Baseball Factory All-Star Classic: 10 Things We Learned About The 2021 Class
The Baseball Factory All-Star Classic took place last Sunday in Frisco, Texas, showcasing many of the premium prospects in the 2021 high school class.
Fifteen of the top 30 players in the 2021 prep class were rostered between the two teams, and two of the top three players in the 2022 high school class were also in attendance. The event is annually one of the premier scouting opportunities and that was no different in 2020, despite a later date and a different location than usual.
Here are ten things we learned about the 2021 class in the game—along with comments from Baseball Factory Executive VP of Baseball Operations Steve Bernhardt.
1. Vanderbilt’s continued pitching spoils
Righthander Christian Little started the game on the mound, and would have given the game a 16th top 30 prospect were he still eligible in the 2021 class. The Illinois pitcher instead is choosing to enroll early at Vanderbilt and join a pitching staff that already includes Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, Hugh Fisher, Spencer Jones, Chris McElvain and Patrick Reilly—just to name a few.
The Commodores at this point could create multiple starting rotations that would be competitive at the highest collegiate level, and adding Little will give them yet another first-round talent on the bump. In this game, Little was near his best, striking out the side with a fastball that was overpowering up in the zone. He generated three whiffs with the pitch and ran it up to 93 mph while also mixing in an upper-70s curveball that had solid 11-to-5 shape.
"Christian threw great in Texas," Bernhardt said. "He struck out the side and he had the best command of his stuff that I have seen. His delivery looked in sync and he threw his fastball confidently to both sides of the plate."
Little was just the first arm to impress, but he was far from the only one...
2. Kansas RHP Ben Kudrna continues to show a complete pitching package
We’ve heard that some teams are heavily in on the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Louisiana State commit and it’s abundantly clear why. If we were giving out best tools for this game, Kudrna would safely land among the top three in control, fastball, breaking ball and changeup categories. It was simply a fantastic all-around performance.
Kudrna threw two no-hit innings while striking out three batters and showing a legitimate three-pitch mix. Kudrna threw his fastball in the 89-91 mph range with some sink and riding life and did a nice job spotting the pitch to both sides of the plate. He got three whiffs on his fastball. He also got a pair of whiffs on a short, downer breaking ball in the low 80s, which had solid spin overall and flashed sharp and late biting action at its best. As for his changeup, Kudrna showed that it could be a weapon against lefthanded hitters with good fade and tumbling action in the low 80s that he located down in the zone.
With three swing-and-miss offerings and an easy, loose arm action without a ton of effort Kudrna screams starter profile in every way.
"Huge upside!" Bernhardt said. "He threw two excellent innings. His arm is loose and he threw three quality pitches with very little effort to his delivery. His breaking ball has late bite and it is easy to envision him throwing really hard one day."
While it’s typical for pitchers to stand out in showcase games like this, a few hitters also impressed including...
3. Texas SS Jordan Lawlar, who seems to always manage competitive at-bats
The No. 2 ranked player in the class has a legitimate argument as the top overall prep player thanks to his hitting prowess this summer and standout supplemental tools to go along with the bat.
Lawlar went 1-for-3 in the game with a triple and a walk, but the quality of his at-bats are routinely among the best in the country. Lawlar is an aggressive hitter who likes to swing the bat—particularly against fastballs up in the zone in this look—but also shows enough patience and zone recognition to sit back on breaking stuff just off the plate.
His best hit in this game was a deep triple the other way that went to the warning track in right field—showcasing his opposite field pop and running ability underway on the base paths.
"Outstanding player and young man," Bernhardt said. "Handles himself professionally on and off the field. He really does everything well and leads by example. Tripled in the RCF gap and was solid all weekend in both workouts and the game. Jordan is an excellent defender and had more sneaky power at the plate than we expected."
It’s no surprise now when Lawlar does exciting things on the diamond, given his current draft stock, but a player who might need more hype is...
4. Florida SS Alex Ulloa, who looks like one of the better pure hitters in the class
While Ulloa is listed at just 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, he put a charge into the ball multiple times in this game, going 2-for-2 with a double and triple, scoring a team-high three runs and driving in a trio as well.
Ulloa impressed scouts with his hitting ability and the surprising strength and quickness of his hands throughout the summer. While he isn’t overly projectable and doesn’t have the loud tools you typically see from day one hitters, evaluators think he’s the sort of player who makes the most out of everything he has.
The Oklahoma State commit doesn’t have massive raw power, but it’s become quite clear he has no trouble stacking up extra-base hits in-game against some of the better pitchers in the class. While Ulloa currently ranks No. 71 in the high school class, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him trend up as he continues to do damage with the bat.
"Alex made a name for himself at the Baseball Factory All-Star Classic," Bernhardt said. "We have seen him many times over the years, and he did in Texas what we’ve seen him do at every Baseball Factory event—he hit the ball with authority, played excellent defense and showed outstanding energy at all times. He has big tools and uses them in games."
Another player who could trend upwards after this performance is...
5. Pennsylvania RHP Michael Morales, the second-ranked prep arm in the Northeast
Morales checks in as the No. 49 prospect in the high school class, but has a lot of traits that Kudrna—mentioned above—possesses.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Morales showed a solid three-pitch mix out of a simple, clean arm action and delivery. The ball comes out of his hand easy and given the way he filled up the strike zone, it’s easy to see him moving forward as a starter.
The Vanderbilt commit threw his fastball in the 92-93 mph range for the most part, but also spun a solid 80-82 mph breaking ball and mixed in a changeup in the mid 80s as well. None of the offerings are currently plus, but given his all-around package of stuff and strikes, there’s a lot to like moving forward.
