2021 Alabama Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
South Alabama has done a solid job turning unheralded high school recruits into top-of-the-draft talents in recent years, with Travis Swaggerty selected 10th in the 2018 draft and Wilson poised to sneak into the first round this year. Teams weren’t on Wilson heavily out of Andalusia (Ala.) High, but they took note when he hit .345/.453/.686 with 17 home runs and made the freshman All-America first team in 2019. Wilson had a bit of a slow start to the 2021 season and has dealt with an ankle injury that has hampered him. He didn’t homer until his 14th game of the season and through his first 13 games was hitting just over .200. However, his second half was impressive, and he managed a .319/.430/.550 line with eight homers and more walks (33) than strikeouts (20). As evidenced by those walk and strikeout numbers, Wilson controls the zone well and also has a solid all-fields approach, with the power to drive pitches on the outer half over the fence to the left-center gap. Some scouts think his swing is a bit too stiff to truly be a plus hitter, but he does have plus raw power. Those offensive tools are the carrying tools for Wilson, who profiles as a left fielder thanks to limited arm strength and below-average running ability—though he did steal nine bags in 13 attempts this spring. Wilson is in a bit of a tough position with that profile, as he didn’t have a chance last summer to play in the Cape Cod League or with Team USA, where he could have proven his bat in an environment that would give teams more confidence in their projections. Teams that bake track records heavily into their draft models could be more hesitant to take Wilson, but in a draft class light on college bats, he stands out for his hitting ability, power potential and on-base skills.
There’s likely not a pitcher in the 2021 class who has as much pure arm talent as Bruns. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefthander wowed scouts last summer at Perfect Game’s National Showcase, running his fastball up to 97 mph and flashing two breaking balls that were both plus pitches. At later events it was clear that Bruns’ control and command were well behind his pure stuff, and he struggled not only to hit his spots but to get the ball around the zone. That made him something of an enigma entering the spring, as no one in the industry doubted his pure stuff and upside, but seemingly everyone was scared about his strike-throwing ability and the reliever risk that came with it. Scouts in the South did see better control from Bruns this spring against poor competition, but they still commented he was much more of a control-over-command arm. Bruns is strong and physical, and attacks hitters with a vertical arm slot that creates plane and a crossfire delivery that adds to his deception. While he can run his fastball up to 97-98, he pitches more effectively in the lower 90s. Bruns throws a 12-to-6 curveball in the mid-70s with tremendous depth and also has a hard slider in the low 80s with power and late biting action. On top of that, some scouts have even graded his low-80s changeup as a plus offering, but he’s not used it much to this point. Bruns is committed to Alabama, but a team could easily take a shot on his massive upside somewhere in the top-two rounds.
Smith pitched mainly out of the bullpen for Alabama during his first two years at the program, when he pitched with an ERA above 5.00 with just average strikeout and walk rates. He chose a good year to have a breakout season this spring and stepped into the team’s ace role, posting a 3.84 ERA over 16 starts and 98.1 innings of work, while striking out 113 (10.3 K/9) batters and walking 14 (1.8 BB/9)—both easily career-best marks. Smith is a lean, athletic righthander listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with room to fill out, athleticism and impressive hand speed. Scouts have credited his improved strike throwing this spring to better consistency and tempo in his delivery, and he’s also shown a solid four-pitch mix. Smith’s fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range but has been up to 96 and he also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. The slider has been his best swing-and-miss offering this spring, but all three secondaries have collected a good number of whiffs. He throws the slider in the low-to-mid 80s and regularly down and away to his glove side. The pitch features solid tilt but breaks early out of his hand. His curveball is a few ticks slower with more downer shape but has solid power and occasionally blends into his slider. His changeup has solid fading action in the mid-to-upper 80s but is his least-used pitch. He has been a bit homer prone this spring (14 in 16 starts) but Smith’s improved strike throwing and the projection left on his frame have teams excited about him in the second round.
