11 Sleepers To Know Entering 2021 MLB Draft
Below, find 11 prospects Baseball America's draft team has identified as potential under-the-radar picks ahead of the 2021 MLB Draft. Looking for our BA 500 draft rankings? You can find those here. You can also find our mock draft here.
Will Frisch, RHP, Oregon State
BA Rank: 155
Why He Might Be Undervalued: Frisch showed the ability to pitch in a variety of roles for the Beavers this season, posting a 3-0, 2.38 mark with 54 strikeouts and 24 walks in 56.2 innings. Frisch has two above-average or better offerings, including a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and tops out at 98 mph and a changeup that flashes plus. He made steady progress with his slider as well, turning it from a below-average pitch to an average offering. There are some questions with Frisch. He’ll need to continue improving his control at the next level, and as a draft-eligible sophomore he could be a tough sign. But he’s a candidate to take another big step forward in the right organization.
Logan Cerny, OF, Troy
BA Rank: 166
Why He Might Be Undervalued: When it comes to raw tool sets, Cerny has a similar package of tools that more acclaimed outfielders from the SEC also boast, like Florida’s Jud Fabian, Arkansas’ Christian Franklin and Vanderbilt’s Isaiah Thomas. Cerny is a legitimate plus-plus runner—likely the fastest of this group of players—he has above-average power and the potential for plus center field defense. He had a breakout season this spring in the Sun Belt Conference, with 15 home runs and 12 stolen bases, but also strikes out at a high rate. Like those other outfielders, if Cerny hits, he has exciting upside, but how much contact he’ll make is the big question.
Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina
BA Rank: 176
Why He Might Be Undervalued: Chavers was draft-eligible a year ago and now is on the older side for the 2021 draft class. He’s also been banged up and dealt with a shoulder injury that kept him out of the 2020 season, but when he’s been on the field he’s been good in every aspect of the game. Chavers is a career .319/.426/.530 hitter at Coastal Carolina and while his home run power dipped this spring, he’s shown solid raw power to go with plus running ability, above-average center field defense and above-average arm strength. That’s a solid tool set for a lefthanded-hitting center fielder with a track record of hitting.
Ryan Webb, LHP, Georgia
BA Rank: 180
Why He Might Be Undervalued: Webb suffered an elbow injury that ended his 2021 season and because of that he only started 11 games and threw 59.2 innings this spring. Teams might have wanted to see him prove his ability to start over a longer stretch, but over the last two years he’s shown a solid four-pitch mix and impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios. This spring he was also improving his curveball and has plenty of good indicators, despite stuff that’s closer to average across the board than anything spectacular. If he was a full-time starter or fully healthy for the last two years he’d probably be talked about in a much different light.
Calvin Ziegler, RHP, St. Mary’s HS (Kitchener, Ont.)
BA Rank: 272
Why he might be undervalued: Ziegler is one of the hardest-throwing high school hurlers Canada has seen in recent memory, and the improvements he’s made with his strike-throwing ability to go along with decent secondaries are cause for excitement. The 18-year-old righthander has gotten his fastball into the upper 90s this spring, showing more velocity than any other Canadian high schooler in decades, sitting more consistently in the mid 90s. His ability to make improvements in a tight timeframe bodes well for his future, especially as a 6-foot-2, 205-pound hurler without much physical projection remaining. The Auburn commit has a top-to-bottom curveball and a changeup that he was able to get continual work on this season despite his home province being void of opportunities because of strict pandemic protocols. Ziegler headed south to Florida early this year to get some time in on the mound at TXNL Academy, where he proved that he can find success beyond the border before returning home recently. The last 16 months have been especially hard on draft-eligible Canadians living in their home country, but Ziegler has found ways to continue his development, and it’s likely that those efforts could be recognized much earlier in the draft than where he sits on our list.
Jacob Young, OF, Florida
BA Rank: 356
Why He Might Be Undervalued: If Young had played center field instead of left this spring, how would teams then view his high-contact bat and career .330/.400/.447 batting line with Florida? At the moment, teams are worried that Young might be a corner profile with less power than you would want from the position, but with his athleticism and running ability it seems hard to believe he couldn’t handle center field with Jud Fabian playing on a different team. He’s never going to be a huge power threat, but he has a shot to play center and perhaps the infield in a pinch, while proving impressive bat-to-ball skills, speed on the bases and solid plate discipline.
