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Talking Chop 2021 MLB Draft Preview: Previewing the 2020 Perfect Game All American Classic

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This Friday night the top high school players in the country gather in Oklahoma City to play in one of the biggest showcase games of the draft cycle.

MLB.com

There is nothing about the 2021 MLB Draft that would qualify as normal. Right now, you are trying to judge players who either didn’t play at all or barely played last spring, and followed that up with an extremely limited summer of events compared to a normal summer.

However, Friday night we get to see the best prep players in the 2021 MLB Draft class marching up against each other in an All Star Game type of format. The game airs at 4:30 PM Eastern on PerfectGame.TV as well as MLB Network. This is considered to be a very good looking prep class and is led by the pitching, but the shortstops and catchers are also a big strength.

For anyone not familiar with the Perfect Game All American Classic, this event has produced 228 first round picks dating back to 2003, with 200 MLB Players already produced.

It’s a showcase that has led to some players really starting to blow up heading into their senior year of high school. Players like Carter Stewart, Daniel Espino, and Corbin Carroll all had very notable games here at the PG All American Classic that helped to establish them among the top prep players in their draft classes in recent years.

Note that while this is an East vs West game, the East and West aren’t clearly defined and talent is attempted to be spread out. This is why you see the East having players as far West as Nebraska, while the West has players from New York, Michigan, and Tennessee.

Next week will feature a recap of the event, and which players really stood out since this is arguably the biggest draft event left in the 2020 calendar year- but not the only big event, with coverage of the Future Stars Series coming as well.

East Pitching

The top two arms in the prep class are both on the East team, as New Jersey’s electric Chase Petty, and Florida’s super projectable and currently advanced Andrew Painter both reside here. It should be fun watching Petty hitting near triple digits on Friday, but also watching a guy like Painter attack hitters. They aren’t the only talented righthanders from Florida and Jersey, as another elite Floridian makes the team in Irving Carter- another advanced arm with projection and some stuff. Jersey’s overage Shane Panzini has the stuff to be a high pick with three above average or better pitches, but he will be close to 20 years old on draft day next summer and even just a normal 19 year old brings red flags to a team for a prep player. Drew Christo out of Nebraska is the final righthander on the team. Christo has shown a lot of promise with his fastball and slider, but is going to need to improve a third pitch in order to be a starter as a pro.

The lefties are led by Alabama’s Maddux Bruns, who has hit as high as 97 MPH during his breakout summer. However Bruns really struggled with command at the Area Code Games and can use a bounceback performance here in this setting. North Carolina’s Josh Hartle is maybe the highest ceiling of the lefties, as he is super projectable and already has very strong command. Pierce Coppola is the third New Jersey prep arm on the East, and he’s an imposing figure on the mound at 6’9, 215 with a 93 MPH fastball and plenty more to dream on. Coppola will need plenty of time to reach his upside, but it’s clear what interests teams. Mason Albright out of Maryland isn’t the biggest (6’0) or the flashiest (tops out at 94 MPH), but he is solid and consistent and seems to be improving. Georgia’s Carter Holton is just 5’11, but he tops out at 96 MPH and has three swing and miss offerings that he can command. It’s not out of the question we see infielder Jac Caglianone pitch as well in this one if needed, as well as someone like Casey Saucke.

East Catching

The most noteworthy name for the East behind the plate is Georgia’s own Harry Ford. The Georgia Tech commit isn’t like most catchers, possessing uncommon athleticism for the position along with potential with the bat. He’s already used a strong summer to boost his way up the rankings, and is starting to get some JT Realmuto comps because of his unusual skill set for a catcher. Florida prep Jayden Melendez, brother of Royals catching prospect MJ Melendez and son of Florida International coach Mervyl Melendez is a similar caliber prospect to his older brother, though in a deep prep catching class. Another Florida prep in Rene Lastres rounds out the group. Lastres is a very good defensive prospect with power, the type of catcher who usually rates pretty highly in a class.