Wilson is part of an athletic family with strong ties to the Alabama program. Both his brothers played for the Crimson Tide—his brother John Parker played quarterback, while his brother Ross played baseball and was drafted by the White Sox in 2010. His brother-in-law, Will Lowery, also played football at Alabama. Wilson has a chance to be the second straight Alabama player drafted among the top three rounds, following Tyler Gentry in 2020. Wilson is a twitchy athlete, with at least plus running ability and plenty of defensive versatility. Those tools became even more exciting after a solid offensive season when he hit .290/.353/.460 with nine home runs, 13 doubles and 10 stolen bases through 58 games. Wilson has explosive hands that should allow him to be an average hitter from both sides and will also give him a chance to play either middle infield position, with the arm strength for shortstop or third base. He’s played center field and has caught for Alabama as well, and could become a super-utility type player who brings speed and average raw power to the table. A big league team could also let him try to settle in as an everyday player at a premium position like shortstop or catcher. While Wilson struck out at a modest rate (14%) this spring, he did show a tendency to expand the zone, particularly against breaking balls and offspeed offerings in the lower part of the zone.
An undersized, 5-foot-9, 165-pound middle infielder, Bliss stood out as a high schooler for his fantastic hands, footwork and bat-to-ball skills. Teams opted to let him get to school in part because of concerns with his offensive upside, but he was the sole Auburn player to start every game in 2019 and managed a .281/.367/.369 batting line to go with 11 doubles and 11 stolen bases. Bliss was off to an even better start in 2020, hitting .377/.412/.597 with more extra-base pop and as many walks (five) as strikeouts (five). After playing second base as a freshman, Bliss shifted to shortstop, and he certainly has the athleticism, hands and actions for the position, but fringy arm strength could make him a better fit for second base at the next level—where he’s still adept at turning the double play. Bliss has solid bat-to-ball skills and doesn’t strike out often—around 13% for his career—with bat speed and an approach that was best described as contact-oriented before he hit a career-best 15 home runs this spring through 50 games. All of those home runs went to left field and scouts still think he’ll be a below-average power hitter with wood, but for teams who want to buy into his power output this season, his combination of 15 or more homers and a 12-13% strikeout rate puts him in company that includes hitters like Henry Davis, Connor Norby and Colton Cowser—none of whom put up their numbers in the SEC.
Cerny played for Georgia powerhouse Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., and helped the program reach a 100-14 record during his time there. After going undrafted, Cerny made his way to Troy, where he struggled to find a rhythm offensively over his first two seasons but had a bit of a breakout this spring, hitting .332/.424/.694 with a career-high 15 homers and 12 stolen bases in 15 tries (80%). Cerny has outstanding raw tools, with plenty of athleticism, above-average raw power and legitimate 70-grade running ability. He’s relatively new to the outfield after catching for the most part in high school, but scouts believe he can be a plus defender there thanks to his athleticism and speed. The biggest question with Cerny is how much he’ll hit. There’s a significant amount of swing and miss in his game. He struck out in 29% of his plate appearances this spring and for his career in the Sun Belt Conference has whiffed 27% of the time. While he didn’t face the best pitching, there’s some evidence that he can handle velocity, as he hit over .400 against a small sample of 93-plus mph pitching this spring, according to Synergy, but he does expand the zone fairly regularly. His swing can get lengthy, and he has a tendency to leak out to the pull side with his lower half, which leads to a pull-heavy approach at times. Listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Cerny still has some room for more strength and physical projection. He’s an intriguing upside play with exciting tools and a strong defensive profile.
Coming out of fall ball, Fitts looked like a first-round pick. After sitting 88-90 mph as a freshman and 91-93 mph in 2020, Fitts was sitting in the mid 90s in fall ball, touching 97 and showing a buzz-saw of a slider. He began the season as Auburn’s ace, but very quickly everything went sideways. Fitts struggled in two of his first three starts of the year, and moved back and forth between the bullpen and rotation the rest of the year. His stuff rarely reached the heights that it had flashed in the fall. A right foot injury that slowed him may have played a part in that, and Fitts did finish strong by one-hitting LSU for six innings and one-hitting Missouri for eight scoreless innings. But even those two starts were sandwiched around a one-inning outing against Texas A&M where eight of the 11 batters he faced reached base. Fitts sat 91-95 mph in 2021, but his fastball too often flattened out. He was extremely prone to home runs (10 in just 41.1 innings). His slider didn’t have the plus bite and shape it showed in the fall and he rarely threw the split-change that had flashed above-average. Figuring out whether the fall was a glimpse of what’s to come if Fitts is fully healthy or just a blip for a pitcher who has a 5.23 career ERA with more hits than innings pitched is a challenge for scouting departments.
