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2021 Freshman Of The Year Watch

There has never before been a collectively more talented class of freshmen in college baseball.

MLB’s decision to cut the 2020 draft to five rounds due to the pandemic led to more premium prep players reaching college campuses. That alone would have created a banner group. But taken with the decision by college baseball’s governing bodies to extend an extra year of eligibility to all 2020 spring sports athletes – effectively granting them all a redshirt – only strengthened it further.


There is no uniformity across the NCAA about nomenclature regarding the returning players. But, at Baseball America, any player who began 2021 with four years of eligibility remaining is considered a freshman.

To track this historic freshman class, we will this season present a weekly watch list of the 10 most impressive freshmen to that point in the season. It is best to think of it as a watch list for the Freshman of the Year award.

Jack Leiter remains No. 1 on this list as he continues his remarkable season. Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung has been sensational in his own right and is tied for the national lead with 15 home runs.

Joining the list this week is Air Force catcher/closer Paul Skenes, who is pulling remarkable double-duty for the Falcons.

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Expand Collapse All Updated on: 4/22/2021
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    Jack Leiter

    Vanderbilt RHP

    Key stats: 7-0, 0.98, 55.1 IP, 22 BB, 94 K
    Leiter, a second-year freshman, maintains his hold on the top spot. Last week, for the first time this season, Vanderbilt didn’t win a game he started, as he gave up a season-high three runs (all on solo home runs). Still, it qualified as a quality start. He leads the nation in strikeouts and ranks fifth in ERA.

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    Jace Jung

    Texas Tech 2B

    Key stats: .386/.500/.803, 15 HR
    After a sensational run that saw him homer seven times in six games – including two three-homer games – Jung, a second-year freshman, cooled off a bit last week. Still, he doubled twice, scored twice and drove in four runs in a series win at West Virginia and remains tied for the national lead in home runs.

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    Jacob Berry

    Arizona IF

    Key stats: .403/.497/.736, 9 HR
    Berry, a true freshman, saw his 17-game hitting streak snapped last weekend at Washington State, but has continued to crush college pitching. He homered three times in the last two games and is hitting .419/.500/.661 in Pac-12 play.

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    Justin Campbell

    Oklahoma State RHP/1B

    Key stats: 4-0, 2.00, 45 IP, 15 BB, 64 K; .257/.386/.314
    Campbell, a second-year freshman, last weekend endured his toughest outing of the season in a loss at Texas Christian. Still, he ranks third in the Big 12 in ERA and continues to be a factor in the Cowboys lineup.

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    Virginiatech Logo

    Gavin Cross

    Virginia Tech OF

    Key stats: .412/.474/.756, 10 HR, 5 SB
    Cross, a second-year freshman, has this season been at the heart of Virginia Tech’s rise in the ACC standings. He’s on a 15-game hitting streak and last weekend against Georgia Tech went 6-for-12 with two doubles, three walks and three stolen bases.

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    Parker Messick

    Florida State LHP

    Key stats: 3-2, 2.70, 50 IP, 15 BB, 77 K
    Messick, a second-year freshman, has this season thrived as Florida State’s Friday starter. His 77 strikeouts are tied for fifth nationally and Leiter is the only freshman with more. Messick also at times has served as the Seminoles’ DH and hit a home run.

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    Paul Skenes

    Air Force C/RHP

    Key stats: .351/.414/.579, 6 HR; 1-0, 1.80, 6 SV, 15 IP, 8 BB, 16 K
    Skenes, a true freshman, is filling a challenging two-way role as Air Force’s catcher and closer. His role and size – a listed 6-foot-6 – invite comparisons to Matt Wieters and Skenes is doing his best to match that level of production. He last week picked up saves in both of Air Force’s wins at Dallas Baptist – he now ranks in the top 20 nationally – and continued a solid season offensively.

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    Carter Trice

    Old Dominion 2B

    Key stats: .383/.459/.750, 10 HR, 6 SB
    Trice, a true freshman, has played an integral role in ODU’s success this season, helping the Monarchs to break into the Top 25. Since seeing his 14-game hitting streak snapped two weeks ago, he’s since run off another one of seven games.

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    Kevin Parada

    Georgia Tech C

    Key stats: .354/.413/.600, 5 HR
    Parada, a true freshman, has come back to Earth a bit after a sensational start to his college career and is now hitting a season low. That season low, however, continues to be quite strong, especially so when considered in the context of his work as the Yellow Jackets’ backstop.

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    Central Michigan Logo

    Andrew Taylor

    Central Michigan RHP

    Key stats: 5-3, 1.81, 49.2 IP, 10 BB, 72 K
    Taylor, a second-year freshman, this spring has been a fixture in the Central Michigan rotation. Taylor’s 0.87 WHIP leads the Mid-American Conference, and his 72 strikeouts rank 11th nationally and third among freshmen.

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