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2021 MLB Draft Preview Position Rankings: Outfield

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Today we finish off the final group of hitters left to cover in the 2021 MLB Draft, the outfield.

Worcester Bravehearts Vs. North Shore Navigators
Sal Frelick last summer
Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The 2021 MLB Draft Preview position rankings finally covers its last group of hitters today with a closer look at the outfielders. We move to the final two groups, left and right handed pitchers later this week as we are now just days away from draft day.

This outfielder class is below average as a whole. There is no slam dunk must have guy at the top and very few sure things. What there are is plenty of toolsy guys with hit tool questions and plenty of upside if they can hit enough.

The Braves have been heavily looking at some of the toolsy prep outfielders, mostly ones with some questions on the hit tool. The rumors of taking one of them in the first round have started to slow down in recent weeks, and unless Benny Montgomery was to make a surprise fall, it isn’t easy to see them take one with the top pick. However, I can absolutely see the Braves taking one among their top three picks just based on how many guys with fairly similar skill sets they were looking at this spring.

As usual if you’re looking for a guy and don’t see him on this list, that may just be because he is listed at another position.

Note that the list was expanded to 76 after a player pulled out of the draft after the list was made, but that player is still included here.

  1. Colton Cowser, Sam Houston State

Cowser is probably the most well rounded outfielder in this draft. He’s a plus hitter with at least average power and gets on base at a solid clip. Defensively he has a chance to stick in center though may be better off in a corner where he could be a very strong defender with quality athleticism and arm. The biggest concern is probably the fact he hasn’t faced the best competition regularly, though he has faced some good competition outside of playing for SHSU.

2. Sal Frelick, Boston College

Some consider Frelick to be the best outfielder in the draft, as he is a plus hitter with plus plus speed. That equals out to being a top of the order bat who more than adequately patrols centerfield. However, he is undersized and his power comes in below average, though certainly not weak. If he had just a little more power, I’d feel comfortable ranking him above Cowser, but it is a pretty close battle between the two.

3. Benny Montgomery, Pennsylvania HS

Benny Montgomery is easily the toolsiest player in the draft among the expected first rounders. You’re getting a plus plus to potentially 80 grade runner with a plus arm and plus glove in center. He also brings elite bat speed and plus power. Add in that he’s still got plenty of projection on his frame and you can see why he is a favorite of those who prefer upside/tools. The only thing that keeps him below the top two guys is that his hit tool is questionable, though you can point to work he has put in to try to fix it and see a chance he is able to hit enough to make the rest of his tool set play up. This is a player the Braves have been linked to, though it is hard to see him falling to the Braves pick.

4. Ethan Wilson, South Alabama

Ethan Wilson may have the best bat of the first round outfielders, but the fact he’s a bat first corner outfielder hurts his value a little compared to some players who are more all around skilled. Wilson brings plus power with an above average hit tool and can hit for both average and power. He’s a slightly below average runner whose ability on the bases plays up because of instincts, but he’s limited to left field defensively where he is more playable than he is an asset.

5. Lonnie White, Pennsylvania HS

White is an intriguing athlete with a serious two sport background, being a 4 star wide receiver signee for Penn State football. White is a plus runner with an above average arm that projects as a right fielder type though the glove is the weaker part of his defensive profile. Offensively he brings plus power and some feel for hitting, but also comes with some swing and miss. Despite not having much projection remaining, he still has plenty of upside left as a cold weather prospect and a three sport athlete who would be playing baseball full time for the first time.

6. Joshua Baez, Massachusetts HS

Joshua Baez was linked to the Braves for the longest time, but he had a tough stretch to end his season and it happened against weaker competition leading to additional questions. What isn’t in question is the double plus power and arm and above average glove that makes him a prototypical right fielder. The run and hit tools are both fringy, and he comes with a lot of swing and miss. However, he is young for the class at just barely 18 years old and has an interesting fallback option as a pitcher considering he has hit 98 MPH off the mound. Baez has been dropping on boards since his second half struggles and no longer feels like a player in play for the Braves top pick despite the fact he is now more than likely available there.

