Travis Sherer’s Top 50 Undrafted/Unsigned Prospects

Travis' rankings of the top prospects without an MLB contract.

I’ve made all kinds of lists—many for this site. My top 100 Dynasty Assets is probably the most fun list that I do. Creating lists and ranking things are some of my favorite activities, much to my wife’s dismay. She’s one of those “enjoy life” kind of people. I’m one of those “analyze life until you can’t enjoy it” kind of people. So, I list everything.

That said, making a list of all of the prospects who do not currently have an MLB contract is tremendously difficult. There are literally millions of baseball players out there without an MLB contract. In terms of baseball writing, this list has been the most difficult to make. How do you value the future of a 22-year-old prospect vs that of a 14-year-old prospect? That is the central question. Innately, depending on your window to win, these prospects will have different values. If you’re closer to winning now, you’d want many of the college prospects on this list, for example. If you’re not—or your team is ridiculously well rounded for now and the future (a myth)—you’d be more open to nabbing a teenager and sitting on him until he pans out or fizzles.

So, I approached this with a more neutral perspective: If I was starting an amateur draft right now, before drafting my dynasty MLB roster where there are no age/level/draft process restrictions, who would I want first?

Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk a little about my ceilings. I went into this exercise thinking that I’d take the player with the highest ceiling 80% of the time and now I’m not so sure. With so many amateurs at your fingertips, you need to be judicious. A lot of guys have MVP or Cy Young ceilings. For many, however, the odds of them overcoming the developmental/organizational/health obstacles to reach those ceilings is just not worth the pick.

That doesn’t mean I went with a high floor methodology either. More than anything, I relied on experience, which is to say: college. Nine of the top 15 below have some college experience. When given the choice, I’d rather see how amateurs perform at a nearly semi-professional level before making the pick.

Also, when it comes to international prospects, I generally aim for the top one or two each year and let everyone else fight for the rest. And if a particular year’s crop doesn’t appear to be as strong, I would rather move onto the following year’s international signees. I’m not one for taking risks on international prospects unless there is something exceptional about them. That usually is only predictable in the top one or two prospects since they are signed at just 16 and scouted/ranked almost three years before that.

Now that you’ve probably already scrolled past this 500-word intro, let’s just get into the list:

 

1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State, Age: 20

As it stands, Tork is the most powerful unsigned/amateur prospect at any age. Likely a top-two pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Torkelson hit an insane 54 homers in his 2+-year NCAA career. In fact, he broke Barry Bonds’ single-season ASU homer record as a freshman and hasn’t slowed down since. Like Andrew Vaughn in 2019, Pac-12 pitchers are pitching around the Sun Devils slugger, (31 walks in 17 games) but he’s still hitting them out with six homers. Tork will stay at first base, so the ceiling is limited by his defense, but his power is worth the price.

 

2. Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State, Age: 20

If you didn’t know anything about the elevation of New Mexico, you’d be wondering why Nick Gonzales isn’t the top name on this list. Just look at what the kid has done:

Nick Gonzales

In case you are wondering, yes, he did hit 12 homers in his first 13 games—with 36 RBI. I don’t care what elevation you play in, that is impressive. Don’t tell me this kid isn’t special. Nobody else has put up this level of offensive domination at New Mexico, so there must be some talent here. I’d say bat-wise, Gonzales is on par with Martin—maybe with a little more power. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to work defensively to play anywhere at the major league level. Should he get good enough to stay at second base, there is Keston Hiura 2.0 here.

 

3. Austin Martin, SS, Vanderbilt, Age: 20

Many believe that Austin Martin is destined to be 1-1 in the 2020 draft. I’m inclined to agree, but I wouldn’t take him first. Make no mistake: the kid can hit. He also rarely strikes out. His contact ability isn’t quite at the level of Nick Madrigal, but Martin has more power—not that it takes much. As talented as Martin is, I worry that his skills won’t be as impactful against major leaguers. He isn’t elite at anything yet. He does, on the other hand, possess all of the traits needed to make the kind of swing adjustments needed to become an impact bat in this launch angle age. That is what you are buying here.

