Now that we are officially in the third month of March, I can finally “celebrate” my one year anniversary as a Razzball staff writer. I began this beautiful journey back on March 19 of 2020, when the world was falling apart and I subsequently decided it was the perfect time to break into the fantasy writing realm with my top 10 college prospects to target in dynasty leagues. For those of you who are extra particular, yes, technically my one year anniversary is still one day away, but considering the last year has felt like 12, we’re counting it. Since then, I have engaged in deep dive after deep dive into the world of college prospects, at one point going so deep I got lost underwater and spent several days sparring with a giant squid named Edmond. That same aquatic journey continues on today, as we check back in with some of the top draft-eligible prospects in college baseball, while also examining some lesser known names as well as one player from the 2022 class. We’ll begin with the usual suspects (Rocker, Leiter, etc.) and move into more unknown waters thereafter, so be sure to pack your scuba gear and perhaps even a scimitar of some sort should we happen to bump into that nasty Edmond.
Some quick links before we take a trip around the college baseball world…
Kumar Rocker – Well, that was anticlimactic, like Harold and Kumar arriving at White Castle only to find out it’s mobile order only due to COVID while Neil Patrick Harris has made away cleanly with both of their cell phones. Unless something drastic occurs down the stretch, the competition for the No. 1 overall pick this July is over. Through 23 innings to open the season, Rocker has yet to allow an earned run. His perfect 0.00 ERA comes accompanied with 32 strikeouts vs. eight walks. Opposing batters are hitting just .108 against the future top selection in the draft. Thus far, his fastball has topped at 98 MPH and the offspeed stuff — featuring the same breaking ball that struck out all 19 batters in his 2019 no-no vs. Duke — is advanced enough that there isn’t much more worth telling. He won’t be the best value in first-year player drafts (FYPD), but he’s still a slam-dunk future top-of-the-rotation starter, barring catastrophic injury.
Kumar Rocker, Filthy Slider. ?
Bend the Knee before the Filthiest Slider in College Baseball. ? pic.twitter.com/TmMPTVUGdB
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 13, 2021
Jack Leiter – Rocker’s 2021 BAA? .108. Leiter’s? .108. Rocker may own a 0.00 ERA through 23 frames, but Leiter’s 0.45 ERA through 20 innings is right there. So is the velocity, as Leiter has already touched 97 MPH in the young season. Could they go 1-2? It’s certainly possible. I still think there’s a good chance Jaden Hill goes in between Rocker and Leiter, but Jack has checked virtually ever box necessary through his first two college seasons. Leiter has 33 strikeouts against 10 walks and has allowed just one earned run to this point in 2021. Al must be so proud. Like, clutching Mark DeRosa around the midsection amid a pandemic and screeching proud.
Jack Leiter, Filthy Changeup.
Just gonna leave this here. ??? pic.twitter.com/P8FhGCpItH
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 14, 2021
Sal Frelick – I’ve been bullish on Frelick for some time now, ranking the Boston College outfielder No. 8 overall in my Preseason Top 50 College MLB Draft Prospects list after tabbing him as the No. 6 underclass prospect back in May 2020. There’s already a lot of intel in the latter link to digest on Frelick, but so far in 2021, he’s made me look smarter than Grey Albright at the annual ESPN Writers convention. Frelick is off to a .407/.471/.712 start to the 2021 season, having already launched four home runs in just 59 at bats. We had reason to believe the power would continue to develop for the uber-athletic Frelick, who hit just six home runs in his first 208 college at bats from 2019-20. Considering he has also collected 28 stolen bases in 68 career games, fantasy owners far and wide should be circling Frelick’s name — especially those with FYPDs coming up this summer. As a prospect pundit, I tend to fall in love with swings that I feel will develop well through the Minors and into the MLB. It can be a flaw at times, but Frelick’s approach and quick twitch movements may leave you salivating. The only question is whether or not he can be a consistent power threat with a wood bat.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 9, 2021
Ty Madden – “Boom!” – Ty Madden. That’s exactly what Mr. Madden has been doing ever since I wrote that his stock could slip if the metrics from his first start carried over to subsequent appearances. Well, in three starts since, Madden has gotten back on track and showed improved life on his fastball against BYU, Houston and South Carolina. His combined numbers in those three games? 23 IP, 0.39 ERA, 6 H, 30 K, 6 BB. This is roughly the same sample size we used to judge countless names from last year’s entire draft class. At the same time, Madden has worked his heater up to 97 MPH and held velocity well (see below). In a complete game shutout of Houston on March 5, Madden fired 110 pitches — 79 of which were strikes. Madden seems to have flipped the script just like his long lost ancestor, Coach John, when he said, “Mark Brunell usually likes to soak his balls before a rainy game.”
