Imagine you’re turning six years old and your birthday is right around the corner. It’s the day before the big celebration, and you’re pretty much wetting your pants just thinking about it. Actually, scratch that, you really are wetting your pants as you envision the festivities, thinking of the big family trip planned for tomorrow. If you were a super weird kid like me, here’s what it looked like: your family travels about an hour away, but it feels like an out-of-state trip to another land because you have a practically non-existent attention span. You’re going to see one of those interactive childhood shows where they grab kids from the audience to play random parts in the play (if I’ve lost you, you made it to the teenage years unscathed, congrats). But the grand finale of your birthday is that you get to go spend a whopping $100 at Toys “R” Us and pick out anything that falls within that budget. Damn. What a day.
The first part of this tale is a true story, as are all the anecdotes I share in my weekly fantasy articles. I remember to this day what I purchased with my $100: the Pokemon Silver Game Boy game and a new skateboard. Clearly, I was the fliest kid in town. But let’s rewind back, revert to the day before the long-awaited birthday when you’re wetting your pants. What if instead of the grand festivities detailed above, your mother or father came to you and said that they’d simply be giving you your Halloween costume instead. Sure, tomorrow will still be your birthday, but we’ve decided to focus on an entirely irrelevant celebration even though the big show is supposed to be tomorrow. Well, that’s kind of what this article is. The MLB season is just over one week away, but as one of Razzball’s prospect writers, I’m writing about something almost one full year in the future. Opening Day is within our grasp (or so we think), but today, I’m going to discuss my “way-too-early” college baseball prospects for the 2021 draft, while attempting to weigh their future fantasy value into the equation.
My top 12 have remained unchanged, although Jaden Hill has been moved from No. 12 to No. 9. There will be an incredible amount of movement on this list as we progress to next June, but for now, this is where I stand with the top 25.
1. Kumar Rocker | RHP | Vanderbilt | Draft Age: 21.6 | 6’4″ | 255 lbs. | R/R
2. Jack Leiter | RHP | Vanderbilt | Draft Age: 21.1 | 6’0″ | 190 lbs. | R/R
I went over Leiter in my top five college underclassmen prospects.
3. Adrian Del Castillo | C/OF | Miami | Draft Age: 21.7 | 5’11” | 208 lbs. | L/R
I went over Del Castillo in my top five college underclassmen prospects.
4. Jud Fabian | OF | Florida | Draft Age: 20.7 | 6’2″ | 195 lbs. | R/L
I went over Fabian in my top five college underclassmen prospects.
5. Matt McClain | SS/OF | UCLA | Draft Age: 21.8 | 5’11” | 170 lbs. | R/R
I went over McClain in my top five college underclassmen prospects.
6. Sal Frelick | OF | Boston College | Draft Age: 21.1 | 5’10” | 175 lbs. | L/R
I went over Frelick in my top ten college underclassmen prospects.
7. Ethan Wilson | OF | South Alabama | Draft Age: 21.6 | 6’2″ | 210 lbs. | L/L
I went over Wilson in my top ten college underclassmen prospects.
8. Colton Cowser | OF | Sam Houston State | Draft Age: 21.2 | 6’3″ | 195 lbs. | L/R
I went over Cowser in my top ten college underclassmen prospects.
9. Jaden Hill | RHP | LSU | Draft Age: 21.5 | 6’4″ | 233 lbs. | R/R
I briefly discussed Hill in my complete college top 100 prior to the 2020 MLB Draft. Hill was previously ranked No. 12 on this list, but I’ve re-ranked him after seeing that the fastball has reached at least 98 MPH as well as the fact that many are now evaluating him as a potential top-15 pick. Even when I ranked him at No. 12, I did so because he only has 21 2/3 college innings to his credit, saying: “Hill is someone to keep your eye on heading into the 2021 season. His stock could potentially skyrocket.”
10. Alex Binelas | INF | Louisville | Draft Age: 21.0 | 6’3″ | 210 lbs. | L/R
I went over Binelas in my top ten college underclassmen prospects.
11. Gunnar Hoglund | RHP | Ole Miss | Draft Age: 21.5 | 6’4″ | 220 lbs. | L/R
I briefly discussed Hoglund in my complete college top 100 prior to the 2020 MLB Draft.
12. Robby Martin | OF | Florida State | Draft Age: 21.8 | 6’3″ | 210 lbs. | L/R
I briefly discussed Martin in my complete college top 100 prior to the 2020 MLB Draft.
13. Steven Hajjar | LHP | Michigan | Draft Age: 20.8 | 6’5″ | 215 lbs. | R/L
The 2021 draft year is going to be super weird and Hajjar is a great example as to why. He redshirted in 2019 after tearing his ACL playing pick-up basketball, then only got four starts in 2020 before the season was halted. In those four starts, Hajjar worked to a 2.70 ERA and .240 BAA with 24 strikeouts over 20 innings. The Wolverine southpaw comes with a prototypical MLB body (albeit a deceptive, unconventional delivery) and sits low 90s and can touch mid 90s with a fastball that is complemented by an above average-to-plus tight slider and changeup. 2021 is going to go a long way in determining where a lot these players get drafted, but even more so wiith someone like Hajjar, who was a 21st round selection by the Brewers in 2018.
14. Christian Franklin | OF | Arkansas | Draft Age: 21.5 | 5’11” | 185 lbs. | R/R
Hey, it’s Franklin! Coming over to Dave Van Horn’s house! Except this Franklin’s no turtle — his legs are much more hare-like and have allowed him to swipe 15 bags in 19 attempts through his first 80 games at Arkansas. Although he’s got some swing-and-miss tendencies to work out, he improved from on his 28.1% clip as a freshman to 18.7% in 2020, albeit against non-SEC competition. His body stays under control at the plate and his hands load smoothly, but he needs to work on keeping all the parts connected from start-to-finish. Either way, he has five category potential, having swatted nine home runs in 264 at bats to begin his career en route to a .299/.387/.462 batting line. All three slash components increased by at least .100 points from 2019 to 2020, with the slugging rising from .413 to .619, so from a fantasy standpoint, Franklin has to be on your prospect radar heading into next summer.
15. Ty Madden | RHP | Texas | Draft Age: 21.3 | 6’3″ | 215 lbs. | R/R
Madden earned a spot in the Longhorn weekend rotation in 2020 after pitching to a 3.40 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and .247 BAA over 42 1/3 innings as a freshman — and did not disappoint. Although he made just four starts, they came against Rice, Boise State, Arkansas, and Cal State Fullerton. Over 25 innings, he finished with a 1.80 ERA and 0.88 WHIP while missing even more bats and finding improved control: 9.4 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. In his best start of the season, Madden tossed a complete game two-hitter against Boise State, striking out seven and not walking a batter. Velocity comes easy for Madden, as his fastball works around 92-97 MPH, but has sometimes dropped into the high 80s. He pairs his heater with a deceptive changeup and a hard curve that flashes above average at times. There’s great poise on the mound here paired with healthy arm action. To quote Eminem, “every time I walk in the John, I get Madden.” Don’t ask me how that’s relevant.
16. Jonathon Cannon | RHP | Georgia | Draft Age: 21.9 | 6’6″ | 205 lbs. | R/R
Any pitcher whose last name is Cannon gets an automatic five-spot boost in any rankings I make. Do you honestly need to hear more? Right, right — hard data, yadda yadda. Cannon hit 97 MPH on the gun this past fall, showing a quick ability to add velocity after topping out at 93 MPH in his prep draft year. He also utilizes an advanced changeup and slider, the latter of which could use some added depth and development as he works into his sophomore campaign. There wasn’t much room for Cannon in a loaded Georgia rotation this past year (see: Hancock, Emerson and Wilcox, Cole), but he still managed to make five scoreless relief appearances totaling 11 1/3 innings. Although it’s a ridiculously low sample size, it’s the best we have to go off of at present, and Cannon did allow just four hits (.111 BAA) while striking out 12. One of those outings was against Georgia Tech (4 2/3 IP, 3H, 5K), so it’s not all entirely useless. Or is it?
