Now onto my favorite high school bats. There are about five that are well known (Veen, Hendrick, Hassell, PCA and Soderstrom) and will likely go in the first round but a case can be made for that number to be close to doubled. When I wrote about loud tools previously, several of these young men have them or have the potential to in short order. These ten are a gifted group and contain no shortage of talent. Most of them are power hitters but the ones who currently are not are still growing into it. There is a tendency for swing and miss in their games but is less of a worry in today’s era as it is increasingly common. More than a few can take pitches and thus increase their on-base percentage, taking hacks when they absolutely want to and ahead in the count. Players like the first player below, Jordan Walker, are highly intelligent and know, for the most part, what adjustments they will have to make on as they see more velocity and have less time to recognize and swing at pitches than high school.
MLB rank: 33
Walker is a behemoth of a teenager, even with his baby face. At maturity, he should look like an Eloy Jimenez if he doesn’t already. Education is very important to him and his family so a significant price will have to be met for him to pass on or postpone his studies. He has a longer swing than you would like but is aware of how more skilled pitchers will want to pitch him. His nimbleness around the hot corner is nice to see and increases his chances of staying there but he has the bat for either corner infield spot and the arm to be a corner outfielder too. He wants to punish baseballs and make contact with the barrel, only to occasionally be tipped off balance when shifting his weight for power. There will be growing pains as he grows, more likely in the immediate future but most prospects born in 2002 will experience some of the same (I’m getting old) and there certainly are not 30 prospects with potential higher than his this year.
MLB.com rank: 35
It is worth noting that Romo appears to be one of the hardest prep signs in this year’s draft and there are good reasons for it. A couple years at LSU can make him a top selection in the future and someone scouts will be crazier for than they are now. He is the best defensive catcher in his class and no slouch with the bat either as a switch hitter. Dylan Crews officially pulled his name out of consideration a few weeks ago, which was the right move for his development, and one could see why Drew might be keen on playing with him and Ty Floyd for the chance to win a national title. If Romo’s commitment is indeed too strong, I would take a look at another high school catcher in Jackson Miller. His left handed bat is above average for the position and he goes up looking for his pitch in order to do damage to it. Jackson should be fine defensively and can be had in the third round or so unlike Drew who has to go firmly in round one. I am aware Kevin Parada is getting buzz as an alternative to Romo but he is 19.
MLB.com rank: 42
I must say that I’m confused as to why there hasn’t been more talk of Blaze, the prodigy of prodigies. When he reclassified into the 2020 class, I was eager to see how he would play as one of the youngest players in the class and while that has not happened, he’s done little to disappoint and done everything he has needed to do in high school. His hands are some of the quickest anywhere and he meticulously is working on trying to stay at third base. Even if he doesn’t, the bat is terrific enough to stick him at first just like Aaron Sabato. My outlook on Blaze has not changed in the least as I still think he can be Luke Voit who is one of the most powerful hitters in all of baseballs with plus, plus raw. If a team can get him this young, they can put a dent on his future physical traits by surrounding him with the best strength and conditioning team possible, increasing his ceiling and longevity as well as his foot speed and quickness.
MLB.com rank: 52
The younger brother of Cole, Carson is essentially the opposite of what his brother was entering his draft and when the Pirates picked him. He is a much more complete and natural hitter but a worse defender. I am a bigger fan of him than some other publications because he aims for the gaps when hitting and does not try to do too much. There is power in there with him but as long as he keeps hitting the way he does, he will start to find it. Once he starts pulling and lifting the ball as he gets stronger, Carson could become close to a complete player as far as shortstops go. He’s a grinder and he just wants to play baseball like his brother. What he is as a player now is close to what Starlin Castro has become and his ceiling represents that of what Castro’s was. I suspect the Yanks will take him with their late first rounder where he belongs.
MLB.com rank: 64
Bowser has been somewhat overshadowed at Harvard-Westlake by his teammate Pete Crow-Armstrong but stole the show at the Perfect Game All-American competition that put him squarely on the map for teams. He is a big kid and figures to fill in a whole lot more. While he plays shortstop, he’s not fast enough to do so and will not have the range to make difficult plays. A Stanford commit, he learns to fix any problems mechanically rather easily and is a sponge for information. These intangibles make it likely that he should have a fruitful career and convince me that he would make a solid second round pick. Drew needs to shorten his swing and questions have been raised about his bat speed. Even if he does not reach his maximum potential, the likelihood of a Jonathan Schoop type is high, especially where teams can get him if they pay.
MLB.com rank: 67
Susac has been more underrated than even Bowser and is my favorite prep catcher in the draft. His brother Andrew is also a catcher but did not have nearly the same kind offensive potential. Daniel is a multi-sport star and is a switch hitter who has identical swings from both sides. I would imagine that this is what Matt Wieters looked like when there was huge hype surrounding him. I don’t believe any catcher in this draft has more power than Susac, and if they did, it would not be by a whole lot. Corey Collins might be one those guys who could challenge Susac’s pop but I‘m not optimistic he remains behind the plate. His pop times are fine and can be even better as Daniel works on his throwing. I would try very hard to make a run at him to get Susac to forego college. If it doesn’t work, a similar draft pick could be conveyed next year and you tried.
MLB.com rank: 75
Owen is from Canada and has not gotten the late buzz that David Calabrese has despite me viewing him as the more talented player. He is big-bodied unlike his fellow Canadian and knows how to hit with authority. Caissie is incredibly strong and will only become stronger, perfect for a right fielder. There is a shot that he stays in center even with his size, which would amplify his value that much more and make him more sought after. Owen’s arm will play anywhere and he has not gotten to play as much baseball in Canada as Americans in general have, before and after the pandemic. This is a player who could improve fast as we have seen with international players like Max Kepler because of his rare abilities whereas Calabrese is smaller and needs his speed.
