2021 Louisiana Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Few pitchers in this year’s class will spark more debate than Hill. A 38th-round pick of the Cardinals out of high school in 2018, Hill is the younger brother of outfielder Kentrell Hill, a 10th-round pick of the Giants in 2011. A team willing to take on risk could land a top-10 talent later in the first round. Hill has flashed front-of-the-rotation stuff at his best and was seen as a potential top-five pick coming into the 2021 season. Hill’s 2021 season ended after seven starts when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and had Tommy John surgery. Hill’s freshman season in 2019 was cut short after just two starts because of a previous UCL strain. In high school he broke his collarbone playing football and broke his wrist while playing basketball. Evaluators noted that Hill was not showing the same quality of stuff in 2021 as he had shown in his four 2020 relief appearances—his plus slider was playing as a below-average pitch. While his fastball showed its normal velocity (92-96 mph and touching 98), hitters more often teed off on it. His plus-plus, low-80s changeup is one pitch that remained top-tier—it’s one of the best changeups in the draft class with velocity separation as well as tumbling depth and fade. It dives down and away from bats, making it a true swing-and-miss pitch. The quandary with Hill is that he has not had a track record of stringing together success—he posted a 6.67 ERA in 2021. No USA Baseball or Cape Cod League season in 2020 means Hill has only 51.1 college innings and nine starts for teams to evaluate. His injury offers an explanation for his subpar performance, but it kept him from stringing together the consistent success teams wanted to see. If he can stay healthy, Hill offers alluring upside with velocity, athleticism and average control. He is an exceptional athlete who was a standout quarterback and point guard in high school—he had Division I football offers and turned down the opportunity to play football in addition to baseball at LSU.
Stovall’s draft profile is not for everyone. He’s a high school shortstop whose fringe-average arm will likely require a slide over to second base in pro ball and he’s not particularly physical (6 feet, 180 pounds). But Stovall may end up as the best pure hitter in this year’s draft with above-average power as well, and a combination like that can alleviate concerns about a player’s eventual defensive home. A lefthanded hitter, Stovall’s swing has a simple load, plenty of adjustability and a smooth, fluid stroke with good timing and the ability to use the entire field. He was a consistent performer against top-notch pitching all last summer and hit .505/.664/1.031 this spring with 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases, 42 walks and just seven strikeouts. Stovall’s long track record of hitting will give teams plenty of confidence in his bat, something that can’t be said for many of the college hitters in this class (who had a shortened season and no summer events in 2020). Defensively, his body is thickening up, but he should be an average defender at second, albeit one limited by his arm strength. He’s an Arkansas signee who could provide an instant impact for the Razorbacks, but the way he’s hit, it’s unlikely MLB teams will let him get to school. Stovall came into the season as a likely Day Two pick, but he’s hit his way into the late first round or supplemental first round consideration.
Marceaux isn’t particularly physical, with a somewhat skinny frame (6 feet, 179 pounds), and he doesn’t light up a radar gun. He’ll pitch at 88-92 mph on most nights and that velocity has remained remarkably stable since high school. But Marceaux, a 37th-round pick of the Yankees in 2018, has a lengthy track record of success in the Southeastern Conference thanks to his understanding of the craft of pitching, mixing three pitches with plus control and command. Marceaux stepped into LSU’s rotation from day one on campus. He filled the void created by Jaden Hill’s injury in 2021, as he went 6-6, 2.40 with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 2.3 walks per nine. When Marceaux arrived at LSU, he threw a slow, big breaking, mid-70s curveball. It was effective, but a wise hitter could spot its hump as it came out of Marceaux’s hand. He and the Tigers staff transformed it into a sharper, 11-to-5, mid-80s slider that comes out of his hand looking like his fastball. Marceaux’s fastball and slider are both average, and he has to work his fastball around the edges of the zone, as it lacks bat-missing potential in the heart of the zone, but his 82-84 mph changeup is above-average. He consistently dots the bottom of the zone low and away from lefties and down and in on righties, and he can bury it with more depth when needed. Marceaux wouldn’t seem to be projectable, but teams that believe they can help a pitcher add velocity could be very intrigued by a productive, durable pitcher with present feel and command. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
In his first three years at Southeastern Louisiana, Warren was a useful pitcher filling a variety of roles. He morphed into the team’s undisputed ace in 2021, something he made clear early on when he shut out Arizona for six innings. He was consistently effective all year. Down the stretch, Warren reached double-digit strikeouts in each of his final three starts, finishing the year 7-2, 2.57 with 95 strikeouts in 91 innings. Warren added strength and velocity during the 2020 layoff and came back for 2021 throwing significantly harder. His average fastball went from sitting 90-91 and touching 95 to sitting 91-93 mph and touching 95-97. His ability to carry that velocity deeper into games improved as well. Warren has two distinct breaking balls—a mid-70s above-average curve (that will top 3,000 rpm) with plenty of depth and occasionally some sweep away from righthanded hitters. He mixes in a harder, tighter, average mid-80s slider. He only uses his fringe-average changeup against lefties, but it will show some arm-side fade. Warren has an easy, flowing delivery. He still has skinny legs, although he’s now likely carrying a little more weight than the roster indicates (6-foot-2, 175 pounds). His steady improvement gives him a shot of being a useful back-of-the-rotation starter in pro ball and his breaking balls make him a viable relief option as well.
