With the debuts of Frank Mozzicato and Ben Kudrna this week, I figured now may be as good a time as any to give an update on how the 2021 draft class has fared early on in their professional careers.
1st Round, Pick #7: Frank Mozzicato
In his first professional start, Mozzicato held a loaded Myrtle Beach lineup scoreless through three innings. He struck out three batters, walked three, and allowed just one hit. His fastball was reportedly up to 95 mph, a jump from the reported 90-92 he was pitching at when he was drafted. The curveball was as advertised and he was throwing a changeup that would absolutely qualify as improved from where it was last summer. Mozzicato is still just 18 years old and looks a bit like a veteran on the mound. He’s super composed, very athletic, and has all the makings of a top-100 prospect if the velo continues to go up.
2nd Round, Pick #43: Ben Kudrna
In Kudrna’s first professional start, he showed off a changeup that not only wasn’t in his repertoire when he was drafted, but looked like one of the best changeups I’ve seen all season regardless of level. His fastball was also reportedly 95-96, a bump from the 92-94 we saw during the draft cycle. He held that same Myrtle Beach team to one run in 3.2 IP 5 K and just 1 BB. The only run Myrtle Beach managed off Kudrna came from some shenanigans and Kudrna was in total control for pretty much his entire outing. If he and Mozzicato pitch like this all summer there’s going to be some serious buzz around these guys heading into 2022.
2nd Round, Pick #66: Peyton Wilson
Peyton Wilson may have a bigger “swing and miss” issue than I realized. His 16.2% SwStr% ranks 223rd out of 279 hitters with at least 80 PA at High-A this spring. I thought Wilson’s ability to hit hard line drives might make up for what he lacks in plate discipline, but he’s barely hitting 20% of his batted balls for line drives right now so even his batted ball profile isn’t great right now. He’s still just 22 years old so there’s no reason to worry yet, and he has showed off a good combination of raw power and speed for the level. If he can adjust to the high fastball and keep from popping the ball up so often, I think we’d see some instant results despite the K% being almost 30%. I like what the kid offers defensively at 2B so he’s certainly a name worth watching long-term.
Round 3, Pick #78: Carter Jensen
Jensen is still technically in his age-18 season and he’s already shown off a ton of raw power. I know he’s batting .185 with an OPS of just .681, but he’s still got a wRC+ of 95 which means he’s been right around par for the course overall thanks to a willingness to work a walk and hit for power. His .183 ISO is the 12th best mark among all teenagers in Low-A and his 0.57 BB/K ratio is 18th best. His BABIP is still currently just .218, which is frankly insane for a kid with a 24.4% LD% and hits the ball as hard as he does. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid get so consistently unlucky as he’s been. You can tell he’s getting frustrated at the plate between the batted ball luck and the way pitchers are throwing to him. He’s certainly been better at the plate than behind it, but I am still in no way concerned about him.
Round 4, Pick #108: Shane Panzini
Panzini has joined the Fireflies in Columbia and should mix into their rotation soon.
Round 5, Pick #139: Eric Cerantola
Cerantola just turned 22 and his stuff overwhelms Low-A hitters at times. His 4.83 K/BB ratio is the 32nd best mark out of 199 pitchers in Low-A with at least 20 innings this year. Cerantola was always likely to be a reliever long-term, and he’s still a bit of a project, but the early returns on the Mississippi State product are incredibly positive.
Round 6, Pick #169: Dayton Dooney
I really liked the Dooney pick last summer, and he had a nice little debut in the Arizona Complex League after being drafted. We still haven’t seen any of Dooney in 2022, not sure if that’s injury related or what, but I still have hope he can hit enough to work his way to the upper levels of MiLB.
Round 7, Pick #199: Noah Cameron
We’ve been talking about Cameron pretty frequently of late as he was dominating Low-A and then struck out 12 batters in 4 innings during his High-A debut. His changeup from the left side is a force to be reckoned with and lower level hitters just don’t adjust to that well very often. If Cameron can get his fastball closer to 95 than 90 more often than not, he’s got the makings of a legitimate SP prospect.
Round 11, Pick #319: Brennon McNair
McNair had a hell of a debut last spring in his first go at professional baseball, but we’ve yet to see him so far in 2022.
Round 12, Pick #349: Tyson Guerrero
The Royals have done an excellent job of acquiring left-handed starters that can move their way through the lower levels of the minors. You keep throwing enough of these guys at the wall and one is bound to stick. Guerrero has been super inconsistent so far this year at High-A, showing flashes of brilliance in half of his starts and struggling mightily in the other half.
Round 14, Pick #409: Caden Monke
Speaking of LHP, Monke is a lanky lefty with some serious funk coming at the hitter. He’s been a little HR prone so far this year in High-A, but the K/BB ratio is in good shape and I love the raw stuff he possesses. He’s going to have to control it better to make it to the big leagues but he’s got the tools necessary if he can control it.
Round 15, Pick #439: River Town
River Town may have the best name in baseball and he’s been hitting like a legitimate prospect in Columbia so far. He’s currently got a top-25 wRC+ in all of Low-A thanks to the 3rd best ISO in the Carolina League. I’m not sure at the moment what kind of prospect he is long-term, but Town has certainly given Royals fans a reason to keep his name in mind this year.
Round 17, Pick #499: Luca Tresh
Ranked as the 101st best prospect in the draft cycle by MLB Pipeline, Tresh fell to Round 17 because of fears that he would head back to NC State after a little bit of a slow junior season. The Royals snagged him up for almost half of a million dollars, and Tresh has been hitting ever since. He’s currently sitting with 5 HR and 5 doubles for the Royals High-A affiliate in Quad Cities, and up until recently had the best wRC+ in the entire system. The league has adjusted to him, so he’ll have to adjust back, but he’s been great behind the plate and in the batter’s box so far in his professional career.