 

4. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt, Age: 20

Kumar Rocker is proving the adage that you can dominate college hitters with just two pitches. Granted, both of those pitches are already plus pitches. He has a wipeout slider and a fastball with solid movement that sits mid-90s. What else? He’s a big dude. His velocity definitely plays up due to his 6-5 frame. We were seeing fantastic results early into the 2020 season for the Vanderbilt sophomore who finished with 28 Ks in 15 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a .118 BAA. Now, Rocker is not a draft-eligible sophomore, so he is the first player on this list who won’t sign a major league contract in 2020, but he will be a top 5 pick in 2021 and if there is any improvement on his changeup, he’ll likely be the top pitcher taken. I almost dropped Rocker down a couple of spots due to COVID-19 stealing 80% of his season—a season which will be vital to his maturation. But Rocker is really the only arm I see right now that is special. There are others who could achieve the same ceiling as Rocker, he’s just closer to it.

 

5. Brady House, SS/RHP, Winder-Barrow HS, Age: 16

And now our first high schooler. What’s crazy about this is that Brady House isn’t even a high school senior. He’s a junior. There might be more developed prep prospects skill-wise in the 2020 draft, but there isn’t a physically more developed prospect. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, this kid looks like he’s already in college. He kind of already looks like he’s in the pros. Even though he’s not slated to be drafted until 2021, House could have easily reclassified for the 2020 draft and been a first-round pick. I’d guess he’d be around No. 10 for a 17-year-old, which is insane. As you can guess, House has a ton of power. With kids this young, it’s hard to grade the hit tool, but there is potential for a plus hit tool here. He’s not going to be fast—he’s probably too big for that—but he could stay in the infield. It’s likely that he keeps growing, which would put him more at 3B than SS. Oh yeah: did I also mention he can hit 95 on the gun? So there’s that too.

 

6. Tetsuto Yamada, 2B, Yakult Swallows, Age: 27 

Tetsuto Yamada is a former Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) MVP. He’s a professional. Why is he ranked lower than a 16-year-old? Let me explain my rationale here.

When it comes to House (above), there is a 0% chance that he is playing baseball in any other country than the United States. When it comes to Yamada, who has gone 30/30 four times in his seven-year NBP career, there is a real chance that he never plays in the U.S. And even if he does come stateside, there is no guarantee he will be the same kind of player he is right now. Say he finally does come over in four years (which is very likely as the Swallows have given no indication they will part with their best player): that speed is probably gone, and so is a lot of his power. Much of Yamada’s power is attributed to his quick bat, which is one of the things that goes first.

 

7. Asa Lacey, LHP, Texas A&M, Age: 20

I root for guys who do it differently. Asa Lacey fits into that mold. Remember the days where guys pitched with an overhead arm slot? Many of you probably don’t. Most pitchers now work from a 3/4 slot to get more movement on their fastball. I get it. My favorite—favorite—thing, however, is a guy with an insane curveball that comes from an over-the-head slot. Yes, a true 12-6 curve. That’s what you get from Lacey: a pitch that starts at your head and ends at your shins (Darryl Kile tribute):

 

Obviously, if you watch both the Kile GIF and the Lacey video, there are differences. First, Kile’s curveball is an 80-grade while Lacey’s is probably the best curveball out of any amateur, but it’s not as good as the master (RIP). Also, the delivery is different. Lacey relies on power as well (sits 94) to go along with his bender. His extreme delivery is violent, which raises health concerns but also works to get hitters out.

 

8. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia, Age: 20

So far this season, Emerson Hancock has done nothing to lose his standing as the top arm in the 2020 draft. Unfortunately, he also has done nothing to really separate himself. He’s been shaky at times. And by shaky, I mean hittable. That’s not good when we haven’t even started SEC play. Still, sometimes it takes a month before guys put it together. Hancock is a sight to behold when he does have it all together, featuring a plus heater, slider, and change.

