In years past, NCAA Division I postseason play wouldn’t impact the Draft landscape too dramatically. The conference tournaments that just wrapped up last week would typically be the last serious looks teams would get at potential draftees.
Scouts would keep an eye on Regional play, but clubs generally would be in full-on planning mode for the impending Draft, and the Super Regionals usually coincided with the Draft itself. But with this year’s Draft not starting until July, the postseason will be watched much more carefully than in the past, with all eligible players on the rosters of the 64-team field just announced having the chance to help their status with strong performances.
With that in mind, we’re bringing you this NCAA postseason primer with a Draft slant, giving you the top 2021 Draft prospects for each of the 64 teams, with brackets listed in order of national seeding.
1) Arkansas: Christian Franklin, OF (No. 46) -- The top 2021 prospect on college baseball’s top-ranked team, Franklin has four solid to plus tools in his power, speed, arm and center-field defense, and he has reached double figures in homers (12) and steals (10).
2) Nebraska: Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP/SS (No. 53) -- The Big Ten Conference player of the year and the best two-way prospect in this year’s college crop, Schwellenbach is drawing first-round interest from some clubs as a shortstop and has hit 99 mph with his fastball on the mound.
3) Northeastern: Jared Dupere, OF -- A bit undersized and 22 years old, Dupere has been an outstanding performer, setting a school record with 21 homers in 2021, and his .807 slugging percentage (also a school record) is one of the best in all of Division I play.
4) New Jersey Institute of Technology: Julio Marcano, INF -- A senior sign type, Marcano has a twin brother (David) also on the team and has had a career year in 2021, with a .333/.435/.595 line to go along with 10 homers and 42 RBIs.
1) Texas: Ty Madden, RHP (No. 9) -- The Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year and a lock first-rounder, Madden owns a pair of plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, and he throws plenty of strikes.
2) Arizona State: Drew Swift, SS (No. 178) -- There’s no question Swift can play shortstop at the next level, and improvements at the plate have helped answer some concerns about his bat.
3) Fairfield: Mike Caruso, C -- He’s the best player and the heart of this team, one who has shown good catch-and-throw skills behind the plate while hitting .414 with a .532 OBP, which is among the nation’s best.
4) Southern: Tremaine Spears, OF -- After making 32 starts in four years at Louisiana-Lafayette, Spears joined the Jaguars and has batted .300/.419/.471 with a team-high six homers.
1) Tennessee: Max Ferguson, 2B -- A versatile athlete with plus speed, Ferguson entered the year billed as the Volunteers’ best hitter since 2016 No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel but has confounded scouts by batting .262/.381/.475, albeit with 11 homers and 15 steals.
2) Duke: Ethan Murray, SS -- A .296/.397/.429 hitter with 10 steals this spring, Murray stands out more for his instincts than his tools and projects as a utility man at the big league level.
3) Liberty: Will Wagner, 2B -- The son of former All-Star closer Billy Wagner, Will is a solid defender at second base with some pop, and he carries a .344/.411/.563 line into postseason play.
4) Wright State: Tyler Black, 2B (No. 83) -- One of the best pure hitters in the Midwest, Black has parlayed his bat-to-ball skills and disciplined approach into a .374/.495/.638 line with 10 homers and as many steals.
1) Vanderbilt: Jack Leiter, RHP (No. 3) -- The son of two-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion Al Leiter misses bats with his riding 90-97 mph fastball, downer curveball and slider, which should make him the first pitcher selected, just ahead of fellow Commodores right-hander Kumar Rocker.
2) Georgia Tech: Brant Hurter, LHP (No. 185) -- A potential back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, Hurter uses his 6-foot-6 frame to create angle and plane on his 88-94 mph fastball and sharp 78-82 mph slider.
3) Indiana State: Geremy Guerrero, LHP -- The Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the year, Guerrero ranks second in NCAA Division I play with a 0.76 WHIP and has outstanding numbers (10-1, 1.93, 97/13 K/BB in 93 1/3 innings) that are a testament to his command and effective changeup helping his mid-80s fastball play up.
