2021 New Jersey Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Solometo has continued to build his stock from last summer, growing from a promising lefty with a funky delivery into one of the top prep arms in the country. He starts his delivery with a big leg kick leading into a long, deep arm swing in the back reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner's arm action. That delivery adds deception and makes for uncomfortable at-bats, but all those long, moving parts also gave several scouts hesitancy about his ability to repeat and throw strikes consistently. However, Solometo performed well last summer, stamped by an outstanding showing at the Future Stars Series at Fenway Park in September. He continued to show command of both his fastball and slider this spring, though there have been outings where his control backed up and he missed to his arm side. His fastball sits around 89-93 mph with arm-side life and he has the ability to reach back for 96 when he needs an extra gear. He consistently gets ahead of hitters, throwing strikes with his fastball to both sides of the plate. His low-80s slider is a plus pitch at times and Solometo is adept at executing it down in the zone, comfortably throwing it to the back foot of righthanded hitters or landing it to his arm side. Solometo doesn't throw his changeup much and it's hit or miss, but he has shown some feel for that pitch too. Solometo doesn't have the same fastball or athleticism as fellow New Jersey prep pitcher Chase Petty, but he's a lefty who throws more strikes with a less stressful delivery, so some scouts prefer Solometo. His combination of stuff, pitchability and track record should make him one of the first high school pitchers off the board.
Petty is the most famous prep pitcher in the country thanks to a fastball that has been up to 102 mph in a bullpen and 101 in a game this spring. He's one of the hardest-throwing high school pitchers ever, up there with Reds righthander Hunter Greene, who went No. 2 overall in 2017 and also touched 102 mph. In games, Petty's fastball has sat 93-96 mph at times and mid-to-upper 90s in other starts. He complements his fastball with an out pitch in his slider, which has tight spin and sharp bite at its best, though at times it has flattened out on him. It's a pitch that flashes plus and shows glimpses of a potential plus-plus pitch in the future. Petty doesn't need his changeup against high school hitters so he rarely throws it, but he has shown feel for that pitch too. Petty's raw stuff suggests considerable upside, but high school righthanders are a risky group as a whole and Petty has several red flags that give teams reservations. He's a good athlete but it's not an easy, fluid delivery, with considerable effort to his arm action and mechanics. His fastball control has also been erratic, with a tendency to yank the ball well out of the strike zone, especially to his glove side. That causes him to fall behind in too many counts and might lead to a high walk rate early in his pro career. Petty's slider misses a lot of bats, though some scouts have said his fastball doesn't lead to as many swings and misses as they would expect given his velocity. He rarely throws his changeup and it's inconsistent, but some scouts think it has above-average potential too. Petty's profile is similar to Lance McCullers from when he was in high school touching triple-digits with a good slider but also had reliever risk and pitchability questions. If Petty proves durable and can rein in his control, his upside is obvious, but his risk factors are ones that teams weigh more heavily now than they did even a few years ago.
Coppola is built like a lefthanded Tyler Glasnow with a towering 6-foot-8 frame. Like Glasnow in high school, Coppola's velocity fluctuates greatly, but he tantalizes scouts with what he could become. At his best, Coppola has sat in the low 90s, running his fastball up to 95 mph in his first start. At other times he's topped out in the low 90s, with his velocity dipping more to the upper 80s toward the middle innings and mid 80s at times. Coppola has the wide shoulders and strength projection left on his frame to hold more good weight, which should help him not only hold his velocity but potentially throw in the upper 90s. That's a scary thought for a pitcher whose fastball already plays up beyond the radar gun readings because of how much extension he's able to generate. He has an unusually diverse repertoire for a high school pitcher, with a slider, splitter, spike curveball and a cutter. Nothing is plus yet, but he flashes an average or better slider at times and his splitter shows promise to be a bat-missing pitch too. Coppola did walk a lot of hitters last summer and his walk rate this spring has been on the higher end for a top high school pitcher, but several scouts insist that he has better body control and throws more strikes than you would expect for a teenage pitcher his size. Oakland’s 6-foot-7 lefthander A.J. Puk became the sixth overall pick in 2016 after his junior year at Florida, and the hope for a team is to draft Coppola (also a Gators recruit) before he has a similar breakout.