 

9. Jared Kelly, RHP, Refugio High School, Age: 18

Outside of a truly transcendent pitcher, this is about as high as a high school arm can get. The failure rate of prep pitchers is just too high. There hasn’t been that kind of a singular talent in the draft in 30 years when it comes to a teenage pitcher. Kerry Wood might have been the closest—even Clayton Kershaw had five pitchers drafted before him, four of them high schoolers. But I digress. For as good as Jared Kelly is, he is not that kind of clear-cut, world-beating, rotation-changing pitcher. At least not yet. Even with his triple-digit heat and plus changeup, he’s a right-handed pitcher who could grow a couple more inches (6-1 right now). That said, he does have three pitches and very good control for his age.

 

10. Hunter Barco, LHP, University of Florida, Age: 19

On paper, Hunter Barco has it all. He’s a lefty, he’s 6-4, he can hit 95, he’s got a wipe-out slider. Why isn’t he already a professional? Due to signability concerns, Barco fell to the 24th round and didn’t sign in last year’s draft. Instead, he chose to be a Gator. It’s only been three starts, but Barco is showing that he will outgrow NCAA competition before he’s draft-eligible again. I can’t wait to see what he does in SEC play, but right now he’s sporting a sparkling 1.35 ERA, 0.975 WHIP and 19 Ks in 13.1 innings. It’s a small sample, sure, but most freshmen don’t do this.

 

11. Max Meyer, RHP, University of Minnesota, Age: 21

Two pitches. Right now that is really all Max Meyer possesses. In an era where everybody has a fastball and a slider, this kid’s duo is still a cut above the rest. It’s possible he has both the best fastball and slider in the draft. If not, they are the top three in their respective rankings. A changeup is in the works, and it showed promise in the shortened collegiate season, but it’s difficult to ascertain how good it really is with such a short sample. Against top competition with the U.S. National team, Meyer again stood out by being the squad’s Game 1 starter in every tournament, leading the team in ERA (0.69) and striking out 10 in 13 innings. That said, I like this kid’s obvious willingness to work to improve. That goes a long way, and it’s what probably will keep him out of the bullpen. He needs to work on his control and efficiency, but who doesn’t?

 

12. Luke Leto, INF, Portage Central High School (Michigan), Age: 17

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 almost 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. It’s likely he stays up the middle unless he grows quite a bit over the next few years. If you want to read more about the guy they are calling the next Derek Jeter (I’m not calling him that), read the aforementioned post.

 

13. Rodrick Arias, SS, Dominican Republic, Age: 15

I hate to be the one to break it to you guys, but 2020’s J-2 class is pretty weak. So much so that if given the choice, I’d rather have the consensus top pick of the 2021 J-2 class: Rodrick Arias. Now it might even be possible that there is an international draft by the time Arias hits 16. That said, there is plus power and plus speed potential for this youngster. The kid already has a sound swing with minimal head movement and quiet hands. I know it’s crazy to think that a 14-year-old will be on any asset list, but to be frank: if you want to get guys like Arias, knowing about them before the year they sign is a must. If it’s two years before, also good. It’s not necessarily better to know earlier than age 15 because a lot can change in a year, but it’s not a negative either.

 

14. Braylon Bishop, OF, Texarkana High School, Age: 16

This uber-athletic prep outfielder just oozes potential. Plus power? Check. Plus speed? Check. Right now he’s streaky when it comes to the hit tool, which is to be expected by a player with such raw tools. 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.

 

15. Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA, Age: 21

A lack of power early in the 2020 season has caused Garrett Mitchell to be out of favor with some evaluators. I, however, am not going to fault a very talented player for not hitting a homer in 15 games—especially an amateur. That’s what we’re talking about here. There is another world where Mitchell blows up and becomes the next Hunter Bishop. Are his tools as loud as Bishop? It’s possible there is a little less power and a little more speed. Still, just like Bishop, there is some swing-and-miss that needs to be addressed. The good thing is that Mitchell has a better track record than Bishop for getting on base. He has the potential to be the best player in the 2020 draft—if his attitude doesn’t get in the way.

