Hoover, Ala., is evidently the place to be this summer if you want to see the top high school talent in the 2021 Draft class. Back in June, the Hoover Met Complex hosted the Perfect Game National Showcase. This week, the East Coast Professional Showcase, run by Major League Baseball scouts, took over the facility to provide its annual venue for prep players to show what they can do in front of scouts from all 30 teams.
It’s a bit too soon to draw any conclusions about the 2021 high schoolers overall, though some things are starting to stand out. More than anything, depth in pitchers and catchers has stood out so far this summer. There are some of each in the following top 10 performers list, which was formed after talking to several scouts who were in attendance.
1. James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Wood showed off his plus speed by running a 6.54 60-yard dash (according to the electronic timer), as well as in the outfield and on the basepaths. Tall and lanky, Wood controlled the strike zone well with an advanced approach from the left side of the plate. He’s still learning his swing but showed off plus raw power. He glides in the outfield, making it look easy, with the chance to be an elite center fielder on both sides of the ball.
2. Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy (Fla.)
Painter was one of the best arms at PG National and he backed it up here. He was 93-96 mph with his fastball, showed off an 84-86 mph slider and a mid-80s changeup. He has a legitimate three-pitch mix and repeats his delivery well, with the 6-foot-7 right-hander having projection and now stuff at the same time.
3. Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (N.J.)
Scouts in the northeast are going to be busy, with Petty being a big reason why. With a slightly smaller frame, he reminded some scouts of Walker Buehler, with electric stuff to match. The right-hander was 95-98 mph with his fastball, a plus 82-87 mph slider and a changeup he threw in the 86-89 mph range. He’s fearless on the mound, showing a willingness to pitch inside and use all of his stuff.
4. Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (N.Y.)
Mack’s work behind the plate really stood out. He recorded an other-worldly 1.78 seconds pop time on a throw to second base according to some scouts. He can really catch and throw while showing the kind of leadership qualities teams like to see in catchers. He has a really good chance to hit, controlling the zone well with power to come from the left side.
5. Harry Ford, C/OF, North Cobb HS (Ga.)
How many players have you seen who could be plus behind the plate AND in center field? Ford is one, leading one scout to call him a “unicorn.” He has a cannon of an arm behind the plate but the speed that led to a 6.42 60-yard dash also allows him to cover a ton of ground in center field. He has plus bat speed that will help him hit for average and power, reminding some of D-backs prospect Daulton Varsho, but with a better arm.
6. Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (N.C.)
Watson showed off impressive bat speed with an ability to control the strike zone and use the entire field from the left side of the plate, though he scuffled a bit offensively at the end of the event when he got out of his swing and tried to hit for power too much. There were zero questions about his defensive prowess, as he showed plus actions and a plus arm, giving him every chance to stick at shortstop long-term.
7. Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
House entered the event as the player many felt was the top prepster in the Draft class and while he didn’t dominate, he still showed off plenty of tools. He ran way better than many thought he would (6.63 seconds in the 60-yard dash) and showed off plenty of strength in his swing. Some feel he’s more power over hit -- his swing got a bit long at times -- and is likely to move to third at the next level, fitting a Michael Cuddyer type of profile.
8. Michael Morales, RHP, East Pennsboro HS (Pa.)
Another really good arm from the northeast (Enola, Pa., is right outside of Harrisburg), Morales showed off three pitches that all have the chance to be above-average or better. He was 92-95 mph with his fastball and backed it up with an 82-mph slider and an 80-mph changeup, commanding all three extremely well. There’s some projection and more in the tank here as well
9. Izaac Pacheco, 3B, Friendsword HS (Texas)
If you like big-time power, then Pacheco might be the prospect for you. He’s definitely power over hit, with some questions about his overall approach at the plate, but he’s big, strong and physical with an uphill left-handed swing that works for many. He also shows outstanding field awareness at the hot corner with a plus arm.
10. Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (Pa.)
Just like he did at PG National, Montgomery again showed off his impressive tools. He ran a 6.54 in the 60-yard dash (Every player was timed both electronically and by hand, and Montgomery’s 6.37 hand time was the fastest at the event). He can impact the baseball from the right side of the plate, but there was some concern about swing-and-miss in his game.
Other standouts (alphabetical order):
Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield HS (Mass.)
Josh Hartle, LHP, Ronald Wilson Reagan HS (N.C.)
Christian Little, RHP, Christian Brothers College HS (Mo.)
Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork HS (S.C.)
Tommy White, 3B, IMG Academy (Fla.)