A transfer from Palomar (Calif.) JC, Olthoff went 4-0, 0.32 with 47 strikeouts in 28 innings with just 12 hits and three walks in the abbreviated 2020 season. Olthoff couldn’t match that performance in 2021, but he posted a respectable 6-3, 3.78 mark as Tulane’s Friday starter. He struggled to maintain his stuff as the season wore on and his ERA rose by more than a run in his final four starts. Olthoff was sitting 87-90 mph in late-season starts, down from the 90-92 mph with which he began the season. His fastball has sink and run, especially when he’s throwing it down in the zone arm side. It pairs extremely well with his frisbee of a big-breaking slider. Olthoff loves to throw plus 78-81 mph sliders that break just off the plate, tantalizing hitters who think they are going to yank a hanging breaking ball, only to find that the pitch’s late break makes it nearly unhittable. Olthoff can pitch on the edges thanks to some of the best control in the draft class—he walked 1.27 batters per nine innings in 2021. Olthoff has an average changeup that he tries to pair with his fastball against lefties. He often seems like a throwback to a different time. In an era where pitchers try to explode off the mound, Olthoff takes a simple step, seemingly barely using his lower half. He eats innings and is durable. He’s likely going to need to add velocity to have long-term pro success, but if he does, his excellent feel and understanding of how his pitches play off of each other could make him a valuable starter.
A team projecting on Priester has a lot to dream on. He’s a high school catcher with a plus-plus arm and plus power. Priester hits highlight-reel home runs and has posted numerous exit velocities of 110-plus mph with a metal bat. He hits from an extremely wide base and early in counts he has a significant timing step. But he’s shown similar power later in counts when he barely lifts his foot. Defensively, Priester has the tools to stay behind the plate. He’s a solid athlete and has soft hands. Right now, Priester’s power does come with more contact concerns than teams would like to see in a prep catcher. He’s committed to Meridian (Miss.) JC.
The best is yet to come for Husser. A quick glance at his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and skinny legs offers plenty of indications that he will mature into a massive, imposing presence at the plate. He has some impressive present tools—he has plus raw power, plus speed and a plus arm. With his long limbs, he’s better as a runner underway than from home to first, but he also gobbles up ground in the outfield. His power should only get more impressive as he fills out. Husser has shown solid contact ability on the summer showcase circuit and this spring, thanks in part to his above-average bat speed. For a tall hitter, he has a compact swing and is able to turn on pitches when pitchers try to bust him inside. He’s a Southern Mississippi signee, and if he gets to school it wouldn’t be surprising to see him rank much higher in a few years. He fits the profile of what teams look for in right field.
Simon had a shot to be a solid draft pick as either a shortstop or a pitcher, but an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery meant teams barely got to see him play this spring. It also makes it likely he’ll be a useful two-way player for Louisiana State. Before his injury, there was a healthy debate as to whether Simon would end up as a better shortstop or pitcher. Defensively, he should be able to stick at shortstop as a smooth defender with an excellent baseball IQ. He is a plus runner with good hands and an accurate, above-average arm. On the mound, he showed a present average fastball (92-93 mph) that has some run and sink and has feel for spinning a curveball. There are more questions about his bat. He needs to improve his approach and his swing can get a little long, but there is bat speed and power potential.
Arrighetti began his college career at Texas Christian, transferred to Navarro (Texas) JC and ended up at Louisiana Lafayette. Wherever he’s gone, he has demonstrated that he knows how to pitch and compete. Scouts may wish that he threw a little harder—he sits 89-91 mph and tops out at 92-93 mph. And maybe they would like to see more power for his above-average slider, but Arrighetti was lights out at his best in a very productive first season with Louisiana Lafayette. Arrighetti also throws a 12-to-6 fringe-average curve and a fringe-average changeup. He was sensational in the first month and a half of the season, posting a 0.90 ERA after his first seven outings. He tailed off from there, finishing the season 6-2, 3.12 with 9.8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9.
