If you’re a fan of college baseball, then you know the 2021 NCAA season is right around the corner. Exciting! *unexpectedly, clapping begins* Right around the corner: that’s precisely what I said. Now, for some fans, that corner is well within sight. *clapping slows down, still unsure of where it’s coming from* If you’re a fan of a major Power Five team, then the 2021 campaign likely begins in just over two weeks, during the weekend of Feb. 19-21. That is, unless you’re a die-hard Big Ten supporter, in which case you still don’t even have a 2021 schedule. *clapping stops* That’s right — there is going to be a lot of variance entrenched in 2021 college baseball schedules. Some teams are starting on time and playing a full non-conference slate, while others will experience a delayed start while partaking in conference-only competition. This year, we will be comparing apples to bananas (not a big fan of oranges, plus they’re far too close in appearance) more than we ever have. But even with that, we need to move forward, and it all begins with my Preseason Top 50 Draft-Eligible College Players to Target in Dynasty Formats. Onward! *looks back to see no one following* I said, onward!
As my good friend Ke$ha always says, we R where we R. Point being, we’re here and there’s going to be college baseball in some shape or form. Hopefully, that shape is a diamond. If it’s a rectangle, well, at least there’s baseball — baseball that is all the more relevant to those playing in dynasty leagues or any type of format that utilizes a first-year player draft (FYPD). This year’s draft-eligible crop will hear their names called from July 11-13 this year, which is when the 2021 MLB Draft is set to be held. Now, I’ve heard my name called during the MLB Draft before as well — a fact that might surprise you. It was the summer of ’15. I was hard at work, getting in some hacks in my garage, when I heard my mother yell, “Hobbsy, meatloaf is ready!” True story. Getting back to the point, it’s important to continuously build and adjust your knowledge of the draft crop in these leagues. It’s never too early to do this, as gathering intel early will only aid in creating a more accurate and complete picture of each prospect. That’s why I released my Way-Too-Early College Top 25 for the 2021 MLB Draft back in July and revisited that same project with an update on collegiate baseball draft risers and other notes this past January. Now, with the 2021 college season about to begin, I have completely reworked my initial top 25 and added an additional 25 players to create a preseason top 50.
Perhaps more than any other year, this preseason list figures to change drastically come June/July. With only one-third of a 2020 college baseball season and virtually no access to top-tier summer leagues this past offseason, scouts and their respective front offices will be putting an extremely heavy emphasis on 2021 performance. An elite 2021 season could push a fringe fifth-rounder into the first round. A bad 2021 season could push an elite prospect, like a Jack Leiter (ranked No. 3 on my list), out of the first round. Someone like Michigan’s Steven Hajjar could vault himself into becoming a top-15 selection, or he could fall out of the first several rounds with an unimpressive year. For guys like Leiter and Hajjar, who didn’t play collegiately in 2019 (either due to a redshirt or simply age), the 2021 season is invaluable.
*Oscar music begins* Okay! Okay! Um, I love you, mom and dad! *Oscar music grows louder* And you too, Grey! I think that’s it. Let’s get to the rankings.
|4||Adrian Del Castillo||C/OF||Miami||20||6-0||200||L||R|
|5||Ethan Wilson||OF||South Alabama||20||6-2||210||L||L|
|8||Sal Frelick||OF||Boston College||20||5-10||175||L||R|
|9||Colton Cowser||OF||Sam Houston State||20||6-3||195||L||R|
Kumar Rocker is the obvious choice for No. 1 here, as he’s the current favorite to go first overall in July. However, Jaden Hill could bring that battle even with a breakout 2021, and Jack Leiter and Adrian Del Castillo represent solid top-10 options as well. Ethan Wilson and Sal Frelick remain the biggest two names I am far higher on than consensus, but if you watch the tape, chances are you’ll feel the same way as I do.
|13||Jordan Wicks||RHP||Kansas State||21.9||6-3||2020||L||L|
|19||Cody Morisette||SS||Boston College||21.4||6-0||175||L||R|
Ask three people who consider themselves “draft experts” how they would rank the following four arms for the 2021 draft: Gunnar Hoglund, Jordan Wicks, Jonathan Cannon and Richard Fitts. I guarantee you’ll hear three different answers, and I didn’t even include Tommy Mace or Hajjar in that exercise. Last year, the college crop was stacked with deep, collegiate pitching talent. Although this year’s names are enticing, they don’t carry the same weight as last year’s, and most names in this tier represent bigger projects than the prospects who went in similar slots in 2020. Hunter Goodman excites me in this range, however, and I expect his stock to soar with a strong 2021. If you have trouble remembering his name, just think like a Neanderthal. Me man. Me hunt. Me good. Me Hunter Goodman.
|22||Robby Martin||OF||Florida State||21.8||6-3||210||L||R|
|23||Ryan Cusick||RHP||Wake Forest||21.6||6-6||225||R||R|
|25||Mason Pelio||RHP||Boston College||20.9||6-3||230||R||R|
|26||Christian MacLeod||LHP||Mississippi State||21.2||6-4||227||L||L|
|29||Eric Cerantola||RHP||Mississippi State||21.1||6-5||225||R||R|
|30||Will Bednar||RHP||Mississippi State||21.1||6-2||229||R||R|
Christian Franklin and Robby Martin were both inside my way-too-early top 15, but both have seen their stocks slide a bit over the offseason and into the spring. Both will have to prove something with the bat this year. Jack Gelof is a toolsy and exciting shortstop prospect, wielding massive power with solid speed. Those traits provide him with the potential to move into the first round of the draft if 2021 goes his way.