"Michael is one of the most under-the-radar RHPs in the class," Bernhardt said. "Everything about him screams long-term starter. He was up to 94 mph with ease, he has a fluid delivery and arm stroke, and he has a quality breaking ball and change to go with the FB. He has the look of a big riser next spring."
Morales threw one inning and struck out two batters without allowing a hit or a run, but he wasn’t the only Northern arm to impress…
6. Canadian RHP Calvin Ziegler is back and better
Ziegler was originally a member of the 2020 draft class, and he ranked No. 417 on the BA 500 last year. But this summer he’s taken a big jump in both stuff and control. Previously a fastball/slider pitcher who topped out around 93 mph, Ziegler refined his delivery and has gotten his fastball up to 97 mph at its best, with a better breaking ball that has top-to-bottom, downer shape.
In this event, Ziegler worked a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout, while showing solid fastball command to both sides of the plate and running the pitch up to 95 mph. He mixed in his breaking ball at 82 mph and a changeup in the 85 mph range, while showing a simple delivery and easy finish, though his arm action does have a bit of length in the back.
"Power RHP with life to his fastball that was up to 95," Bernhardt said. "He threw quality strikes in his outing and seems to be in total control on the mound. His slider has late, tight break and he has present strength that allows him to repeat his delivery very well."
Given Ziegler’s history, scouts should be quite familiar with him, but that isn’t the case for...
7. California OF Tyree Reed, who is still trying to put it all together
A number of players from the West Coast weren’t seen too frequently this summer and that was certainly the case for Reed—who scouts believe is one of the most talented players in the class. Reed ranks No. 4 in the class because of his handful of plus tools (speed, defense, arm strength) and the future projection on his lean frame, but evaluators will want to be sure of his bat.
In this game, Reed struggled. It seemed like he was still shaking off some of the rust, as he went 1-for-5 at the plate with three strikeouts, swinging and missing against fastballs, changeups and breaking balls, while also expanding the zone low and away multiple times. He was also caught stealing second base when he did get on.
"Great to see him on the field!" Bernhardt said. "He is a high-ceiling prospect with very good feel for the barrel and eye/hand coordination. He generates good bat speed from the left side and looks to be a future impact bat who glides to balls in the OF."
Reed showed a glimpse of his potential in his final at-bat of the day, turning a fastball around and poking it through the right side of the infield. While Reed’s upside is exciting, his Californian counterpart might have had the more impressive showing as…
How MLB Scouting Departments Grade The 2021 Draft Class
BA surveyed major league scouting departments and asked teams to grade the class on a 20-80 scale in a number of different categories.
8. SS Marcelo Mayer could be the best defensive shortstop in the class
Mayer didn’t do much with the bat in this game—he went 0-for-4 at the plate—but saw plenty of action at shortstop in just the first inning of the game.
Long, lanky and listed at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Mayer has plenty of physical projection in his body but still moves around the field with fluid and quick actions. He fielded a routine, broken bat ground ball that wasn’t too much of a challenge on his first defensive chance, but showed silky smooth actions and choppy footwork as he approached the ball.
In his second chance, Mayer muffed a ground ball to his backside that simply popped out of his glove, but he made up for it a few moments later by showing range up the middle and an athletic, diving stop on a ball that would have been a single with most shortstops.
"For me, he is the top prospect in a very deep and talented class," Bernhardt said. "The ease with which Marcelo does everything combined with his 6-foot-3 projectable frame, his ability to stay at shortstop, and the smooth, lefthanded stroke with emerging power make him a unique and very exciting player to dream on."
While Mayer does have impressive offensive upside as well, his defense looked like the carrying tool in this game. Speaking of tools...
9. Florida RHP Karson Ligon has a case for the best changeup in this game
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Miami commit went to the changeup early and often in his one inning of work, generating a pair of whiffs with the pitch.
Ligon threw the pitch with impressive arm speed and it sat around the 80 mph range for the most part, with good fading life. He managed to spot it down in the zone consistently and the movement of the pitch made it particularly effective against lefthanded hitters.
Ligon touched 92 mph with his fastball, but sat in the 89-90 range and also mixed in a slow curveball in the upper 60s, but it was the changeup that stood out the most for him in this outing and his control of the pitch was better than his fastball or curveball control.
"Karson has some of the best fastball life in the 2021 RHP group," Bernhardt said. "His fastball seems to explode at the plate and we have seen it up to 96 mph in the past. He is another with starter traits, as he is a strike thrower with two quality secondary offerings."
10. Finally, the No. 1 player in the 2022 prep class already looks exciting
One of the best parts about the Baseball Factory All-Star Classic, is the fact that two underclassmen are always involved, giving a sneak peak at next year’s top talent. Last year at the event, Christian Little was one of the underclassmen involved and he’s done nothing but live up to the hype.
The No. 1 ranked player in the 2022 class, Green’s current physicality sets him apart. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with plenty of natural strength and power in his lower and upper halves. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering his bloodlines—his father Eric played in the NFL—but is impressive nonetheless. While Green’s production in the game was minimal (he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout), his power potential is tremendous and the in-game hitting prowess he showed throughout the summer should have scouts bearing down on him heavily with a talented IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) high school team.
"Wow! He is a special athlete and baseball player," Bernhardt said. "The tools are loud! The frame is outstanding. His ability to play the game and use his tools is at another level than most his age. We have seen a 6.28 in the 60, 103 mph exit velocity off the tee, and 95 mph raw arm strength. He belongs firmly in the 1-1 conversation for the 2022 draft."