8. Pico Kohn, LHP, Chilton County HS, Clanton, Ala. (BA RANK: 267)
Source: HS • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 205 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi State
Kohn is a super projectable, 6-foot-5, 205-pound lefthander committed to Mississippi State. At the time he committed, Kohn’s breaking ball was just OK, but last summer he showed a mid-70s curveball with impressive depth that looked like a real plus pitch at times. He was pitching mostly in the upper 80s, but scouts felt like he had the athleticism, size and arm speed to throw harder in the future. Teams are still waiting on that velocity to come, and he might have to clean up some pieces of his delivery for that to happen. At the moment he throws with a pretty heavy crossfire delivery that restricts his movement out front and at times creates inconsistencies with his breaking ball. Teams believe that if he gets a better direction to the plate he’ll not only have a chance to throw harder, but also get to that plus breaking ball with more consistency. Kohn will change arm slots with his breaking ball, and it gets more horizontal and slider-ish, but scouts prefer the top-down, curveball variation better. Without taking a step forward with his velocity this spring, teams might prefer to let him go to college, where he could perform and drastically improve his draft stock in the SEC.
Taylor has been touching 95 mph since he was just 15 years old and because of that he’s been a fairly well-known name among college recruiters and scouts alike. Listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Taylor is a Louisiana State commit who has consistently pitched in the low 90s over the last few years and touched 94-95 this spring. Taylor has mostly been a two-pitch arm, with a curveball that some scouts see as an average pitch and some scouts view as a pitch that flashes plus. The pitch is in the low-to-mid 70s with 12-to-6 shape and good depth at its best and looks like a real swing-and-miss offering below the zone when he hits on it—especially if he can add more power and velocity in the future. His changeup is still developing, and many evaluators think he has more of a reliever profile at the next level, despite a frame that looks like a workhorse-starter type. His arm action is long and gets stabby in the back at times. Taylor will be 19 on draft day and if he makes it to campus at LSU, he’ll be draft-eligible as a sophomore.
Ras ranked as a top 200 prospect coming out of high school in 2018, and after playing both ways through his first two seasons with Alabama he’s been used exclusively as a pitcher this spring. He stepped into the team’s Friday night role when lefthander Connor Prielipp went down with an injury and posted a 5.82 ERA over 15 starts and 86.2 innings. While it wasn’t the greatest season, scouts still like Ras’ stuff and athleticism and think he might be able to carve out a role in some capacity at the next level—whether that’s as a starter or a reliever. He has the strike-throwing ability to start, but whether or not he can spin a good enough breaking ball is another question. Some evaluators prefer his low-80s changeup to either his slider or curveball, and there have been questions about his ability to spin a breaking ball dating back to high school because of a stiffer, on-piece arm action and over-the-top slot. Coaches believe Ras has made progress with the slider, which sits in the low 80s and has a bit of horizontal and vertical movement. Ras sits in the low 90s and has been up to 96 mph on his fastball this spring. Without a true bat-missing pitch or a history of generating whiffs, it's tough to get too excited about Ras’ upside, but he’s a proven strike thrower.
Auburn’s coaching staff thought Miller was one of the most improved hitters on the team last fall, and that seemed to be the case this spring in his standout season with the bat. After hitting .229/.333/.286 in 12 games during the shortened 2020 season, Miller hit .313/.354/.601 this spring, with 16 home runs and 10 doubles. Miller’s power went almost exclusively to the pull side this spring and it came with a strikeout rate close to 20%, but more concerning than those whiffs might be a lack of walks, as he took a free pass just 15 times in 231 plate appearances—a 6.5% walk rate that was towards the bottom for SEC hitters. Another potential concern is Miller’s ability to recognize and hit breaking stuff, as scouts noted that he struggled with those pitch types this spring and almost all of his impact came against fastballs. Miller has played a number of positions at Auburn, including third base, shortstop and both corner outfield spots, but spent almost all of his time at first this spring.
Greenhill isn’t the most famous draft prospect in Auburn’s rotation this spring—that would be Richard Fitts—but he was the team’s most effective high-volume pitcher. A 6-foot-4, 216-pound righthander who previously worked only out of the bullpen, Greenhill posted a 3.28 ERA this spring in 49.1 innings over eight starts and five relief appearances. He struck out just 43 batters (7.8 K/9) and walked 14 (2.6 BB/9) and is very much a pitchability type who will find success by mixing, matching and hitting his spots more than overpowering batters. Greenhill throws a fastball that sits in the 88-90 mph range and touches 94, with a slurvy breaking ball in the upper 70s and lower 80s and a low-80s changeup. Greenhill has a strong, filled-out frame and attacks hitters with a heavy crossfire delivery that might give him some deception and allow his stuff to play up.
