2021 California Collegiate League Top Prospects
The California Collegiate League introduced a new postseason format in 2021, with five teams participating in a double-elimination tournament. That group didn’t include the Santa Barbara Foresters, who went 31-7 and closed the league season on a 16-game winning streak. The Foresters, brimming with talent, went on to win their second straight NBC World Series (and ninth in the last 15 years) as they went undefeated and routed Lonestar Baseball, 14-2, in the championship game.
Back in California, the Healdsburg Prune Packers entered the tournament as the top seed and had a bye but lost a 12-7 slugfest to the San Luis Obispo Blues in the first round. The Blues rattled off three straight wins to reach the championship game, a stretch that included a complete game from Matthew Sox (Utah). Healdsburg, meanwhile, worked its way out of the loser’s bracket with wins over the Conejo Oaks and Arroyo Seco Saints—the latter victory featured six shutout innings with six strikeouts from Charlie Hurley (Southern California).
The championship game was a rematch and San Luis Obispo jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Prune Packers tied it up through three innings. Healdsburg’s Ryan Targac (Texas A&M) broke the deadlock with a solo home run in the fifth, but soon the game was again tied at five apiece. The Prune Packers finally got some breathing room in the late innings, courtesy of a two-run double from Blake Burke (Tennessee) and hung on late for an 8-7 win to celebrate a championship in the team’s 100th anniversary season.
1. Daniel Susac, C, Lincoln Potters (Sophomore, Arizona)
If you want to talk about a busy summer, just look at Susac’s. The rising sophomore clubbed seven hits—three home runs—in his first three games with the Potters, then headed off to Team USA. He returned to close out the summer with a four-game stint for Lincoln and showcased why many consider him one of the top college draft prospects in 2022. Susac is a talented defensive catcher with plus arm strength. He’s a big hitter at 6-foot-4 and has raw power and a knack for finding the gaps. He does have some holes in his swing, which was evident at Arizona and while on Team USA, but did show some improved discipline with the Potters (five walks, five strikeouts).
2. Davis Diaz, SS, Orange County Riptide (Freshman, Vanderbilt)
A 12th-round draft pick of the D-backs this July, Diaz opted to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt. Diaz wowed coaches and scouts alike this summer while with the Riptide, more than holding his own against players several years older with collegiate experience. Diaz has great instincts in the middle infield and was one of the better defensive shortstops in the league. The biggest knock on Diaz is that he doesn’t have a plus tool yet but brings a steady and natural rhythm to anything he does on the field. He showcased a great eye with more walks (24) than strikeouts (22) in 124 plate appearances and has room to grow into more power as he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. There will be a lot of eyes on Diaz at Vanderbilt as he looks to develop further.
3. Gabriel Starks, RHP, Santa Barbara Foresters (Sophomore, Arkansas)
A 6-foot-1 righthander who threw just four innings for the Razorbacks this past spring, Starks showcased dominant stuff for the Foresters. One of many talented arms that took the mound at Pershing Park this summer, Starks reached 98 mph on his fastball and sat 92-97. A big arm, he also features a power curve in the low 80s that overwhelmed hitters. He was primarily a reliever with the Foresters and struck out 28 in 19 innings. Starks wowed scouts at the league's Showcase Game with an effortless delivery, the fastest pitch of the night (97 mph), and a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts.
4. Ben Abram, RHP, Santa Barbara Foresters (Fourth-year Junior, Oklahoma)
Abram has had an up-and-down collegiate career thus far, working as a midweek starter as a true freshman for the Sooners before pitching out of the bullpen the last two years. He’s got plenty of potential to unlock, though, as the 6-foot-8, 230-pound righthander uses every bit of his height with a hard, downhill throwing plane. Abram has a four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball, a hard slider in the mid 80s, a changeup in the low 80s, and a curveball that’s a work in progress. Unlike some of his Foresters’ teammates, he doesn’t wow you with velocity, but has excellent command and is able to go right at hitters and spot his pitches well. Abram made seven starts over the summer, going 5-0, 1.61 with 50 strikeouts and four walks in 39 innings.
