2021 MLB Draft Stock Watch: 10 Rising Prospects In Our BA 300 Update
Welcome to Baseball America’s 2021 Draft Stock Watch. A recurring feature throughout draft season, we’ll use this space to explore rising and falling prospects in the 2021 draft class and also dive into different themes and topics at greater length. In today’s edition, we are examining a few of the biggest risers from our first in-season draft update. You can see previous Stock Watch installments below:
2021 Bonus Pools
Over the past week, we’ve gotten a lot more clarity about the 2021 draft.
Late Thursday evening on April 1, MLB informed teams that the draft would be 20 rounds—a previous agreement between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association stated the drafte would be between 20-30 rounds—and also delivered bonus pool information to clubs.
Just a day later, MLB pulled the All-Star Game—and with it the draft—out of Atlanta due to Georgia’s new election rules and on Tuesday announced the All-Star Game would be hosted by the Rockies at Coors Field.
Scouting departments are likely more concerned with the “how” of the draft than the “where,” particularly after conducting a largely remote draft in 2020, so knowing with certainty the number of rounds they will be selecting for this year will give teams some clarity.
You can find full bonus pool information in the link above, but a few highlights before we get into today’s stock watch:
- The top three teams (Pirates, Rangers, Tigers) have the three largest bonus pools this year, with each club checking in with $14.39, $14.25 and $12.64 million, respectively. While the Tigers have less money to work with than the Pirates or Rangers, they are also the only team among the top 10 picks who also has an additional selection in the supplemental first round (No. 32).
- The Reds, who pick 17th in the first round, have the fourth-largest bonus pool with $11.90 million to work with. Cincinnati has a compensation pick for losing Trevor Bauer in free agency to the Dodgers and will pick 30th overall immediately after the first round and also has the 35th pick of the draft as part of the first supplemental round. Those picks bring $2.3 and $2 million slot values and could allow the Reds to be a key player in the middle of the first round. The Reds could potentially grab a top-10 talent who is sliding or force a player like that down the board by throwing some financial muscle around (like the Royals and Rays in the 2018 draft). They have the picks and money to get creative with how they work a board, and could potentially pair an underslot deal with a few overslot selections to get a talent pool they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
- The Astros have the smallest bonus pool to work with thanks largely to losing their first- and second-round picks due to penalties from the team’s sign-stealing scandal. None of Houston’s picks is worth more than $700,000. Without gaining a compensation pick after the fourth round (No. 132, $426,600) due to George Springer signing with the Blue Jays, Houston would have even less.
10 Trending Up
Yesterday, we examined two prominent first round hitters who were off to a slow start and today we're providing more information on 10 of the biggest risers from our most-recent rankings update.
Brandon Clarke, LHP, Independence HS, Ashburn, Va.—No. 47 (+153)
Clarke might not be a fit for every team, due to a few things: he already has a Tommy John surgery on his resume and because of that was not on the showcase circuit last summer, so teams have less history with him. More conservative, less risk-averse teams could be off of the Alabama commit because of those factors, but there’s exciting upside for those willing to take a chance.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefthander wasn’t ranked on our preseason draft list because of his lack of history, but upon returning to the mound in preseason bullpen sessions, it was clear he needed to be. Scouts saw Clarke in the 92-96 mph range with terrific arm speed, the ability to spin a sharp breaking ball and a changeup with impressive movement.
Some scouts have put him in the first round given that stuff from the left side, while those who are more critical wonder about his reliever risk given the head whack involved in the finish of his delivery and a bit of length in the back of his arm stroke.
Luca Tresh, C, North Carolina State—No. 25 (+138)
Tresh has cooled off a bit since his torrid start to the season, and he hasn’t homered since March 5 against Miami, but he was the biggest rising college bat on our last draft update. That is key, because many scouting directors are looking around the country and wondering where all of the college hitters are.
Through 21 games, Tresh is hitting .302/.358/.593 with seven home runs, eight walks (8.4 BB%) and 20 strikeouts (21.1 K%). That comes after a shortened 2020 season in which Tresh hit .405/.444/.690 over 11 games, with three home runs and three doubles.
This season, each of Tresh’s home runs have gone to the pull-side, and he’s largely been a pull-oriented hitter overall, with solid production against all pitch types but most of his over-the-fence damage coming against fastballs (5 of 7 homers). Tresh might not be a plus hitter, given the swing and miss in his game presently, but both scouts and analytics officials seem to love his swing, his loud exit velocities and the rate in which he puts the ball in the air.