MLB.com rank: 83
I have been waiting for Chase to rocket up draft boards but it has not happened yet. I rather have him than Isaiah Greene, someone who has received a lot of attention and will go earlier. This is because Chase stands to have a lot more power and is not far behind athletically. If anything, Davis has many more tools and a cannon for an arm. He bats a whole lot like Aaron Hicks who he compares well to physically and swing-wise. Like Hicks, he can be streaky and be impossible to get out at times but then take little effort to deal with. He rides highs and lows offensively, but is always on with his energy level defensively and running. There’s a lot to like and work with here as his ceiling is higher than most players in this range. I would be more than fine taking him in the second round as well. There need to be some minor tweaks on his stance so that he can catch up to fastballs better but he embodies a 5 tool player.
MLB.com rank: 93
Jace is loaded with tools as well and has done an admirable job improving each one of them. If he can stay at center and cover ground efficiently, he has the chance to be a well above average player as there is some power left in his 6’2″ frame. He uses his hips and legs beautifully when hitting while his hands are twitchy. He grips the bat in a way few others do and couples that with a nice left handed swing. I can watch players like this hit all day and it’s a matter of time until he starts firing on all cylinders. He has all star type potential although he doesn’t hit balls particularly hard just yet. Jace is a hitter who won’t swing at bad pitches and is very advanced. Teams should pay him like a second rounder to ensure he does not play for Oklahoma. Colt Keith is a target for teams wanting upside with safety. He has a smooth left handed stroke and does not presently have a ton of power but it should come with time as he’s listed at 220 pounds. Colt will end up somewhere on the left side of the infield.
MLB rank: 132
Coby is from Stoneman Douglas High School factory of productive major leaguers and has the ingredients to be a masher at third base where his power and arm more than play. He is all of 6’5″ and takes swings that have onlookers in awe. Mayo clearly enjoys that with his batflips and entertaining personality that baseball can use more him. The sky may be the limit for him if he can develop a better hit tool. Without out, he is likely to be a Mark Reynolds kind of player. There’s nothing wrong with that at this point of the draft where he’ll be picked but he can be so much more one day. He needs to use all parts of the field when hitting and not get homerun happy, which is hard to do when you know you hit balls as far as him. If there is a team that believes they can get him to tone it down a smudge, that team would be wise to take him early.
Honorable mentions: Jake Vogel has blazing fadt wheels and an emerging bat. He keeps hitting simple and has shown more power lately, especially compared to what you would think comes out of someone his stature. He is almost a guaranteed center fielder and would be a robbery for someone if they can get him in the third round or so. Enrique Bradfield is somehow even faster and plays like Denard Span. He should also hit and use his legs to help his team win games eventually. Enrique is the definition of a top of the lineup hitter who sets the table for his teammates. Yohandy Morales is someone still getting used to his body but has significant power, much like Wilmer Flores or Mark Vientos a recent draftee who shared his measureables. Like Vientos was, Yohandy is commited to Miami and could end up attending. Sammy Infante is another Miami commit and goes to same school Jeter Downs went to. They are not far off from each other in skill and Infante has a better bat than I originally thought. I wanted to put Slade Wilks on this list but have concerns with his multiple knee injuries and what that could mean for his future. Instead, I am going with Caden Grice because he is like Brendan McKay, body and talent wise. It makes too much sense to go to Clemson and try to be 1-1 as Brendan was.
With the limited number of rounds and picks available to teams, there will be undrafted players than ever before. This presents an opportunity to sign college players for cheap who may have slipped through the pre-draft process. One of my top targets to sign would be Stevie Emanuels from Washington. He was pitching well after getting his chance and has the body of Josh Beckett. Another pitcher I would eye is Carson Ragsdale who stands at 6’8” and has no trouble with his delivery. He will never be mistaken for a star but he can be Doug Fister. Middle infielder Jimmy Glowenke from Dallas Baptist has done nothing but hit and still has gone unnoticed, like his teammate last year Bryce Ball. Ball went to the Braves and was drafted after hundreds if not thousands of players but the first baseman had the best short season debut of anyone. Someone who could potentially replicate this would be Florida Southern’s Jacob Teter who is a 6’6” first baseman who has power, rarely strikes out and usually puts the ball in play. Then there’s Blake Dunn from Western Michigan who can hit but has had to prove it and is fast like Colorado’s Garrett Hampson.
There are not many arms like Zach Brzycky who have only scratched the surface as a relief pitcher. Even if Grant Richardson is taken, a player like Jamal O’Guinn has no trouble drawing walks and putting on a show in BP. My number one target who may go undrafted despite being good enough to be drafted is Taylor Dollard. The Cal Poly righty is confident and has the ideal frame for a starting pitcher. He knows what to throw at any count and rarely allows free passes. The only high schooler I would try to sneak in the fifth round is Jackson Fristoe who does a great Noah Syndergaard impression on the mound. Alex Toral is a free DH almost any team can probably sign and swings like Yonder Alonso. If a team is so inclined to take on a project, Joey Wiemer or Elijah Cabell are two outfielders who have been unable to perform well in college. They will need to rebuilt as players and both have great speed and power like a Jeff Francoeur. Michigan shortstop Jack Blomgren is easy to look past but is not too different from what Justin Turner was in college. High school shortstop Gino Groover seems like an instance where he could turn pro since UNC Charlotte is not exactly the place high schoolers dream of playing. He is not heavily recruited and models his game after Hanley Ramirez. We have just about made it all the way through and I have not yet seen a terrible catcher in the top 200. Carson Taylor is anything but terrible as he was hitting .400 this season and can likely be signed as can a pitcher like Levi Prater who barely has velocity and knows his delivery in and out, as well as where to put his pitches like Jason Vargas.