10 Teams That Just Missed the ‘Never Too Early’ Top 25

Image credit: (Photo courtesy of Clemson)

On Monday, our “Never Too Early” version of the Top 25 went live as an attempt to project forward to 2021 based on what we know about draft procedures and the roster situation around college baseball. 

As is always the case, there were only 25 spots available to fill, and that leaves good teams on the outside looking in. This list includes the 10 teams that were next in line. 


As a reminder, we had to make some assumptions to put this together. We assume any draft-eligible player ranked 175 or better in the BA 500 rankings will be drafted and signed. In reality, it’s not that simple. Some players ranked better than 175 will not be drafted and someone further down the rankings will be selected, but that’s our approach for this exercise. 

Also, because the situation surrounding seniors is so layered, unless that player has specifically announced that he is staying, transferring, intending to begin a pro career or just leaving the game altogether, we do not include seniors in the projected departures or returners. 

Once the draft takes place, we’ll obviously have much more information and will re-rank accordingly.


2020 record (final rank): 16-1 (NR)
Notable Projected Departures: OF Tyler Gentry, SS Kolby Robinson
Top Projected Returners: C Sam Praytor, 1B Drew Williamson, OF Owen Diodati, LHP Connor Prielipp, LHP Antoine Jean, RHP Connor Shamblin, RHP Tyler Ras, LHP Garret Rukes

BA 500 Recruits: LHP Grayson Hitt (145), RHP Dylan Ray (304), RHP Jake Eddington (398)

Alabama impressed in a shortened 2020 season, flying out to a 16-1 start. The real test for the Crimson Tide would have been in SEC play, and because they didn’t get the chance to prove themselves, there is still a bit of uncertainty about what to expect in 2021. What there isn’t uncertainty about is the talent of the young players on this roster, including lefthanders Connor Prielipp and Antoine Jean, and freshman outfielder Owen Diodati. The Tide will have some roster questions to answer, as outfielder Tyler Gentry is likely to be drafted, senior shortstop Kolby Robinson has already announced that he won’t be returning to campus and senior Brett Auerbach, who is a versatile defender and an impressive hitter, will likely have a chance to begin his pro career if he chooses. Still, the assembled talent should outweigh any personnel losses, no matter how that shakes out.


2020 record (final rank): 13-5 (NR)
Notable Projected Departures: RHP Tanner Burns, OF Steven Williams
Top Projected Returners: SS Ryan Bliss, OF Brody Moore, OF Judd Ward, RHP Cody Greenhill, LHP Bailey Horn, LHP Jack Owen

BA 500 Recruits: SS Cole Foster (111), RHP Joseph Gonzalez (223), SS Bryson Ware ( 226), SS Werner Blakely (296), RHP Carson Swilling (329)

Losing Tanner Burns is big, but there should still be a lot of optimism about an Auburn rotation led by lefthanders Bailey Horn and Jack Owen, both of whom have the talent and experience to get it done in SEC play. Righthander Cody Greenhill will also be able to reprise his role as a jack-of-all-trades on the staff. The offense is senior-heavy, what with the presence of third baseman Rankin Woley, catcher Matt Scheffler and first baseman Conor Davis, and the best overall talent is Steven Williams, who will draw draft interest, so how good the offense is in 2021 might depend on the decisions the seniors make. 


2020 record (final rank): 14-3 (22)
Notable Projected Departures: LHP Sam Weatherly
Top Projected Returners: OF Kier Meredith, INF/OF Elijah Henderson, RHP/1B Davis Sharpe, C Adam Hackenberg, RHP Carson Spiers, LHP Geoffrey Gilbert

BA 500 Recruits: LHP/OF Caden Grice (288), RHP Ricky Williams (313)

Sam Weatherly was a huge part of Clemson’s early-season success in 2020, so losing him will be a tough blow. The good news is that a solid nucleus on offense was also a big part of that success, and most of those players should be back in 2021, led by outfielder Kier Meredith, utility man Elijah Henderson, catcher Adam Hackenberg and two-way player Davis Sharpe, who will also be expected to anchor the rotation in Weatherly’s absence.

East Carolina

2020 record (final rank): 13-4 (24)
Notable Projected Departures: RHP Gavin Williams, LHP/1B/OF Alec Burleson
Top Projected Returners: 2B Connor Norby, OF Bryson Worrell, OF Lane Hoover, C Seth Caddell, LHP Jake Kuchmaner, LHP C.J. Mayhue

BA 500 Recruits: RHP Koen Moreno (156), 1B Josh Moylan (444), RHP Nick Chittum (457)

The Pirates will lose the hard-throwing Gavin Williams and may also lose do-everything superstar Alec Burleson, who in many ways felt like the heart and soul of the team over the last few seasons. But they are projected to return a veteran nucleus that includes dynamic offensive pieces like outfielders Bryson Worrell and Lane Hoover, a grinder of a starting pitcher in Jake Kuchmaner, and some exciting young players like reliever C.J. Mayhue and two-way player Zach Agnos. Central Florida might be the team to beat in the American, but ECU won’t be far behind.