 

16. Rouki Sasaki, RHP, Chiba Lotte Marines, Age: 18

I almost put Rouki Sasaki’s name in red instead of blue because he comes with insane risk. There is a history of extremely young, extremely talented pitchers getting run into the ground by Japanese high school play. Just ask Tomohiro Anraku, who was also a phenom, until he threw 772 pitches over nine days for a Japanese tournament, including 232 in one game. He was never the same again. Sasaki is getting a similar run. Last July, he threw a 12-inning complete game (194 pitches) in a tournament—then two days later, struck out 15 in nine complete innings (130 pitches). I guess if you are a coach in Japan and you have a teenager who can hit 101 on the gun, you throw him as much as you can. Many MLB orgs are already interested in signing (something that hasn’t happened to a Japanese high schooler since Shohei Ohtani), but his workload has been so extreme that they are cautious about a prospect whom they would normally be bullish. Sasaki was the first pick in the Nippon Professional Baseball. He has the option to still sign with an MLB team, but he is likely to stay in Japan.

 

17. Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS, Age: 18

There is a lot of projectability with Mick Abel. I don’t mean he’s a tremendous athlete like Hunter Greene or something. What I mean is this kid is already sitting 93 and reaching 97 as a 6-6, 180-pound, lanky amateur. When he fills out, it’s not unreasonable to think he won’t sit 95. When you add in that he already has an advanced curveball, you’ve got something you feel confident about investing in for the future. Abel has been a little inconsistent at times, but that is the case with most prep pitchers and he has better control than most. The ones that are consistent are top picks. This is the kind of arm that everybody says, “I knew it!” when he takes a leap forward and it’s obvious he has ace potential.

 

18. Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS, Age: 18

It seems like there are just more premium athletes getting into baseball these days. I don’t think it’s because of how dangerous football is, we’re not quite to that age group yet. Who really cares why there are guys like Zac Veen? They are here! Veen is basically an elite point guard who will play centerfield. He’s 6-4, 18o pounds with plus speed. Now, nobody really has a frame like Veen without having power potential. Veen has plus power potential. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen gives the comp range of Cameron Mabin to Christian Yelich, which leaves a lot of room between. How well his hit tool turns out will determine which end of the spectrum he’s on.

 

19. Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt, Age: 19

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 kept his control the whole season, there was a chance to jump over a few on this list and cozy up to Rocker at No. 6. As it stands right now, however, Leiter showed nothing that we didn’t 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 Al’s son. 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. Is he a front-line guy?

 

20. Reid Detmers, LHP, University of Louisville, Age: 20

If you’re more interested in performance than potential, Reid Detmers is the prospect for you. A lefty with decent size, Detmers has one of the better curveballs in the NCAA. He broke out in 2019, sporting a sub-3 ERA and 168 Ks in 107.1 innings. If that wasn’t good enough for you, Detmers was on fire through four starts, striking out an insane 48 batters in 22 innings. Not that his performance would continue at such a rate but that is quite a run. His low-90s velocity isn’t quite what you’d hope, but there is potential here for a mid-rotation piece.

 

21. Cristian Vaquero, OF, Cuba, Age: 15

Next, we have the top two J2 prospects for the 2021 class. Many scouts consider these two to be interchangeable value-wise. Right now I’m going to go with their expertise. From the video I’ve seen, Christian Vaquero’s profile is one I’d rather invest in. He’s already got the build of a pro (6-2, 175 pounds). He’s not quite like Jasson Dominguez’s build, but he wouldn’t look out of place on a lower minors roster, physique-wise. There’s definitely power potential and he already has good swing fundamentals. He’s likely to be a right fielder due to the fact he’s probably going to get bigger and he’s got a plus arm (clocked at 96).

 

22. Cole Wilcox, RHP, University of Georgia, Age: 20

Cole Wilcox is the other big name in Georgia’s elite pitching arsenal in this short season. Like many of the other college names on this list, it is unfortunate to see what Wilcox could do in conference play. He started 2020 about as well as could be expected, sporting a 1.57 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 32 Ks in 23 innings. While others have kind of soured on Wilcox recently, mainly because there is a question as to whether his stuff has enough movement to make high-level bats miss, I’m not scared. He might have the third-best arsenal in the 2020 draft class (highlighted by a triple-digit, sinking fastball). Right now it’s almost a toss-up between him and Abel for me. I’d say Abel probably has a higher ceiling, but if you want a potential front line arm, Wilcox is there too.