17. Mike Vasil | RHP | Virginia | Draft Age: 21.2 | 6’3″ | 201 lbs. | L/R
Vasil has about as much front-line starter potential as any college arm in the 2021 crop — if you’re an upside addict, you might want to call him Vasil-ine. Ranked as the No. 36 draft prospect as prep player back in 2018, he dealt with some arm fatigue during his senior season and decided to forgo the draft and honor his commitment to Virginia. Vasil has three above average offerings and is capable of slinging his lively heater into the low-to-mid 90s, maxing out at 96 MPH thanks to his strong and athletic frame. He also uses a tight-breaking curveball that hovers around the mid 70s, as well as a changeup that sits around 77 MPH while exhibiting sink. With all of these pros, he still hasn’t been able to translate it into much bottom line production, owning a 5.08 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 7.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 across 79 2/3 college frames. If you’re looking for reasons to believe, most of that can be attributed to an up-and-down freshman season, with Vasil improving to a 2.45 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 this past season — but the walks rose and his 2019 summer showing on the Cape was equally spotty.
18. Hunter Goodman | OF | Memphis | Draft Age: 21.7 | 6’0″ | 210 lbs. | R/R
Fun concept to ponder: when neanderthals got to the point in their evolution when they realized they should probably have names, what do you think some of the first suggestions were? My bet is on Hunter Goodman. Me hunt. Me good man. Goodman, of Memphis, hunts baseballs and so far, he’s punished them at just about every stop. Freshman season? .326/.367/.573 with 13 homers and 11 steals. Cape Cod League? .276/.291/.494 with eight homers and two steals. Sophomore campaign in 2020? .357/.416/.743 with eight homers and two steals in 70 at bats. He’s shown a tendency to be a bit overly aggressive (21.3 college K%) and his future position is a bit uncertain, being a natural catcher-turned-outfielder of sorts, but my guess is his future is in the outfield. This neanderthal can hit — he good, man.
19. Cody Morissette | SS | Boston College | Draft Age: 21.4 | 6’0″ | 175 lbs. | L/R
From my vantage point, Morissette doesn’t have the ceiling his teammate, Sal Frelick, does — but he’s still a top 20 college prospect after erupting for a .448/.522/.655 line across 58 at bats as a sophomore. That came on the heels of a .320/.371/.476 freshman slash, when Morissette started 58 games and produced 26 XBH (four homers) and eight steals. He can also hit elite pitching, evidenced by a two-homer game against Clemson as a rook in 2019. Even so, there’s definitely questions as to whether there will be power at the next level, especially after he hit just .252/.319/.350 on the Cape last year. The kid has a feel for situational hitting and limits the strikeouts (13.1 career K% vs. 8.7 BB%), but looking at the whole picture, I think my ranking of him is more of a ceiling spot until we see more.
20. Tommy Mace | RHP | Florida | Draft Age: 22.6 | 6’7″ | 225 lbs. | R/R
There are three premier pitching prospects on the latter half of this list that will be reclassifying to the 2021 crop after not being selected in the five round 2020 draft: Mace, Seth Lonsway and Kevin Abel. Technically, that all depends on your definition of “premier,” but the former two were both top 70 prospects according to MLB.com. Ranked No. 36 in my pre-draft Complete College Top 100, Mace wields a 55-fastball, 55-cutter, 50-curveball and 45-changeup that he has used to produce a 4.37 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over three seasons in the SEC. Sure, those results aren’t too enticing, but the four-pitch mix and ability to hit 96 MPH on the gun should keep him in the conversation as a top 25 college prospect in this class. Plus, he’s shown an ability to steadily improve during his college career, increasing his K/9 by nearly a batter-per-nine in every season (culminating at 8.7 K/9 in 2020) while minimizing the walks.
