2021 Virginia Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Triantos wasn’t scouted heavily last summer because at the time he was a member of the 2022 high school class, ranking as a top-50 prospect in the prep group. In the fall, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound shortstop reclassified for 2021 and he’s had an excellent season for an impressive Madison High club in Vienna, Va. Triantos is a North Carolina commit, but there’s a chance he doesn’t make it to Chapel Hill given his performance this spring, though the industry does seem a bit split on him, perhaps because of his more limited scouting history. Triantos is a bat-first infielder whom scouts think could develop into a plus hitter with solid power potential. He swings with intent, has solid bat speed and has improved his body over the offseason, though he’s filled out at the moment and doesn’t project for a ton more physically. He’s a solid athlete and a plus runner now, though that run grade could back up as he continues to mature. Defensively, he has plus arm strength that would work for shortstop, but most scouts seem to think he’ll be a better fit at second or third base, where he’ll provide solid glovework. Triantos has touched 96 mph on the mound with a good breaking ball and below-average changeup and cutter, but most teams prefer his upside as a hitter. For teams high on his bat, he could be picked among the top-two rounds.
Abbott ranked as the No. 132 prospect in the 2020 class and was one of many players who expected to hear his name called but got squeezed out of the shortened five-round draft. He might look back one day and be thankful for that, as Abbott has transitioned into Virginia’s Friday night role after being an excellent reliever for three years and tremendously improved his draft stock. Abbott posted a 2.85 ERA in 15 starts and 94.2 innings, while sitting near the top of the leaderboard in the country with 142 strikeouts (13.5 K/9) compared to just 29 walks (2.8 BB/9). He doesn’t have a classic starter’s frame—listed at 6 feet, 180 pounds—but has a solid three-pitch mix fronted by a fastball/curveball combination that has proven lethal in the ACC. Abbott sits around 90-91 mph with his fastball but has been up in the 95-98 mph range a handful of times. The pitch plays up thanks to some of the best riding life in the class, though, and he has some of the best whiff rates against his fastball of any college arm in the class. His go-to secondary is an upper-70s, 12-to-6 breaking ball that plays well off his fastball and is at least an above-average offering and this spring he’s more than doubled the usage of a mid-80s changeup that has developed well and gives him a solid third pitch. Abbott was coached by big league reliever Billy Wagner in high school and has the mentality to succeed in the bullpen, but there’s no reason a team shouldn’t try him out as a starter given his success this spring. It would be surprising to see him get past the third round.
Gelof was a talented two-way player at a strong Cape Henlopen program in Lewes, Del., and was the Delaware Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018. He made it to Virginia after the Indians drafted him in the 38th round and has been a consistent offensive presence for the Cavaliers since stepping on campus. Gelof hit .300/.380/.464 with eight home runs in 57 games this spring and has a solid all-around tool set to go with his solid track record as a hitter in the ACC. Gelof has above-average raw power, though most of his in-game homers have gone to left field this spring. That’s not to say he’s a super pull-oriented hitter, as he has the ability to shoot balls to the opposite field, but for now his power plays mostly to the pull side. Gelof has no issues at all catching up to velocity and hammered fastballs this spring, but has struggled with secondary pitches, particularly recognizing and driving breaking stuff. He does have a knack for the barrel and lowered his strikeout rate this spring, but at times gets off-balance in his swing. Scouts seem split on his defensive ability, with some seeing an above-average defender with average arm strength at the hot corner, and others believing he’ll need to move to a corner outfield position in the long term because he’s struggled to throw from multiple arm slots. Gelof is an average runner but has good instincts on the bases and went 31-for-38 (82%) in stolen base attempts in his career.
