True Freshman College Baseball Breakout Stars

True Freshman College Baseball Breakout Stars

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College Baseball got injected with a incredible incoming freshman class due to the shortened 2020 MLB Draft (just 5 rounds, normally see a 40 round draft in years past). That comes out to be 1,050 players who did not hear their names called and saw themselves enter the college ranks to improve their draft stock over the next few years.

Today, we take a look at 10 of those Freshman who are already playing a big part in their teams success and planting the seeds as potential early round draft picks when eligible.

Only TRUE Freshman were eligible for this list. ALL Stats in this article are from the start of the season up to 3/4/2021.

OF Dylan Crews
Height: 6’0 | Weight: 203lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

What list would this be without Dylan Crews? An absolute gem of a talent who priced himself out of the 2020 MLB Draft (rightfully so) and now sees himself the favorite at this point to go 1st overall in the 2023 MLB Draft when he is next eligible.

Crews has been insanely hot to start his LSU career. Showing off impressive power to all fields, hitability, and defensive skills virtually every opportunity that comes his way. Sitting at the top of the Tigers lineup, Crews has done nothing short but live up to the lofty expectations, and then some.

Through 7 Career Games:
16-35 | .457 Avg | .568 OBP | .971 SLG | 3 2B | 5 HR | 6 RBI | 8 BB | 6 K | 2 SB

Dylan Crews has the looks of at least Plus Hit and Plus Power moving forward. And I would not be shocked to see him develop into a Double Plus grades. The plate discipline has been good, as expected, not chasing to often out of the zone and working his walks. In 9 games, Crews has worked 1+ walk in 6 of those games, while picking up at least 1 hit in every game this season.

He looks the part on both sides of the ball. Playing a solid RF showcasing a strong arm (check the video below) that looks to be one of a few plus tools Crews possesses. He showed plus speed in High School with a 6.63-sec 60 yard dash time which carries over into the game. However, I’d expect the speed to settle at 55 as he bulks up and adds some more strength to the frame. This is the complete package. And boy are we blessed to watch him do his thing at LSU for a few seasons.

Now let’s make it known he has been destroying some lower-end talent to start the season, but regardless there is not much more Crews could have showcased to this point. Being able to carry this production into SEC play as a Freshman facing some top-of-the-draft arms will be a chance for Crews to prove he is legit. The things Crews is doing would be impressive if he was a 3-year starter projected as the top pick in the class, but he’s a true freshman, playing like the best player in the country. Talents like this do not come through college baseball often, enjoy it.

By: Jake Tillinghast (@JTillinghast27)

C Kevin Parada
Height: 6’1 | Weight: 197lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

Kevin Parada gets rave reviews for his bat, and rightfully so, but he is also a very good athlete for a catcher. Showcasing a 6.72-sec 60-yard dash at the 2019 National Showcase, as well as a 1.65-sec 10-yard split, which falls right in line with a 55 Grade runner, a few years down the line, I would expect the speed to drop a bit more towards a 50.

He uses that athleticism well behind the plate where he has shown consistent pop times sub 2.00 during his HS showcase days and right around that mark in-game. I see Parada eventually ending up as an above-average defender behind the plate with a strong accurate throwing arm I’d give a future plus grade on. Although, there is still a good amount of development on the defensive end still to come.

Through 7 Career Games:
11-25 | .440 AVG | .533 OBP | .880 SLG | 3 2B | 1 3B | 2 HR | 10 RBI | 5 BB 7 K |

Parada’s offensive potential as a middle-of-the-order bat is real. A future 55 Hit, 60 Power bat will play anywhere. Pair that with a player expected to stick behind the plate, and you have an incredibly valuable prospect on your hands. There’s potential to see 30 HR power here and even if it ends up closer to 25, this still will likely be one of the better offensive-producing catchers at the next level.

Some bat speed metrics from his senior year of High School… (82 Max Barrel Speed (99%), 30.992 Impact Momentum (99%), Max Acceleration 53 Gs (99%), these numbers are from his High School days, with the % the percentile for his draft class… Safe to say, he had some of the best raw bat speed in the class. Creating strong hip separation and spine tilt, Parada has shown an ability to hit for average and drive the ball out of the park with ease.

Similar athleticism and defensive ability to Dillion Dingler (2nd Round Pick in 2020 by the Tigers) but Parada in my opinion has a far higher offensive ceiling which will ultimately push him into the top 10 of the 2022 MLB Draft, with Top 5 considerations, unquestionably will rise as likely the top Catcher in the class. A couple of years ago, another Georgia Tech Catcher, Joey Bart saw himself go #2 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft to the Giants, Parada hopes and has a legitimate chance to follow in his footsteps.

