2021 Nevada Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Whitaker’s stock continued to climb during his senior season at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, making it less likely that he will fulfill his commitment to Arizona. He stands out for his frame and athleticism with at least three plus tools in his kit. Primarily a two-way shortstop and pitcher during his prep career, Whitaker spent more time this year in right field, with center field likely being his home at the next level. He’s a plus-plus runner but yielded the center field position to other speedy outfielders on his high school squad. A plus arm and power bat will allow him to fit into any outfield position in the future. He has plus power, but the hit tool is a question mark as there’s plenty of swing and miss with a grooved swing. Whitaker is a max-effort type of player with good makeup. He’s a known commodity to amateur scouts, having been a regular in tournaments and the showcase circuit for the entirety of his prep career, often playing up in age levels. Whitaker has also been well-known as a pitcher but will be drafted as a position player and could go as high as the second round.
DiLandri is one of the toolsiest players currently outside the upper-echelon of the 2021 high school class. He had a strong summer showcase season, but observers wanted to see more out of him during his senior high school season. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound outfielder, DiLandri is a plus athlete who has premier bat speed, running ability, arm strength and raw power. He’s a plus runner and has the natural tools to stick in center field, but he will need to improve his routes and jumps to continue in the middle of the outfield. He might be a better fit in right field where his arm will work. There are some pure bat-to-ball questions which could limit his ability to tap into his plus raw power, but DiLandri did simplify his swing last summer and showed better contact ability at the Area Code Games than he did previously. His swing still gets out on the front side and he’s jumpy and not entirely comfortable in the batter’s box. Scouts would also like to see more energy and enthusiasm from DiLandri on the field. Committed to Texas Christian, DiLandri is considered unsignable, meaning that his name may not be called this year.
McDougal, whose father pitched in the minor leagues, isn’t as well known in draft prospect circles because he didn’t play in a lot of the big events, other than the 2020 Area Code Games, leading into his senior high school season. With a solid, projectable frame, McDougal is still very much an intriguing project with a very loose arm that delivers a fastball in the 92-94 mph range, touching 96 mph. His breaking ball, best labeled as a slurve, has a wide range of speeds and can be a plus pitch when he consistently delivers it at mid-80s slider speed. He slows his arm and doesn’t have a lot of feel for an 81-85 mph changeup. He has below-average command, in part because of a delivery with a head whack and plenty of moving parts, which could indicate a future as a bullpen arm, and he doesn’t work out of the windup much. McDougal is committed to Oregon.
Walsh split his athletic career in high school between baseball and football, playing defensive end and tight end on the gridiron. Big and physical, with a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, Walsh has impressive plus raw power, but some scouts worry about his natural feel to hit while others see more feel there. His power is mostly to the pull side, but he can also hit the ball to all fields. A hitch in his swing could prevent him from catching up to velocity and he’s limited to first base, but he has impact potential for teams who believe in the swing. He has strength and body control, and firming up his body would improve his athleticism. A below-average runner, Walsh should be fine at first base. He has an Oregon commitment, with some observers believing that he could turn himself into a more desirable draft pick in three years if he goes to college and continues to develop as a hitter. For now, Walsh is not a finished product by any means, but the power alone is sure to make him an alluring candidate on Day Two of the draft. Walsh also pitched throughout his prep career, but if drafted it will be as a first baseman. Right now, he’s more of a block of clay that could be formed into a solid source of power from the left side. Whether that happens in pro ball or at Oregon is to be determined.
Cortez is more of an under-the-radar draft prospect, not having appeared in many high school showcases going into his senior year, and there would likely be more draft buzz if teams believed he’d forgo his Arizona commitment. He was part of a much-followed Silverado High staff along with teammate Tanner McDougal. Despite standing just over 6 feet with plenty of athleticism, Cortez has a lightning arm delivering a fastball 92-97 mph. He’s still learning how to pitch, so there’s a lot of dreaming involved in trying to project Cortez’s future. His low-80s slider has 11-to-5 shape and could be a plus pitch in time, and his mid-80s changeup is still very much a work in progress. Cortez is very competitive on the mound.