2020 record (final rank): 14-4 (3)
Notable Projected Departures: RHP Emerson Hancock, RHP Cole Wilcox
Top Projected Returners: OF Tucker Bradley, OF Ben Anderson, 2B Cole Tate, OF/1B Chaney Rogers, LHP C.J. Smith, LHP Ryan Webb

BA 500 Recruits: C Corey Collins (133), LHP Jaden Woods (216), LHP Luke Wagner (322), C Fernando Gonzalez (340), 3B Parks Harber (388)

It’s tough to know what to make of Georgia heading into 2021. Righthanders Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox, the duo that really made the Bulldogs a national title contender, are both expected to leave. Then there are also questions about productive seniors like first baseman Patrick Sullivan and shortstop Cam Shepherd, who will have to decide whether or not they want to return. Ultimately, the loss of those co-aces, and to some degree, the uncertainty about the seniors, keeps Georgia out of this version of the rankings. But there are still going to be some talented players on the 2021 team, perhaps most notably from a position player standpoint, and the program continues to recruit well.


2020 record (final rank): 9-6 (NR)
Notable Projected Departures: None
Top Projected Returners: OF Grant Richardson, OF/1B Elijah Dunham, 2B/OF Drew Ashley, 3B Cole Barr, RHP Gabe Bierman, LHP Tommy Sommer, RHP Connor Manous

BA 500 Recruits: None

The Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season title in 2019, they might have been just as good in 2020, and now, they may have the opportunity to run it back in 2021. An offense centered around Grant Richardson, Elijah Dunham, Drew Ashley and Cole Barr would provide plenty of firepower, and righthander Gabe Bierman and lefthander Tommy Sommer are steady hands at the front of the rotation. Coach Jeff Mercer and his staff have also done an excellent job recruiting, so it’s fair to expect the general talent level on the roster should also be up once again next season.

Oklahoma State

2020 record (final rank): 13-5 (NR)
Notable Projected Departures: None
Top Projected Returners: INF Kaden Polcovich, OF Caeden Trenkle, OF Noah Sifrit, SS Hueston Morrill, RHP Brett Standlee, LHP Parker Scott, RHP/1B Justin Campbell, RHP Bryce Osmond, RHP Kale Davis

BA 500 Recruits: RHP Nolan McLean (227), OF Dominic Johnson (311), RHP Trevor Martin (375)

Oklahoma State likely had as many productive seniors as any team at the major conference level in 2020, and that creates some uncertainty around what to expect in 2021. Infielder Max Hewitt, outfielders Cade Cabbiness and Carson McCusker, and first baseman Alix Garcia were all key cogs in the Oklahoma State lineup, and righthanders C.J. Varela and Ben Leeper were reliable arms on the pitching staff. Will those players sign to begin pro careers or will they come back to help open up new O’Brate Stadium in Stillwater? If a majority of those players return, the Cowboys probably vault back into the Top 25 in our next update of these rankings after the draft. But even if they don’t, a talented young core, with some veterans like shortstop Hueston Morrill and lefthander Parker Scott mixed in, should keep the Cowboys dangerous in 2021.


2020 record (final rank):
15-2 (NR)
Projected Departures: None
Top Projected Returners: OF Hudson Haskin, 3B Trevor Minder, RHP Braden Olthoff, LHP Jack Aldrich, LHP Luke Jannetta, RHP Donovan Benoit

BA 500 Recruits: None

There is a fairly high level of volatility for Tulane depending on who they get back for 2021. Outfielder Hudson Haskin and righthander Braden Olthoff aren’t in the top 175 of the BA 500, which is our cutoff for assuming a player will be drafted and signed, but both could conceivably be selected. The Green Wave also has an extraordinarily high number of productive seniors, like first baseman Grant Mathews, outfielder Ty Johnson and second baseman Jonathan Artigues, who may or may not elect to come back. If most or all of these players return, Tulane could make it a three-horse race in the American. If not, expectations will be a bit more modest.

UC Santa Barbara

2020 record (final rank): 13-2
Projected Departures: None
Top Projected Returners: 2B Marcos Castanon, INF Christian Kirtley, OF Steele Ledford, RHP Michael McGreevey, LHP Rodney Boone, LHP Zach Torra, RHP Conner Roberts

BA 500 Recruits: None

Anyone thinking that UC Santa Barbara was due to fall back to earth in 2020 after going 45-11 in 2019 was sorely mistaken, as the Gauchos got off to a 13-2 start, including a sweep of Oregon State on what turned out to be the last weekend of the season. Without any elite draft prospects, UCSB should have just about everyone back, especially given that it was already a fairly young team. Certainly, a rotation of righthander Michael McGreevey and lefthanders Rodney Boone and Zach Torra would be strong. As a senior, shortstop McClain O’Connor will have a decision to make about his future, but getting him back as well would be a huge boon for the Gauchos.


2020 record (final rank): 9-6 (NR)
Projected Departures: RHP Stevie Emanuels
Top Projected Returners: 2B Noah Hsue, OF Braiden Ward, C Michael Petrie, OF Christian Jones, RHP Jack Enger, RHP Dylan Lamb, RHP Gabe Smith

BA 500 Recruits: 1B/3B Cole Fontenelle (218), 1B Michael Brown (250), LHP Dylan MacLean (253)

Washington is a team that could really take advantage of what will be a unique 2021 season. Not only do they have just one elite draft prospect in righthander Stevie Emanuels, but the 2020 team was extremely heavy on juniors, including top position players in outfielder Braiden Ward, catcher Michael Petrie and outfielder Christian Jones, and righthanders Jack Enger, Dylan Lamb and Gabe Smith. Assuming those players come back next season, the Huskies will have an experienced team in a season when unusual circumstances in the summer, fall and in the preseason might give experienced teams an edge.

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