As we rapidly approach spring, it’s becoming evident that although normalcy is still far away, we should have something remotely resembling a complete 2021 college baseball season. That said, it’s high time we delve into who the best players in the nation are by rolling out College Baseball Nation's inaugural All-America teams. Much like last year, the talent across the US appears well balanced, with 20 of the 30 first and second team College Baseball Nation All-Americans draft eligible and the remainder available in 2022. Considering some of the arms that didn’t make either squad—Michigan’s Steven Hajjar, Mississippi State’s Eric Cerantola, Oklahoma State’s Bryce Osmond, and Florida’s Brandon Sproat—it’s easy to see that the strength of this year’s college talent crop is starting pitching.
While we certainly pay attention to each player’s performance in selecting both squads, we base our picks predominantly on each candidate’s projected upside and big-league potential.
Please join us again in two weeks when we introduce College Baseball Nation's Freshman All-America Teams.
Adrian Del Castillo (2021 draft eligible), LHH, Miami (FL)—Despite his status as a surefire 1st Team All-American, Del Castillo’s draft stock has been somewhat difficult to nail down due to positional uncertainty. A catcher throughout his collegiate career, many scouts have reservations whether he’ll be able to stick behind the plate as a pro. They believe he will have to shift to LF or 1B, where he projects as average at best. However, there are no such questions regarding Del Castillo’s offense. He is widely considered the consensus top pure hitter on this list as he combines a great feel for the barrel and discerning eye with enough power to all fields to make 25 HR a year a reality.
JT Schwartz (2021), LHH, UCLA—Schwartz is by far the biggest “reach” pick of all College Baseball Nation All-Americans, but if he clicks it will be a thing of beauty. Schwartz’ hit tool is currently his best attribute. He has exhibited sound barrel awareness everywhere he has played, including the summer of 2019 in the competitive Northwoods League when he hit .378 with a .464 OBP in 238 PAs with a K-rate under 10%. With plenty of room to fill out his 6-04/195 frame, it’s not inconceivable that Schwartz’ power will increase dramatically should he join an organization that is successful in preaching the launch angle (LA) gospel. Firmly entrenched as the Bruins 1B, Schwartz did show well in a brief 3B stint in the Northwoods League.
Matt McLain (2021), RHH, UCLA—The second-highest 2018 draftee to spurn a professional contract, McLain had some growing pains as a freshman but busted out during last year’s abbreviated college season and continued his stellar play through the summer with the independent Santa Barbara Foresters. McLain boasts elite athleticism with astonishing pop for a guy 5-10/175. While McLain will serve as the Bruins’ starting SS this year, he may move across the keystone as a pro and develop into a Brian Dozier type offensive 2B.
Brooks Lee (2022), SH, Cal Poly—Lee’s college career got off to a rough start when he required complex leg surgery in the fall of 2020 and was only able to garner a handful of at bats prior to the COVID-induced shutdown. The young switch hitter did enjoy a banner summer for Wilmar in the Northwoods League, demonstrating a plus hit tool and power from both sides of the plate with a K-rate of well under 15%. Lee should be able to stay at SS. He is sure-handed with more than enough arm for the position and keen instincts.
Alex Binelas (2021), LHH, Louisville—Binelas burst upon the scene as a freshman in 2019 when he belted 14 HR and put up exceptional exit velocities (EVs). He has improved markedly at 3B and multiple scouts believe he will remain there as a pro. He has a strong arm and soft hands. The Wisconsin native will be rebounding in 2021 after a broken hamate cost him virtually all of 2020.
Colton Cowser (2021), LHH, Sam Houston State—Cowser’s profile is interesting, if not a throwback. He’s a hit-over-power guy with solid contact metrics who plays a solid CF. If he is able to add more loft to his swing and enhance his power, the team that selects him in July would hit paydirt.
Jud Fabian (2021), RHH, Florida—While there have been “sexier” 1-01 picks in recent years, Fabian is our early favorite for that distinction as we head into the 2021 season. Simply put, the 6-01/195 Fabian checks all the boxes—he’s uncommonly young for his class, has had success with wood, and doesn’t have a tool under 55. Comps range from Mitch Haniger to a young Kevin McReynolds to Ryan Braun. After returning from an ankle injury, Fabian enjoyed a monster fall, displaying elite level bat speed.
Ethan Wilson (2021), LHH, South Alabama—Wilson compares favorably to Heston Kjerstad, the left-handed slugger taken 2nd overall by the Orioles last June. Like Kjerstad, Wilson’s high EVs and loft in his swing combine to give him at least 60 power combined with a potential average hit tool. He is more athletic and fleet afoot than Kjerstad, earning above average grades in LF with many scouts convinced his strong arm would enable him to make a seamless transition to the other corner if necessary.
Zack Gelof (2021), RHH, Virginia—Gelof has torched the ball since arriving on campus, posting a .321 average and .871 OPS in 346 PAs. He also slashed .349/.426/.490 as a rising sophomore in the Northwoords League. Like many young hitters, Gelof still must iron out some swing-and-miss issues, but his solid walk rate and EVs point to a high ceiling. When Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor spoke with College Baseball Nation, he emphasized that Gelof's athleticism will ultimately allow Gelof to remain at the hot corner in the pros.
Jack Leiter (2021), RHP, Vanderbilt— With just 15 college innings under his belt, Leiter won’t be able to equal the lengthy track record of many of his peers from the 2021 draft class but that won’t matter. He has superb command of five plus pitches, including a fastball that can reach 97 MPH, and flawless mechanics. This arsenal and his compact frame have evoked comparisons to fellow Commodore Sonny Gray, Mike Mussina, and Roy Oswalt.
Kumar Rocker (2021), RHP, Vanderbilt—A 6-04/255 man-chi