MLB draft season is just about here with the 2021 college baseball campaign starting Friday, which is big news for the Boston Red Sox.
Typically, college baseball doesn’t really register in New England, but Sox fans might want to keep tabs in 2021. Boston owns the No. 4 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the club’s highest draft pick since 1967. While the baseball draft rarely if ever offers immediate returns like other sports, hitting on the fourth pick will go a long way in Chaim Bloom’s continued quest to overhaul the farm system.
There’s some interesting talent projected atop the 2021 draft, both at the college and high school level. We’ll save that age-old debate for now and instead focus on the college kids with the season beginning Friday.
Here’s a look at some players the Red Sox should have their eyes on as the college baseball season kicks off.
RHP Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt): Fangraphs calls Rocker a “Leviathan righty,” which is just awesome. He has some pretty incredible stuff, as evidenced by his famous 19-strikeout no-hitter vs. Duke in 2019. The fastball sits in the mid-90s, but it’s his wipeout slider that is drool-worthy — or, as CBS Sports puts it, “one of the most aesthetically pleasing chase pitches in the class.”
RHP Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt): So, Vandy will be good. The son of former MLB pitcher Al Leiter, Jack would be the Friday night starter on any other team in the country. He’s not the biggest guy, standing 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, but he’s got tree trunks for legs (see below). He was 2-0 with 22 strikeouts in the abbreviated 2020 season, holding opponents to a .098 average. Unsurprisingly, he’s got a tremendous baseball IQ, and Vandy coach Tim Corbin lauds him for his maturity. Also, this video is pretty cool.
RHP Ty Madden (Texas): Madden was the Longhorns’ Saturday starter last year, logging 25 innings. His control really stood out in his four appearances, as he walked just four batters in 25 innings while striking out 26. Baseball America recently had him going to Washington with the No. 11 pick, but a big season could put him up in the top five.
RHP Jaden Hill (LSU): Hill is an insane athlete, who received scholarship offers from D1 football programs, even generating interest from Alabama. A shoulder injury cost him just about the entire 2019 season, and he worked out of the bullpen in the shortened 2020 campaign. Featuring a fastball that touches 98, he struck out 17 in just 11 2/3 innings while walking only five. He’ll start the season atop the Tigers’ rotation.
OF Jud Fabian (Florida): Fabian enters the season as Baseball America’s top outfielder. He was UF’s leadoff hitter last season, posting a .407 on-base percentage in 17 games while hitting five home runs and leading the Gators with 19 runs. The combination of power and speed obviously is highly coveted, and MLB.com projects his speed should keep him in center field moving forward.
SS Matt McLain (UCLA): Fangraphs gave him McLain the distinction of having the “most polished high school hit tool” in the 2018 draft, which got him drafted in the first round. He instead chose college. After struggling some in his freshman season, McLain was poised for a breakout season last year, hitting .397 with three home runs and 19 RBIs with an OPS over 1.000 in just 13 games for the Bruins. There are split opinions on whether he can stick at shortstop long term.
C Adrian Del Castillo (Miami): It’s worth wondering where Del Castillo would land on these lists had the entire 2020 season been played. He led the Hurricanes with a .358 (19-for-53) average in 16 games last year, walking 11 times while striking out just eight times. In 77 college games, Del Castillo has a .336 average with 39 extra-base hits and a 1.001 OPS. Whether he stays at catcher remains to be seen; MLB.com says scouts love his bat, but “his fringy arm strength and receiving will have to improve if he’s going to remain behind the plate.”
OTHERS TO WATCH
3B Alex Binelas (Louisville)
C Henry Davis (Louisville)
P Jonathan Cannon (Georgia)
P Richard Fitts (Auburn)
OF Colton Cowser (Sam Houston State)
THE BC BOYS
Don’t sleep on the Eagles this spring. The ACC is absolutely loaded, but Mike Gambino has reloaded. The result should be contention for another berth in the NCAA tournament. Three Eagles landed on MLB.com’s Top 100 draft prospects list. Outfielder Sal Frelick is one of Baseball America’s outfielders to watch in 2021. Third baseman Cody Morissette made BA’s similar list for shortstops. And pitcher Mason Pelio was named ACC preseason pitcher of the year.