2021 MLB Draft Preview: The top hitters from this year’s class

Ian Mejia

While the actual event features the most talented amateur players throughout the entire country, this year’s MLB draft is a little more special considering it takes place in Atlanta. Beginning on July 11th, the 2021 MLB Draft will take over Braves Country for three days, in conjunction with the MLB All-Star game, and this year’s class appears loaded with young players from right here in the Southeast. As it gets closer to draft day, we’ll begin our annual coverage of the event as we attempt to analyze the 2021 class and how it pertains to the Atlanta Braves. 

But first, as sort of a primer for the upcoming draft, let’s look at the top hitters and pitchers from the class. Today, we’ll start with the hitting side, examining the top 10 bats according to Baseball America‘s recently released Top 200.


2021’s Top-10 Hitters

#2 Jordan Lawlar, SS Dallas Jesuit HS (TX)
#3 Adrian Del Castillo, C Miami
#4 Marcelo Mayer, SS Eastlake HS (CA)
#7 James Wood, OF IMG Academy (FL)
#8 Matt McLain, SS/OF UCLA
#9 Alex Binelas, 3B Louisville
#11 Jud Fabian, OF Florida
#13 Brady House, SS Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
#14 Kahlil Watson, SS Wake Forest HS (NC)
#16 Colton Cowser, OF Sam Houston State


#2. Jordan Lawlar, SS

Drawing comps to former first-rounder and current Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr., Lawlar is a five-tool shortstop from Texas that’s currently committed to NCAA powerhouse Vanderbilt. However, Commodore fans will most likely miss out on the prep phenom as BA has him pegged as the second-best player in the ’21 class, behind only pitcher Kumar Rocker (a current Vandy product). At 6-2, 185 pounds, the speedy Lawlar is expected to stick at short as a pro, and with an already above-average hit and power tool, this is a player capable of eventually developing into one of the game’s most complete players.  


#3. Adrian Del Castillo, C

A 5-11, 211-pounds, in his third year at the University of Miami, the bat-first Del Castillo has worked hard to improve his defense behind the plate, spending time with Royals veteran Salvador Perez over the offseason. Although his arm strength, receiving and blocking could reportedly use some work, there’s no doubt Del Castillo will flourish on offense as pro.

In 2019, his first season with the Hurricanes, the former 36th round pick (2018) hit .331 with 12 home runs and 72 RBI, although of his 61 games that year only 11 came behind the plate. After a stint in the Cape Cod League that summer, Del Castillo’s primary position is now catcher, but as of this writing, he’s still only logged 33 games there in parts of three seasons (with 9 there so far during the ’21 campaign). Regardless, the lefty-hitting Del Castillo is again having a solid year thus far. Entering Wednesday, he’s up to a .293 AVG (.850 OPS) with 4 XBH and 11 RBI in 10 games. 


#4. Marcelo Mayer, SS


Considered the top defensive shortstop of the 2021 class (per BA), Mayer is a bit bigger than Lawlar above and projects to potentially wield more power once he fully grows into his body. A 6-3, 185-pounds, Mayer comes out of California’s loaded Eastlake High School, a prep powerhouse that has produced a few early-round selections over the last few drafts. While Mayer’s true power potential varies among evaluators, everyone seems to agree when it comes to the 18-year-old’s hitting and defensive abilities. Some are even comping him to the Dodgers Corey Seager. 


#7. James Wood, OF


Perhaps one of the biggest center fielders in recent memory, the 6-6, 230-pound Wood is the class’s biggest riser, according to BA, due in part because of his added size. And the center field position reportedly isn’t a gimmick, either, as the 18-year-old Wood is said to have ran a 6.7-second 60-yard dash at PG National. In terms of the discrepancy between different sites, this one most likely is the largest. Wood ranks within the top 10 at BA, however at FanGraphs, he’s listed as a first baseman/DH with a scary profile at no. 72. Either way, there appears to be a ton of upside. 


#8. Matt McLain, SS/OF


The 21-year-old McClain was actually selected 25th overall by the Diamondbacks out of high school in 2018, but the Orange, CA native instead chose to sign with UCLA. Picking college ball as opposed to cashing in what would’ve been a nice payday seemed to be a mistake at first as McClain hit just .203 during his freshman season with the Bruins, but after making some obvious adjustments at the plate while playing in the Cape Cod League the following year (where he hit .274 in 34 games), the 5-10, 175-pound shortstop kicked off the 2020 season on fire, slashing .397/.422/.621 with 7 XBH in 13 games before the campaign was ended due to the pandemic. Without much power at the moment, evaluators still really like McLain’s hit tool, and according to BA, his instincts on defense give him an above-average glove. His respectable speed and strong arm leave many to believe he’ll stick at shortstop in the pros, and thus far, he’s played all 11 games at short for UCLA in 2021 while hitting .300 with a home run and 3 doubles. 


#9. Alex Binelas, 3B


Your prototypical left-handed, corner power-bat, Binelas hit the college scene with a bang during his freshman season at Louisville in 2019, slugging 14 home runs and 59 RBI to go along with a .291 AVG (the first Cardinals batter to belt 10 or more homers as a freshman since 2007). We know there should be plenty of pop in his bat once a pro, but it’s Binelas’ defense that evaluators are still unsure of, with many predicting a move to first base if he’s not able to make some improvements. Unfortunately, Binelas only logged two games last season due to an injury, and so far he’s struggled out of the gate in 2021, hitting just .143 with a bump in strikeout rate. 


#11. Jud Fabian, OF


One of the youngest college players in this class (doesn’t turn 21 until September), Fabian still has the experience of many players older than him as he’s already completed two seasons at the University of Florida. With the Gators as a freshman in 2019, Fabian started and played in 56 games, hitting .232 with 7 home runs before figuring things out in the Cape Cod League the following year, where he finished with a .290 AVG and 6 HR in 35 games. Scouts claim that Fabian has all-fields power, and at 6-2, 195 pounds, he could develop even more as he grows into his body. Defensively, he’s said to take solid routes in center field as well. So far in 2021, Fabian is hitting .273 with 5 homers through his first 13 games (including a game-tying RBI double against rival Miami back on February 22… shown above). 


#13. Brady House, SS


Committed to the University of Tennessee as an 18-year-old prep star, House entered this past summer as the top high school prospect in the upcoming draft. He has an unusual build for a shortstop (6-3, 215 pounds), but his size helps create some exciting offensive tools as scouts see him developing 70-grade power (as a shortstop!). On defense, the potential is just as high, where House reportedly hit 96 MPH on the mound, suggesting he definitely has plenty of arm strength to hold down the shortstop position, or even man the hot corner where evaluators say his hands, reaction and body control are all above-average as well. I haven’t seen House play, but of the hitters listed here, he’s the guy that appears to possess the highest ceiling. 



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