Recently, Alex wrote a piece covering some of the top college players that will be available in the 2021 First Year Player Draft. This inspired me to write about some of my favorite draft eligible prep players. I feel like I should preface this by mentioning that this class doesn’t have anyone that’s seen as an advanced, generational type of talent. It’s a class that’s deeper and more talented than the 2020 group, but there doesn’t appear to be an Alex Rodriguez or Bryce Harper. That being said, there are players in this class with insane raw tools. These are a few of the names I’m watching very closely.
Jordan Lawlar – SS – Irving, TX
This past summer, Lawlar shot to the top of a very deep IF class. The Vanderbilt commit showed off an impressive combination of speed and power to go with an advanced approach to the game. It’s worth noting that one popular comp that’s been thrown around that may cause Royals fans to raise an eyebrow is Bobby Witt, Jr. It’s hard to argue that when you consider the similarities: #1 Texas prep, great student and make up, plus athleticism, consensus top 3 player. The biggest difference between the two at this stage is likely the elite bat speed that BWJ possessed in high school. Lawlar hasn’t grown into that power yet but he certainly projects to have plenty down the road. Likelihood of falling to the Royals in the first is very low, so temper your expectations.
Brady House – 3B – Winder, GA
House has long been ranked near the top of this class with the reputation of punishing baseball as his calling card. The raw power is his best tool and he already does an excellent job of tapping into it in game. House can hit as well, although it didn’t always show on the summer circuit against the best players in the country. House has played shortstop in the past but his build will likely relegate him to a corner infield or even corner outfield spot in the future. I’ve seen a Matt Chapman comp but that’s a lofty projection for anyone to live up to. House has a cannon for an arm but we’ll have to see how the defense plays out. House figures to be a solid target for the Royals as there’s a good chance he falls somewhere outside of the top 5, inside the top 15 picks.
Kahlil Watson – SS – Wake Forrest, NC
Probably the biggest riser this past Summer is Kahlil Watson. Watson epitomizes the phrase, ‘dynamite comes in small packages’. The bat and arm plus power tools. He’s explosive, quick, and has smooth actions on the infield. All told, Watson has one of the most exciting skill sets in the entire draft, ultimately leading some draft guru’s placing him firmly inside the top 10 prospects in the entire draft. Prior to making his way to the head of the class there were questions about his ability to hit at the higher levels but it appears he’s alleviated those concerns with his Summer performance. Watson would profile nicely to the Royals and at this stage doesn’t look like a reach if he were to go number 7.
Marcelo Mayer – SS – Chula Vista, CA
Mayer is the last of the trio of prep short stops that I’ll address today, but that doesn’t mean he’s a lesser talent. Mayer and Watson are both rated behind Lawlar but services are split one which projects to be the better player down the road. Mayer is quite different than Watson stylistically. Whereas Watson is compact and explosive, Mayer is a long and lean athlete with more projection remaining in his 6-3 frame. His actions in the field and arm strength should keep him at short long term and while he has present power, it’s easy to dream on what will come once he fills out his frame.
James Wood – RF – Olney, MD
I can’t stress this enough. Nobody in this class has a HIGHER ceiling than James Wood. This young man is a skyscraper – standing at 6-7. The obvious comps will be to other MLB power forwards like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Will Benson or Spencer Jones would be more recent players similar in height, with Wood’s game more closely mirroring the former. Wood is currently projected to be a mid first rounder, similar to Benson and higher than the rest. Wood will certainly have the athleticism to play in a corner outfield spot, and his arm should play in right. The most intriguing aspect of this young man’s game for me is his lightning quick hands. He’s shown an ability to turn on fastballs up and in and deposit them over the right field fence, with ease. James is being mentioned as a mid first round type, but I expect him to continue his meteoric rise this Spring.
Andrew Painter – RHP – Pompano Beach, FL
Painter is the only prep arm I’m choosing to write up today. I do like quite a few of the high school arms in this draft but none enough to take in the top 10 at this stage, especially considering all of the college arms available. If you’ve paid attention to the Royals recent draft model (since 2018), they tend to avoid the more highly volatile prep arms in favor of more polished college ones. If there were one high school pitcher to consider with the pick at 7, the industry consensus would likely land on Painter. The lanky RHP stands at an imposing 6-7, with a fastball that can sit in the mid 90s. It’s a very easy delivery working from a low 3/4 arm slot. He features a four pitch arsenal that includes a slider, curve and change up.