Featured Photo, Kumar Rocker (RHP, Vanderbilt), Vanderbilt Athletics
With the 2020 MLB Draft almost 24 hours behind us, we take a look at 21 names you should start getting to know for the 2021 class (listed in no particular order).
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Highly regarded out of high school, Rocker ranked 14th on our 2018 draft rankings, and enters the 2021 draft cycle as a potential 1:1 candidate. With superior physicality and the ease at which he’s able to produce plus-to-double plus velocity, it’s easy to see why. A quick worker, he’ll not only attack hitters with his fastball, but also with his swing-and-miss slider and a mid-80s changeup with late tumble.
Jack Leiter (RHP, Vanderbilt Univ. | Video)
Leiter ranked 27th on the our final 2019 draft rankings and has quickly planted a flag as a target for first overall selection in the 2021 class, jockeying for position with rotation-mate Kumar Rocker as the draft’s top collegiate arm. As a true freshman this spring, Leiter made just four appearances, three of them starts, but they were dominant enough to push him into a weekend rotation spot, holding opponents to a 0.98 average and striking out 22 in 15.2 innings of work. He has a clean delivery, mid-90s heat and a plus curve.
Matt McLain (SS/CF, UCLA | Video)
An unsigned first rounder in 2018 (Arizona, 25th overall), McLain followed through with his commitment to UCLA and became an instant contributor for the Bruins. He struggled for the first time in his life, hitting just .203 on the season. Things began to turn in the Cape last summer where he posted a .819 OPS for Wareham, and he carried that momentum into 2020 where he was on the verge of a breakout, slashing .397/.422/.621 with three homeruns in 58 at-bats.
Jud Fabian (CF, Univ. of Florida| Video)
Fabian broke out last summer on the Cape, slashing .290/.350/.500 with six home runs (tied for 8th in the league) in 35 games. Despite being one of the youngest collegiate talents in the class – Fabrian won’t turn 21 until the Fall of 2021 – Fabian already demonstrates the ability to produce plus power, thanks to good bat speed and natural loft in his swing. There’s some swing-and-miss to his game, but his on-base and power production should help assuage any concerns.
Jaden Hill (RHP, Louisiana State Univ. | Video)
Before going to Baton Rouge, Hill was a physical, hard throwing hurler who was a bit raw. Though he only tossed 10 innings for the Tigers as a freshman, he was excelling in a bullpen role as a sophomore (0.00 ERA, 2 SV). Using a high-90s fastball and biting mid-80s slider, he punched out 17 hitters in 11.2 innings this spring.
Alex Binelas (3B, Univ. of Louisville | Video)
Binelas missed most of the shortened 2020 season due to a hamate injury, but when healthy the Cardinal third baseman has impact power with an ability to drive the ball out to all parts of the park. On Oak Creek (Wisc.) product, Binelas has been a known talent in the midwest for years, but burst onto the national scene in 2019 as a true freshman slugging 14 homers for Louisville. He’s one of the top collegiate bats in the class and enters the draft cycle as a likely first round target.
Gunnar Hoglund (RHP, Univ. of Mississippi)
Like McLain, Hoglund was a first-round pick in 2018 (Pittsburgh, 36th overall) who made it to campus. After a solid but unspectacular freshman campaign, he was on his way to blossoming into bonafide ace as a sophomore, going 3-0, 1.16 ERA with 37 punchouts to just four walks over 23.1 frames. He’ll feature a low 90s fastball, with a high spin mid 70s breaker and a low 80s slider with late tilt.
Colton Cowser (OF, Sam Houston State Univ. | Video)
Cowser had a monster freshman season, slugging .602 with seven bombs and nine stolen bases and earning Southland Conference Hitter of the Year honors. Parlaying his strong spring into a spot on the Collegiate National Team, Cowser held his own, slashing .273/.390/.303. Long and lean at 6-foot-3, 185-pounds, he utilizes a loose, fluid swing to spray line drives to all fields.
Mike Vasil (RHP, Univ. of Virginia | Video)
A potential first round talent in 2018, Vasil notably withdrew himself from consideration in the 2018 draft, eschewing a seven-figure paycheck in the process. While Vasil worked in the 93-to-96 mph range in high school, he has pitched more in the 89-93 velo band for the Cavaliers while also featuring a high-70s downer breaker and a low-80s slider.