East Infield

The headliner here is Brady House, a guy some consider the top prep player overall in the country. House is a Georgia kid with a big bat, though the prep shortstop may need to move to third long-term. House is coming off a slightly disappointing Area Code Games performance, and needs to show his advanced bat here to continue to remain the top prep player in the country. Slugging third baseman Tommy White from Florida is having a strong summer and really moving up rankings because of it. White is the type of player who could post big power and quality on base numbers because of his potential with the hit tool. He may end up at first base, but he’s one of the top pure bats in the class. First baseman Jac Caglianone out of Florida is one of the top power bats in the prep class, but brings the typical swing and miss you’d expect for a young power bat. Casey Saucke is a two way shortstop prospect out of New York who may grow out of the position, but has the potential to be a well rounded third baseman with some pop.

One of the biggest risers this entire summer has been Kahlil Watson, the North Carolina shortstop. Watson started the summer barely on the radar, but the athletic fast-twitch shortstop has risen towards that top end of the spectrum with his play. Puerto Rican shortstop Edwin Arroyo is another shortstop having a big summer and moving up the rankings with his ideal toolset for a shortstop. A pair of Georgia infielders round out the group in Rob Gordon and Michael Braswell. Braswell is the more tooled up of the two, with a flashy skill set, while Gordon is the more steady and the one with the more present juice in the bat.

East Outfield

What a group of players in the East outfield. Florida’s Jay Allen could be a very high pick in the draft depending on his progress with the hit tool, or an SEC QB, or he could be a high major college basketball player. Allen is super athletic and toolsy, but the hit tool will determine his future. Area Code Games star Joshua Baez is on the team after putting on a power show a few weeks ago. The Massachusetts prep is an interesting power and speed combo to watch going forward. Talented two way player Braden Montgomery can do a little of everything, and has a very well rounded toolset with his biggest question being where does the Mississippi prep end up playing?

James Wood is a guy who can’t help make you think of Aaron Judge. Not only is he a legit 6’6, 230, but the Maryland prep has the power, arm, glove, and present running ability to compare to a young Judge. Georgia’s Thaddeus Ector is a very athletic kid with a promising hit tool. I’m not sold on the power, but he may still have everything to be more of a top of the lineup guy even without big power. Then there is Pennsylvania’s Benny Montgomery, the highest rated player in the outfield. Montgomery routinely posts among the best run times in the entire class with huge power potential. Similar to Allen with a more advanced present tool set, but like Allen there are some concerns about his future hit tool.

West Pitching

The West pitching staff is more right-handed heavy, with only two listed lefties- though one player listed as an outfielder is a more significant prospect as a left handed pitcher.

The biggest name on the team is Missouri right hander Christian Little, who made headlines on Wednesday when he announced that he was skipping his senior year of high school to enroll now at Vanderbilt. Little was a clear cut Top 5 prep arm in this class and will be missed in the draft pool, but he will be an extremely young prospect as a junior in the 2023 draft. Another high end pitcher is Oklahoma right hander Jackson Jobe, who made my Top 10 prep arm list a couple of weeks ago. As you may recall, Jobe is a two way player who has really started to come into his own on the mound this summer, and this could be one final showcase for him to end the summer on a high note. Tennessee righthander Chase Burns is another member of that Top 10 prep arm list, and brings the type of velocity that will always make people notice him in a setting like this- particularly if he is able to touch 100 MPH during the game. The final right handed member of the Top 10 prep arm piece to make it on this team is Washington’s Max Debiec, the super projectable and very tall kid out of Washington who showed up in a huge way at the Perfect Game Nationals and opened scouts eyes.

Texan Eric Hammond is a kid with a four pitch mix, which includes a fastball up to 95 and a promising curve to go with a projectable frame that teams love. Cale Lansville from Colorado can bring it up to 94 and similarly has a very intriguing curve, but he’s under-sized at just 6’0 and doesn’t have much remaining projection. Another Tennessee right hander here is James Peyton Smith, a somewhat projectable 6’4” Vanderbilt commit with a four pitch mix and the ability to reach 96 MPH. Smith has had a strong run this summer to move his way up the rankings quite a bit, and could continue that here. The final right hander is Gray Thomas out of Oklahoma, a pitcher who I would like to see a little bit more from in terms beyond the first two pitches of his arsenal(fastball and curve).

The two listed lefties are led by Arizona’s Brock Selvidge, who made my Top 10 prep arms a couple of weeks ago as a well rounded lefty with some stuff and plenty of pitchability. Ryan Ginther out of Tennessee is the other one. Ginther is just 5’11, but has a high level of pitchability and can touch 94 MPH while throwing strikes. The outfielder who may pitch here is Drew Gray out of Illinois, a two way standout that has seen his pitching take off recently. Gray is a projectable, athletic lefty with a fastball up to 93, a plus slider with a very high spin rate, and plenty of room for growth if he settles into just pitching.

West Catching

The clearcut top catcher in the prep class is Iowa’s Ian Moller, and he is right up there with any bat in this prep class overall. Moller has an impact bat for any position, let alone for a catcher, and should be able to work his way into sticking behind the plate defensively. He is joined by two of the biggest standouts from the Area Code Games in Missouri’s Carter Jensen and New York’s Joe Mack- brother of Twins prospect Charles Mack. Mack is a middle of the order bat who should be a fine defender, while Jensen is more of a high end bat who just happens to have some defensive ability at catcher.

West Infield

The West infield is a case of the two biggest names being big names for different reasons. The most commonly known name is probably California prep first baseman Max McGwire, son of Mark McGwire. McGwire plays and looks quite a bit like a young version of his father, but isn’t exactly a first round grade prospect right now despite the power and bloodline. The other big name is Texas shortstop Jordan Lawlar, who is moving his way into the conversation for the Top 10 in the entire draft after a strong summer that has put his elite toolset on display with a surge in his power. California shortstop Marcelo Mayer isn’t far behind Lawlar in the overall rankings, despite not having shown the same present power to this point.

Texas prep Izaac Pacheco is listed by some as a shortstop, but he’s a third baseman all the way, and possesses some of the better power in the class. Pacheco profiles as a prototypical third baseman, with big power and arm grade plus a potentially solid glove. A couple of Michigan preps are next, with Luke Leto being the bigger name, and Alex Mooney not too far behind on the shortstop list. Leto was chasing the top spot in the prep class heading into the spring, but a missed junior season and then a subpar showing at the Perfect Game Nationals have dropped him behind some of the guys that really showed up. Leto has a promising bat, and even if he has to move to third the bat would profile very well. Mooney is glove over bat right now, but there is reason to think there is more to come with the bat for this cold weather prospect- it’s just not there quite yet. Texas infielder Luke Heefner has moved up quite a bit this summer because of his bat, possessing one of the better pure hit tools of this prep class. The issue with Heefner is he may be more of a second baseman long-term, but his hit tool is enough to grab teams’ interest. California shortstop Cody Schrier is the final infielder on the team, a promising player with the glove and one who has shown real improvement with the bat this summer.

West Outfield

The single most tooled up player in this entire draft class is Arkansas outfielder Braylon Bishop, who has a skill set that reminds me of a young Gary Sheffield. Bishop has every tool, big power, explosive athleticism, a big arm, potentially strong glove, and elite bat speed. The only issue with his game is the fact that the hit tool has real questions due to the swing mechanics. After a very disappointing showing at the Perfect Game Nationals for a player like this, he came out and rebounded at the Area Code Games recently. California’s Tyree Reed isn’t too far behind on the toolsiest prospect lists, but he doesn’t quite have the same power. Reed fits more as a top of the order hitter than a middle of the order bat right now, but there is some hope that he can grow into more power as he matures. Then Kentucky’s Daylen Lile has arguably the single best present hit tool in the class. Lile has a knack for getting the barrel to the ball and driving it, has a bit of pop, and can take an extra base with his legs. He’s been one of the most exciting players to watch all summer because of this hit tool leading to production at every turn.

Another Area Code Games standout is Washington prep outfielder Malakhi Knight, who brings an interesting power and speed combo to go with a hit tool that is presently better than what was expected from him. Knight has the makings of a middle of the order hitting right fielder, if not potentially a center fielder. Tennessee outfielder Camden Hayslip is a power hitting corner outfielder that has some questions to answer about his hit tool.

Illinois two way star Drew Gray is listed with the outfielders on the official roster, but he is looking more and more like a pitcher- especially after his showing on the mound at the Area Code Games, so I will list him there.