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2021 MLB Draft Preview: Recapping Future Stars Series Hitters

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Recapping some of the top high school players who will be in the 2021 MLB Draft in part one of two

Future Stars Series International Week from Fenway Park

On September 25 and 26 I was up in New England to check out the Future Stars Series International Week, a preview of which can be found here.

Friday was a pair of games at Fenway Park, with a third game Saturday held at the home of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. You can find a writeup of the teams here after getting a look at them, followed by a list of superlatives at the bottom.

I will say overall I was very impressed by the event. Every player involved proved they deserved their spot, including the guys who were under the radar coming in, in terms of status. I will give those in charge of the program a ton of credit, for not only filling the game with quality players but also for legitimately caring about each and every one of the kids involved.

This is part one of a two part article, and will focus on the hitters seen in the game with a writeup and at least one highlight clip from the weekend for each. The pitchers will come in a second article.

National Hitting

Christopher Bernal, C - Heading into this event I had Bernal as a solid catching prospect, but one a little ways down the list in what is a very strong year for prep catchers. Bernal turned in an eye opening performance, showing more athleticism than I had seen, impacting the game with his play on the bases, in defense(including some work in the infield), and especially with the bat. Bernal is now firmly in the middle of the pack with a chance to keep pushing his way up the list this spring.

Brady Christensen, OF - Christensen came in probably the least heralded player on the National roster due to missing time following a Tommy John surgery, but he didn’t leave that way. The large framed, projectable outfielder showed off a potentially big lefty bat as he continues to fill out. Everytime Christensen would come up, you started to expect hard contact. He’s firmly on the radar now.

Cam Collier, 3B/SS - Cam Collier came in as a 15 year old sophomore, but that didn’t matter. The son of former big leaguer Lou Collier came in as one of the truly elite players in the Class of 2023, and left me saying this might be the best prep infielder I have ever seen and the early favorite to be the #1 overall pick in 2023. Collier is an infielder who played short and third here, showing off a good glove and huge arm from the left side of the infield- no surprise since he can touch 93 MPH off the mound(93 at the start of a sophomore year is a huge velocity). But it’s the bat that’s special- actually SPECIAL. Collier has an advanced feel for hitting, and turned in some of the best batting practice of everyone, regularly hitting homers out of a Double-A park. If you want to see what a potential top pick candidate looks like, go check out Mount Paran Christian this spring.

Carson Crawford, INF - Carson Crawford is another guy who really helped his stock during the event. The infielder out of California may end up moving from short to third longterm, but he’s got a better feel for hitting and more juice in the bat than what I had believed going in. Crawford has the ability to be an intriguing third base prospect with the glove and bat, and is someone to watch going forward.

Josh Heath, 1B - The big Pennsylvanian showed off his lefty power bat at the event, regularly making hard contact. He’s definitely a bat first prospect, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good athlete for his size and a guy who may be able to handle a corner outfield spot despite playing more first base here due to all of the great athletes available to fill in the outfield spots.

Ian Moller, C - This wasn’t the best I’d seen of Ian Moller, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t tell why this kid is special. Moller turned in some of the best batting practice rounds both days, nearly taking a ball out of Fenway Park completely- only to have it stay in because it hit hard off a sign behind the green monster. Moller is normally a very solid defender, but struggled with his receiving and blocking as well as making some throws that were offline. In game he had some swing and miss, more than what you would normally see from him- but he did impact a few balls well. Moller is a high character kid and a leader, and you could see that with his interactions with his teammates during the weekend. This performance does nothing to drop a kid who has consistently been among the top performers in the country against elite competition.

Braden Montgomery, OF - Braden Montgomery went out and showed why he is an elite prospect with his performance here. He had a huge weekend at the plate, as well as showing he is a more than capable pitcher- even though his future is clearly with the bat. Montgomery has one of the best hit tools in the entire prep class, a high level of athleticism, and is just a fun player to watch. He came away with a first round grade for me.

Josh Pearson, OF - The younger brother of former Angels third round pick Jacob Pearson, Josh Pearson is a similar caliber hitter with arguably more present pop in his bat. Pearson showed off that bat early on Friday with a strong BP at Fenway, including a homer off the famed Pesky Pole, and had one of the key hits of the day with the below double to the right field wall.