By: Jake Tillinghast (@JTillinghast27)

RHP Tanner Witt
Height: 6’5 | Weight: 215lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

One of the better 2-way prospects in the 2020 Class, Tanner Witt however, ended up at Texas instead of starting his pro career. Lucky for the Longhorns. They have themselves a clear future Friday night starter after Ty Madden gets selected in the 1st round of the 2021 Draft.

A Look at the Arsenal:
Fastball: 91-93 T95 – 2600+ RPM – Ride up in the zone, misses bats. Has more velo to come in time. Some natural arm side run
Curveball Spin: 75-78 MPH 2900+ RPM – Future Plus pitch with heavy downer action
Changeup: 81-83 MPH – Works well of the Fastball when used. Good fading action has shown an ability to be an out pitch, will need to see the usage tick up against better bats moving forward.

Stats through 3/4/2021:
Pitching: 4 Appearances (0 Starts) | 7 IP | 1 ER | 11 K | 1 BB | 5 Hits against | 1 Save
Hitting 1-4

Generates plus arm speed from a high 3/4 arm slot and has some projection remaining. Witt doesn’t generate much power through his lower half, which has limited some of that velocity upside to this point. Getting more drive off that back leg and working a bit more downhill will help elevate his entire arsenal and I’d expect to see the Fastball touching 93-95 MPH regularly touching upper 90s and make that Curveball even more devastating with the physical development alongside this mechanical fix. Witt has worked exclusively out of the stretch in 2021.

I ultimately see Witt long-term as a pitcher with legitimate 1st round talent. A starters frame, very athletic, and strong pitch mix to work with. I can see him adding a 4th pitch down the line to round out the arsenal. Once he decides to go full-time on the mound, I fully expect the arsenal to take it to the next level.

Witt has yet to earn himself a start, being used as a sorta swiss army knife out of the pen in tough situations/close games in the late innings. Witt may not get many weekend starts this season, barring injury or a rough stretch by either of Kolby Kubichek or Tristen Stevens. Witt should see at least a handful of starts throughout the season to gain some experience in that role and lengthen out his arm a bit. Those are going to really give Witt a chance to prove his talent through the lineup multiple times and prove hes one of the elite arms in the Freshman class.

By: Jake Tillinghast (@JTillinghast27)

3B/SS Yohandy Morales
Height: 6’3 | Weight: 199lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

Last year, the spring pop-up names didn’t have a chance to establish themselves, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try. One name was Miami prep shortstop Yohandy Morales, who hit the ground running in the spring with a simplified approach and mechanics. His bat was as loud as any in the country for a couple of weeks until the shutdown, but evaluators were not completely sold that his breakout was “for real” against average Miami-area pitching.

To prove it, Morales hopped twenty minutes down the road to the University of Miami, where through two and a half weeks, his bat is looking every bit “for real.” The Miami coaching staff was impressed enough with his fall to slot him straight into the four hole for their opening series against Florida, where he got to face arguably the top returning senior in the country, right hander Tommy Mace. Morales was completely unfazed, doubling in his first at bat and roping a scorched line drive for an out in his second. He finished the day with two hits, but he impressed in a different way later in the weekend. Morales took a hard luck 0-7 in Miami’s Saturday extra inning win, something which would discourage most freshman. Not Morales, who bounced back with a three hit day in the Sunday finale.

The next weekend, the freshman showed up in a big way against an upstart Virginia Tech team, going 5-11 with just one strikeout and his first home run in the series. Through six games, Morales is slashing .370/.414/.593 with just three strikeouts against tough competition, showing off that simplified approach that has enabled him to find the barrel extremely consistently. So far, the glovework has been a little hit-and-miss, as he’s still learning the nuances of third base after spending most of his high school career at shortstop. He’s a natural athlete out in the field and as he acclimates to the speed of the college game, it shouldn’t be an issue. Morales has showcased both the physical and mental sides of his game, and has a chance to lead what should be some very exciting Miami teams going forward.

By: Zack Silverman (@ZackMatt4)

OF Enrique Bradfield
Height: 6’1 | Weight: 160lbs | Bat: L | Throw: L

If you like the old school style of play, then Enrique Bradfield Jr. is for you. A potential second round pick coming out of famous American Heritage High School in Florida, he was strongly committed to Vanderbilt and went undrafted. Vanderbilt might be one of the toughest lineups to crack in the country as a true freshman, but no one told Bradfield and he’s off to a .350/.519/.400 start with four stolen bases in seven games heading into the weekend.

