The Fresh Faces of Arkansas Baseball: Incoming Transfers

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletics

Authored by Brady Michael

Arkansas’ 2021 baseball season came to an unwarranted end at Baum Walker Stadium, but not before the Razorbacks compiled a record of 50-13. That included a 22-8 mark against the SEC.

Arkansas enjoyed a lengthy reservation at No. 1 in the country; it was not a season that should be soon forgotten. Head coach Dave Van Horn led his team to their first SEC Tournament title in his tenure after clinching the regular-season title during the final series against Florida.

That is where it starts to get a bit cloudy. With a great team comes great talent and Major League Baseball certainly took notice. An SEC-high nine Arkansas players were drafted last season.

Having to replace that much talent is never easy. Fortunately, Van Horn doesn’t take a step back and retool; he reloads. That’s not just in the high school ranks, but with the transfer portal as well.

According to Collegiate Baseball, Arkansas pulled in the No. 4 ranked recruiting class in the country. That’s in addition to three very solid transfers. Leyton Pinckney, a fourth transfer, is not currently listed on the active roster. The newcomers will have some major shoes to fill following departures to Kevin Kopps, Christian Franklin, Casey Opitz and others.

The three transfers will be expected to step up and produce early for an Arkansas team that once again has high expectations entering the 2022 season. The start of the season is a month away. Here’s a look at the transfer and what they bring to the table for the Razorbacks:

No. 12 Michael Turner – Catcher

After spending four very productive years at Kent State, the 2019 All-MAC catcher decided it was time to test the waters and enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer. As a sophomore, Turner played in 29 games and started 22 of them for the Golden Flashes while having a .280 batting average. He only managed to rope one home run during the season, but had 21 RBIs.

Turner’s Junior season is when he made the biggest leap. He finished the season with a .369 batting average, four home runs, and doubled his RBI count from the previous season with 42 RBIs. It was enough to land him on the All-MAC first team. Twice, he earned MAC Player of the Week.

The 2020 season seemed to be a wash as it was for most schools. Kent State only played 14 games; Turner played and started in every one of them.

Last season, Turner started back on the incline, playing and starting in all 25 games. He finished the season with a .337 batting average, six home runs, and 22 RBIs. Although his RBI numbers took a hit compared to his 2019 season, he had a 1.33 walk-to-strikeout ratio with 16 walks and 12 strikeouts.

With the departure of Casey Opitz, the Warren, Ohio native will be left with an opportunity to come in and battle for the starting spot with sophomore catcher Dylan Leach. Replicating Opitz’s numbers is a tall task, but it’s hard to overlook how similar their batting stats are. Both Opitz and Turner are guys that don’t rack up many home runs or RBIs, but manage to get on base.

Turner certainly has the opportunity to start right in front of him. The question will be whether or not his stats can be replicated in the SEC.

No. 8 Jace Bohrofen – Outfielder 

Coming out of high school, it seemed almost inevitable that Bohrofen was going to be selected in the 2020 MLB Draft — at least until he signed the dotted line with Oklahoma. Ranked as the No. 33 overall player and the 10th-best outfielder in his class, Bohrofen was a guy that Van Horn and Co. felt good about until he decided to take his talents to Norman.

During his freshman season for the Sooners, he hit .252 with two home runs and 18 RBIs in 35 games. He ended up starting 29 of those 35 games and came out of the 2021 season as the team leader in triples (3) while totaling 26 hits. A surprise to some, he decided to hit the transfer portal following the conclusion of last season. Van Horn was not going to miss on him for a second time as he now resides in Fayetteville. 

While at Oklahoma, Bohrofen spent most of his time in center field, but can play any of the outfield positions. The departure of Christian Franklin in center field still looms large for next season. With no clear replacement, it is the perfect storm for Bohrofen to take the reins.

It wouldn’t be instantaneous, however. Braydon Webb certainly has the potential to earn that same role. As with baseball, position moves happen quite often.

This offseason, there was talk of moving Brady Slavens over to third base and allowing Bohrofen to slide into the starting role at first base. All of that could purely be speculation, but nonetheless, expect the Oklahoma City native to play a solid role for the Razorbacks this coming season.

No. 18 Chris Lanzilli – Outfielder

Lanzilli is another graduate transfer who arrives after four productive years at Wake Forest. Lanzilli’s 11 home runs in 2021 gave him a grand total of 42 home runs for his career. That ranks third among active Division I college baseball players.

Those 42 home runs placed him eighth all-time in the Wake record books. There is no shortage of power for the Demon Deacon transfer. His career really took off following an incredible 2019 season in which he finished with a .347 batting average, 16 home runs, and 67 RBIs.

That season, Lanzilli earned first-team All-ACC honors. He was also named a third-team Perfect Game All-American, a third-team Collegiate Baseball All-American, second-team NCBWA All-American, and a second-team ABCA All-American. Lanzilli was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 19th round of the draft.

As with Turner, the shortened 2020 season took a toll on some of his numbers, but he was shifted around the field quite a bit. Lanzilli played right field, third base, and some left field.

Last season, his stats spiked after starting 47 games in the outfield. He finished with a .259 batting average, 11 home runs, and 35 RBIs. That’s in addition to a .375 on-base percentage. 

While the primary loss in the outfield is Christian Franklin, Lanzilli will likely become an immediate starter. The Stoneham, Mass. native provided four straight years of production and despite the fact that he was on just average Wake Forest teams, he found a way to be a bright spot.

Assuming his talents can transfer over to the SEC without a hitch, it then becomes a game of where he might fit. The battles in the outfield up to this point have had no shortage of drama with the guys previously mentioned as well as Cayden Wallace and Zach Gregory.

There is a strong possibility that Wallace could be shifted into the infield. That would open the door for Lanzilli, but if that announcement isn’t made, we’ll have to wait until Feb. 18 to see how the lineup shakes out. That’s when the Razorbacks open the season against Illinois State.