Names to Know for the 2021 MLB Draft

Travis Sherer digs into the extremely talented 2021 MLB Draft Class.

As someone who follows MLB prospects with just about all of my spare time, I came into this article thinking the 2021 class is better 2020, but how much better could they really be? The correct answer is a lot. If I had the first pick, I’d want it in 2020’s draft, but if I had literally any other pick, I’d want it in the 2021 draft. There isn’t a hitter with as high of a ceiling who is as polished as Spencer Torkelson in 2021, but the depth of talent in both college and high school is insane. That is very surprising considering high schoolers didn’t even really get to play in 2020, but their talent is undeniable. I only hope that their potential isn’t stunted due to COVID-19 stoppages.

Usually, if you have a pick outside of the top 20, you have to decide between a low ceiling or a high floor. Not this year. There are guys not profiled below (Mike Vasil, Robby Martin, Tyree Reed, Rawley Hector, Ethan Wilson, to name a few) who could easily go in the top 15 by this time next year and have both moderate floors and incredibly high ceilings. Keep in mind that this is a list for dynasty leagues. If you are looking for a mock draft, this is the wrong place. As of right now, this is the order in which I’d want prospects from the 2021 draft in the amateur draft of my dynasty league. Let’s go!

 

1. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

 

Kumar Rocker has the most to lose in the 2020-2021 NCAA season. As of now, Vanderbilt’s ace is in pole position to be 1:1 next June. As we saw with Emerson Hancock, it’s hard to maintain that spot for a whole year, especially in a deep draft. That said, Rocker also has a lot going for him. Elite velocity? Check (98 MPH). A track record of success? Check (3.51 ERA). A plus slider? Check. Control? Check. What does he need to do to stand up against the rising of the tide? Further develop his changeup, continue to dominate college hitters, and not get injured. That’s it.

 

2. Brady House, 3B/RHP, Winder-Barrow HS

 

I’m actually torn here. Half of me wants to go with Brady House and the other half wants to go with Luke Leto. Why did I go with House? Physique. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, this kid looks like he’s already a professional. House could have easily reclassified for the 2020 draft and been an early first-round pick. His potential might be the highest of any player in the draft. He’s plus across the board offensively, except for speed, and he’s already a good defender with a plus arm. Speaking of his arm, he can pitch too. He hit 95 on the gun as a 15-year-old, and has dominated at every level. Think of him as Bobby Witt Jr. with more power and less speed. I don’t think he’s going to be the No. 2 pick in the draft, but he would be if it were up to me.

 

3. Luke Leto, INF, Portage Central High School (Michigan)

 

When evaluating very young talent, it’s important to look at tools. It’s also important to look at performance. Luke Leto has such a good history of both, I wrote a post about him on this very site a year ago. Simply put, in every chance Leto has gotten to prove himself against the best competition his age, he’s succeeded. Not just in high school but for Team USA as well, where he absolutely raked against the top international competition. The kid has the skill and range to play any position in the infield. The only knock on him is he’s not likely to possess plus power, but then again, neither was Francisco Lindor. So what do we really know? It’s likely he stays up the middle unless he grows quite a bit over the next few years.

 

4. Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

 

It really is a shame that we won’t see what Jack Leiter is capable of in SEC play as a freshman. The 19-year-old was mowing down non-conference college hitters when the NCAA season was postponed. Had he maintained his control the whole season, there was a chance to jump to the top of this list. As it stands right now, however, Leiter showed plenty of what we already know: a fantastic curveball, mid-90s velocity, and the ability to control them both for multiple starts at a time. As this ranking flatly points out, I am higher on Rocker than Leiter. I like Rocker’s size and slider as a more potent, if not sustainable, profile against MLB hitters. That said, Leiter has starter written all over him.

 

5. Braylon Bishop, OF, Texarkana High School

 

This uber-athletic prep outfielder just oozes potential. Plus power? Check (92 MPH exit velocity). Plus speed? Check. Right now Braylon Bishop is streaky when it comes to the hit tool, which is reasonably expected from a high schooler. Still, when he’s on a streak, he looks like a can’t-miss guy. He’s already one of the better high school players at 16. Like Leto, he’s played well on Team USA and whenever the light is brightest, he seems to go up a level. He’s going to be a corner outfielder, and his arm might mean left field.

