The transfer portal continues to change college sports as we know it. Last year was no different, as national champion Louisiana State built its core around incoming transfers such as Paul Skenes (Air Force) and Tommy White (NC State). Others like Florida righty Hurston Waldrep (Southern Miss) and Mississippi State’s Colton Ledbetter (Samford) moved on from their smaller programs to show off their superb talents in the SEC.
The talent in this year’s transfer class is comparable to last, with a mix of high-profile studs and mid-major performers ready to make an impact. It would be amiss not to mention the possible motives behind these transfers, the most prominent being the new complicated age of NIL. Some on this list were simply better than the competition they were facing, while others looked to the portal after coaching changes.
No matter your opinion on these topics, the future of intercollegiate athletics is upon us, and below we look into the top names moving campuses this fall.
Braden Montgomery – TWP – Stanford to Texas A&M
We start with one of the most talented players in the sport, Braden Montgomery, who will call College Station his home for 2024. A projected first-round talent next summer, Montgomery put up an impressive .315/.414/.603 career line at Stanford, slugging 35 homers and driving in 118 in 126 games. A clean operation from both sides of the plate, Montgomery shows off some legit raw power, along with improving plate skills.
As is somewhat common in college baseball, Montgomery has also made a handful of appearances on the mound, albeit the numbers aren’t great. His monster arm, which has touched the high 90s on the hill, will be a lethal tool in his eventual permanent home in the outfield. Some scouts have tossed 80 grades on his bazooka, with many believing Montgomery will develop into a toolsy right fielder.
One thing the Aggies were lacking last spring was a big-time superstar who anchors a talented A&M lineup. Braden Montgomery fills that void, being possibly the most talented player to enter the portal this cycle. The Mississippi native will join the likes of talented sophomore Jace LaViolette, looking to make some noise in the SEC.
Billy Amick – UTL – Clemson to Tennessee
If anyone can be categorized as a “Swiss army knife” in college baseball, it’s Billy Amick, who has bounced all around the diamond. The Volunteers are in an interesting spot for 2024 after losing some cornerstone players to the portal and draft, but if successful, it’s fair to believe that Amick will be a key part. This figures to be an exciting lineup in Knoxville, which will include established juniors, Blake Burke and Christian Moore.
For Amick, the South Carolina native’s 2023 numbers can only be described as video game-like, slashing .413/.464/.772 with 32 extra-base hits while driving in 63. His swing has minimal moving parts, but a combination of quick hands and some legitimate power makes his plate presence a scary one for opposing pitchers.
While the tools and production are there, evaluators rave over Amick’s plate skills, rarely striking out (32 in 167 AB) and getting on base in almost half of his plate appearances.
Chase Burns – RHP – Tennessee to Wake Forest
Maybe the most famous name on this list, Burns broke out as a freshman for the Volunteers and has a legitimate chance to be the first arm off the board come July’s 2024 draft. Burns had split time between the bullpen and a starting role for Tennessee, posting a 3.54 ERA with 217 strikeouts over 152.1 innings.
Now poised to be the Friday night workhorse for Wake Forest, Burns will bring an exciting two-pitch mix to Winston-Salem. The stuff is undeniable, with a fastball that has reached 102 and a high 80s slider that misses bats with ease, both possessing advanced analytical profiles.
Burns rounds out his projectability with a sturdy 6-foot-4 “pitcher’s” frame. Of course, in terms of professional development, many will look for the Tennessee native to add a change-up, something former Wake Forest ace Rhett Lowder seemingly mastered last spring. Burns will be the backbone of a new-look Demon Deacons’ pitching staff that lost a ton of talent to the draft last July.
Seaver King – INF – Wingate to Wake Forest
King was the talk of the Cape Cod League this summer, putting his talents on display with a .424/.479/.542 line against some of the top competition in the country. He was also a participant on the USA Collegiate National Team. This may have addressed some of his Power Five impact questions, coming from mid-major powerhouse Wingate, where he held a career 1.130 OPS with 15 homers and 20 bags in 89 games.
A toolsy shortstop, King brings an exciting power/speed combination to Winston-Salem, a part of a seemingly flawless skillset. The Athens, Georgia product possesses a violent but controlled swing, with ultra-quick hands and terrific plate skills (44 Ks in 399 PA). Wake Forest’s exciting run in 2023 was followed by a ton of departing talent, with King being a super valuable add for a retooling Demon Deacon’s lineup.
Payton Tolle – TWP – Wichita State to TCU
Over his pair of seasons at Wichita State, Tolle proved that he is a legitimate threat both on the mound and in the batter’s box. This will be an exciting project for the coaching staff at TCU, with Tolle steadily improving throughout his time with the Shockers.
The 6-foot-6 lefty brings obvious size and projectability to the Horned Frogs’ program, who will look for a new anchor in their lineup with the departure of first-rounder Brayden Taylor. He also figures to be in the weekend rotation.
An impressive hitter, the Oklahoma native has put up strong exit velocities while slashing .313/.359/.516 with 16 homers over his first 97 career games. A bit stiff at times, his operation has produced some swing and miss, but overall it’s a clean swing with some kinks to be worked out.
On the hill, Tolle comes from a deceptive cross-body delivery and three-quarters slot that proves uncomfortable for hitters, especially lefties. His fastball reaches the low 90s, along with a sweeping breaking ball and a change-up that is regarded as his best offering. Tolle holds a career 4.56 ERA over 28 career games (26 starts) for Wichita State.
Luke Holman – RHP – Alabama to LSU
Of course, it’s almost impossible to replace a pitcher like Paul Skenes, but Holman is a good starting point. The Alabama transfer proved valuable in 2023 for the Crimson Tide, posting a 3.67 ERA over 15 starts, punching out 87 and walking 31 in 81 innings. Holman had some troubles with the long ball, but his present skillset gives LSU pitching coach Wes Johnson a fun up-arrow project.
The Pennsylvania native features a free-and-easy delivery, along with a strong three-pitch mix from a projectable 6-foot-4 frame. His fastball lives in the 90-93 range with some run and ride, along with a firm low 80s slider and a true 12-6 curveball with terrific downward movement and depth. LSU figures to have another terrific season in 2024, with a talented roster returning from their championship run in 2023 and Holman is likely holding down a weekend spot for the Tigers.
Cannon Peebles – C – NC State to Tennessee
One of the top freshman talents in the country last spring, the switch-hitting backstop Peebles will take his talents to Knoxville for 2024 and beyond. In his first season with NC State, the Virginia product produced an impressive 1.153 OPS, along with 12 homers and 27 walks to 29 strikeouts over 46 games. As previously mentioned, Tennessee has retooled their lineup for the upcoming season, landing a pair of impact players in Peebles and fellow ACC transfer Billy Amick.
Peebles comes from a talented 2025 eligible catcher class, in which he may rise to the top with a strong showing in the SEC. Not only does he possess a great approach at the dish, Peebles shows advanced power from both sides of the plate.
If he continues to develop as a defender, as many expect him to do, this may be the makings of a future first-round selection.