Roc Riggio, 2B - Roc Riggio isn’t the biggest kid or the one with the most tools, but once a game starts he is just making plays. Riggio played a very strong defensive second base(highlight below), has the ability to make things happen with his legs on the bases, and showed off his feel for getting a barrel on the ball. This kid is just a ballplayer, and he’s going to make one organization very happy when they draft him. It’s also worth noting that he gets very high marks for character.

Eddie Saldivar, 2B - I didn’t know much about Eddie Saldivar until he showed up and played well back at the Area Code Games, so he was a guy I was looking forward to seeing more of. He didn’t disappoint. Saldivar has the ability to make hard, line drive contact with the barrel and shows a good feel for the strike zone. He’s more gap power at present, but he’s got the speed and base running ability to take an extra base, and should only continue to get stronger.

Jonathan Santucci, OF/LHP - A late addition to the game, actually added as a pitcher, I had no idea he was going to be there until getting to the park on Friday. Santucci has been more highly regarded as a bat, but he was reaching 92 MPH off the mound to actually make me reconsider if he could be more intriguing option as a lefty pitcher. Of course that won’t be an easy call because his bat has significant power potential as he fills out his frame. I’ve included clips of both his impressive batting practice and his eye opening pitching performance.

Joey Spence, C - Joey Spence was another guy a little under the radar coming in. The power hitting lefty catcher from Wisconsin showed a better mix of tools than what I had previously seen, with the hit tool playing better against good competition and the defensive ability being enough to think he may be able to stick there as he continues to improve- though the bat would play at first.

Ryan Spikes, SS - Ryan Spikes came in pretty highly regarded, but by the end of the event I was completely convinced I wasn’t nearly high enough on this kid. Similar to Riggio in the lack of size, high character, and just being a great ball player, Spikes shined in every area. He played a very strong defensive shortstop, made plays with his speed, consistently put his barrel on the ball, and when he got to pitch made quick work of the International team including a pair of strikeouts- however his future is definitely with the bat as a pro, though he would be a two way guy should he decide to go to Tennessee. Spikes is a guy who deserves to be ranked much higher in rankings than where he is typically at now.

After the games I thought a good comparison for him is Ozzie Albies, even though their overall games aren’t completely similar. What I mean is Spikes is a little undersized, listed at 5’9’. Similar to another undersized guy in Albies, Spikes is very strong and there aren’t many as strong as he is pound for pound. Add in the athleticism and feel for hitting with surprising power for their size, and there is some Albies to his game.

Aidan Stewart, SS - Aidan Stewart is a rarity, a 6’5’ shortstop, as there just aren’t many shortstops that size. I liked what I saw out of Stewart defensively at both short and third, as he has the actions to potentially stick at short, and while he is projectable he shouldn’t fill in to the point that he outgrows the position. The bat is a work in progress for Stewart, and definitely requires some projection as his present lack of strength and a launch angle that wasn’t always consistent led to some balls hit into the ground. This isn’t something I’m too worried about as he will get bigger and stronger, and does have some natural power in there despite the lack of present strength as the below batting practice video will show why you can’t ignore the upside.

International Hitting

Edwin Arroyo, 3B - The star of the Perfect Game All American Classic came to Boston and despite not being as loud with the bat, showed the basic tool set that has scouts excited. Arroyo projects as a bat first likely third baseman, and one with the ability to hit for both average and power.

Jackson Clemett, OF - Jackson Clemett was a late addition to the game and came in under the radar, but he proved that he belonged on this stage with his play over the weekend. Clemett has the bat speed and athleticism to develop into an intriguing outfielder, and has some projection remaining on his body. He’s going to be a guy to watch over the next nine months to see where he is at before the draft,

Justin Colon, SS - The best defensive show of the weekend came from Justin Colon, who put on a show during infield practice. Colon is just so natural and smooth, with the actions to be an impact defender at short. That’s not all Colon can do, as he makes solid hard contact at the plate as well. Colon is a glove first shortstop, but he isn’t a guy that won’t be able to hold his own with the bat.