Williams was draft-eligible in 2020 and ranked as the No. 181 player in the class a year ago, as scouts were enamored with his lefthanded bat, power potential and track record as a freshman All-American who then went and performed on the Cape. Williams wasn’t able to rediscover that offensive production and struggled to hit over .300 the next three seasons. This spring Williams hit .247/.356/.534 and did manage a career-high 13 homers that eclipsed his 2018 mark of 12, but he also struck out close to 24% of the time while doing so. Williams has been a chronic tinkerer at the plate who’s changed his swing repeatedly, but he certainly has above-average raw power in a strong, 6-foot-3, 216-pound frame. Williams was a catching prospect out of high school but moved to a full-time outfield role early with Auburn, but this spring got a solid amount of time behind the plate and teams could be interested in trying him there at the next level, as he’s a below-average runner with above-average arm strength.
Strickland has been a four-year starter for Samford, and ranked as the No. 393 player in the class for the 2020 draft, but went unselected with just five rounds for teams to work with. This spring he had his worst season, posting a 5.09 ERA over 16 starts and 81.1 innings, while striking out 70 batters (7.7 K/9) and walking 15 (1.7 BB/9). Those strikeout and walk rates have always been Strickland’s calling card and in 2020 his 30-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best mark of all Division I arms, behind only East Tennessee State’s Landon Knack. Strickland has a four-pitch mix with a fastball that sits around 88-92 mph and has been up to 95 this spring, along with a slider, changeup and slow curveball that are all fringy pitches. He’s a low-ceiling, back-of-the-rotation arm at best with impressive command.
Davis is a speedy outfielder who’s at least a 70-grade runner and has turned in top-of-the-scale, 80-grade run times from home to first throughout his career. After swiping 23 bags this spring, Davis has gone 77-for-93 (83%) in stolen base attempts over his three-year Alabama-Birmingham career, and that speed allows him to cover plenty of ground in center field. His 77 stolen bases are the third most in program history. Opportunities for glove-first speedsters have dwindled in the current big league game, so Davis will still have to hit. He’s a career .280/.375/.401 hitter with an 18% strikeout rate.
16. Slate Alford, 3B, Bob Jones HS, Madison, Ala.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 215 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Auburn
17. Garrett Wade, LHP, Auburn
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 205 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Rays 2018 (38)
18. TJ Reeves, OF, Alabama
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 210 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
Reeves was an exciting power/speed outfielder out of high school who produced plenty of bat speed, but scouts wondered about the rough edges to his game at the time. After making it to campus, Reeves still intrigues scouts with his speed—which still gets plus grades—and above-average raw power. He’s never fully put things together at Alabama, however, and because of that, scouts think he’s a below-average hitter. He didn’t get a great chance to change minds on his hitting ability this spring after dealing with injury and playing just 27 games, where he hit .229/.289/.349 with 34 strikeouts and just six walks.
19. Samuel Dutton, RHP, Westbrook Christian HS, Rainbow City, Ala.
Source: HS • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 185 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana State
20. Grant Cherry, RHP, Vestavia Hills (Ala.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Tennessee
21. Max Soliz, C, Bob Jones HS, Madison, Ala.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 220 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Arkansas
22. Chase Allsup, RHP, Dothan (Ala.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 212 • B-T: B-R • Commitment/Drafted: Auburn
23. Ramsey David, RHP, Gordon State (Ga.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
24. Trey Higgins, OF, Oxford (Ala.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 210 • B-T: B-R • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi State
25. Carson McKinney, RHP, Briarwood Christian HS, Birmingham, Ala.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 220 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Texas
26. Mayes White, SS, Pike Liberal Arts HS, Troy, Ala.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 175 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Florida State
27. Rigsby Mosley, OF, Troy
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 180 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
28. Tyler O'Clair, RHP/1B, Alabama-Birmingham
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
29. Brady Garcia, LHP, Spanish Fort (Ala.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-L • Commitment/Drafted: Alabama