 

23. Felnin Celesten, SS, Dominican Republic, Age: 14

A lanky, switch-hitting shortstop phenom from the Dominican Republic, I can see a little bit of Carlos Correa in him. There’s plenty of power potential here. He’s a little loud with his swing, so there’s certainly work to be done on that front. He has pretty fluid motions in the field and could remain at short as long as he doesn’t outgrow the position. I’ve seen a lot of hype around this kid and the physical tools certainly warrant it.

 

24. Pedro Leon, OF, Cuba, Age: 22

Pedro Leon probably has the best combination of hit/power in the 2019 J2 prospect class of anybody not named Jasson Dominguez and Robert Puason. Actually, his skills are probably very close to both of those 17-year-olds. The problem is that Leon is five years older. Leon has a track record of success, slashing .325/.545/.910 in a cup of coffee for the Cuban National Series as a 19-year-old. Then at 20, he sported a 1.220 OPS with 15 home runs and seven stolen bases in just 33 games. There is a potential for Leon to rise fast in whatever organization he signs with.

 

25. Spencer Jones, 1B/LHP, Vanderbilt, Age: 18

What is Spencer Jones going to be good at? Something. It’s hard to tell what, especially since he didn’t really get to play for Vanderbilt as a freshman. If I were to guess though, I’d go with a hitter rather than a pitcher. Simply put, Jones is a huge human. Like 6-7 and 215 pounds. Right now he’s good a lot but not great at anything. I’d say the one thing he has going for him more than the rest is his power potential. That is the only tool that could end up being plus-plus when all is said and done. He’s actually deceptively fast as well. As a pitcher, he’s got a plus curveball, but the rest is sort of uninspiring.

 

26. Nate Savino, LHP, University of Virginia, Age: 18

The only thing I don’t like about Nate Savino is that he not only chose play college ball, but he picked a school that has a history of no improving their players’ pro prospects. The Cavaliers have had a lot of success as a program for more than a decade, and it’s resulted in almost two handfuls of first-round picks. So far, however, none of them has had much success at the highest level. Now, it is possible that Savino is the first. After all, he’s considered the top pitching prospect for the 2022 draft at this point, the kid has a plus fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup is serviceable for college but needs work before it will be a positive against professional hitters.

 

27. Mo Hampton, Jr, OF, LSU, Age: 18

There are some prospects who despite not having the results are just valuable due to their tremendous potential. Think Ronny Mauricio or Royce Lewis is that type right now. We all know they are so talented that they will remain on top 100 lists for a few years even if they show no signs of putting it together. Hampton is this type of talent. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Hampton might have been able to play football at LSU — oh wait, he is — but he’s also playing centerfield. Unfortunately, there is some risk that he ends up just playing football, but with the potential for plus power and plus speed, Hampton is one of those exciting talents you just hope makes it because they’ll be so much fun to watch. Of course, that means he will have to improve quite a bit. As a freshman at LSU, Hampton looked like a freshman to put it delicately (.231/.269/.579). Nevertheless, he can do the same thing next year and he’ll be on this list (toward the end) just in case he figures it out as a junior and breaks out.

 

28. Austin Wells, C, University of Arizona, Age: 20

It was obvious that as a freshman in 2019 that Austin Wells can rake. Already building off his frosh campaign with the stick (.375/.590/1.186) before the season was shut down, I do believe that if we were still playing, he would have been able to make more of a name for himself and be drafted in the middle of the 1st round. He’s not at the same level as Joey Bart or Adley Rutchsman in terms of overall ability, but Wells is the best offensive catcher out there now. He’s good enough to stay at the position too, which only enhances his value. To be clear, this is not the kind of impact catcher who will rocket through the minors. Wells will need to be brought up as he is able to hold his own defensively. That shouldn’t be a problem in the first couple of levels, but once he reaches High-A and above, that might be full years at each level.

 

29. Kodai Senga, RHP, SoftBank Hawks (NBP), Age: 27

Our second Japanese player comes off the board. Kodai Senga provides a unique mix of results and age that just doesn’t come around often from Japanese imports. Generally, they come in right at 30 or a little later. Basically we get to see them enter the twilight of their careers. If coming over to MLB were a more distinct possibility, Senga would be much higher on this list. After all, he’s been very impressive in eight professional seasons in Japan. Here’s what his last four look like:

Kodai SengaIPWLERAWHIPKBB
2016169.01232.611.0518153
2017143.01342.641.0716146
2018146.01373.451.2518961
2019181.11382.791.1622775
Career744.155292.771.12863284

Senga has been very outspoken about his desire to come to the majors. He’s even come over during the offseason to train with Yu Darvish. It is possible the Softbank Hawks post him, but it would break the club’s policy. Like most pitchers from his homeland, Senga employs a plus forkball to go with his plus fastball and a good slider.

 

30. Pedro Pineda, OF, Dominican Republic, Age: 16

Considered one of the top tier prospects in the not-so-spectacular 2020 J2 class, Pedro Pineda has the most fantasy potential. Plus speed and plus power make him the one prospect that is likely to emerge and prove everybody wrong that this is a down year for international signings. The hesitancy here is that he was busted for PEDs a short while ago. Not that this has scared clubs into backing out, they are just more cautious about his ceiling. I’m not.

 

31. Alex Binelas, 1B, University of Louisville, Age: 19

Alex Binelas absolutely tore the cover off the ball in his frosh season at Louisville to the tune of .307/.651/1.047. 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 as this kid has legit plus power.

 

32. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence High School, Age: 18

The 2019 Tennesseean’s Baseball Player of the Year, Robert Hassell has already developed a reputation for swinging a medium-sized stick. Now, high school statistics are relatively useless because they do not reflect the level of competition a prep player has faced, even in pipeline states. What is more reliable is if a player was on the U18 USA Team, and how he performed there. Hassell was a left fielder on that team and faced some of the best competition at his age in the world. He came away with at least one hit in all nine games of the U18 World Cup. For the national team, he has played nine games, slugging .804 with a pair of home runs, as well as 14 runs and RBI. I believe Hassell has a chance to play in right field. He has the arm strength and mobility. There is potential for a big bat here, or more likely a heavy contact bat with league average power.

 

33. Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Kiwoom Heros, Age: 24

Ha-Seong Kim is a mixed bag of expectations. In Korea, he was a patient hitter who minimized strikeouts while posting very good power numbers. The problem is that there have been Korean players who came over in the past few years who have struggled in the MLB, and they all have better track records than Kim. What does Kim have on them? Age. Most of the Korean players come over after being on the wrong side of 30. Kim is in his mid-20s, and it’s reasonable to think that his exceptional talent in Korea will adjust to tougher competition as he reaches his prime. Just as an example of what he’s accomplished in his home country, in 2018 Kim slashed .307/.491/.880 with 19 homers, 33 stolen bases and a near 1:1 K-BB ratio. It’s hard to see his power being an asset in the majors. At 5-9 and 165 pounds, how well he responds to a launch angle approach will go a long way toward his value.

 

34. Heston Kjerstad, OF, University of Arkansas, Age: 21

I was ready to bring a bus to Heston Kjerstad’s breakout party. The Razorbacks’ outfielder had cut his K rate in half while increasing his already impressive power with six homers in his first 14 games. Slashing .424/.814/.1.299 in non-conference play, I was excited to see what happened when Kjerstad faced SEC pitching. It’s too bad. I think he could have been in line for his first 20-homer NCAA season. There are still some swing-and-miss concerns here, which is why he’s not a lot higher.

 

35. Christian Little, RHP, Christian Brothers HS, Age: 16

To me, Christian Little is the last of the truly exceptional high school talents in the 2021 draft. This is a deep crop 4-5 guys who would be in the top five or ten in just about any other draft. What stands out to me about Little? He’s young for his class, which is a good indicator of success, also he’s only 16 but he’s already getting a bump in velocity.

 

36. Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel HS, Age: 18

A fantastic fielder, there were many who thought Ed Howard was destined to be another slick shortstop who doesn’t contribute much at the plate. That has all changed in the last calendar year, as Howard impressed against top competition, showing the power that his 6-2, 191 frame has indicated was on the way. There is also plus speed here.

 

37. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard Westlake HS, Age: 18

Like Howard, many had concerns about Pete Crow-Armstrong’s bat in 2019 but he has since alleviated them. PC-A is going to be a top defender at the highest level, but now there is potential for more pop and getting on base. Should this progress further and he’ll be a top prospect very soon, given his plus speed.