Calvin Ziegler Keeps Gaining Momentum
The Canadian righthander enrolled in a U.S. charter school to be seen by scouts in 2021. The move paid off when the Mets drafted him in the second round.
Ben Harris, LHP, Georgia
BA Rank: 363
Why He Might Be Undervalued: We’ve got a thing for Georgia collegiate lefthanders today, I suppose. Harris joins Georgia’s Ryan Webb on this list, but he does so primarily because of a fastball that has elite spin characteristics and helped him post a 15.4 K/9 rate this spring in a reliever role for the Bulldogs. He sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph, but scouts believe the pitch plays up from that, and while he did struggle with control (6.5 BB/9) there were promising steps forward in the strike-throwing department as the season progressed.
Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State
BA Rank: 413
Why He Might Be Undervalued: No one disputes the quality of Erla’s stuff in short stints. But he’s a 24-year-old who hasn’t performed as well over longer outings as a starter. From the first to third inning, Erla sat at 93 mph in 2021. That velocity dipped to 91.7 mph in the fourth through sixth innings and down to 90 mph when he worked into the seventh or later. Opponents hit .181/.273/.268 against him in those first three innings of starts. They improved to .327/397/.418 in the fourth through sixth innings. Being older for the class even as a senior sign, Erla fits best as a shorter-stint reliever. He’s shown he can touch the high 90s in shorter stints—he touched 99 mph at the MLB Draft Combine—and he throws a fastball with unusual movement. It has a lot of run for the arm slot from where he throws it.
Aaron Brown, RHP, Middle Tennessee State
BA Rank: 432
Why He Might Be Undervalued: A team that subscribes to the theory that command is tougher to teach than velocity may find a gem in Brown. He struck out 7.5 batters for every walk he allowed this year, posting 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings while walking only 1.6 per nine. Brown sat at 90-91 mph this year, but he will touch 95 currently. A team that can figure out a way to add a tick or two more velocity to go with his plus command could help him develop into a useful starting pitcher in pro ball.
Quincy Hamilton, OF, Wright State
BA Rank: 433
Why He Might Be Undervalued: Hamilton is one of many draft prospects in this year’s class who is difficult to evaluate because of the pandemic. Performance-wise, he was one of the better hitters in the country in 2021. He hit .374/.535/.771, matching teammate Tyler Black (No. 83 on the BA 500) swing for swing. He showed power (15 home runs), speed (20 stolen bases) and discipline (56 walks compared to 32 strikeouts). But Hamilton is 23 years old and almost everyone on Wright State put up great numbers as the Horizon League had everyone play exclusively in conference during the regular season. Is Hamilton’s great year a case of an older player beating up on lesser competition or is it a sign of a player who has taken a big step forward? If it is a step forward in talent and skill, he could be a later-round draft day steal.
Harrison Beethe, RHP, Texas Christian
BA Rank: Unranked
Why He Might Be Undervalued: Beethe throws as hard as almost anyone in this draft class. He touched 101 mph this year and regularly lit up radar guns at 99-100. But Beethe’s absolute bottom-of-the-scale control meant that he barely got onto the mound for Texas Christian. He was so wild that he had to be lifted mid-inning in four of his first seven relief outings. That led to him being banished on the bench. He was healthy but didn’t get into a game for nearly two months before making one last appearance on June 4 in the NCAA regional when he was asked to finish off a 12-2 win. At that outing, he used an entirely reworked arm action that saw him switch from throwing over-the-top to a low three-quarters, and almost sidearm, delivery. He’s no longer touching 100 mph from that angle, but he was still sitting 95-97 mph with a little better control and a hard 89-90 mph slider. It’s just one outing, but Beethe had the look of being a hard-throwing reliever coming from a brutal arm angle in that one glimpse. He’s may be better off going back to school and seeing if he can build on that, but he’s an interesting potential project for a team willing to let him get consistent innings.