This year’s short-lived college baseball season was unexpected by everyone. College baseball fans were unable to witness generational talents in Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson, Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin and more. The 2020 talent filled draft class is projected to accomplish a list of great feats in the big leagues.
But moving forward, the 2021 draft class is filled with potential franchise aces and building block infielders that could also fill out to be impactful players on big league rosters. There is no doubt that the 2021 draft class will follow the 2020 draft class and achieve big things at the collegiate level and professional level.
Next February when College Baseball returns to normalcy, here are five key and impactful players to watch:
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Kumar Rocker sits atop of the throne for all collegiate pitchers. The Vanderbilt junior and his strong 6-foot-4 frame dominates and rips apart opposing hitters. With only one year under his belt, Rocker has proved he is the best arm in the country with a 12-5 record, 114 strikeouts and best of all, a 19 strikeout No-Hitter against Duke in the Super Regional.
Rocker should be on all teams draft boards as he is the heavy favorite to be selected first overall in the 2021 draft. The junior features a live fastball that can reach the high-90s and a filthy slider to go with it. The 2019 Freshman of the Year will certainly be a name to watch out for next College Baseball season.
Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
With a career 0.83 ERA and an average of 11.6 strikeouts per 9 innings, right-handed pitcher Jaden Hill is set up to have a fantastic junior year. The LSU starting pitcher missed some time his freshman year with an elbow strain, but is ready to get back on track next season.
A projected top-5 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Jaden Hill is foreshadowed to have big success. Hill is equipped with a detrimental fastball and changeup combination that opposing hitters are unable to touch. The right-hander’s slider is trending upwards and if he can perfect it, Major League teams should take note of his high upside on the mound. Many believe Hill will be the number one starter on LSU next season. If Hill is able to keep up his consistency, he’ll have smooth sailing against the competition.
Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
Projected as a top-5 pick in the 2021 draft, UCLA shortstop Matt McLain has drawn a lot of attention this past season. McLain started out the shortened 2020 season with a .297 Batting Average through only 13 games. His OBP and Slugging Percentage were at the top of all of collegiate baseball with .422 and .622, respectively.
The speedy defensive catalyst can roam and feel comfortable at any multiple positions around the diamond. UCLA head coach John Savage has placed McLain many positions including second base and center field. This rare breed of versatility in a player will certainly grab the attention of many Major League organizations. The 2019 Cape Cod League All-Star’s talent level is only rising as he could fill the role as a potential franchise up-the-middle infielder for any team. McLain is certainly a name to watch for this upcoming college baseball season.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Arguably the fastest rising prospect at the collegiate level, sophomore Jack Leiter hasn’t even pitched five games and yet he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. As a freshman, Leiter dazzled crowds with his pinpoint accuracy along with his lights out fastball and hooking curveball. In just four games, the Vanderbilt right hander went 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA with 22 strikeouts. Many describe the New Jersey native as a force on the rubber a that attacks hitters. Leiter’s strong and consistent tempo on the mound sets him ahead from the rest.
Son of former major leaguer, Al Leiter, Jack will compete with teammate Kumar Rocker for the top Vanderbilt pitcher selected in next year’s draft. The college baseball world will witness and experience the generational talent on the same roster in the top two arms in the country on the same team, Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. Coming into the 2021 season as a draft eligible sophomore, Leiter comes into the year with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove that he truly is a top arm in the country.
Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Florida Gators’ outfielder Jud Fabian possesses an elite switch hitting power ranks among the top of college baseball. The 6-foot-2 lead off hitter led the Gators with 19 runs scored in this year’s shortened college baseball season. The All-SEC Second Team outfielder is equipped with quick hands at the plate that can easily translate to the next level of play such as the minor / major leagues. Batting .294 with 20 hits, Fabian is considered an elite bat at the top of the Gators lineup, and in the nation.
Many classify Fabian as a strong runner on the base path and scouts predict that the Florida Gator outfielder will continue to fill out. By filling out, Fabian will easily add more power to his already powerful switch hitting bat. Fabian is currently projected as the 6th overall pick in the 2021 draft, according to Baseball America and don’t be surprised if he ends up in the top-5 or even top-3 by next June.
Honorable Mentions: Adrian Del Castillo, Alex Binelas, Gunnar Hoglund, Colton Cowser
Photo: Duke Chronicle