7. Will Taylor, South Carolina HS

Another two-sport star, Will Taylor is a Clemson football receiver signee although he isn’t likely to make it to campus. Taylor is a plus plus runner with an above average hit tool and a chance to be a plus defender in center. He makes good hard contact regularly, but his power is more gap power than over the fence power in game. Taylor is a speed and defense type of top of the order bat.

8. James Wood, Maryland HS

A player who spent last summer being compared to a left handed Aaron Judge because of his size (6’6, 230) and big power, James Wood had little trouble hitting top pitching in showcases. He also has above average or better tools almost across the board so it isn’t just his plus plus power. However, he spent this spring at IMG Academy and the hit tool didn’t quite play the same way leading to more questions on if he will be able to hit enough to take advantage of the rest of his tool set.

9. Jay Allen, Florida HS

Jay Allen is a freak athlete with huge tools. A kid who could easily be going on to play big time college football or even basketball to a slightly lesser extent. He brings above average power and speed although he may slow some as he fills out leading to a move to a corner outfield spot. His hit tool was always his biggest question and he answered it a little this spring to ease some of the concerns.

10. Jud Fabian, Florida

Fabian was a potential first round pick out of high school who skipped the draft by enrolling at Florida early. He has been a toolsy and productive player with plus power, above average running, and a special glove in center. His biggest question is his hit tool with plenty of swing and miss in the profile. While he improved his hit tool in the second half this spring, I still question it based on the first half and a less than impressive run in the Florida State Collegiate Baseball League last summer. With an elite glove and intriguing power and speed, he has massive upside, but his hit tool will determine his value.

11. Tyler Whitaker, Nevada HS

Whitaker is a personal favorite of mine. A player who has shown plenty of tools, plus or better run, arm, and power for the former shortstop who is likely to be a big time defender in right field or even center. Some questions surround the hit tool, but the work he put in over the winter to make changes to his swing and approach show both the work ethic and ability to make changes that have me sold on his ability to hit enough for the rest of his tools to play. He is another player who has been connected to the Braves, though it isn’t feeling like they would go this direction in the first and I wouldn’t expect them to have a chance in the second.

12. Christian Franklin, Arkansas

Arkansas star Christian Franklin is an interesting power and speed prospect, though one with a questionable hit tool. It is hard to see Franklin hitting for average as a pro, but he does have a solid approach and is skilled at getting on base despite the low average. He has some chance to stick in center.

13. Braden Montgomery, Mississippi HS

One of the more interesting players in the class is Braden Montgomery, a kid who teams are fairly split on where he gets drafted between the outfield and as a right handed pitcher. Still ,just barely over 18 years old and having plenty of projection there is a lot to like, though he will not be an easy sign as a Stanford commit. At the plate, Montgomery is a switch hitter who has above average power and a decent feel for hitting to go with above average running and a huge arm that has him profile well in right field. He’s still fairly new to pitching but is in the low 90s already and has a promising curve with decent command. I caught him in Boston at the Future Stars Series International Week last fall as both a pitcher and hitter and liked what I saw both ways. I prefer his bat as he was one of the most consistent hitters at the event and made me feel comfortable that he should be able to hit enough.

14. Malakhi Knight, Washington HS

Washington prep star Malakhi Knight is yet another toolsy prep outfielder with a questionable hit tool. He brings potentially plus power with plus running and a chance to be a strong center field defender. The hit tool will need a lot of work, but again this is a cold weather prospect who hasn’t played baseball full time (basketball is other sport), so there is more to unlock with him.

15. Justice Thompson, North Carolina

A JUCO transfer for this season, Justice Thompson impressed in fall ball and has only continued to look good since. Thompson is definitely close to a five tool player with the one tool in question being the hit tool as he comes with a lot of swing and miss. Some of that can be attributed to it being his first year in the ACC, but he is likely to be a below average hitter. The thing with Thompson is he offers plus plus running with above average power and a chance to be a quality center field defender. If a team thinks Thompson can unlock the hitting ability, he could be a huge steal on Day 2.