4) Presbyterian: Zacchaeus Rasberry, OF -- A fifth-year senior who began his college career at Louisburg (N.C.) JC, Rasberry is Presbyterian’s career D-I steals leader (41) and is batting .314/.368/.577 with 10 homers and 11 swipes this spring.
1) Arizona: Ryan Holgate, OF (No. 97) -- Holgate has an intriguing left-handed bat with considerable raw power he’s still learning to tap into, though he has slugged .549 and hit .344 this year.
2) Oklahoma State: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B -- An all-American at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC who’s batting .362/.437/.674 with 15 homers in his first season with the Cowboys, Encarnacion-Strand could fit in the first five rounds with his power and strong arm.
3) UC Santa Barbara: Michael McGreevy, RHP (No. 20) -- McGreevy’s 2021 performance shot him into first-round conversations as a 6-foot-4 right-hander with a legitimate four-pitch mix and an uncanny ability to throw strikes.
4) Grand Canyon: Pierson Ohl, RHP -- Part of a deep pitching staff, Ohl stands out for his strike-throwing ability (100/12 K/BB ratio in 95 1/3 IP), with a fastball that tops out at 91 mph to go along with a breaking ball and changeup.
FORT WORTH REGIONAL
1) Texas Christian: Russell Smith, LHP (No. 92) -- The tallest player on this list at 6-foot-9, Smith pounds the zone with three pitches, the best of which are an 89-95 mph fastball with difficult angle and a mid-80s changeup with fade and sink.
2) Oregon State: Kevin Abel, RHP (No. 153) -- A College World Series hero back in 2018, Abel has come back from Tommy John surgery and shown glimpses of his advanced pitchability, though he’s been a bit inconsistent.
3) Dallas Baptist: Dominic Hamel, RHP (No. 91) -- Analytically minded clubs love Hamel, who leads D-I with 12 victories and has gone 14-2 for the Patriots since transferring from Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, because he features high spin rates on his fastball, curveball and slider.
4) McNeese State: Will Dion, LHP -- The Southland Conference pitcher of the year (9-4, 2.81 ERA, 106 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings), Dion commands his 87-91 mph fastball and pair of breaking pitches well while also earning high marks for his competitiveness.
1) Mississippi State: Will Bednar, RHP (No. 36) -- The younger brother of Pirates reliever David Bednar, Will is making a push for the first round with one of the best combinations of stuff (mid-90s fastball, quality slider and curveball) and control (101/17 K/BB in 64 innings) in the college ranks.
2) Virginia Commonwealth: Danny Watson, RHP -- The 6-foot-7 right-hander comes at hitters with a deceptive lower three-quarters slot delivery and is up to 94 mph with his fastball. He’s also got a fringy slider, albeit one with shaky command.
3) Campbell: Jonathan Beymer, RHP -- Beymer starred at Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC but has battled arm issues for much of his two years at Campbell, displaying a low-90s fastball and solid slider when healthy.
4) Samford: Samuel Strickland, LHP -- After fading down the stretch with a 6.91 ERA in his last nine starts, Strickland may be better suited to relieve in pro ball, a role in which he could rely more on his splitter/changeup and deception.
1) Texas Tech: Cal Conley, SS (No. 161) -- Conley spent a semester at Miami but never played for the Hurricanes before transferring to Texas Tech, where he has been a two-year starter at shortstop with average-ish tools across the board.
2) UCLA: Matt McLain, SS (No. 12) -- Right before his hand injury that he returned from last weekend, McLain was back showing he was one of the better college bats in the country, cutting down his early K rate and boasting a .998 OPS with the ability to play shortstop.
3) North Carolina: Justice Thompson, OF (No. 113) -- In his first year with the Tar Heels after two seasons at Northwest Florida State JC, Thompson has shown plus raw power and center-field skills to go with well above-average speed, but his game comes with swing-and-miss concerns.
