Four Gophers Named Northwoods League’s Best MLB Prospects

MINNEAPOLIS — Four Golden Gophers baseball players were named on Perfect Game’s list of the top 40 MLB prospects from the Northwoods League last summer.

Redshirt second baseman George Klassen was ranked as the number one overall prospect, while fellow righthander Will Semb came in at number 11. Second baseman Brady Counsell, second baseman, was listed as the number 28 player on the list while left-handed pitcher Tucker Novotny came in at number 38. Klassen and Semb will both qualify for draft this spring, while Counsell and Novotny are potential MLB Draft winners. selections will be for 2024.

Born in Port Washington, Wis., Klassen missed the entire 2021 season due to Tommy-John surgery before making his Gophers debut in 2022. The former Perfect Game All-American showed premium speed this summer, regularly hitting triple digits with multiple shots at 102 mph, while showing a sharp bat-miss from a slider in the mid-to-upper 80s. The quality of his equipment and the potential he has to miss a ton of bats from a big league bullpen make him at the very least the best candidate in the league from the 2022 season onwards. He is coming off a 2022 season where he will be 11 made appearances and struckout eight batters in 7.2 innings.

Will Semb played his second year at Minnesota in 2022 after transferring from Iowa. The rising junior made 23 appearances for the maroon and gold last spring, striking out 28 batters in 23.2 innings pitched. He also led the team with two saves. He enjoyed a quality summer in the Northwoods League, showing things off those missing bats and a continued refinement of his control in a starter role. Able to work his fastball into the mid 90’s, he has continued to show sophistication on his slider, a pitch with late tilt and good bite that looks like it will be a bat miss. The De Pere, Wis. native could see a role as a starter or reliever with Minnesota in 2023.

Second baseman Brady Counsell made the biggest jump as a freshman for Minnesota last spring, playing in 36 games (24 starts). He hit .200 with one home run and 10 RBI, five doubles and two triples. He then had a great summer in the Northwoods League for the Kenosha Kingfish, playing in 55 games and hitting .293 (60-for-205) with four homeruns and 37 RBI (team-best). He also had 17 doubles, walked 24 and scored 37 runs while racking up a .951 fielding percentage. Expect Counsell to be a mainstay at second base for the ‘U’ next spring.

Coming in as the No. 38 MLB prospects from the Northwoods League rise this summer by sophomore southpaw Tucker Novotny. The Cottage Grove, Minnesota, played six times, including one start for Minnesota as a freshman in 2022. He went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA, the best of any freshman on the team. Novotny struckout 14 batters, walked six and gave up only six earned runs in 63 batters and gave up zero runs in four of his six appearances. This summer, he made a team-high 13 appearances (four starts) for the Willmar Stingers. The lefty hit a team-best 56 batters and gave up only 16 earned runs in 39.0 innings pitched and walked only 15 with a 3.69 ERA.

Right-handed pitchers Aidan Maldonado (14th round, Milwaukee Brewers) and JP Massey (7th round, Pittsburgh Pirates) made up the 2022 MLB Draft class for the University of Minnesota. The Gophers baseball program has had players drafted in a Big Ten record of 35 consecutive seasons, dating back to 1988. No other Big Ten program has a draft streak longer than 11 years.

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