Bradfield is a skinny kid listed at 6’1”, 160 pounds. A left handed hitter, he employs a relatively slap-heavy approach that so far has led to an old school, ground ball-heavy spray chart. Especially as he gets acclimated to SEC baseball, that approach has held true in college, but he has done plenty of damage with it already. Infielders have to play him in due to his blinding speed, opening up holes all over the place, and if they don’t, he either beats out his grounders or forces errors. He’s also an advanced hitter that recognizes pitches and understands the strike zone.

The next step for the young Floridian will be to drive the ball more. He actually showed the ability to do so on the showcase circuit last year, and he should grow into some gap power pretty quickly at Vanderbilt. One thing to watch will be the development of his over-the-fence power, which will likely never be a big part of his game, but could be a factor in his stock for the 2023 draft. Either way, Bradfield could be the next dynamic, SEC leadoff man. He’ll also be a huge boon in center field, where his elite speed will enable him to cover the whole city from Music Row to the Opry.

By: Zack Silverman (@ZackMatt4)

RHP Ryan Hagenow
Height: 6’5 | Weight: 220lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

Ryan Hagenow was one of the more interesting pitchers in the prep class last year, a projectable 6’5” right-hander out of the Knoxville area with a broad base of skills but nothing standing out. His fastball sat around 90 while he added an average slider and changeup, with the latter flashing above average, and he filled up the strike zone well enough. The combination of a high asking price, the shortened draft, and the lack of a carrying tool led him north to Lexington, where he has already begun turning heads.

Hagenow’s first start went about as well as could reasonably be expected. Facing Miami of Ohio in a midweek tilt, he went four innings and allowed just two baserunners – a double and a hit by pitch – while striking out six of the fifteen hitters he faced. Drawing Eastern Kentucky for his second start, Hagenow again went four innings, this time allowing one run on five hits and one walk, striking out three. Together, that’s nine strikeouts to just eight baserunners and one run over eight innings to begin his career in Kentucky blue.

As hoped, the lanky righty has already seen a slight uptick in his stuff. After frequently dipping into the upper 80’s as a high schooler, Hagenow has sat more comfortably on the right side of 90, even touching 94 a few times (after usually topping out around 93 in high school). He has shown feel for his secondary pitches and, perhaps most importantly of all in the eyes of the Wildcat coaching staff, has had no trouble filling up the strike zone. His delivery is a bit quicker than it was at Farragut High School, but it’s much smoother and his arm action is significantly improved. Already, Hagenow is well on his way to becoming the future of the Kentucky pitching staff.

If he keeps the same midweek assignment, Hagenow’s next start should come against Western Kentucky. In April, the Wildcats will travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals in a midweek bout, a game which if given to the freshman could significantly raise his profile nationally. Hagenow already showed the building blocks for an impact arm in high school, and a year later has already seen slight increases in velocity and a sharper slider to go along with improved command and mechanics, and by 2022 he could be the Friday night man in Lexington. By 2023, if the progression continues, Ryan Hagenow could hear his name called in the first round.

By: Zack Silverman (@ZackMatt4)

3B/OF Cayden Wallace
Height: 6’0 | Weight: 205lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

Yet another top high school prospect that ended up slipping through the cracks and making it to Arkansas, Cayden Wallace hasn’t quite gotten off to the start he’d like to at the plate. He’s started all 7 games for the Razorbacks to start the season, but he’s had some issues timing fastballs and missing hittable pitches. However, his .200 average looks a bit worse on paper than he’s actually been performing. He’s done a solid job limiting the swings and misses, registering just 6 Ks to 5 BBs, and 4 of his 5 hits have gone for extra bases. He hasn’t attempted to steal a bag, though his 6.68 60 Yd. dash (PG 2019 National Showcase) shows he has the ability in the tank once he gets some more opportunities.

Wallace has started out for the Razorbacks in right field, though he’s slid over to third a few times late in games. He pitched a bit in high school too, serving as his team’s closer with a fastball up to 93, so he definitely has the arm to make an impact on defense wherever he is. Because of that, the Arkansas coaching staff has been confident riding Wallace out regardless of his slow start with the bat.

The Razorbacks have plenty of offensive firepowers, but there’s no doubt they want to get Wallace going in the middle of their order. The 6’1 210 LB righty has an incredibly athletic swing, using his strong lower half well and generating lots of torque. His approach at the plate has been pretty impressive for a true freshman—a couple of times I’ve seen him take a big swing and whiff on a good slider only to adjust immediately and spit on that same pitch the next time around. He definitely wants to lift the ball and does get into an effective launch position, though he might need to make some sort of adjustment until the barrel accuracy catches up. Regardless, not many freshmen in the country are capable of doing what Wallace does across all facets of the game.

By: Danny Brackman (@D__Brack)

RHP Jaxon Wiggins
Height: 6’6 | Weight: 220lbs | Bat: R | Throw: R

The Arkansas Razorbacks have come out of the gates in 2021 firing on all cylinders, and we’ve only just gotten a taste of what Jaxon Wiggins is going to bring to this potential title contender. Wiggins was a high-level recruit coming into Fayetteville with some draft buzz, though the cancellation of his senior spring season and shortening to 5 rounds massively stunted his chances of going pro. That being said, Wiggins might actually benefit more from attending an elite college program like Arkansas for 3 years with the current state of the lower levels of Minor League Baseball.

Off the baseball field, Wiggins was an All-State level basketball player, showing off his ridiculous athleticism with a recorded max vert. of 40” and a broad jump of 10’8”. Those are both elite measurements, especially for a baseball player. For reference, NBA star and known dunk-master DeMar DeRozan’s draft combine max vert. was measured at 38.5”. Now, while these skills may more directly translate on the basketball court, they do also help massively on the mound.

Wiggins has used that developing athleticism to go from sitting 91-94 with his fastball last summer up to 95-98 so far this season with the Razorbacks. Listed at 6’6” and 220 LBs, Wiggins controls his body exceptionally for someone his size. His mechanics are fluid and efficient, generating great arm-speed while showing solid repeatability. The fastball has true 4-seam movement and has the makings of an overpowering, potential double-plus offering. In my opinion, his mid-80s fading changeup is his next best pitch. From his over-the-top arm slot, the change tunnels exceptionally with the fastball and makes it very hard for hitters to pick up. He also throws a good slider in the low-80s that shows a lot of depth, rounding out his arsenal very nicely.

While this current Arkansas team is loaded enough to keep Wiggins in the pen, for now, he absolutely has the talent to start in the future. An injury or poor performance could give him an opportunity to enter the rotation, though his stuff is absolutely devastating in his current high-leverage late-inning role should he stay there.

By: Danny Brackman (@D__Brack)

1B/OF Tre Morgan
Height: 6’1 | Weight: 191lbs | Bat: L | Throw: L

While everyone has been obsessing over Dylan Crews early this season, and rightly so, LSU lefty first baseman Tre’ Morgan has stood out in his own right. Through his first 9 career games, Morgan has slashed a very healthy .364/.488/.515 to go with a perfect 4-4 in the stolen base department. The 6’1 191 LB lefty is incredibly athletic for the 1B position, and he’s already shown his savvy and feel for making plays. There are some people who argue he’s athletic enough to play the outfield—and they’re right—but he might actually be more valuable scooping up bad throws and snagging foul-outs like in the video below.

At the plate, Morgan has an amazingly simple set-up and coil with minimal noise. He tracks the ball exceptionally and is able to adjust his swing to smack off-speed pitches while staying short/quick enough to catch up to velo. His bat path is very direct and his contact skills are impressive for such a young hitter. He consistently hits the ball hard, and though he doesn’t lift it a ton yet, the pure hitting ability lays a great foundation. On top of that, he even crowds the plate to make an extra-uncomfortable AB for opposing pitchers.

College teams are usually lucky to land just one true freshman bat who produces at a high level, and the LSU Tigers have two right now. While Crews has hit a few more homers, Morgan has been practically just as good both at the plate and in the field. He’s shown that he can mash, he can run, and he can field. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against some top tier arms once SEC play begins, though I have a feeling his skills will translate just fine as the season progresses. Morgan makes it easy to get excited and I’m eager to see how he develops over the course of this season, as well as the rest of his baseball career.

By: Danny Brackman (@D__Brack)

C Corey Collins
Height: 6’3 | Weight: 220lbs | Bat: L | Throw: R

One prospect that no one seems to be talking about is Georgia freshman catcher Corey Collins. So far, he’s been an absolute unit for the bulldogs. When talking about top prep-catchers, Collins’s name must be mentioned as he was ranked a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball in 2020 and was mentioned as a 2020 top 100 draft prospect before committing to Georgia.

Collins has a bulky build and has excellent bat to-ball-skills. In terms of a stance, Collins is straight up with his hands held high. He has a small leg kick for developing power and has a smooth swing path from the left side. He makes consistent loud contact and his power potential comes with the amount of torque he can create with his hips. Continuing on, Collins hits the inside pitch well due to his bat speed and ability to keep his hands inside the ball. He’ll take his walks and controls the strike zone well. There’s plenty of raw power in the tank that Collins should have no problem transferring as he matures with the present strength he has.

In terms of defense, Collins has solid arm strength from behind the plate and is a good receiver. He runs well for his size and can even play the corner outfield spots if he doesn’t stick at catcher long term. All in all, Collins is a name to watch this year for Georgia as he has all the makings of being an everyday player. I would compare his game to former Braves catcher Brian McCann.

By: Drake Mann (@DrakeMann4)

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