21. Levi Usher | OF | Louisville | Draft Age: 20.9 | 6’1″ | 195 lbs. | L/R
Peace up, A-Town down! Usher got down, down south that is — to Louisville, not Atlanta — after spending one season at Kirkwood Community College. During his one season in community college, in which he roomed with Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir and helped produce a signature morning show, he hit .409 with three home runs and 31 RBI. But, wait! There’s more! He also stole 36 bases, which ranked 10th in the nation. I know it’s community college, but that gets my fantasy baseball heart thumping like the Phillies benches of old when Charlie Manuel sat down to take a fifth inning nap. In his Division I debut, Usher went “Yeah!” and slashed .411/.484/.571 with two homers and 11 steals in just 16 games/56 at bats. This isn’t just a Hobbs is bat-shit nuts thing either, even though I am, because Baseball America has Usher ranked as their No. 16 college prospect for the 2021 draft. And yes, bats do have nuts.
22. Seth Lonsway | LHP | Ohio State | Draft Age: 22.7 | 6’3″ | 200 lbs. | L/L
Unlike fellow 2020 draft class-mate Tommy Mace, Lonsway has achieved strong college numbers while posting excellent strikeout rates. Also unlike Mace, Lonsway struggles with command and has experienced some velocity dips in the past year. When he’s on, he sits 93-94 MPH and can touch 96 MPH with a 55-heater complimented by a plus-to-plus-plus curveball, 55-slider and 50-changeup. In 110 1/3 college frames, Lonsway pitched to a healthy 3.59 ERA to go with a lovely 13.7 K/9, but he’s walked 6.3 batters-per-nine during his Buckeye tenure. Although he’s been hit around a bit on the Cape, he’s missed bats there too, so I’d be surprised if a strong showing in 2021 didn’t put Lonsway in the first two-to-three rounds of the draft. For what it’s worth, Lonsway was my No. 44 college player in the class (for fantasy purposes, of course) and No. 47 in my pre-draft Complete College Top 100.
23. Kevin Abel| RHP | Oregon State | Draft Age: 22.3 | 6’2″ | 195 lbs. | R/R
Abel came in at No. 48 and No. 51 in the two pre-draft versions of my complete college top 100. He also appeared in my 2020 MLB Draft Sleepers piece. Clearly, MLB clubs were really snoozing on the 2018 College World Series hero, because he went undrafted altogether. From Abel’s standpoint, this is a blessing in disguise, as it gives him a chance to get back to full strength and boost his stock for 2021. If you’re interested in reading more about Abel, you can check out his blurb in the draft sleepers post.
24. Ben Specht | RHP | Florida | Draft Age: 21.7 | 6’1″ | 210 lbs. | R/R
Specht sports three average-to-above average offerings and can work up to 96 MPH with the fastball. While he hasn’t experienced a ton of success at the college level quite yet, he’s steadily shown he can miss bats in a premier conference by consistently producing strong K rates: 9.4 K/9 in 2019, 9.8 K/9 in the 2019 Northwoods League and 12.0 K/9 in 2020. Despite the career 4.42 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, his abbreviated 2020 showing was strong and we can’t dock him for at least showing improvement in the short season: 0.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP to go with the aforementioned K/9.
25. Doug Nikhazy | LHP | Mississippi | Draft Age: 21.8 | 5’10” | 205 lbs. | L/L
Nikhazy is one of those few 2019 USA CNT members that has yet to begin his pro journey, but that isn’t too far off. During his first two seasons at Ole Miss, Nikhazy has tossed 112 2/3 innings of 3.12 ERA ball with a 1.15 WHIP, .215 BAA and 9.3 K/9. He was even better in 2020, surrendering just six runs in 23 innings of work while registering a sexy 12.1 K/9 and 0.78 WHIP. The stuff isn’t as eye-popping as some of the other names here, as Big Daddy Hazy pretty much works 88-92 MPH with the fastball, but he also possesses an above average-to-plus curveball and could very well stick as a starter — 18 of his 24 college appearances have come as such.
Outside Looking In: Mason Pelio, RHP, Boston College; Henry Davis, C, Louisville; Christian MacLeod, LHP, Mississippi State
As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.