 

6. Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU

 

I fully expect Jaden Hill to light the NCAA baseball world on fire in 2021. This is a kid who has only been able to throw 21-plus innings over his first two seasons of eligibility due to a loaded LSU roster in 2019 and an elbow injury this year. But so far he’s only allowed two runs in those 21 innings. If that UCL strain is nothing to worry about, Hill can finally be unleashed. With a mid-90s heater, a plus changeup, and a decent curveball, Hill has yet to be challenged in college. Here’s to hoping we get to see a full season of the 6-foot-4-inch righty.

 

7. Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami

 

It’s hard not to compare Adrian Del Castillo to the last superstar catcher at Miami, Zack Collins. Where they went to school and their position, however, are where the comparisons stop. Yes, both were very good stepping behind the plate as freshmen. But the difference is that Del Castillo shows more of an ability to stay at the position and a much sounder approach — which means that he’s already more skilled than Collins both defensively and at the plate. Del Castillo could have above average power, but not as much as Collins.

 

8. Izaac Pacheco, SS/3B, Friendswood High School (Texas)

 

Izaac Pacheco hits left, hits often, and hits loud. The truth is it doesn’t matter where he plays in the field because the potential in his bat is up there with the top prospects in the draft. He has huge power potential. He hit six homers in just 29 at-bats in 2020. There is also above-average speed here but that might be negated if he grows more — he’s already 6’4 and 200 pounds. His size will likely also decide where he plays in the field, likely eliminating his future at shortstop.

 

9. Alex Binelas, 1B, University of Louisville

 

Alex Binelas absolutely tore the cover off the ball in his frosh season at Louisville to the tune of a .307/.651/1.047 line. I don’t care what conference you play in, 15 homers is elite as far as freshman power goes. A hand injury in 2020 really hindered his performance in non-conference play (just two games played). He’ll get a chance to right that ship in 2021. I’m thinking a 20 homer season isn’t out of the question because the power is legit.

 

10. Matt McLain, 2B, UCLA

 

If you’re looking for the name of a college hitter who could break out in 2021, look no further. Despite his size (5’10), Matt McLain was viewed as one of the best prep hitters in the country in 2018. Still, one has to think that if McLain were just a few inches taller, he would have been a top-10 pick because then he’d be more “projectable.” Nevertheless, his bat was so good that the Diamondbacks drafted him 25th overall as a high school senior. Having underperformed as a freshman at UCLA in 2019, McLain appeared to have righted the ship and was absolutely mashing before COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season. He even started showing some power, with three bombs in 13 games en route to a .397/.621/1.043 slash line.

 

11. Jud Fabian, OF, University of Florida

 

The coming season will decide if Jud Fabian is a top-10 pick or a compensation pick/2nd rounder. Currently, Fabian is seen as a prospect without a weakness but also without a strength. He’s so well-rounded that if he doesn’t break out in 2021, he could slip as others who have louder tools get picked in front of him. That said, Fabian looked like he took his power tool a step forward a year ago, starting with a strong Cape Cod League showing (.290/.500/.850, six HRs in 35 games). He then showed it wasn’t a fluke, bettering those numbers pre-COVID, by belting five homers in just 17 games.

 

12. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep High School (Texas)

 

House, Leto, and Bishop are first-tier prep hitters. Pacheco and Jordan Lawlar represent the second tier. With good contact and power in both high school games and for Team USA, Lawlar is near perfect size for the position (6’2, 180). He can stay at shortstop even if he grows and fills out a little. I like his plate patience and coverage. I’m not sure there is much room for him to rise in the uber-talented group.

 

13. Gunner Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi State

 

Gunner Hoglund turned heads in just 23.1 innings in 2020. He already shows a plus fastball that sits 94 and an ability to spot the ball where he wants it with all of all his offerings. His curveball and slider also has depth, putting him put in the conversation of a top-five college arm in 2021. Hoglund has size (6’5, 210) and plays in the SEC — both of which can only work in his favor on draft day should he continue next season where he left off in 2020. Should Hoglund improve, whether in velocity or quality of offspeed offerings, he could jump a few of the more attractive college pitchers above him on this list.

 

14. Andrew Painter, RHP, Cavalry Christian Academy (Florida)

 

My guess is Andrew Painter will be ranked in the top 5-to-10 range by the draft next year. A bit of a pop-up prospect (although most prep prospects will be pop-ups due to not playing in 2020), Painter already has the makings of a plus changeup and slider. His fastball doesn’t show elite velocity yet (sits 91) but his age and frame (6’6, 210) indicate that more velocity could easily come. If it happens to come in 2021, he will shoot up draft boards. Painter has already shown he’s ready to move on past high school, allowing just nine earned runs in his sophomore and junior seasons combined. While 2021’s prep pitching pool isn’t as deep as it’s hitting pool, Painter could wind up the consensus top high school arm with natural progression.

 

15. Christian Little, RHP, Christian Brothers High School (Missouri)

 

Christian Little has popped up on a number of radars due to his mid-90s velocity, but also because of his knee-buckling curve (@ 37 seconds; video by Prospects Live):

 

 

There is a lot of two-plane movement on the pitch, making it one of the better prep curves out there. This righty also has size, standing roughly 6’3 and 200 pounds. Physical maturation could also mean more velo. Little also features a changeup that flashes plus. He’s one of the top prep pitching prospects for sure.

 

16. Roc Riggio, 2B/OF, Thousand Oaks High School (California)

 

There are a couple of guys I just root for and Roc Riggio is one of them. Partly because of his standout skill and partly because of his standout name, Riggio has been high on scouts’ list pretty much since he started playing high school ball. There are shades of Dustin Pedroia here. I’m not just saying that because he is small (5’8, 155 pounds) and plays second base. Riggio’s bat speaks loudly — he already has plus power and appears to be a student of the launch angle revolution. Take a look at his swing:

 

 

Obviously we don’t have any metrics to support this but his swing just looks like it generates tremendous backspin. He can also play all around the field and has some speed. His plus arm could make him an outfielder.

 

17. Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia

 

Even if you watch Bulldog baseball on the reg, you still might miss Jonathan Cannon. With the combination of all eyes on Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox, and the severely shortened season, Cannon’s freshman campaign went by with just 11.1 innings where he struck out 12 and did not allow a run. He was used as a reliever, mostly because Georgia had a full stable of starting pitchers in 2020. Regardless, he left coaches and scouts drooling. With a fastball flashing 97, a slider flashing 87,and a changeup at 84 — all with plus potential — Cannon figures to be a starter in 2021 where he’ll have a chance to turn plenty of heads. He’ll be an eligible sophomore, which makes him even more appealing.

 

18. Davis Sharpe, OF/RHP, Clemson

 

A two-way prospect, Davis Sharpe showed tremendous growth both on the mound and at the plate in 2020. Sharpe hit four dingers in just 13 non-conference games while slashing .311/.622/1.058. On the mound he was more hittable but showed clear signs of better control and a huge improvement in velocity from the year prior (from sitting high 80s in 2019 and 92 in 2020). Sharpe has good size and clear tools. It’s a matter of him being able to refine his game enough to make the case to have future as a two-way player, or pick a path as only a hitter or pitcher.

 

19. Marcelo Mayer, 2B/OF, Eastlake High School (California)

 

Much like former Eastlake High School player Keoni Cavaco, Marcelo Mayer seems to be emerging out of nowhere to be a lock for the first round. He had a great summer in 2019 with Team USA. There is plus bat and power potential here. I think he ends up in the outfield eventually, but he plays a good second base right now.

 

20. Max Marusak, OF, Texas Tech

 

There are some prospects you draft because you don’t want to miss the boat. Let me introduce you to Max Marusak. Tell me how many times you hear this: plus power potential and plus-plus speed potential. Sounds like something out of a video game. Even with a season and a half of NCAA baseball under his belt, Marusak is raw. The hit tool needs work, to be sure. This is the kind of guy who if he gets drafted by the Rays, Dodgers, Astros, or Cardinals, I’d be screaming for you to draft this guy.

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian. Follow me @ShererTravis on Twitter.

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