another sensational outing for @TexasBaseball RHP Ty Madden, one of the top pitchers in the 2021 Draft
last week vs. BYU: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
tonight vs. Houston: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K
all 14 strikeouts, for your viewing pleasure: pic.twitter.com/I2CkVbDq3X
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 6, 2021
Henry Davis – When we last checked in on Davis, he was off to a .500/.625/1.000 start through the first weekend of the season. Quick side note: the weirdest aspect involved in writing about collegiate prospects is when part of a slash line doesn’t start with a decimal. That’s when you know. But that slash was just one weekend, so how is Davis faring now? through 16 games/56 at bats, the Louisville catcher owns a .411/.514/.679 batting line with four homers, three doubles, 11 walks and just three strikeouts. What’s more impressive, is that this elite catching prospect is a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen bases to open the year. Did someone say J.T. Realmuto 2.0? I won’t go that far, and Davis has displayed his fair share of receiving issues early on this year, but he still has a top-10 overall ceiling for the 2021 MLB Draft and should be firmly positioned in the first round. Davis is one of those rare catching prospects to earmark for FYPDs.
Alex Binelas – One of Davis’ Louisville teammates, Binelas, is not exactly faring as well at the plate to open the season. Coming into the year, Binelas was MLB Pipeline’s ninth-rated overall prospect for the 2021 MLB Draft, coming in at No. 10 on my Preseason Top 50. I also wrote a good bit about Binelas in my underclass top 10 back in May. After establishing such solid stock, the Louisville corner infielder is off to a .145/.247/.274 start to the season with one home run, five doubles and two steals. The issue has been a 24.7 K%, which sits alongside a 10.9 BB%. He did appear to be coming out of the funk this past weekend, barreling his first homer and collecting a double while driving in five. Still, once considered to have the ability to play third at the next level, Binelas is looking more and more like a first baseman every day. That will likely move him down the pecking order for the 2021 MLB Draft and he has little chance of remaining in the top 10 when I next update my rankings.
Mason Pelio – Pelio’s inclusion in this week’s column represents his first mention since my Preseason Top 50 College MLB Draft Prospects rankings, where he debuted at No. 25. Through four outings in 2021, Pelio has been super up-and-down. He shut out Charleston Southern and Auburn across 5.0 and 5.2 innings, respectively, but also gave up a combined 11 earned runs on 13 hits in 8 1/3 total frames against Duke and Louisville. So far, Pelio hasn’t been able to handle elite opponents, but he has flashed some of the better starting pitching velocity in college baseball, topping out at 97 MPH. With just 15 strikeouts against 16 walks (OOF!) in 19 innings, Pelio will need to get back on track soon as his stock is already slipping. Then again, so much is projectability with arms such as these, so if the velocity holds and the secondary stuff shows enough promise, he’s likely still a fringe day one/early day two name.
Jace Jung – Today, I’m including one non-draft eligible prospect in the form of Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung — the younger brother of former No. 8 overall pick, Josh Jung. Holla atcha JJs! Now, Jung isn’t draft eligible until 2022, as he’s only a sophomore, but this is called the “Collegiate Corner,” not the “2021 draft hub.” For starters, we have the family pedigree here as his older brother represents a truly elite MLB prospect. On the field this year, Jace is off to an incredible start, slashing .403/.524/.823 with seven home runs, five doubles, 27 RBI, 18 runs scored and one steal. Yes, 12 extra base hits and 27 RBI in the season’s first 17 games. In 82 plate appearances, Jung has walked 16 times and struck out on 12 occasions. Even as a freshman in 2020, Jung walked more (18) than he struck out (15) while batting .264/.438/.604 across 19 games. He isn’t being talked about enough yet, but Jung 2.0 looks to be on the first round trajectory for 2022. He’s roughly two inches shorter than his older brother, standing at 6-foot-even, but he’s right around 200 pounds and size should be a non-factor in his draft stock. Make a note to keep tabs on Jung as he has the potential to be a four-category star in fantasy.