Nicholas Deschamps, C - Nicholas Deschamps had an eye opening performance here, showing off more pop in the bat and more overall athleticism than I was expecting. I would like to see him behind the plate a little more to get a better feel for that part of his game, but the bat and athleticism put him firmly on the radar going into the draft.

Jessiel Garcia Cruz, OF - One more under the radar guy who proved he belonged was Jessiel Garcia Cruz, who was hitting the ball hard regularly and showing some athleticism. He’s probably going to be limited to a corner in the outfield once he fills out, but the bat looks like it will be enough to carry him.

Sergio Guerra, C - I had no idea who Sergio Guerra was at the start of the spring, but upon watching PG Nationals I was immediately sold. The shortstop conversion is very athletic for the backstop position and brings high end defense, both in terms of his potential receiving skills and his arm- and those skills will only continue to improve with more work behind the plate. The bat also shows real pop to it as well. Guerra has a higher floor and higher ceiling than some of those catchers ranked above him on other sites, and with performances like these will only continue to move up. Arguably my favorite sleeper in the class since I first watched him at the start of the spring.

Angel Lassalle, C - Angel Lassalle was one of the small handful of guys I wasn’t familiar with coming in, but he made enough of an impression with the bat and defense to put his name in the conversation at a very deep catching spot.

Nate Ochoa, OF - A late add to the game, Nate Ochoa came in a bit under the radar as he is still younger for the class and not committed to Purdue until 2022 despite being 2021 draft eligible. That didn’t matter here as he showed an interesting tool set to grow into, especially as he matures into his frame. Below is a clip of Ochoa hitting a line drive off a talented lefty arm.

Daylan Pena, 1B - I had seen Daylan Pena a little going in but was excited to see more considering the fact I had heard a young Nelson Cruz comp from a scout. He didn’t disappoint here, as the hit and power tools showed up all weekend for Pena. It became easy to see exactly why the scout was as high on him as he was, and Pena has become one of the more intriguing slightly under the radar power bats in the class.

Orlando Pena, 3B - Orlando Pena came in as a sleeper, but left making sure scouts knew his name. The bat was his calling card, and he was hitting hard line drives all over the field in the games and in batting practice. Pena is a potential power hitting third base bat.

Jquann Smith, CF - Everyone knows Jquann Smith is possibly the fastest player in the entire 2021 MLB Draft, bringing legit 6.20 speed in the 60. Jquann showed that he brings more than just speed this weekend, showing an ability to make solid contact and a plan at the plate. He’s more of a gap power guy than a home run power type, but he’s projectable and could eventually be a 10-15 HR type. The speed plays well on the bases and in center field, though at present he’s more CF only as the arm isn’t very strong. He compares favorably to Enrique Bradfield from the 2020 MLB Draft class, but I actually like Jquann better than Bradfield because I see more present and future pop in the bat.

Peter Vazquez, 2B - The biggest surprise of the weekend for me was this kid, Peter Vazquez. I hadn’t seen a ton of the USC commit prior to arriving in Boston, but was given a Carlos Baerga comp by a scout. Vazquez started out by consistently driving the ball as well as almost anyone in BP on Friday, a trend that continued on Saturday as well. It wasn’t just BP that was eye opening, as he had a solid approach at the plate in game and made more quality contact there. Vazquez is a solid athlete as well, though may be limited to second base or potentially the outfield. Vazquez is being slept on in a big way.

Superlatives from the Weekend

Best Batting Practice

Friday - Ian Moller

Saturday - Cam Collier

Best Defensive Showing - Justin Colon

Top Three Pitchers - Anthony Solometo, Erian Rodriguez, Jacob Miller

Most Interesting Two Way Potential - Jonathan Santucci

Three Biggest Surprises - Peter Vazquez, Orlando Pena, Brady Christensen

Future First Rounders* - Ian Moller, Braden Montgomery, Anthony Solometo, Cam Collier(2023)

* this is how things stand today and plenty could change in the next nine months before the draft, with these guys potentially moving down or other guys potentially moving up.