|34||Sam Bachman||RHP||Miami (Ohio)||21.8||6-1||235||R||R|
|36||Seth Lonsway||LHP||Ohio State||22.7||6-3||200||L||L|
|37||Kevin Abel||RHP||Oregon State||22.3||6-2||195||R||R|
|40||Jose Torres||SS||North Carolina State||21.8||6-0||168||R||R|
A lot of weird crap has happened in the last year, but players like John Rhodes becoming draft eligible seemingly out of nowhere is among the weirdest. With the draft moving into July, Rhodes (and others in his situation) are suddenly draft eligible due to age. For Rhodes, that means a breakout campaign could vault him into the first round, as he’s a potential five tool talent if the power is able to develop like many feel it should. Seth Lonsway and Kevin Abel are both collegiate veterans and poised to be excellent value picks both in the MLB Draft and FYPDs.
|44||Luke Waddell||2B||Georgia Tech||22||5-9||176||L||R|
|45||Parker Chavers||OF||Coastal Carolina||22||5-11||185||L||R|
|50||Jonathan Childress||LHP||Texas A&M||21.4||6-4||205||L||R|
In the final 41-50, there are still some really intriguing names. Pete Hansen profiles as a future backend MLB starter. Luke Waddell is one of the best pure bat-to-ball hitters in all of college baseball, but is undersized as a prospect. Cooper Stinson has elite stuff and will almost undoubtedly outperform his draft position. Alex Toral possesses some of the best power in all of college baseball and plays in a premier program, but has serious issues with consistently making contact and forcing opposing pitchers to work. Still, don’t sleep on any of these prospects because of where they’re ranked.
Outside Looking In: Jesse Bergin, RHP, UCLA; Joe Rock, LHP, Ohio; Nick Nastrini, RHP, UCLA; Nic Kent, SS, Virginia; Trenton Denholm, RHP, UC Irvine; Danny Serretti, SS, North Carolina; Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina; Sean Sullivan, RHP, California; Landon Marceaux, RHP, LSU; Brant Hurter, LHP, Georgia Tech
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.
Man, I’ve seen Cusick mocked as high as #6 in some places. You’re pretty low on him. Why’s that?
No. 6!? That’s too high.
I may be low from your point of view, but he shouldn’t be No. 6 by my estimation.
Hobbs: No. 23 (college only)
BA: No. 33 (HS + college)
MLB Pipeline: No. 33 (HS + college)
All pretty similar rankings if you bake in the fact that my rankings don’t include prep players. He’s an attractive pitching prospect and I moved him into the top 25 after not having him in my Way-Too-Early Top 25, so he’s certainly on my radar.
That said, I’d love to hear an argument for him as a top-six college prospect.
As a Lehigh grad, you really caught my eye with Mason Black’s inclusion. I know nothing about him – what can you tell me about him and his pitch mix so I don’t look like an idiot at alumni cocktail parties!?
What’s up, LenFuego? I’d be happy to help out with that, especially being a PA native myself.
Black has eye-popping stuff. He can ride the fastball up to 98 MPH, which he pairs with solid secondary stuff: a 50-grade, hard slider than works in the upper 80s and a 45-grade changeup. The changeup is still developing and could potentially overtake his slider as he grows as a pitcher.
The issue with Black is that he isn’t the most athletic and there remain questions about his arm action and delivery. On top of that, he was decent as a freshman in 2019 (3-0, 4.36 ERA, 33 IP, 28 K, .254 BAA), but didn’t help his stock too much with that line. He did, however, enhance his stock in the 2019 Cape Cod League, which he followed up with a 3.68 ERA and 29 K in 22 IP with Lehigh in the shortened 2020 season.
Expect Black’s 2021 to go a long way in determining where he goes this July. He could potentially be a day one name if he simply produces all year long similarly to how he fared in 2020. Currently, BA ranks Black No. 44 overall while MLB Pipeline has him at No. 53. And that’s overall — not just college prospects.
Hope that helps!
Tremendous report, Hobbs. Thanks!
One more quick question: do you have anything on a Villanova junior named Gordon Graceffo? He is a relative of a friend of mine, and is apparently garnering some MLB interest.
Hobbs, great article! Reliever question, who do you like better of these three…Sam Delaplane, Austin Adams, Darwinzen Hernandez 5×5 20 team… thanks!
Hobbs great article!!! Reliever question! Who do you like better for this year Sam Delaplane, Austin Adams or Dawinzen Hernandez? Thanks
Thanks, Jimmy! I appreciate the read.
OOF. A reliever question? C’mon, I was having a good day until now.
Assuming you are referring to the Austin Adams on the Padres, in which case I’d have to defer to either Delaplane or Hernandez. Delaplane’s Double-A numbers are other-wordly, and I could see him earning a high-leverage role on a non-competitive team this year, perhaps even earning some save opportunities. Now, Hernandez actually has MLB experience and excelled last year (2.16 ERA, albeit a 1.56 WHIP….), but he’s still behind Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino.
Therefore, somehow, my answer is the most unproven name on this list: Delaplane. If he can stay healthy, he could be in for a productive year. But it’s close for me.