 

38. Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High School, Age: 18

Catching prospects are inherently risky, especially high schoolers. That is the reason I have Wells higher than Soderstrom. Most draft lists will probably disagree with me but I’m not concerned. There have only been five catchers in the last 20 years who were fantasy relevant and drafted as high schoolers: Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada, Yadier Molina, and J.T. Realmuto. Those are small odds. Meanwhile, Jason Veritek, Buster Posey, Mike Piazza, Russell Martin, Kurt Suzuki, Brian McCann, Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, and (I guess) Matt Wieters were all college grads. The rest of the best catchers (Sal Perez, Gary Sanchez, Victor Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez) were signed internationally. It’s not that I don’t like Soderstrom. The kid has a solid approach and developing power, it’s that I do not like catchers that young who aren’t phenoms. I’d rather get a better look at a guy through college and then pick him than wait four years before he’s in Double-A.

 

39. Carlos Colmernarez, SS, Venezuela, Age: 16

The top prospect of the thin 2020 J2 class, Carlos Colmernarez projects to be a low-level five-tool player. He’s got good speed, but not great. Good power, but not great. He’s a good fielder, but well, you get the point. Already good size for short, his physical development could determine how his profile progresses. More growth could mean more power and less speed. It’s hard to tell since Colmernarez does not have a potentially elite tool.

 

40. Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS, Age: 18

Probably the best third base option in the 2020 draft, Jordan Walker is what you would expect from a top prospect in the hot corner. Huge power potential (6-5, 215), Walker is athletic enough to stay at third if he doesn’t keep growing. He’s got an above-average arm, but let’s be honest, what you’re hoping for is Troy Glaus style dingers.

 

41. Caden Grice, 1B/SP, Riverside HS, Age; 18

Remember what I said about Spencer Jones? A lot of that can be said about Caden Grice. He’s a potential two-way talent who has the basic plus power and plus arm strength. It’s how much he refines his skills that will determine how valuable he becomes.

 

42. Austin Hendrick, OF, HS, Age: 19

If you like Heston Kjerstad, why not double down and go for Austin Hendrick. Imagine Kjerstad two years ago. He was about as powerful with a wilder swing: well now you’ve got Hendrick. As far as top dynasty assets are concerned, he’s one of the riskier picks, but the ceiling justifies picking him late in prospect drafts.

 

43. Garrett Crochet, LHP, University of Tennessee, Age: 21 

We know that Garrett Crochet has swing-and-miss stuff. What we don’t know is how consistent he can be. With a plus fastball and a plus slider, Crochet has major relief concerns due to leaving the ball over the plate and the lack of a third pitch. However, he could also be one of the best second- or third-round steals if he goes to the right organization (Rays, Astros, Yankees, Indians, in case you were wondering). If he is drafted by the Rays, for example, I’d put him in the top 35. If he’s drafted by the Red Sox, he could slide off this list.

 

44. Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU, Age: 20

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+ innings over his first two years due to a loaded LSU roster in 2019 and an elbow injury this year. If that UCL strain is nothing to worry about, Hill can finally be unleashed. With a mid-90s heater and a plus changeup and a decent curveball, Hill has yet to be challenged in college. Let’s hope we get to see enough of this kid in 2021.

 

45. Daniel Cabrera, OF, LSU, Age: 21

Daniel Cabrera is one of those prospects who has good all-around tools, but nothing stands out. While that may seem like someone you’d pass on, I’ll take a late-round flier on him any day. Those are the guys who improve on one area and become starters on your team. He does come with red flags, however, as he has never really been dominant. He has a history and reputation of being contact-oriented and good at working the count. Those are two skills I like to see. If only he could work on the launch angle.

 

46. Christian Hernandez, SS, Dominican Republic, Age: 16

Christian Hernandez and Carlos Colmernarez are almost the exact same player. Same height, same weight, same position, same age. Both are at the top end of the 2020 international signing pool. Both have solid approaches at the plate. The only real difference is that Colmernarez is probably a little more refined in his power stroke. Either one of these guys could end up being significantly better than the other in the long run and I wouldn’t be shocked.

