
RHP Christian Santana
Another freshman pitcher that can really make a nice impact for the FIU pitching staff is Christian Santana. The South Floridian pitcher came out of the national powerhouse, American Heritage High School, in Plantation, Florida. Santana was one of the top high schools arms in the country. According to Perfect Game, Santana was the 105th ranked prospect and the 36th ranked right-handed pitcher in the country. One of the reasons Santana is one of the best incoming freshman pitchers in the country is because of his electric fastball. His fastball sits in the low 90s and tops out at 95 mph. His best secondary pitch is his curveball. It shows good depth but isn’t very consistent with the break. Santana also throws a slider and changeup but those pitches still needs work. Expect Santana be one of FIU’s top relief pitchers or a weekday starter.
RHP Jan Figueroa
The top Puerto Rican prospect for the FIU Panthers is the RHP Jan Figueroa. The big righty is from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, USA and attends the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy. Figueroa is a 6’4” 200 pound right-handed pitcher is an elite prospect out of Puerto Rico. According to Perfect Game, Figueroa is the 240th ranked prospect and the 77th ranked right-handed pitcher in the recruiting rankings. Out of Puerto Rico, Figueroa is the 8th ranked prospect and the 2nd ranked RHP out of the small island. Figueroa is a very raw pitcher with a lot of talent. His fastball sits in the high 80s-low 90s and tops out at 92 mph. He’s still developing his curveball and changeup but his curveball should be his best off speed pitch. Figueroa has a very high ceiling and will likely come out of the bullpen as a freshman.
C Jonathan Nieves
Jonathan Nieves is a 5’11” 182 pound catcher from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, USA and attends International Baseball Academy. According to Perfect Game, Nieves is the 420th ranked prospect and the 43rd ranked catcher in the recruiting rankings. Out of Puerto Rico, Nieves is the 14th ranked prospect and the 2nd ranked catcher out of the small island. Nieves is best known for his defense. He has solid arm strength, good footwork and is quick and athletic behind the plate. His pop time is a 1.95 and throws 79 mph from behind the plate. At the plate, he shows he has a lot of pop and good bat speed but needs to improve his consistency. Will compete for starting catching job with JC Escarra getting drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 15th round.
OF Adan Fernandez
Adan Fernandez is arguably the most underrated incoming freshman coming into FIU and could make a nice impact in his first year. Adan Fernandez is a 6’3” 205 pound outfielder out of Archbishop McCarthy Catholic High School in Southwest Ranches, Florida. He is one of the most talented hitters out of the South Florida area but was overshadowed by a few elite prospect in high school. Fernandez played with top prospects like Alex Toral (Miami), Joe Perez (Astros) and Daniel Federman (Miami) but still managed to become one of their top players. Fernandez is a top 500 ranked recruit and the 127th ranked outfielder in the country. Lots of power potential and that can make an impact off the bench and might get a few starts this season.