An Updated 2021 Draft Top 50 Prospects

This fall, during the little bit of Instructional League ball to which I was personally privy, I saw a small school reliever who was taken on Day 2 of the 2019 draft. He was sitting 96-99 and threw several great sliders. We are about a year and a half removed from when Nick Robertson was drafted, and he’s turned into the sort of prospect who, with comparable stuff, would get a bonus close to a million dollars.

Because the 2020 Draft was only five rounds, there are literally hundreds of players who would have gone in rounds sixth through 10, as well a few dozen who would have gotten a bonus well over-slot on Day 3, who are now (or again) playing college ball (and will be for a while), while many have spilled over into junior colleges or have transferred. That’s a few hundred players who may make a leap in the same amount of time Robertson did.

The group of players who was supposed to be in the 2020 Draft class was deep with talent, and so the 2021 Draft class will be very deep, too, but the industry will be working with less information, or at the very least will have one hell of a time trying to acquire it. We’ll likely still be dealing with COVID-19 in February when the college season begins, and we have yet to see all the schools where college baseball programs will become collateral damage as a result of fewer football games being played. Also remember that both COVID and the operational budgets imposed upon MLB scouting staffs will likely discourage travel next spring, just as they did during the summer. So teams will lean on data, which, remember, now gets shared. More on that in a minute.

The areas of high-level industry confidence in this draft are probably also going to be different this year. Because we had no Collegiate Team USA or Cape Cod League this summer, the top-end college talent was scattered across wood bat leagues throughout the country rather than concentrated in one or two places like it usually is. The opposite was true for high school prospects. Only a few states were nutty enough to allow big travel ball events during the summer, so all the high-end high school talent was in the South/Southeast for showcases several times. Since it was often the best bang for their scouting buck, that’s typically where war room decision-makers were, too.

I’d argue that, especially for hitters, the summer is the most important part of a high schooler’s evaluation process anyway. Their peers are much better, on average, than they are during varsity play in the spring and it’s much easier to compare prospects when they’re all on the same field at the same time. Data is collected at these showcase events, too, and we’ll also have less of that for college players. Teams had barely gotten into conference play when the pandemic ended the 2020 season, so we have little to no data for players’ sophomore years, nothing from the Cape during the summer, and a volatile collection period looms in 2021.

All of this is to say that for the 2021 class, I think it’s possible that teams will have more conviction and confidence in high school prospects than college ones.

And I feel that dynamic as I present an updated Top 50 2021 Draft Prospect list to you. There’s a contingent of college pitching (Mississippi State’s Christian MacLeod, Ole Miss’ Doug Nihkazy, UC Santa Barbara’s Rodney Boone, and Villanova’s Danny Wilksinson (editor’s note: Wilkinson is a 2022-eligible player), along with several others) who could end up going on the first day of the draft if they do anything even sort of like what Nick Robertson has. There will probably be some sophomore-eligible hitter with no track record who will perform at a high level, and there will probably be a 22-year-old hitter who makes a leap like Brent Rooker or Kody Hoese. Possibly several. Again, there are hundreds more players than is typical in this space. I’ll continue to expand the list over the course of the offseason, and as usual, we’ll have a sweeping update of this and future draft lists during Prospect Week in February.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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3 years ago

I have literally been waiting for this for a month in eager anticipation (clicking over to the board a couple times a week, seeing if it was updated). Thank you thank you thank you you’re the best.