Defensively, Tresh works from a one-knee setup that’s increasingly common and regularly pops around 2.00 seconds on his throws to second. He’s thrown out 7-of-24 basestealers—a 29% rate.
Troy Melton, RHP, San Diego State—No. 77 (+123)
Melton is a conversion arm who caught and played third base in high school and is relatively new to pitching, with just 63.1 innings under his belt at San Diego State. Additionally, Melton is the youngest four-year pitcher of any current BA 300 prospect and scouts love his projectable, 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame.
Melton has pitched to a 3.99 ERA through his first seven starts and 38.1 innings, with 40 strikeouts (9.4 K/9) and 16 walks (3.8 BB/9), with a fastball that’s sitting in the 92-93 mph range—a few ticks up from the 2020 season. Melton has shown some flashes with his secondaries, but both his slider and changeup need more refinement. His slider is short with late break in the low-to-mid 80s and he throws a changeup in a similar velo range with good fading life.
One concern could be the length of Melton’s arm action. It is long in the back and scouts question the quality of strikes he'll throw long term because of that, in addition to his deception. Either way, with his youth, frame and pure stuff he’s an up-arrow arm who many teams have in the second or third round range.
Peyton Stovall, SS, Haughton (La.) HS—No. 78 (+122)
If Tresh is the biggest college bat moving up boards, Stovall has to be the biggest high school hitter flying up. Stovall is committed to Arkansas and listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds, but scouts believe he’ll move off of shortstop at the next level due to a frame that will only get bigger and questions about his arm strength.
But the hit tool is what pays hitting prospects, and Stovall has one of the most advanced swings in the high school class. A lefthanded hitter, Stovall sets up in the box with a crouched, slightly open stance, with a lower handset around chest height. The swing is smooth and powerful and scouts believe little or no tweaks will be necessary with it at the next level, given what he’s shown so far.
Against his high school competition, Stovall has had no issues. He homered 11 times throughout his first 17 games and scouts have seen a hitter with a low heartbeat in the box who sees the ball well out of the pitcher’s hand. If Stovall made it to campus at Alabama, he would have a chance to mash SEC pitching for a few years and become an offensive-oriented second baseman—perhaps in the mold of a Justin Foscue or Michael Busch. Enough teams seem to be on him in a high enough round range where that would be surprising though.
Jac Caglianone, LHP/1B, Plant HS, Tampa—No. 84 (+116)
Caglianone went from unranked on our preseason 200 to the No. 6 Florida high school prospect in the class, slotting in at 84 overall. A two-way player, Caglianone has power potential from the left side as a hitter, but has moved up boards this spring thanks to improved fastball velocity on the mound.
Some scouts preferred Caglianone as a bat last summer because he was up to 94 mph with well below-average control and secondaries that needed refinement. That calculus seems to be changing, as Caglianone has come out this spring throwing harder and has been up to 95-96. With flashes of a good slider.
Wherever Caglianone ends up, there will be some mechanical refinement to be made. As a hitter, Caglianone has fairly significant hip and back foot drift as he shifts his weight through the baseball. He gets extremely heavy on his front side but loses the back half at times and scouts believe he’s losing in-game power production because he isn’t always hitting from a sound and solid base. On the mound, Caglianone has some stiffness and effort in the delivery, with a downer head whack in his finish and recoil throughout his follow through, which has led some scouts to wonder whether he’s a reliever in the long run.
As a Florida commit, Caglianone could have a high price tag, but he has shown impressive tools on both sides of the ball that a team confident in its player development system might want to take a chance on his upside.
Justice Thompson, OF, North Carolina—No. 86 (+114)
Thompson is another hitter who is cooling off from his bristling start to the season, but even after going 4-for-23 in his last six games, he is hitting .320/.424/.490 through 26 games this season, with 15 walks (12.7 BB%) and 30 strikeouts (25.4 K%).
Thompson has an exciting collection of tools, including at least plus running ability, potential above-average defense in center field and solid raw power. That toolset—particularly in a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame—at a premium position will get teams excited and there were many national level evaluators who put top-two round grades on him after a strong showing against Virginia in the second weekend series of the season.
However, as the season has progressed, the holes in Thompson’s swing (which area scouts have cited from last fall) have begun to show. Scouts acknowledge that Thompson has plenty of bat speed, but wonder about the length of his levers and question how long his barrel stays in the hitting zone. On top of that, evaluators have questioned both his pitch and zone recognition and wonder if he will be more of a mistake hitter at the next level. So far this season he has struggled against off-speed offerings, often waving over the top of changeups after being caught out front.
