Jordan Nwogu drew NCAA Division I football interest throughout his collegiate recruiting process at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Despite Mid-American Conference and Ivy League football programs expressing interest in him, Nwogu didn’t have an interest in playing collegiate football, he said. Nwogu, a straight-A student in high school, received two academic scholarships to the University of Michigan.
Since he was young, Michigan was always his dream school. He received a chance to join Michigan’s baseball program as a walk-on and accepted the opportunity. He admits that even if he didn’t have a chance to play baseball that he still would have attended Michigan, he said.
“I always liked baseball more,” Nwogu said. “I was more passionate about it. I always enjoyed the practices. That was probably the biggest reason – I enjoyed baseball practice where I didn’t have the same emotions towards football.”
Nwogu’s success over the last three years has put him on the map of professional scouts. The junior outfielder is one of the top prospects in June’s MLB draft and considered a potential top-five-round pick.
He is eager for the draft but realizes this year is an unusual situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. The college baseball season ended prematurely, causing the NCAA to award all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, and the draft likely will be at most 10 rounds this year.
“It’s a weird situation with the season getting cut short because you don’t get the chance to prove yourself for the draft,” Nwogu said. “With the shorten draft, there could be a lot of different opinions that come through. It’s exciting to know that I could be drafted this year, but it’s also nice that we get another year back eligibility.”
As a freshman in 2018, Nwogu hit .349 with six home runs and 29 RBIs in 126 at-bats.
He was a key piece atop Michigan’s batting lineup and played a role in leading the Wolverines to a second-place finish in the College World Series last year. He posted a .321 batting average with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs in 246 at-bats.
Nwogu continued to produce at a high level this spring until the NCAA canceled the season due to the coronavirus. In 15 games, he hit .353 with two home runs and four RBIs.
Nwogu is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, which helps him to produce solid offensive numbers from the right side of the plate. He has solid bat speed and above-average power despite a top-hand heavy swing.
He also has above-average speed that helps him in all facets of the game, including on the base pads where he stole 30 bases in his three years at Michigan.
“My power to the big part of the field is something I take pride in,” Nwogu said. “I think I’ve always had it, but the work I have done with the coaches and developing my swing unlocked it.”
Nwogu’s offensive success has come despite an unorthodox swing. His swing and lower half are typically out of sync but his hand-eye coordination allows him to consistently make contact and drive the ball.
In preparation for either pro ball this summer or another year at Michigan in the fall, Nwogu wants to improve his plate discipline, which is something he’s shown growth in every year. Over his three years at Michigan, Nwogu struck out 96 times compared to drawing 63 walks in 525 plate appearances.
“I do have a different swing that’s not exactly textbook,” Nwogu said. “The one thing that if you look closely at my swing is that I get into that power position, and I extend through contact. As a college hitter, that’s the most important thing as a hitter, and I feel like I do those well.”
Nwogu also has progressed defensively in his three years at Michigan. He mostly played left field but received time in center field this spring after starter Jesse Franklin suffered an injury. He has below-average arm strength and believes he profiles best in left field long term, he said.
“I would say repetitions on defense and getting as comfortable as I can out there,” said Nwogu on areas he wants to improve. “I know I am athletic enough to play wherever I want in the outfield. I just have to get reps out there.”
Nwogu’s baseball skills were raw when he first joined Michigan in 2017-18. But he’s made tremendous improvements in all facets of the game to position himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class.
He credits the coaching staff for his development and is appreciative of his time at Michigan, he said.
“They just took that shot on me, and then as I’ve stayed here and gotten away from football, I’ve been able to figure out a swing that works for me,” Nwogu said. “I think a big thing that I’ve learned at Michigan is the mental approach at the plate is probably bigger than having the best swing in the world.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.