Back in 2018, Vasil looked like he could have been one of the first pitchers selected and had a chance to go among the top-10 picks. However, he got injured during his high school season and emailed teams before the draft that he would honor his commitment to Virginia. Three years later, Vasil isn’t seen as a top-of-the-first talent, as his eye-popping stuff out of high school has never fully come back. He posted a 4.89 ERA in 15 starts and 73.2 innings this spring, while striking out 65 batters (7.9 K/9) and walking 17 (2.1 BB/9). Vasil has touched 96 mph with his fastball this spring, but it sits in the 89-91 mph range and is just an average or fringy pitch that gets very little swing and miss. Vasil also throws a curveball, slider and changeup, with most scouts preferring the change out of all his secondaries and questioning his underlying feel for spin. His curveball is a mid-70s, 12-to-6 breaker that looks like a get-me-over pitch more than a wipeout offering, while his slider ranges from the lower-to-upper 80s. Vasil has to rely on advanced command more than overpowering stuff at this point, and he generally shows good feel to spot his four-pitch mix in and out of the zone. At times he nibbles too much, while trying to avoid contact in the zone, so he could be the rare arm with better command than control—in terms of walk rate. If a team believes it can tick up Vasil’s velocity in pro ball or help him improve his breaking stuff or add a cutter, he’s an interesting sleeper pick thanks to his solid pitching ability and his high school pedigree.
Clarke wasn’t scouted last summer after recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had in 2019, but was a big-time pop-up player early this spring after showing a fastball up to 97 mph from the left side, with an impressive ability to spin a breaking ball as well. Scouts who saw him early in the season thought he had the stuff to be a first- or second-round pick. That sort of heat has fallen off throughout the season, however, as Clarke has struggled with consistency and control and his velocity has tapered off. There are scouts who don’t love his arm action, despite plenty of arm speed, and wonder if he’s going to be a reliever at the next level because of his scattered strikes, while others think his control and consistency will come as he gets further away from surgery. Clarke is a solid athlete with a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and is committed to Alabama.
Messinger is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound righthander who has spent his career in Charlottesville splitting time as a reliever and starter. This spring, Messinger threw 56.1 innings (four starts, 22 appearances out of the bullpen) and posted a 4.31 ERA, while striking out 63 batters (10.1 K/9) and walking 21 (3.4 BB/9). He impressed scouts during the ACC Tournament, when he got the start against Virginia Tech and struck out six batters over 5.1 innings of work. With that appearance and a four-pitch mix, there are some scouts who think Messinger can start at the next level. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range, but has been up to 96 at its best, with some downhill plane out of Messinger’s higher, three-quarter arm slot. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup. The slider comes in around 78-81 mph with horizontal and vertical movement and his curveball is a slower breaking pitch in the low-to-mid 70s with similar shape. The two pitches blend together at times. Messinger’s changeup averages around 80-81 mph but he struggles to land the pitch to his glove side and used it infrequently this spring.
Simonelli ranked as the No. 336 player in the 2020 class after bouncing around from Coastal Carolina to St. John’s River (S.C.) JC to Virginia Tech, where he was solid in a starting role through four starts in the shortened 2020 season. This spring, he cut his walk rate fairly significantly—going from 5.5 BB/9 to 3.8 BB/9—and posted a 3.92 ERA over 13 starts and 66.2 innings, with 77 strikeouts (10.4 K/9). Simonelli has a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball, slider/cutter, curveball and changeup. While scouts don’t see a ton of swing-and-miss characteristics with his fastball, he has run it up to 95-96 mph with the ability to cut it, sink it and throw it straight. His slider/cutter is a solid breaking pitch in the 80s and he throws a more top-down curveball in the upper 70s, as well as a mid-80s changeup. With the variations on his fastball and his secondary pitches, Simonelli certainly has a deep enough pitch mix to start, though some evaluators think his fastball would play up in a bullpen role. Simonelli’s delivery fits a reliever profile, with hooking action in the back of his arm stroke and a good bit of head whack and effort in his finish.
Connolly spent three seasons at The Citadel before transferring to Virginia Tech this spring, where he’s split time between starting and relieving. A 6-foot-2, 175-pound lefthander, Connolly posted a 4.14 ERA over 63 innings, with 81 strikeouts (11.6 K/9) and 14 walks (2.0 BB/9). He attacks hitters with an east-west approach that’s certainly not the style of the current big league game, but it seems to work for him while pitching out of a sidearm slot and using a low-80s slider as his primary pitch. He’s thrown it about half the time this spring, compared to his fastball that parks around 90 and gets up to 93 mph—which he’s thrown about a third of the time. Connolly’s third pitch is a 78-82 mph changeup that features slight tumbling action and is thrown down and to his glove side.
