Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to get live looks at several players listed among the top 100 prospects in our 2021 draft rankings, including multiple projected first-round picks.
Below are reports and videos on those players, with reports based on seeing these players in person and conversations with scouts who have also seen them live this year.
Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
In a year in which not many upper-tier college hitters have distinguished themselves from the pack at the top of the draft, Frelick has been an exception, ranking as the No. 6 prospect for the draft. A 5-foot-9, 175-pound center fielder, Frelick is hitting .360/.438/.576 with 16 walks and 15 strikeouts through 144 plate appearances, putting himself in the mix to be a top-10 overall pick. Frelick is an explosive, bursty athlete with 70 speed, getting home to first consistently in 4.0 seconds from the left side, sometimes in the high 3.9 seconds. He has shown solid defensive instincts to be able to handle center field, showing a fringy-to-average arm in these looks with good accuracy.
Frelick has a fairly simple, direct and quick swing from the left side without much movement. He has good hand-eye coordination with a small strike zone and he mostly stays within that zone, with the bat-to-ball skills to be able to put the ball in play even when he does chase. Frelick does a good job of going with where the ball is pitched, as he can pull his hands inside a pitch up and in and is adept at serving pitches on the outer half the opposite way. Frelick has quick hand speed and sneaky pull power for his size, but it’s more occasional home run power that grades out below-average.
With the way Frelick’s swing works, he does most of his damage when pitchers attack him from the thighs up, showing the ability to drive and elevate those balls, but he can run into issues with pitches in the lower tier of the strike zone or below. He doesn’t put his “A” swing on those pitches, especially against soft stuff down. Frelick still has the hand-eye coordination to serve the ball into play, but it usually leads to a ground ball and him relying on his 70-grade wheels to put pressure on the defense.
That last part is somewhat nitpicking a high first-round pick who should be one of the top college hitters off the board. If everything clicks for Frelick, he can be a spark plug at the top of a lineup while playing a premium position.
Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield HS (Brookline, Mass.)
I’ve seen Baez play four games this spring, which is every game his team has played, with the exception of one road game where no outside spectators were allowed (including scouts) due to the school’s Covid-19 restrictions. Right now, James Wood in Florida is the top-ranked high school outfielder in the class, but Baez has a case for that claim, and he’s playing like a first-round pick (currently the No. 21 prospect on the BA board).
Baez has an exciting package of physicality, explosive athleticism and loud tools. He’s 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with fast bat speed, lots of strength and plus raw power that could develop into a 70 tool. He’s also one of the youngest players in the class, turning 18 at the end of June, so he’s nine months younger than Wood. There’s little question about Baez’s power, but he did show some swing-and-miss tendencies last summer and fall. Last year he didn’t seem to be out of control at the plate for the most part, and so far this year, he has done the same. In his first plate appearance of the season, he lined a breaking ball into the left-center field gap for a double. In 14 trips to the plate that I’ve seen, he’s gone 5-for-11 with three walks and no strikeouts, and three of those six outs were smashed for hard contact. He has swung and missed just three times, once on a breaking ball and twice on fastballs in 2-0 and 3-1 counts where he was looking to launch. He isn’t a free-swinger, showing the ability to manage his at-bats well. He overswings at times when he tries to do too much, so there will probably always be some strikeouts that come with his power, but the quality of his at-bats this spring have been encouraging.
On defense, Baez is an above-average runner in center field with a 70 arm. He’s built like a corner outfielder, but he has a chance to play center field. He has shown good defensive instincts this year, making a sliding catch charging in on a ball and getting good reads off the bat. He’s not a classic gliding center fielder, but more of a power runner who chews up ground in center with good closing speed. Baez might end up outgrowing the position, but he should go out in pro ball and develop as a center fielder at the lower levels. He has a chance to be a George Springer-type physical center fielder with a strong arm capable of staying there, but if he ends up being teammates with a better defensive center fielder, he has the offensive upside where he could slide over to right field and be a plus defender there.
Baez also pitches for his high school team, with a fastball that has ranged from 90-96 mph. He pairs it with tight raw spin at times on his inconsistent breaking ball, but his control is scattered and he‘s fairly raw on the mound because he hasn’t spent much time focusing on pitching. If things don’t work out for him as a hitter, down the road he has a legitimate fallback option as a power-arm reliever, but he’s a first round talent as an outfielder.
Luca Tresh, C, North Carolina State
After the Giants drafted Patrick Bailey with their first-round pick last year, Tresh took over at catcher for North Carolina State. With the way Tresh is playing, the Wolfpack could have first round catchers in consecutive drafts, with Tresh ranked No. 25 on the BA board. Tresh is loose and flexible behind the plate with a plus arm. He showed off that arm multiple times, including when he caught Frelick on a stolen base attempt with an outstanding 1.85-second pop time. He had another laser throw that was right on target, with the only problem being that neither of his middle infielders went to cover the bag (it was a 1.90-second pop time from mitt to the turf behind second base). Tresh has recorded several pop times in the 1.85-to-low-1.9-second range this year. His footwork and exchange are quick, but sometimes this season (particularly early in the year) he has tried to be too quick, causing him to either bobble the transfer or rush his throws that ended up one-hopping the bag. But when he’s able to sync everything up, he produces plus times on his throws to second. Tresh isn’t as athletic as Bailey, and scouts who have seen Tresh this year have noted that there’s some stiffness to his actions and that he doesn’t look like a natural receiver, with six passed balls in 25 games.
Tresh has hit well every season at NC State, though this year is his first as a regular. He’s batting .308/.365/.587 with a team-high eight home runs in 115 plate appearances with 10 walks and 23 strikeouts. He has a spread-out stance with a simple lower half load and takes a professional batting practice with hard line drive contact to all fields and bigger power in games. Tresh is strong and has leverage in his swing with an approach geared to hammer fastballs. He rarely swings through a fastball and does most of his damage against heaters, including a home run and a double in this series, as well as a deep fly out to the left field warning track on a 94 mph fastball from Boston College righthander Mason Pelio.
Tresh’s 20% strikeout rate (which is manageable, but on the high side) seems to mostly stem from offspeed stuff. With the exception of a hanging breaking ball that he lined over the shortstop’s head for a single, Tresh showed swing-and-miss tendencies against both breaking balls and changeups when they were located down or beneath the strike zone. His swing has a bat wrap and he has an out-front contact point suited to pull a fastball, so whether it’s an issue of swing adjustability, approach or pitch recognition, Tresh will have to prove he can adjust to secondary pitches down. As a catcher with a chance to hit for power and control the running game, Tresh could fit into the back of the first round, though other clubs would have him a tier below that range on their boards.
Cody Morissette, 2B, Boston College
Morissette currently ranks as the No. 56 prospect on the BA draft board, which would put him in the second round. Whereas Frelick is a bursty, explosive athlete, Morissette is more of a steady player with a mix of tools that grade out around average, carried by an easy lefthanded swing.
He’s 6 feet, 175 pounds, with a chance to be an offensive second baseman, hitting .264/.382/.429 in 110 plate appearances with 17 walks and 20 strikeouts after working his way back from a hand injury. He has a good setup with quiet hands in a fluid swing that’s calm, smooth and under control with a direct path to the ball. Morissette has a good sense of the strike zone and doesn’t chase much off the plate. His swing is conducive to getting the ball airborne, with good bat speed and a chance for average raw power.
Morissette is an average runner with an average arm. He doesn’t have the range for shortstop, but he’s a comfortable defender at second base, where he’s not flashy but is a fairly steady, reliable defender.
Jose Torres, SS, North Carolina State
Torres was born in the Dominican Republic and graduated from Calvert Hall in Maryland in 2019, when he was a BA 500 draft prospect who went unsigned as a 24th-round pick of the Brewers. He’s now draft eligible as a 21-year-old and immediately draws attention for his defensive skills. Watching him take infield, he’s extremely light on his feet, floating around at shortstop with graceful footwork, fluid actions and quick hands. He’s smooth on both ends of the double play with a swift transfer and good body control. In games he showed quick first-step reads off the bat and a good internal clock, knowing when to get rid of the ball in a hurry and when to slow it down. Torres has shown a 55 arm in the past, though he missed time early this year with an oblique injury and might still be nursing it based on his throws, but he has the arm for shortstop. He went home to first on a groundout in 4.25 seconds from the right side, showing solid-average speed.
Whichever team drafts Torres is going to be drawn to a player who projects as a true shortstop with a chance to be a plus defender. Offensively, there are more questions, but Torres has hit .278/.326/.481 through 86 plate appearances. It’s a handsy, slasher-type approach with an aggressive mentality that leads him to chase pitches outside the zone. Torres does have good hand-eye coordination, but he might need some swing adjustments in pro ball to improve his balance and swing efficiency. He‘s not a big power threat, with the ability to sneak a ball out to his pull side but mostly gap power, most likely projecting as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. Jeremy Peña was a more selective hitter with more strength to his body, but he had some similarities to Torres coming out of Maine when the Astros drafted him in the third round (No. 102 overall) in 2018, and that could be the same neighborhood where Torres ends up getting drafted.
Mason Pelio, RHP, Boston College
A 6-foot-3, 230-pound righthander with big velocity, Pelio came into the year with a lot of buzz as one of the top college pitching prospects in the country. Instead, he got off to a rough start, we dropped him to No. 80 in our latest draft rankings update, and he continued to scuffle. Through eight starts, Pelio has a 6.70 ERA in 41.2 innings with 36 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Pelio’s issues aren’t difficult to diagnose. He throws hard—his fastball sits at 92-95 mph, he ran it up to 98 mph against NC State last weekend and he’s touched 99 this year—but he struggles to throw his fastball for strikes. When he does throw his fastball in the zone, he’s not commanding it, so it’s getting hit hard, often with hitters working from favorable counts. Pelio does have an effective changeup, flashing as an above-average weapon in the mid 80s that he can use to miss bats when he keeps it down, though his control of that pitch has escaped him too often as well. He doesn’t have a reliable breaking ball, with a fringy curveball that doesn’t get many whiffs.
With his stock sliding, Pelio needs to rebound in the second half of the season by showing better fastball command. Whatever team drafts Pelio should continue to develop him as a starter, but long term he might end up in a bullpen role where he can throw upper-90s fastballs in short bursts and won’t have to get through a lineup multiple times.