Avina impressed scouts this spring out of Spanish Springs High in Sparks, Nev., and brings a solid all-around tool set to the table. He’s a good athlete with plenty of twitch in his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame and scouts think he has a chance to be an above-average hitter, though he hasn’t faced the best competition so that evaluation is tough and is perhaps split amongst the industry. Some teams really like his swing and think he’ll have a chance to get to an above-average hit tool in the future with a few tweaks that will let him elevate the ball more consistently. Avina has a chance to stick in the middle of the field somewhere, whether that’s at shortstop, second base or center field. His arm is also strong enough that it might become plus in the future. He’s committed to Nevada and could blow up if he makes it to campus, but there’s plenty of interest in him inside the top-10 rounds if he’s signable.
Cuevas was drafted by the Brewers in 2018 after his high school career in Palm Desert, Calif. After three years at the junior college level with College of Southern Nevada, Cuevas will move on either to the Division I level or pro ball for next season. He’s been a two-way player at CSN and could be drafted as either a pitcher or a hitter, but his future likely will be on the mound. He’s a good athlete and an intense competitor whose best attribute is a fastball up to 94 mph. He posted an 8-1, 3.00 record with a 76-to-23 strikeout-to-walk rate in his final year with the Coyotes. He has solid pitchability and mixes in a hard breaking ball and a changeup with his heater. Cuevas also posted a batting line of .353/.489/.633. with 10 home runs in 2021, numbers that were consistent with his totals in his previous two seasons. He projects as more of a bullpen arm in the pro game and is committed to Cal State Fullerton if he chooses to stay in school for another year.
The question as to why Sharts struggled with his control in his third season at Nevada can likely now be answered by the fact that the junior righthander required Tommy John surgery after six starts. Because of how well he pitched in past years, the injury may actually boost his draft stock with the likelihood that he’ll revert to previous form after a successful rehab period. Sharts was seen as a third- to fifth-round talent coming out of high school in 2018, when he ranked as the No. 162 prospect in the 2018 class, and that may be where he fits in this draft. An athletic righthander who repeats his delivery well out of a 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, Sharts was up to 95 mph last fall but was mostly in the 89-92 mph range this spring, with an invisible fastball that plays up and gets ride up in the zone. He can spin a solid curveball at 77-80 mph, a plus pitch that’s wicked when it’s right but he sometimes gets on the side of it. His 80-83 mph changeup has progressed since high school, but it’s still a below-average pitch. His control and command were spotty all season—with 32 walks in just 31.2 innings—and the command of his pitches caused them to all play down. Because of the injury, Sharts could be viewed as a money-saving pick.
The native of British Columbia started his college career at Cal State Northridge in 2020, playing sparingly in the shortened season before transferring to the College of Southern Nevada, where he led the offense for the juco powerhouse. Palmegiani posted video-game numbers, with 26 home runs in 203 at-bats and a batting line of .389/.521/.867. He also walked (36) nearly as many times as he struck out (38), and was hit by a pitch 23 times. The power is his calling card, but some scouts wonder about the swing and miss in his game. Even more concerning is his defense, with his unsightly fielding percentage of .799 coming mostly at third base. A below-average defender with poor footwork and hands, his likely landing spot is in the corner outfield, where his average arm and fringe-average speed will play. Palmegiani may need more hitting instruction in order to better manipulate the barrel, and he didn’t face much premium velocity in junior college, which gives pause as to whether he will be able to handle the premium velocity that he’ll face in pro ball. He’s a risky pick for many reasons, but the raw power, along with good makeup, will be alluring enough to get him taken in the top-10 rounds. Although committed to Arizona, he’s considered to be signable.
10. Josh Swales, RHP, JC of Southern Nevada
Source: JC • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 178 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
11. Jack-Thomas Wold, 1B, Nevada-Las Vegas
Source: 4YR •
12. Justin Olson, 1B, JC of Southern Nevada
Source: JC •