Castillo gets inconsistent reviews for his defense behind the plate, but there’s little question he carries immense offensive upside. Up and down at times last summer on the Cape as a true freshman, Castillo finished strong with a 5-12 performance in his playoff series against Cotuit, then absolutely unloaded on the baseball in his 16 games this spring, slashing .358/.478/.547, with 11 walks to just eight strikeouts.
Steven Hajjar (LHP, Univ. of Michigan)
Hajjar is a projectable lefty who reached the mid-90s with his heater this spring, routinely working 92-to-94 mph. His changeup is already a plus offering with deception and depth and he backs it up with an upper-70s curve with solid shape and spin. He enters the summer as a potential early round target for 2021 and could climb into first round consideration if he continues to develop as he has over the past 18 months.
Kier Meredith (OF, Clemson Univ. | Video)
Meredith is a plus runner with excellent feel for the barrel and a top-of-the-order approach at the plate. He slashed .364/.455/.455 through the shortened 2020 season – a welcome sight after the sophomore struggled with injuries his freshman year. Meredith isn’t on a lot of national radars right now, but has the tools to make his way into early round consideration by this time next June.
High School Targets
Luke Leto (SS, Portage Central (Mich.))
An LSU commit, Leto has a lean, athletic frame at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds. A smooth defender with good first step quickness and a strong, accurate arm, he’s got a chance to stick at shortstop long term. At the plate he boasts a fluid left-handed stroke with and uses the whole field, and he runs well underway.
Tyree Reed (OF, American Canyon (Calif.))
Reed is a plus runner with big time arm strength and a quick, loose swing in the box. He slashed .353/.421/.353 as part of a talented MLB Breakthrough Series club at last October’s WWBA Underclass World Championship that battled to the semi-finals. With a long and projectable frame and some track record for high level performance already, he’ll be closely monitored this summer and fall and figures to be one of the top prep position players in the class come next June. He’s committed to Oregon State.
Christian Little (RHP, Christian Brothers College (Mo.)
A Vanderbilt recruit, Little has a big, strong build at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds. Long regarded as one of the top arms in this prep class, the righthander has a quick arm and possesses an appealing three-pitch mix that’s underscored by a nasty low-80s changeup with arm-side fade and thrown with deceptive arm speed.
Jordan Lawlar (SS, Jesuit College Prep (Texas))
Lawlar might be the best defensive shortstop in the prep class as we kick off the 2021 draft cycle, showing instinctual actions on the dirt, an easy plus arm and an ability to comfortably make throws from all the necessary spots (and then some). Offensively, he boasts a compact swing that produces regular hard contact and an approach that bodes well for a quality future hit tool.
Noah Smith (SS, Marist (Ill.))
Smith is an advanced defender with physical projection and quick twitch actions. His broad frame leaves plenty of room to hang added strength and his quick hands and simple swing allow for additional power to project on top his already impressive gap-to-gap line drive approach. He has a chance to be an impact defender and additional physical maturity through the draft cycle could launch him up draft boards. He’s committed to Louisville.
Brady House (SS, Winder-Barrow (Ga.))
A big, physical shortstop, at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, House is a Tennessee recruit with big offensive upside. With equal parts bat speed and sheer strength, the ball jumps off his bat and he’s able to elevate. Should his growth necessitate a move defensively, it’s easy to envision a slide over to third base where his arm would be an asset.
Benny Montgomery (OF, Red Land (Penn.))
One of the toolsier profiles in the class, Montgomery has a shot to have three 60s on the scouting report by this time next year. The ball jumps off the bat thanks to premium bat speed, he turns in plus run times and his outfield arm has easy carry. A Virginia commit, signability will be something to monitor over the draft cycle.
Cody Schrier (OF, JSerra, (Calif.))
Schrier has some offensive ceiling thanks to developing power and a knack for hard contact. He’s already a vet of high-level high school competition and well known throughout Southern California as one of the top talents in the 2021 class. His loose and easy swing should allow for a nice step forward in power production as he matures over the next twelve months and he enters the draft cycle as an early-round candidate.
Izaac Pacheco (SS/3B, Friendswood (Texas))
A Texas A&M recruit, Pacheco’s calling card is big time left-handed power. The Texas prep product generates easy loft and possesses enough strength to allow the ball to travel and drive it the other way, as well. A solid defender on the dirt, Pacheco should have the athleticism to handle shortstop at the collegiate level, but projects as a third baseman long term.