A Texas state champion swimmer (50-meter freestyle) in high school, David took a big step forward in his fourth year of college ball (two years at McLennan (Texas) JC followed by two years at Northwestern State). He’s still wilder than is ideal, and inconsistent, but at his best, his combination of premium velocity—he sits 92-93 mph but has touched 97-98—and hard dive bomb of a curveball give him two pitches that should play in pro ball. David struck out 15.3 batters per nine innings this year, among the best in Division I. David’s control is well below-average and his long arm action makes it hard to repeat his delivery consistently. He struggles to get his arm on time with his lower half. David’s wildness (6.8 walks per nine innings this year) could keep him from being drafted, and he has two years of eligibility remaining, but his upside is enticing.
Shaffer was a pitcher and outfielder earlier in his college career, but in 2020, he focused on pitching full time and seemed poised to have a breakout season when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Shaffer went 3-1, 1.23 for the Lions in 2020 with 32 strikeouts in just 22 innings. Unfortunately for Shaffer, he couldn’t match that performance in 2021. He has a high-spin 90-93 mph fastball that can touch 96. He seemed to lose confidence in his mid-70s curve in 2021, as he spiked a lot of them. His changeup is a potentially average pitch. Shaffer’s control is well below-average (6.8 BB/9) and his long arm action leaves his arm struggling and failing to catch up to his lower half. But a team that liked him in 2020 could still be intrigued.
The Southland Conference pitcher of the year, Dion was also a Freshman All-American as a reliever in 2019. As a starter in 2021, Dion went 9-4, 3.07 and helped McNeese State earn an NCAA postseason appearance. Dion is a crafty lefty whose stuff may end up being a little short in pro ball. His fastball will touch 93-94 mph but he generally sits in the upper 80s. He mixes a slower, bigger, early-count curveball with a slightly harder (80-81 mph) slurve. The slurve has a pretty large break as well, but more sweep than his curve. He has plus command of all three pitches. He generally gets ahead of hitters and rarely hurts himself (1.7 walks per nine innings). Dion tries to mess with hitters’ timing. He’ll adopt a Johnny Cueto-esque pause mid-delivery at times and does everything he can to keep hitters guessing.
In Walker’s final game in high school he threw 10 no-hit innings and struck out 13 to lead Barbe High in Lake Charles, La. to a state title. It was the capper on an exceptional senior year that saw Barbe go 13-0, 0.48. It was an excellent bounceback season after Walker had to sit out the abbreviated 2020 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. Walker, a Mississippi State signee, has feel for spinning a promising breaking ball and present feel and conviction in a potentially average changeup. His fastball velocity was generally 89-91 mph this spring, but he does touch 93-94 at times.
15. CJ Willis, C, Louisiana-Lafayette
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 193 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rays '18 (39)
16. Josh Pearson, OF, West Monroe (La.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 195 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana State
17. Kaden Woods, RHP, Ouachita Christian HS, Monroe, La.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Alabama
18. Giovanni Digiacomo, OF, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 187 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Pirates '18 (29)
19. Tyler Finke, OF, Southeastern Louisiana
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 165 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
20. Kenya Huggins Jr., RHP, St. Augustin HS, New Orleans, La.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana Tech
21. Gavin Dugas, OF/2B, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 198 • B-T: R-R •
22. Devin Fontenot, RHP, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
23. Grant Fontenot, RHP, Lafayette (La.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 187 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana State
24. Brennan Holt, SS, Parkview Baptist
Source: HS • Ht: 5-9 • Wt: 165 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana State
25. Jardy Montgomery, OF, St. Augustin HS, New Orleans, La.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 180 • B-T: B-R • Commitment/Drafted: Northwestern State
26. Seaver Sheets, SS/RHP, Sterlington HS, Monroe, La.
Source: HS • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 165 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Auburn
27. Josh Stevenson, OF, St. Thomas More HS
Source: HS • Commitment/Drafted: Louisiana State
28. Gage Howard, OF, New Orleans
Source: 4YR •
29. Drew Bianco, SS/3B, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 203 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
30. Alex Milazzo, C, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
31. Cade Beloso, 1B, Louisiana State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 216 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted