Image credit: Sal Frelick (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam)
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 looking at a how the 2021 Northeast class has a chance to be a standout year. You can see previous Stock Watch installments below:
Top 30 Prospect To-Do Lists | 10 Sleepers | Bearing Down On 1st Round Pitchers | Checking In On 1st Round Bats | 10 Early-Season Risers | A Historic High School SS Class? |10 Risers On Our BA 300 Update
The Northeast region of the country isn’t quite as talked about as draft hotspots like California, Florida and Texas, but the area has quietly produced the best player in baseball—Mike Trout—and big league veterans including George Springer, Charlie Morton, Dellin Betances and Kyle Hendricks.
Several young players from the Northeast have reached the bigs in recent years and are looking to establish themselves, including righthanders Ian Anderson—the highest-drafted player out of the Northeast since Ben Davis went No. 2 overall in 1995 —and Aaron Civale, while prospects like outfielder Austin Hendrick, righthanders Josiah Gray, Nick Bitsko and Alex Santos, and infielders Anthony Volpe, Grant Lavigne and Jeremy Pena are among many looking to become the next wave of talent from the region.
In any year, Northeastern states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont) can be difficult to scout. The weather is a challenge and colleges routinely travel south to begin their seasons in warm-weather states, while the high school seasons are among the latest to get going in any area in the country.
That challenge is amplified in 2021, as many high school seniors didn’t get to play their junior seasons at all due to the coronavirus pandemic and won’t start their spring seasons until April or May in some cases.
And this isn’t a year where teams can afford to skimp on the area, as scouts have been raving about the strength of the 2021 Northeastern class since last summer.
“It’s one of the better years I’ve ever had,” said one area scout.
Recent strong years for the Northeast include 2016 and 2011. The 2016 draft featured six first-round picks from the region, headlined by high schoolers Ian Anderson, Jay Groome and Alex Kirilloff—all of whom were taken within the first 15 picks. The 2011 draft featured four first-rounders from the region, though three came from the college ranks, including George Springer and Matt Barnes out of Connecticut and Joe Panik out of St. John’s.
“This year I think trumps (2016) in terms of the amount of depth,” the scout said. “ … From talking with other guys the most comparable year might be 2011.”
One front office official said the region was “at least a 70” on the 20-80 scale thanks to “near unprecedented high school depth.”
The 2021 class doesn’t feature the high school talent of the same top-tier caliber that Anderson and Groome provided in 2016, but when accounting for overall depth it stands out from recent years.
|Year||Top 300 Players|
The top 300 players in any class roughly correlate to the first 10 rounds of a draft, so how is this year’s 2021 Northeast class shaping up to a typical draft year for the area? Since 2000, the region has produced an average of 18 players per year among the top 10 rounds, with a low of 11 (excluding the five-round 2020 draft) in 2003 and a high of 24, which was attained in 2000, 2011 and 2014.
Below is a chart of the number of picks in the first 10 rounds in each draft year this century, with 2021 represented not by top 10 round picks, but the number of players currently ranked within that talent range:
Top 10 Round Picks
So, on paper, it seems like the Northeast region would at least have a chance to set a new high for players drafted among the top 10 rounds. But, it’s worth coming back to the comment about the unprecedented high school depth before we get ahead of ourselves.
Sixteen of the 28 players ranked in the top 10 round range in the 2021 class come from the high school ranks. The figure represents a number of prep players significantly higher than any draft class has seen among the top 10 rounds since 2000. The most Northeast high school players selected among the top 10 rounds this century is 11—from the 2011 class.
That year is notable because it was the last year teams weren’t restricted by the bonus pool draft format that is in place today. From 2000-2011, teams averaged just over seven (7.08) Northeast high school players selected among the top 10 rounds, while that number dipped to just over five (5.25) from 2012-2019—likely because of the signing bonus requirements of many high school players.
So while the region is overflowing with talented high school players, teams have either been unable or unwilling to spend as much draft capital on the high school ranks in the last decade that they did in the first decade of the 21st century.
“Yeah, I would agree with them that this is a very strong class, from a Northeast standpoint,” said Boston College assistant coach Greg Sullivan. “But I think even going back to high school, when all of these (college) draft-eligible players were in high school (in 2018) I think there was a lot of athleticism in that group and a lot of potential for that group to evolve into a special class like this.”
That 2018 high school class included Eagles players Sal Frelick and Cody Morissette, who could be day one players this year, but also includes players like Michigan lefthander Steve Hajjar and Vanderbilt infielder Dominic Keegan—both of whom are performing at a high level outside of the Northeast region but are high school products of the area.
With 300 players currently ranked in the 2021 draft class, we compared the Northeast class this year to the players ranked among the top 300 players on the final BA 500 draft rankings for the last five years.
By every measure, the 2021 Northeast class seems strong in overall depth, but the talent at the very top seems to be what’s keeping it from an 80-grade class. This year’s class has just one player ranked among the top 15 in the class (Frelick, No. 6), while the 2016 class had three such players with Groome (No. 3), Anderson (No. 12) and Kirilloff (No. 15).
But what about day one talents?
The first two rounds (and supplemental rounds) in 2021 go 71 picks deep, so let’s compare that “day one” talent range of this year’s class to previous years. The chart below shows top 71 picks from 2000-2020, with players ranked 71 or better shown for the 2021 class.
“Day One Talents”
Again, the 2021 class—at least as we sit here in mid April—seems to stand out for its impressive depth, regardless of where you try to draw the line in order to calculate that depth. Frelick is the top player in the area, ranked No. 6 on the BA top 300. He’s hitting like one of the best position players in the class and has the toolset to go inside the first 10 picks on top of that.
“What makes Sal such a special player is that he just has the ability to kind of slow the game down,” Sullivan said. “He sees things once, or is told something once and he is able to put it in his database and keep it there for when he needs it.”
After Frelick, there are a number of high-upside, toolsy high school players who could become first-rounders: Massachusetts outfielder Joshua Baez (No. 21), New York catcher Joe Mack (No. 23), Pennsylvania outfielder Benny Montgomery (No. 27) and New Jersey righthander Chase Petty (No. 32).
Below are each of the Northeast players in the 2021 class currently ranked on the BA 300:
|6||Sal Frelick||OF||Boston College||Massachusetts|
|21||Joshua Baez||OF||Dexter Southfield HS, Brookline, Mass.||Massachusetts|
|23||Joe Mack||C||Williamsville East HS, East Amherst, N.Y.||New York|
|27||Benny Montgomery||OF||Red Land HS, Lewisberry, Pa.||Pennsylvania|
|32||Chase Petty||RHP||Mainland Regional HS, Linwood, N.J.||New Jersey|
|52||Lonnie White Jr.||OF||Malvern (Pa.) Prep||Pennsylvania|
|55||Anthony Solometo||LHP||Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken, N.J.||New Jersey|
|56||Cody Morissette||SS||Boston College||Massachusetts|
|65||Michael Morales||RHP||East Pennsboro HS, Enola, Pa.||Pennsylvania|
|80||Mason Pelio||RHP||Boston College||Massachusetts|
|125||Matt Mikulski||LHP||Fordham||New York|
|135||Pierce Coppola||LHP||Verona (N.J.) HS||New Jersey|
|194||Dennis Colleran||RHP||North Attleborough (Mass.) HS||Massachusetts|
|203||Shane Panzini||RHP||Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic HS||New Jersey|
|207||Sean Hard||RHP||St. Joseph’s Regional HS, Montvale, N.J.||New Jersey|
|217||Miles Langhorne||RHP||Greenwich (Conn.) HS||Connecticut|
|219||Jackson Linn||OF/RHP||Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin HS||Massachusetts|
|221||Ian Murphy||RHP||St. John’s||New York|
|224||Ryan Cardona||RHP||Marist||New York|
|229||Jacob Steinmetz||RHP||Hebrew Academy Five Towns and Rockaways, Lawrence, N.Y.||New York|
|231||Christian Moore||SS||Suffield (Conn.) Academy||Connecticut|
|243||Jack Findlay||LHP||Roxbury HS, Succasunna, N.J.||New Jersey|