 

47. Blaze Jordan, 1B, DeSoto Central HS, Age: 17

If I was basing this list off YouTube videos, Blaze Jordan would at the top—for two straight years. The kid was hitting bombs out of major league parks at 15—reminiscent of Bryce Harper. Unfortunately for Jordan, he is not as athletic or toolsy. If Jordan makes it to the show it will be because he’s crushing the ball. Defensively, he’s stuck at first base and there isn’t much to suggest an advanced approach.

 

48. Casey Martin, SS, University of Arkansas, Age: 20

The fastest player in the 2020 draft (assuming he enters the truncated draft), Casey Martin has hit for a surprising amount of power in his first two seasons as a Razorback (28 homers in two seasons). More than anything, getting on base will be the key for Martin. No-doubt contact issues, Martin has been able to maintain an almost .400 OBP in SEC play. That will be tested in the minors as he faces breaking balls more often. The potential for a dynamic leadoff hitter is there, but the risk is high.

 

49. Aaron Sabato, 1B, University of North Carolina, Age: 20

Aaron Sabato absolutely mashed in conference play in 2019. So much so that he was named co-Freshman of the Year for the entire country. He hit 13 homers and had a 1.000+ OPS. Some of those trends continued in a brief 2020 stint. It’s debatable whether Sabato is a first-rounder due to the simple fact that he did not get a chance to build on his freshman year and he’s a draft-eligible sophomore. To make matters worse, he’s a right-handed first baseman who isn’t a great fielder. That means if he makes it to the majors, it will be his bat that takes him there.

50. Yoelqui Cespedes, OF, Cuba, Age: 22

I’m not as convinced as some about Yoelqui Cespedes’ potential. Right now he’s riding on the name of his brother, Yeonis Cespedes. But some things don’t match up. First of all, Yeolqui is smaller than his older brother. That may not matter unless it affects his power, which it seems to. Judging purely by statistics, these two brothers are very different. The older Cespedes was a prodigy, smacking 105 homers in the Cuban National Series by age 22. The younger Cespedes has hit 10. It’s his physique and scouting reports that have inspired such positive reviews for his tools. It seems to me that Yoelqui is just rawer. At the same time, Yeonis came over much later in his career, but he was also more accomplished.

 

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.

  • Avatar NickFolesMVP says:

    Thoughts on Oscar Colas? Surprised to see him left off this list

    • Avatar Brandy McFadden says:

      I was going to ask the same question….

    • Avatar Travis Sherer says:

      Thanks for reading! I wouldn’t object to him at the end of the list. He does have tools for sure. I just wish he was performed more/better.

      I don’t really see him as a two-way guy. I know he has the velocity but if he really was a decent pitcher at all, he would be pitching in the NPB, or in its minors. It’s very unfair to peg him as the Cuban Ohtani. To put it in perspective, Colas is 21 now and was called up from the Japanese minors after slashing .302/516/.866. That looks pretty good, but if we basically compare the NPB to Triple-A, then the competition in the minor league system has to be in the High-A range, which doesn’t look nearly as good for a 20-year-old. Conversely, when Ohtani was 21, he had a 1.000 OPS at the plate and a 0.96 WHIP and 11+ K-rate in the Japanese majors. That is a big difference.

      But he is still talented and as I said, I wouldn’t argue against him being on the list, and I also wouldn’t mind having him in a dynasty league. He could really take some leaps when he signs and receives instruction from an MLB farm system. I’m just not as high on him as most.

  • Avatar Taco Everyday says:

    I’d be curious where these guys would rank on a top 300 of dynasty prospects. It wouldn’t be exact obviously. But for example… would the first 15 or so guys be top 100 ish? Would the next 10-15 be on a top 200? How many of these guys would make a top 250? Like, how many signed prospects are you taking ahead of Brady House or Luke Leto, etc?

    Fangraphs, for instance, has Heston Kjerstad approximated at 110th ranked if he were list eligible. He’s 34th on this list. Their’s is a real life list of course. It’d just be interesting to have some approximations, especially in open universe type leagues, since a lot of dynasty managers value lists heavily.

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