4) Army: Ray Bartoli, RHP -- An undersized senior, Bartoli captained Army’s squad this year and pitched it to Regional play with a complete-game victory in the Patriot League conference tournament championship against Lehigh.
1) Stanford: Brendan Beck, RHP (No. 163) -- The younger brother of Giants prospect Tristan Beck, Brendan has excelled as Stanford’s ace this year, throwing four pitches for strikes and posting a K/BB ratio of 106/20.
2) UC Irvine: Trenton Denholm, RHP -- It’s been an up-and-down year for the undersized right-hander known for his pitchability, who went undrafted last year but can throw four pitches for strikes and has a track record of success in the past at Irvine and on the Cape.
3) Nevada: Joshua Zamora, 2B/3B -- Probably a utility player at the next level, Zamora is a gamer with outstanding contact skills and an advanced approach at the plate with some pop.
4) North Dakota State: Bennett Hostetler, SS -- The Summit League player of the year after hitting .391/.514/.584 with eight homers and 18 steals, Hostetler offers average speed and arm strength along with on-base ability and versatility.
SOUTH BEND REGIONAL
1) Notre Dame: Niko Kavadas, 1B (No. 139) -- Kavadas’ lone better-than-average tool is his plus-plus raw power, but it plays -- he led the Cape Cod League with nine homers in 2019 and the Atlantic Coast Conference with seven last spring before going deep 18 times in 2021.
2) Connecticut: Ben Casparius, RHP (No. 160) -- A former two-way player at North Carolina who transferred to UConn, Casparius has a combination of a solid feel for pitching and a fresh arm, one that has been a consistent performer in the Huskies’ Big East champion weekend rotation all year.
3) Michigan: Steven Hajjar, LHP (No. 103) -- Hajjar once projected as a potential first-rounder, and while his stuff has been more average than plus, he has gone 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings.
4) Central Michigan: Ian Leatherman, RHP -- Listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Leatherman nevertheless averages 93 mph with his fastball and touches 97 coming out of the bullpen.
1) Old Dominion: Hunter Gregory, RHP -- He’s likely headed to a bullpen at the next level, but his fastball (90-93 mph) and cutter give him a solid two-pitch mix that has been very effective in Old Dominion’s rotation (85/18 K/BB ratio, .222 BAA in 73 IP).
2) South Carolina: Thomas Farr, RHP (No. 132) -- The Northwest Florida State JC product lacks consistency but has a fastball that reaches 97 mph, a solid spike curveball and a sinking changeup that flashes plus.
3) Virginia: Andrew Abbott, LHP (No. 71) -- Once thought to be a sure-fire reliever in the future, Abbott has given teams reason to at least offer him the chance to start by anchoring Virginia’s rotation and posting an eye-popping 136/28 K/BB ratio in 89 innings.
4) Jacksonville: Tyler Santana, RHP -- Command has been an issue for the 6-foot-1 right-hander, but scouts like his bulldog mentality on the mound (future in the ‘pen?) and how he pitches aggressively with a fastball that can hit 94 mph.
1) Mississippi: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP (No. 23) -- Hoglund pitched himself into the top 10 picks before he blew out his elbow in May and required Tommy John surgery. The best healthy Rebel is Doug Nikhazy (No. 67), a crafty four-pitch lefty with a track record of performance (including a 2.18 ERA that’s the best among Southeastern Conference starters this year) that might help him sneak into the first round.
2) Southern Mississippi: Reed Trimble, OF -- Draft-eligible as a second-year freshman, Trimble combines solid raw power with well above-average speed that has translated into a .319/.394/.595 line with 14 homers and 11 steals.
3) Florida State: Matheu Nelson, C (No. 90) -- Tied for the Division I lead with 22 homers this year, Nelson has tapped into his power this year by making more consistent contact, though he’s been more inconsistent behind the plate.