McGarry has never had issues striking out batters, but he’s also never had issues walking them. Through the first 126.2 innings of his Virginia career, McGarry struck out 178 batters (12.6 K/9) but also walked 129 (9.2 BB/9). That sort of control will prevent him from having any significant role at the next level, but scouts keep coming back because McGarry’s stuff is so impressive and the rare times he’s locked in and throws the ball over the plate, he looks dominant. Take his outing against Dallas Baptist in the Super Regional as an example: he pitched seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits while striking out 10 batters and walking three. His fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range but gets into the upper 90s and he gets a ton of swings and misses on a low-80s slider that has plenty of two-plane break. On his best days, McGarry sits with a 70 fastball, plus breaking ball and plus changeup, but he also has bottom-of-the-scale control.
A pitchability lefthander, Gerard threw just 41.2 innings this spring after dealing with a groin injury that kept him out for most of April, but he still posted a 3.02 ERA when he was on the mound and struck out 48 batters (10.4 K/9) compared to 12 walks (2.6 BB/9). As with most pitchers who get a “pitchability lefty” tag, Gerard doesn’t have loud stuff. His fastball sits around 88-90 mph and he touches 92-93 at best, but scouts praise his feel for pitching and command of a four-pitch mix. He throws a low-80s slider and a slower curveball in the mid 70s, and his best pitch might be a low-80s changeup that he shows excellent feel to spot and has generated a decent amount of swing and miss this spring. Nothing Gerard throws is above-average but his control seems to be, so if a team thinks it can help him add more velocity or sharpen his breaking stuff, he could be an interesting late sleeper.
Biddison was a bit of a sleeper candidate entering the season, after a strong offensive showing in the shortened 2020 season when he hit .344/.425/.557 over 16 games. Injuries derailed him a bit this spring, as a shoulder injury prevented him from getting on the field until April and he only hit .235/.331/.388 in 26 games. Scouts still like Biddison’s all-around game and solid tool set. He’s a plus runner who probably will need to move to the outfield at the next level, with average raw power and some ability to control the strike zone, but with a bit of swing and miss in his game. Some scouts think he could provide super utility value, but his injury certainly clouds his draft status a bit. Biddison is young for the class and doesn’t turn 21 until the end of July.
Kent entered the season as a top-100 prospect in the class thanks to his bat-to-ball skills, hitting ability and above-average speed as a middle infielder. He fell down draft boards significantly after hitting .242/.339/.394 through 60 games and looking a bit lost at the plate. Kent will have to hit for a high average or get on base at a solid clip to provide offensive value because he has below-average power. Prior to this season, he’d shown a good ability to do that, and he does still control the zone well—with 29 walks to 32 strikeouts—but scouts have real questions about his hitting ability now. Additionally, he’s probably going to be a second baseman in pro ball thanks to fringy arm strength. He still could be a later-round selection for a team that buys into his very solid collegiate track record of hitting and thinks this year is more of an outlier than anything.
Robinson is a projection righthander listed at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds who has shown some flashes for scouts this spring but has been wildly inconsistent from start to start—which could mean teams have massively different opinions and evaluations on him. When he’s on he’s shown a fastball in the low 90s with a breaking ball and a changeup that both look like average pitches, with solid enough strike-throwing ability. That’s the same sort of stuff that Robinson showed last summer, but with the amount of room he has to add strength to his frame, he could add velocity in the next few years as he fills out. Robinson is committed to Texas Tech.
14. Brandon Neeck, LHP, Virginia
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
15. Jay Woolfolk, RHP, Benedictine HS, Richmond
Source: HS • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Virginia
16. Max Cotier, SS, Virginia
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 170 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
17. Joseph Adametz, LHP, Liberty
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 190 • Throws: L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
18. Tyler Dean, RHP, Byrd HS, Vinton, Va.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 195 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Virginia Tech
19. Casey Cook, SS, Freedom HS, South Riding, Va.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 185 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: North Carolina
20. David Erickson, RHP, Liberty
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 195 • Throws: R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
21. Jaylen Guy, OF/INF, Liberty
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 175 • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
22. Elijah Lambros, OF, Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 195 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: South Carolina
23. Antwan Walton, RHP, Maury HS, Norfolk, Va.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 180 • B-T: B-R • Commitment/Drafted: Old Dominion
24. Timothy Williams, LHP, Page County HS, Shenandoah, Va.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 195 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Virginia Tech
25. Will Wagner, 2B, Liberty
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 185 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted