The town pool has closed, kids are returning to school, the NFL kicked off last weekend, and you can already buy Halloween decorations at CVS (seriously!). This all sounds like a recipe for the end of summer, which it is. While many want to look forward to see what autumn will bring, we here at CBN would prefer to step back—at least for the next 1000 words—and take stock of some of the players, coaches, and teams that raised their stock over the past three months. Though the continuation of COVID-19 ensured that we didn’t return to complete normalcy (the abbreviated Stars vs Stripes series that replaced Team USA’s customary full slate was a great example of this), every major summer league was still able to play a lion’s share of its games and scouts and front offices are much smarter today than they were on Memorial Day.
Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly: Lee was already a well-known entity to scouts due to his banner spring, but he took everything up a level when he posted a mind-blowing 1.098 OPS in Cape Cod and topped that off by homering off top prospect Simeon Woods-Richardson in a scrimmage against Tokyo-bound Team USA. Lee’s summer exploits have him squarely in the 1-01 conversation for the 2022 draft.
Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech: Much like Lee, Cross had established himself as a name to watch after a big college season, but he upped the ante by leading the Stars and Stripes series with a .467 average and 4 home runs. Moreover, Cross’ batted ball metrics were off the charts. And, if that wasn’t enough, Cross expanded his defensive portfolio by acquitting himself nicely in CF.
Reggie Crawford, LHP, Connecticut: Although Crawford demonstrated plenty of pop as UConn’s first baseman in the spring, he really turned heads with his prowess on the mound on the Cape and in the Stars and Stripes series. The big southpaw regularly touched 98 MPH while showcasing a toxic slider, both of which he commanded well. This supersonic repertoire could very well make Crawford a top-10 selection next July.
Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison: Not only was DeLauter arriving on the Cape from a mid-major school, but JMU managed a mere 28-game spring season due to COVID-19. It didn’t matter. DeLauter raised his stock more than any other collegiate hitter this summer by putting up an impressive .298/.397/.589 slash line and leading the Cape Cod League with 9 dingers. He also struck out just 18 times in 146 PAs and posted outstanding batted ball data. Topping it off was the fact that DeLauter showed enough defensive chops in CF to allow scouts to envision a future for him there as a pro.
Zach Neto, SS, Campbell: Much like DeLauter, Neto is a small college kid who significantly raised his profile on the Cape. After posting a 1.026 OPS and showcasing a slick glove, Neto is viewed by many as the second-best college SS in next year’s draft class after Lee.
Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest: The only 2023 draft class member on this list, Wilken added to his tremendous spring by being selected as the Cape MVP. Still just 18 at the start of the summer, Wilken hit .302 and belted 16 XBHs while showing improved range at the hot corner. He’ll enter 2022 as a strong candidate to go 1-01 the following year along with LSU’s Dylan Crews.
Jay Johnson, Head Coach, LSU: Not only did Johnson become the new Head Coach of one of college baseball’s most venerable teams, but he received a massive infusion of talent when the best player from his old job, 3B Jacob Berry, decided to travel east with him. Add Berry to a lineup that already included Crews, 2B/3B Cade Doughty, and 1B Tre Morgan, and you’ve got the makings of a juggernaut.
Chip Hale, Head Coach, Arizona: How’s this for a change of fortune: On the morning of July 5th Hale woke up as just another former big league manager with a lifetime .457 winning percentage. But by the time he went to bed that evening he was Arizona’s new head coach, armed with a 5-year deal. Though Hale’s arrival in Tucson was marred somewhat by Berry’s defection to LSU (see above), steering the Wildcats’ ship is still one of college baseball’s plumb jobs. Not only is it a premier program steeped in history, but with guys like Daniel Susac and Chase Davis hanging around, Arizona should be a force in the Pac-12 again in 2022 and beyond.
Arkansas: As well as Arkansas played for most of the season, 2021 has to be considered a disappointment for most of Hog Nation as Coach Dave Van Horn’s squad faltered in the Super Regionals. But give Van Horn credit for not wallowing in sorrow or self-pity. Not only did the Razorbacks add long-time Wake Forest slugger Chris Lanzilli, but they also inked former Oklahoma Sooner Jace Bohrofen. Bohrofen is a particularly intriguing acquisition—he’s a multi-tooled right fielder and former high-profile recruit who beat up Cape pitching to the tune of a .279/.375/.504 slash line this summer.
UCLA: Simply put, the Bruins hit paydirt when a number of their prized recruits from the prep ranks opted to head to Westwood instead of beginning their professional careers. There will be a long list of talented freshmen playing for John Savage in February, but five deserve special mention. SS Cody Schrier had the misfortune of being part of one of the most prep SS-rich classes in draft history and decided to matriculate and try his luck in 2024. Schrier is polished on both sides of the ball and has a great chance of seeing quality playing time as soon as next spring. OF Malakhi Knight’s overall game isn’t as developed as Schrier’s but he’s a primetime athlete with tantalizing upside. Nick McLain is the youngest member of a vaunted southern California baseball clan. Oldest brother Matt was a recent 1st round draft selection of the Reds, while middle brother Sean will be a key cog in the ASU lineup next spring. Nick is a switch hitter who shot up draft boards with a stellar spring and offers more physicality than either of his brothers. Gage Jump is an undersized southpaw, but his command and pitch metrics are off the charts, and Thatcher Hurd oozes projectability to go with his premium 3-pitch mix.
Vanderbilt: While Vandy’s recruiting class is star-studded as always, the biggest summer development for the Commodores was the ascent of rising sophomorePatrick Reilly. Though Reilly put up pedestrian numbers in seven spring starts, the front-of-the-rotation stuff he featured on the Cape caused scouts’ jaws to drop. Vanderbilt fans have to be licking their chops at the thought of a Christian Little-Reilly weekend combo in 2022.