Mason Erla – While not an elite prospect, Erla has shown overpowering velocity through his first two starts of 2021. Topping out at 98 MPH, Erla likely represents a more intriguing prospect than most lists indicate. Erla came into the year as D1Baseball’s No. 109 college prospect, missing my top 50 entirely and settling in as Baseball America’s No. 118 player in college baseball. As recently as 2019, Erla was sitting around 89-91 MPH with the hearer, so this is an arm that has come a long way and developed during his time at Michigan State. I’m not saying he’s the next Bryce Jarvis, as he still needs to find more of a feel for his secondary stuff, which is fringy, but a strong rest of the year could make him a major riser. His first two starts this season (12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 15 K, 4 BB) haven’t been nearly as impressive as his 2020 (26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 42 K, 6 BB, .211 BAA), but if he continues to flash elite velocity and produce elite K-BB numbers, someone will use a high pick on him solely for the ceiling.
Wes Clarke – While we’re talking about players not positioned as top tier prospects, it makes sense to touch on Wes Clarke. In his first two years at South Carolina, Clarke hit .265 with nine home runs in 35 games/102 at bats. Through 14 games/50 at bats in 2021, Clarke has doubled his career home run total with nine home runs, slashing .380/.537/.960. Clarke is literally (or close to it) the rendition of Matt Christopher’s, The Kid Who Only Hit Homers so far this season, with 11 of his 19 hits going for extra bases. Only Tyler Locklear of VCU has hit as many out as Clarke thus far and while his power output doesn’t automatically make him a blue chip prospect, he has to be penciling his name into the top five rounds of the 2021 draft. It’s not like Clarke is collecting cheapies against mid-major competition, either, as he’s gone deep in consecutive games against both Clemson and Texas already this year. It will be telling to see how he fares against Vanderbilt this upcoming weekend, as he’ll be tested against Rocker and Leiter. For icing on the cake, the 6-2, 236-pound Clarke is a dual catcher/first base prospect — although I doubt he plays much behind the plate at the pro level.
Zack Raabe – Continuing with the current theme of off-the-radar prospects, Raabe sports perhaps the most impressive numbers of any college hitter the last two seasons combined. Through the first two weekends of the 2021 (seven games), Raabe is slashing .571/.667/1.381 with four home runs, one triple and three doubles. Yeah, an OPS over 2.000 at the second base position. The most impressive aspect is the fact that Raabe has drawn six walks while striking out just once with that degree of power output — positioning him as one of the nation’s most difficult hitters to strike out while ranking second in the nation in slugging. Raabe also led the country in hits in 2020 while slashing .463/.526/.612, so it’s clear that this player knows his way around college pitching. Whether he’ll become a legitimate MLB prospect remains to be seen, however, as he’s undersized (5-10, 180 lbs.) and is merely an average runner. Still, his father managed to crack the big leagues despite being a 41st round pick, so there’s some precedent here that may allow Raabe to squeak into developing into an MLB player despite not being respected by the prospect ‘perts.’
McCade Brown – Is there a pitcher with a more impressive line than Brown’s to open the 2021 season? Well, Rocker’s near-flawless start is hard to top, but Brown isn’t far behind. The primary difference is that Rocker is dominating in the southeast region of the country, while Brown has faced Rutgers and Penn State. Still, in those two outings, Brown fired 14.0 innings with 28 strikeouts, allowing just one run on three hits and walking only two. This past weekend, Brown tossed seven no-hit innings against Penn State and at one point struck out 10 of 11 hitters in the outing. Standing at 6-6 and 225 pounds, Brown has the projectable frame to make him a top prospect. On top of that, he generates easy velocity and has topped out out 96 MPH so far in 2021. Against Penn State, he averaged 93.5 MPH on the heater while sitting 79-83MPH with his 12-6 curve. That curveball produced 15 whiffs against the Nittany Lions, making it far-and-away his go-to putaway pitch. He showed a slider as well, but as of this moment, he has been relying heavily on the fastball-curveball combo. Brown will need to show more progress with a third offering and extended consistency to rise up draft boards, but this is an impeccable start considering the junior came into the year with a career 14.85 ERA in his first 6 2/3 collegiate frames.
That's a bad, bad man.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) March 17, 2021
That’s all for this week! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.