5. Andrew Kachel, 2B/3B, Santa Barbara Foresters (Third-year sophomore, Fresno State)
A smooth-fielding infielder, Kachel is a handsy lefthanded hitter with plus speed. A third baseman for the Bulldogs, Kachel has defensive versatility and profiles as a future second baseman with good instincts and a solid arm. He’s an advanced hitter who can use the whole field and has surprising power. He racked up 40 hits in 30 games with the Foresters and ran wild on the basepaths, totaling 20 stolen bases. His speed, awareness and ability to grind at-bats (22 walks to 25 strikeouts) reflect a talented player who can hit anywhere he plays.
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6. Steven Zobac, RHP/OF, Santa Barbara Foresters (Third-year sophomore, California)
A lot of the attention at Cal this year will be on center fielder Dylan Beavers, but any scouts there to see him will likely have Zobac catch their eye as well. A two-way player, Zobac is a lefthanded-hitting corner outfielder as well as a hard-throwing righthander. The Foresters put him on a strict regimen this summer—pitching Sunday and Wednesday, hitting Tuesday and Friday—and got the best of both roles. He was throwing in the low 90s at the start of the summer but was averaging 94-95 mph by the end and has been developing a true hard cutter. His third pitch is a changeup which if he can work on further could allow him to emerge as a force. Meanwhile, he has raw power that’s the product of a strong, 6-foot-2 frame. Zobac also has a patient approach at the dish and sees the ball well. There are some adjustments that need to be made at the plate but he’s easily one of the more intriguing 2022 prospects.
7. Dylan Campbell, 3B, Santa Barbara Foresters (Sophomore, Texas)
A late arrival for the Foresters, Campbell showed out in a month-long stint in Santa Barbara. He profiles as a hitter first and a defender second but caught the eye of many. Campbell has plenty of pop in a well-built 5-foot-10, 203-pound frame and displayed a good hit tool. A former high school running back, Campbell runs well on the basepaths and was a perfect 8-for-8 on stolen base attempts this summer. A move from third base or the infield seems likely as he might fit better at a corner outfield position. The rising sophomore didn’t earn much playing time on Texas this past spring, but figures to factor in as a middle-of-the-lineup bat down the line—possibly as soon as this year with Cam Williams, last year’s starting third baseman, now in pro ball.
8. Kyle Booker, OF, Orange County Riptide (Sophomore, Tennessee)
Another big breakout candidate on this list is the lefthanded-hitting Booker. After earning 12 starts and playing in 27 games as a true freshman with the Volunteers, Booker caught the eye of many during his month-long stint with the Riptide. The rising sophomore has a good hit tool with quick hands and plus bat speed. Booker is a decent runner as well and can play the outfield well. Booker figures to only rise his stock as he continues his career at Tennessee and should work his way into the starting lineup.
9. Josh Stinson, OF, Santa Barbara Foresters (Third-year sophomore, Georgia)
Another exciting prospect in the league this summer, Stinson had just six collegiate at-bats under his belt before showing off a promising tool set with the Foresters. Graded as a well above-average runner by several scouts, Stinson showcased that speed in the outfield with a plethora of difficult catches, including pulling a home run back from over an 8-foot fence. He also showed it on the basepaths, swiping 12 bases in 29 games and getting caught just once. Stinson developed as the season went on, showcasing potential as a hitter. He has an open stance and isn’t as polished as some of the other prospects on the list but could be in line for a breakout sooner than later.
10. Matthew Sox, RHP, San Luis Obispo Blues (Fourth-year junior, Utah)
Named the CCL’s most outstanding pitcher, Sox struck out 68 in 43.1 innings across nine starts for the Blues and overmatched his opponents frequently. A part of that could be attributed to his age (22) and experience, but he displayed a four-pitch mix and competed well. A pitchability righthander who worked out of the Utah bullpen last spring, Sox’s fastball sits in the low 90s along with a changeup, curveball and slider. While his offspeed offerings are largely average and still developing, Sox can throw any pitch for a strike and figures to move into the Utes’ rotation this spring.