4) Southeast Missouri State: Dylan Dodd, LHP (No. 168) -- Dodd won a Division II Junior College World Series as a two-way player at Kankakee (Ill.) CC in 2017, and scouts love the athletic lefty with a plus changeup who has gone 9-1 with a 2.78 ERA, including the sixth-best K/BB ratio (113/14 in 90 2/3 innings) in D-I.
1) East Carolina: Gavin Williams, RHP (No. 42) -- Williams hit 100 mph with his fastball as a freshman in 2018 but leveled off afterward until this spring, when he showed an improved breaking ball, control and durability while winning American Athletic Conference pitcher of the year honors and going 10-0 with a 1.32 ERA (fourth in D-I) and a 108/18 K/BB ratio in 68 innings.
2) Charlotte: Bryce McGowan (No. 147) -- A starter for the 49ers, McGowan profiles better as a pro reliever with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider that could get even stronger in shorter bursts.
3) Maryland: Sean Burke, RHP (No. 73) -- Maryland’s ace has shown off electric stuff at times that’s very tough to hit (.175 BAA, 13 K/9), but his command (5.0 BB/9) and secondary stuff have been a bit inconsistent.
4) Norfolk State: Alsander Womack, 2B -- It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that Tony’s kid can run (17 steals in 20 tries), and he’s also walked more than he’s struck out while hitting .358 this year.
1) Oregon: Aaron Zavala, OF -- The outfielder has hit all year (.395/.538/.613), with more walks than strikeouts while showing off excellent balance at the plate and the ability to spray the ball to all fields.
2) Gonzaga: Brett Harris, SS -- The infielder can play solid defense at shortstop and at third, and he took a nice step forward this year at the plate, hitting for average (.353) and rarely striking out (10.3 percent K rate).
3) Louisiana State: Jaden Hill, RHP (No. 33) -- Hill entered the year as a potential No. 1 overall choice but injured his elbow in April and had Tommy John surgery. The Tigers’ top pitcher and best healthy 2021 Draft prospect is Landon Marceaux, a pitchability right-hander with a low-90s fastball and three solid secondary offerings.
4) Central Connecticut State: Dave Matthews, OF -- Playing a corner-outfield spot at Central Connecticut State (he’s played some first base, mostly in summer leagues), Matthews has shown some left-handed pop while swiping some bags.
1) Florida: Jud Fabian, OF (No. 17) -- The tools are undeniable, and he pairs an ability to play center field with power that has led to 20 homers, though swing-and-miss concerns linger.
2) Miami: Adrian Del Castillo, C (No. 24) -- Thought to be one of the most advanced college hitters in this class, Del Castillo has struggled and carries a .799 OPS into postseason play.
3) South Alabama: Ethan Wilson, OF (No. 32) -- Wilson destroyed Luis Gonzalez’s South Alabama freshman record with 17 homers in 2019 but has reinvented himself as a contact hitter this spring, hitting .319/.430/.550 with a miniscule strikeout rate (9 percent) and more steals (nine) than long balls (eight).
4) South Florida: Brad Lord, RHP -- He’s big and physical with a fastball up to 93 mph and a slider that points to a potential future as a middle reliever.
1) Louisiana Tech: Parker Bates, OF -- Bates has led Louisiana Tech in RBIs for four straight seasons (55 in 58 games this year while batting .354/.474/.557), and he provides decent hitting ability, pop, speed and defense.
2) North Carolina State: Luca Tresh, C (No. 69) -- The Wolfpack’s successor to 2020 first-rounder Patrick Bailey behind the plate, Tresh offers power (12 homers) and arm strength but needs more consistency as a hitter and receiver.
3) Alabama: Peyton Wilson, 2B (No. 65) -- A team that believes in Wilson’s bat could pop him in the first round because he’s a switch-hitter with solid raw power, well above-average speed and arm strength, plus the versatility to play almost anywhere.
4) Rider: Frank Doelling, LHP -- The 6-foot southpaw has put up solid numbers (3.35 ERA, .224 BAA, 9.5 K/9) with a sneaky fastball and a very good feel to spin a breaking ball.