Matt Mikulski, LHP, Fordham—No. 125 (+51)
Mikulski was draft-eligible last year and ranked No. 203 on the 2020 BA 500 after making a successful transition to a full-time Fordham starter. After going undrafted, Mikulski is back at Fordham and looks like a different pitcher, with a much shorter, spiraling arm action that has helped him increase his stuff and miss more bats.
First, look at his arm action back in 2019:
Now, compare that to how compact his arm action is this season:
On Saturday, Mikulski threw a complete game shutout against Seton Hall. He scattered two hits and struck out 12, with no walks. On the season, Mikulski has 52 strikeouts (15.3 K/9) and 11 walks (3.1 BB/9) in 30.2 innings of work. His previous high K/9 with Fordham was 9.8 in 2019.
After topping out in the 93-94 mph range last year, Mikulski has run his fastball up into the 97-98 mph range fairly consistently so far this season. Last Saturday, he held mid-90s velocity throughout his nine-inning stint. That improved stuff from the left side will have Mikulski moving up boards significantly—regardless of his age on draft day (22.2).
Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)—No. 15 (+39)
Bachman is the biggest riser among college arms in the top-two round range, jumping from No. 54 to a solid, middle-of-the-first talent after showcasing some of the best pure stuff in the country.
After sitting in the 92-93 mph range a year ago, Bachman is now sitting 95-96 with his fastball and has been up to 100-101 mph at his best this season. On top of that, he throws a nasty, mid-to-upper-80s slider that features hard biting action and two-plane break that has dominated hitters both in and out of the zone. With two pitches that could be 70-grade offerings, Bachman fits stuff-wise with almost anyone in the country.
Where teams will be hesitant is in regard to Bachman’s delivery and reliever risk. He has a delivery that some scouts have described as rigid, and plenty of length to his arm action in the back—though he has shortened it up a tick since the 2020 season. There could also be medical questions, as Bachman was scratched in week three due to arm soreness and missed two weeks. He has pitched in short outings every week since March 20 and been effective, throwing nine total innings and racking up 16 strikeouts in the process.
Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.—No. 19 (+67)
Chandler is perhaps one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the 2021 class. A high school quarterback who is committed to Clemson for baseball and football (where he would play receiver and practice as a backup QB), Chandler can also windmill dunk on the basketball court, throw a football 40 yards with his off (left) hand, and is a switch-hitting shortstop when he’s not throwing 97 mph on the mound.
One scout said Chandler had “the biggest helium of anyone” in the class in March, after Chandler came out stronger and more physical, with better strikes than he has shown in the past. In addition to a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range, Chandler has flashed above-average secondaries in a curveball and changeup, with the former showing plus more frequently than the latter.
Some scouts believe Chandler is a first round talent as a position player and a pitcher, while others believe he is more raw on the hitter side and not quite at that sort of level. He makes things look easy defensively thanks to his athleticism, but he will need to refine his footwork, while at the plate he has a line drive stroke with plus raw power from both sides.
Given Chandler’s multi-sport background, most teams believe there is significant upside potential to unlock whenever Chandler begins to focus on just baseball—or perhaps on just one position.
Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach, Calif.—No. 28 (+62)
Previously a primary catcher, Hurd used to come into games as a reliever for his high school team where he would step on the mound and simply try to throw as hard as he could. When Covid-19 shut down his season last spring, Hurd realized his potential on the mound and began to focus on pitching, exclusively.
This spring he was part of a West Coast team that traveled down to Arizona to play local high school teams, where he was scouted by significant numbers of evaluators against strong competition. Scouts have marveled at his clean delivery, physical projection (listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds) and feel for four pitches—all of which could be above-average.
Hurd fits the mold of a high school pitcher with advanced athleticism and body control, who is topping out around 94 mph now, but could take big velocity strides in the future. He has the potential for two different swing-and-miss breaking balls and has shown a changeup that gets above-average future projections—loud praise for a prep pitcher. He’s worked with pitching coach Kevin Gunderson, who helps train many Northwest pitchers, including 2020 first-rounder Mick Abel.
“I really enjoy watching Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals,” Hurd told Baseball America. “He has a four-pitch mix, has a wipeout slider, is obviously unbelievable athletic and moves super well. What I admire so much is he can move four pitches around the zone with power and attack the strike zone with wipeout stuff. That’s a guy I look up to for sure, another Southern California guy. So that’s what I’m trying to shoot for.”
*Videos above via ESPN+ & Fordham Athletics