16. Reed Trimble, Southern Miss

A 2021 breakout, Reed Trimble showed more than expected power when he hit 17 home runs this year. He’s always been a plus to plus plus runner with an average hit tool and some defensive versatility. Once you add in some power to that mix, you get a player that is hard not to like especially when you consider he hasn’t been able to play much in college as a two year guy that essentially lost one year to COVID.

17. Daylen Lile, Kentucky HS

Daylen Lile is a tough profile. He’s got one tool above an average grade, but that is his hit tool. Everything else comes in at 45-50 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but the hit tool is above average to plus and he raked in the summer against top pitching, Lile is a fringy power guy with just an average run who is limited to left field defensively, so he really needs to hit to make the profile work. That said I firmly believe in his hit tool, especially against good pitching that he has seen.

18. Chase Mason, South Dakota HS

If Benny Montgomery isn’t the most toolsy prospect in the entire draft, it is because Chase Mason is. Mason is a true athletic freak in an athletic and projectable 6’4, 215 pound frame. He brings plus plus to true 80 grade power with a plus run and plus to plus plus arm. Of course he is very raw considering he is a four sport star and that he is from South Dakota, not to mention a torn ACL in football got him a late start to this spring. There is a lot to like but he will take plenty of time to develop. He is a player moving up draft boards of late.

19. Braylon Bishop, Arkansas HS

Another super toolsy prep outfielder with a questionable hit tool is Braylon Bishop. Bishop has plus power and plus running with some of the best bat speed in the draft. Unfortunately he has a hitch in his swing and comes with a lot of swing and miss, which is why he isn’t ranked higher despite his potential. The Arkansas commit is expected to stick in center field, but may not go high enough to buy him out of school.

20. Isaiah Thomas, Vanderbilt

This may be a little low for the Vanderbilt star, with above average to plus tools across the board except one. That is because the one tool that is an exception is a hit tool that I see as below average and low walk rate with a questionable hit tool just isn’t going to work the same in the pros. There is some question on if he has to move to a corner in the future defensively as well.

21. Nick McLain, California HS

Nick McLain is the younger brother of UCLA shortstop and first round lock Matt McLain. Nick has some similarities as a plus plus runner with a plus arm and glove that shouldn’t have a hard time in center, but the switch hitter has below average power. He’s new to hitting lefty but he hasn’t had any issues with the conversion into switch hitting and it goes to show his instincts and makeup are high end. Like his brother, McLain projects as a top of the order guy.

22. Denzel Clarke, CSU Northridge

The cousin of Indians Josh and Bo Naylor, Denzel Clarke is another interesting Canadian bat. He’s 6’5, 220 with plus running and easily plus power. The hit tool is below average but the strides he has made since high school and how raw he was/is, give hope that he can unlock more and let the power play. He has a chance to handle center but if he outgrows it, he would be limited to left field because he doesn’t have the arm for right.

23. Lorenzo Carrier, Delaware HS

Carrier is another two-sport star and power and speed guy. Still projectable with a host of above average to plus tools, he also has a questionable hit tool like many others in this class. He’s also a cold weather guy and multi-sport star in addition to being a two way guy, so there is hope that hitting full time as a pro can unlock some upside. On Sunday night he announced he is pulling out of the draft.

24. Ryan Holgate, Arizona

Ryan Holgate is a bat only left field prospect with an above average hit tool and plus power. Holgate is a guy who will hit and brings a track record of doing it in college, and in a class with so many questionable hit tools he could rise.

25. Michael Robertson, Florida HS

Michael Robertson is a speed and defense type of centerfielder with 70-80 grade run times and a plus glove to go with an average arm. The hit tool is fringy and he has well below average power, but he has carrying tools. Despite being a fringy hit tool, he doesn’t swing and miss a lot, it is fringy more because he didn’t have the strength to drive the ball previously, something that slightly improved this spring. He is old for the class at almost 19 years old.

26. Tanner Allen, Mississippi State

Tanner Allen brings one of the best looking lefty swings in the draft, and the SEC Player of the Year has a track record for production. He has worked hard to improve his speed and glove to the point he could stick in the outfield now rather than being a first base/DH profile. He’s a plus hitter with average power that plays up because of the hit tool and borderline above average runner. The biggest drawback is the fact he’s already 23 years old.

27. Aaron Zavala, Oregon

Aaron Zavala is a very productive player but one who also only one tool that grades as average or better. However that tool is a potentially plus hit tool. Zavala should hit for average and get on base at a good clip as he takes plenty of walks. The power is more fringe average the way it plays as more gap power, but he could tap into it more with some changes to his swing. Defensively he is limited to left field.

28. Robby Martin, Florida State

Martin was highly regarded out of high school and is still highly regarded despite being a different type of player now than he was as a prep. He is well rounded without any standout tools but also no glaring weaknesses. Martin has a good track record for performance in the ACC, but had a disappointing spring as he tried to hit for power to impress scouts in his draft year. If a team buys that it was just trying to improve his draft stock as opposed to a newer issue with his game, a team would be more inclined to draft him high.

29. Brady Allen, South Carolina

Brady Allen is a bat first corner outfield prospect with a well rounded tool set but no carrying tool. The biggest question is a hit tool that is fringy but it should be enough to get the job done with above average power and solid average run and defense.

30. Cam Butler, California HS

A helium guy this spring who had a big breakout and has big tools like potential for plus power, plus run, and a plus arm. He’s raw and hasn’t faced much top competition both nationally and locally, so there is a lot of projection going on here. That said he has shown the feel to have an average hit tool mixed with a good work ethic and ability to make adjustments so there is hope despite coming with swing and miss. There is a lot to like here, but he will need to be brought along slowly.

The Next 46

31. Logan Cerny, Troy

32. Colin Husser, Louisiana HS

33. Tyler Collins, Texas HS

34. Thaddeus Ector, Georgia HS

35. Parker Chavers, Coastal Carolina

36. Ty Evans, Florida HS

37. Michael Sirota, Connecticut HS

37. Jacen Robertson, CSU Bakersfield

39. Camden Hayslip, Tennessee HS

40. Rodney Green, California HS

41. Thomas DiLandri, Nevada HS

42. Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss

43. Jonathan Santucci, Massachusetts HS

44. Billy Cook, Pepperdine

44. TJ White, South Carolina HS

46. Jordan Viars, Texas HS

47. Tyree Reed, California HS

48. Corey Rosier, UNC Greensboro

49. Dru Baker, Texas Tech

50. John Rhodes, Kentucky

51. Donta Williams, Arizona

52. Levi Usher, Louisville

53. Mason Auer, Texas JUCO

54. Rowdey Jordan, Mississippi State

55. Christian Robinson, Stanford

56. Kevin Kendall, UCLA

57. Mike Peabody, UC Irvine

58. Tim Tawa, Stanford

59. Teo Banks, Texas HS

60. Elijah Cabell, Florida State

61. Jaden Fein, San Diego State

62. Jacob Young, Florida

63. Steven Williams, Auburn

64. Jace Avina, Nevada HS

65. Matt Rudick, San Diego State

66. TJ Reeves, Alabama

67. Quincy Hamilton, Wright State

68. Philip Sikes, TCU

69. Caleb Roberts, North Carolina

70. AJ Guerrero, Washington HS

71. Aaron Beck, Indiana State

72. Juju Stevens, Connecticut HS

73. Gabriel D’Arcy, California HS

74. Braiden Ward, Washington

75. James Tibbs, Georgia HS

76. Carter Mathison, Indiana HS