Panzini is one of the oldest players in the high school class. He turns 20 in October, making him a year older than some of the players who are on the older end of the class, and nearly two years older than some of the younger 2021 players. That's a factor that will work against Panzini as teams line up their draft boards, but he does a lot of things that will help him. He has a simple, repeatable delivery that's smooth and under control. He has a strong lower half and generates fastballs that are consistently in the low-to-mid 90s, reaching 96 mph. There's no knockout secondary pitch in his arsenal, but his slider is an average or slightly better pitch at times. Panzini also throws an occasional curveball and a firm, below-average changeup. Panzini has thrown well this spring, though he did get hit hard at times on the showcase circuit last summer. Some teams are less concerned about a high school player's age and place more value on a pitcher with a smooth delivery and a mid-90s fastball, so Panzini could end up going higher than his draft ranking suggests.
Hard has a tall 6-foot-5 frame with more space to fill out and throw harder once he adds weight and strength. His peak fastball is up a tick from where it was last summer, with Hard reaching 95 mph this spring and mostly operating at 89-93. Right now the main draw with Hard is an already impressive fastball with the physical projection to throw harder. He throws four pitches with a slider, curveball and changeup, but none of them is average yet, with below-average to fringy breaking stuff and a fastball-heavy plan of attack. Hard throws with effort in his up-tempo delivery, and while he was an inconsistent strike-thrower last year, his control has been better this spring, though it's still control over command. A team that believes in its ability to help Hard develop his secondary stuff could draft him high enough to keep him from his Boston College commitment, though he might end up at BC to try to raise his stock there.
Findlay came into the spring with attention from Northeast scouts because of his pitchability and feel for spin from the left side, though his fastball hasn't taken the step forward many were hoping to see. Findlay has a smooth, sound delivery and throws mostly 86-90 mph with the ability to touch 91. His touch and feel on the mound is advanced for his age, as he throws a lot of strikes and shows the ability to manipulate his breaking stuff. It's not a plus curveball, but it's a solid-average pitch at times in the mid 70s with good spin and depth, along with an average low-80s slider that can also induce empty swings. Findlay shows feel for a changeup as well. Findlay isn't the most athletic or explosive pitcher, and he turns 19 in August, so he's on the older end of the 2021 class and there might not be much more zip coming to his fastball. The sense among scouts in the Northeast is that Findlay more than likely ends up at Notre Dame, with a chance to develop into one of the better lefties in the ACC.
At 6-foot-6, 185 pounds, Festa has a tall, lanky build with some sneaky projection for a college pitcher to potentially throw harder. Some scouts wonder whether his frame is too narrow to project much more physically from him, but his velocity has crept up from early in the season, when he was sitting 88-92 mph, to 90-94 mph with a peak of 96. The pitch he leans on heavily is his 81-84 mph changeup, which has good separation off his fastball with good tumble and fade at its best. It's inconsistent but flashes as a solid-average pitch, with Festa showing the confidence to throw it ahead or behind in the count. Festa throws a slider and curveball but his breaking stuff is below-average. He could end up in a bullpen role, with a chance he could pump upper-90s fastballs in short bursts if he's able to pack on more weight and strength.
Miceli pitched this spring for Bergen (N.J.) CC and is committed to play for North Carolina next year if he doesn't sign out of the draft. He's not that big, but has shown solid stuff with a low-90s fastball and good feel for his breaking stuff. He's also gotten hit hard and struggled with his control during his outings in the MLB Draft League, so he likely makes it to campus for the Tar Heels.
9. Harrison Rutkowski, LHP, Rutgers
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 230 • B-T: R-L • Commitment/Drafted: Reds '17 (28)
10. Justin Szestowicki, SS, Kingsway Regional HS
Source: HS • Commitment/Drafted: North Carolina
11. Ryan McLinskey, RHP, Seton Hall
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 195 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Seton Hall
12. Rob Hensey, LHP, Monmouth
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 210 • Throws: L •
13. Aries Samek, SS, Teaneck (N.J.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Clemson
14. Brian FitzPatrick, LHP, Rutgers
Source: 4YR •
15. Tywone Malone, 1B, Bergen Catholic HS, Oradell, N.J.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 290 • B-T: R-R •
16. Michael Bello, OF, Pope John XXIII
Source: HS • Commitment/Drafted: Auburn
17. Ian Petrutz, OF, Clearview Regional HS
Source: HS • Commitment/Drafted: Maryland
18. Jerome Huntzinger, C, Seton Hall
Source: 4YR •
19. Oren Abbott, 1B, Millburn
Source: HS • Commitment/Drafted: Duke
20. Matthew Rowe, RHP, Metuchen
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rutgers
21. Matt Potok, RHP, Jackson Memorial
Source: HS • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 225 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Coastal Carolina
22. Jimmy Romano, 3B, St. Joseph's Montvale HS
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Duke
23. Anthony Stephan, SS, Ridgewood
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 175 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Virginia
24. Orlando Pena, 3B/OF, Bergen Catholic
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Coastal Carolina