Though College Baseball Nation is a college outlet , we love the draft as much as anyone, which means it’s imperative that we pay close attention to the nation’s top high school prospects as the big night creeps closer. The 2021 draft class is an interesting one—it’s chock full of premium shortstops who boast well-rounded offensive tools but light on pitching. One important factor to consider once again is the impact of COVID-19, as it has negatively impacted the start to many high schools’ seasons. This will give scouts and other evaluators less time—and therefore less looks—at a number of high-end prospects.
1. Marcelo Mayer, SS, USC (Commitment): Mayer will be able to stay at SS because of his silky smooth actions at the position while his hit tool is the best in the class. He’s also exhibited an uptick in power this spring.
2. Brady House, SS/3B, Tennessee: After an inconsistent showcase season last summer, House has quieted all the skeptics with a monster spring, including a 3-for-3 showing against top 2022 arm Dylan Lesko. House’s size (currently 6-03/210) likely means an eventual move to 3B, where he profiles as a plus defender, but his 70 power will play anywhere. Also noteworthy is the fact that House doesn’t turn 18 until June.
3. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Vanderbilt: Lawlar enjoyed a banner showcase season and made consistent hard contact against mid-90’s arms. He’s a legitimate 5-tool SS with unbridled athleticism. Although it’s trending down recently, his high K-rate this spring has been a concern for some.
4. Jackson Jobe, RHP, Ole Miss: While Jobe gains the most notoriety for his slider, which has a spin rate north of 3,000 RPM, his fastball can hit 95 MPH with good movement. He also showcases an above average changeup. The Ole Miss commit works from a simple, compact delivery and has received praise for his excellent command.
5. Kahlil Watson, SS/2B, NC State: Not overly physical at 5-09/170, Watson’s calling card is his high-octane bat and athleticism, and he appears to be a less physical version of Padres farmhand CJ Abrams. Watson has ultra-quick bat speed with the ability to spray line drives from foul line to foul line and projects to have at least average power. Yet, he will occasionally chase out of the zone. Currently a SS, Watson will almost certainly move across the keystone as a pro. Watson’s high school season in North Carolina is not slated to begin until later this month.
6. Izaac Pacheco, SS/3B, Texas A&M: Like House, Pacheco is a physical SS who faces a probable move to the hot corner down the road. Despite Pacheco’s picturesque lefthanded swing that portends both power and average as he advances, there is some swing-and-miss to his game.
7. Thatcher Hurd, RHP, UCLA: Hurd still has a long way to go until he’s fully developed physically, but he’s on the right track. He has superb command of a 4-pitch mix, which includes a low-90’s heater and slider that flashes plus.
8. Cody Schrier, SS, UCLA: Though not as flashy as some of the other shortstops on this list, Schrier has a lot going for him. Most scouts believe he can stick at the position, he has a short, crisp swing that results in lots of hard contact, and there’s still some power left in the tank.
9. Bubba Chandler, RHP, Clemson: A star quarterback on the gridiron, Chandler has made huge strides on the mound despite not dedicating all his time to baseball. His heater sits in the low-90s while his curve has the potential to be a plus-plus pitch. Chandler’s athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery effortlessly.
10. Alex Mooney, SS, Duke: Mooney performed well on the showcase circuit, demonstrating an advanced hit tool (albeit with a slight hitch) as well as sufficient athleticism and defensive ability to remain at SS. He was off to a red-hot start in his final prep season in Michigan.
11. Andrew Painter, RHP, Florida: Painter has a lot to offer. At 6-06/225 he has the ideal pitcher’s build and features a deep arsenal that includes some mid-90’s cheddar with plenty of spin, two solid breaking pitches, and an improved changeup. His command is also uncanny for a teenager.
12. Benny Montgomery, OF, Virginia: Montgomery is an explosive athlete who has completely revamped his swing in the last year. If these changes click, he’ll emerge as a legitimate 5-tool center fielder.
13. Gage Jump, LHP, UCLA: Not physically imposing at 5-11/180, Jump still checks many boxes. He fills the top of the zone, as former Prospects360 scribe Mason McRae has pointed out, with a high-spin-efficient fastball that resides in the low 90’s. All of Jump’s other offerings also have excellent spin metrics, including his curve, which has substantial vertical break.
14. James Wood, OF, Ole Miss: A 6-06/240 behemoth, Wood’s physical makeup is reminiscent of that of a young Dave Parker—he has a cannon arm, freakish power, and runs well. However, after having a breakout showcase season, he’s struggled against upper-level Florida high school arms this spring and is no longer assured of hearing his name called in the first round.
15. Peyton Stovall, SS/2B, Arkansas: Since the start of the spring, Stovall has done more to help himself than any other hitter on this list as he’s exhibited a significant uptick in power without sacrificing his hit tool. Stovall’s simple operation at the plate and strong pitch recognition skills signal that he will continue to produce as he advances. Stovall will probably move from SS to 2B, where he projects as above average.
16. Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest: Hartle is a tall, lean southpaw who throws from a low three-quarters slot. It’s a tall order, but if he can add some oomph to a heater that already resides in the low 90’s and improve his slider, he could develop into the next lefty enforcer a la Chris Sale and Garrett Crochet.
17. Tyree Reed, OF, Oregon State: Reed has been a standout performer for years, consistently demonstrating a knack for finding the barrel and rarely chasing pitches out of the zone. His decent speed makes him best suited for RF, where his 60 arm will be a useful asset.
18. Joshua Baez, OF, Vanderbilt: Baez looks the part of a big-time prospect. He’s 6-03/220 with a howitzer for an arm and some of the best power in the class. Like many hitters from the Northeast, Baez still has some kinks in his swing to iron out.
19. Chase Petty, RHP, Florida: With a 4-seamer that cracks the century mark, Petty boasts the best velocity in the class. That said, he’s more than just a one-trick pony—he also has uncanny athleticism, a smooth operation, and a slider that’s at least plus. He does need to better corral his changeup.
20. Joe Mack, C, Clemson: Think of Mack as a left-handed hitting version of Louisville star Henry Davis—he’s an athletic catcher, also from New York, who’s displayed a refined offensive game and budding power.
21. Malakhi Knight, OF, UCLA: Knight is a 6-03/190 thoroughbred who can man CF with the best of them. Knight’s quick bat notwithstanding, he’s had trouble catching up to premium heat high in the zone—a weakness that will be exploited as he advances if it’s not addressed.
22. Drake Varnado, SS, Arkansas: Much like Stovall, Varnado has burst onto the scene this spring with a laser light show of his own, which garnered the attention of the scouting community. Unlike Stovall, Varnado should be able to stick at SS.
23. Carter Holton, LHP, Vanderbilt: Like Jump, Holton isn’t physically imposing; however, he has a great feel for all of his pitches, including a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s and an improved deuce.