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2021 MLB Draft Prep: Division 1 college games resume

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A look at 24 top draft prospects.

Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The first scheduled weekend of college baseball had postponements, both weather- and COVID-related. Both will continue to happen. There were, however, D1 college baseball games to assess for the first time since March. My expectation is to mind 24 likely top selections every week. Whether the Cubs are your side or not, Draft Prep is back. Having the 24 in the proper order is less important today than it will be in mid-June. The Cubs, of course, will pick 21st overall.

1. Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

Former MLB pitcher Al Leiter’s son, the Vandy hurler tosses with the moxie of a pitcher who grew up around the game. Along with Rocker below, Vandy games were weather-delayed this weekend.

2. Jud Fabian, OF, Florida

Fabian is a two-way center fielder who largely struggled this past weekend against Miami.

3. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

Rocker's dad Tracy is the defensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Rocker won't be on the draft board long.

4. Khalil Watson, IF/OF, HS (NC)

Highly regarded bat.

5. Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami

He arrived as a bat-first catcher, but is now a legitimate two-way guy.

6. Jordan Lawlar, SS, HS (TX)

7. Izaac Pacheco, 3B, HS (TX)

8. Brady House, 3B/SS, HS (GA)

9. Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville

10. Christian Franklin, CF, Arkansas

He struggled on opening night. Hitless in five with four strikeouts and two cutoff men missed, but he'll be fine. He hit a game-tying triple in the eighth inning of a 4-1 win on Monday.

11. Matt McLain, 3B, UCLA

Some will list him as a shortstop. Someone might draft him as a shortstop. He’ll be a third baseman, and a good one.

12. Marcelo Mayer, SS, HS (CA)

13. Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)

14. Levi Usher, OF, Louisville

15. Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU

16. Matt Painter, RHP, HS (FL)

17. Sal Frelick, CF, Boston College

18. Josh Baez, RF, HS (MA)

19. Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest

20. Henry Davis, C, Louisville

21. Benny Montgomery, OF, HS (PA)

22. Harry Ford, C/CF/2B, HS (GA)

23. Ty Madden, RHP, Texas

24. Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama

In these articles from now until early July, I hope to do several things. First, to let you know about the very broad swath of draft-eligible baseball talent. Baseball isn't pros against college against prep. The younger levels help to supplement the older levels, and success in college makes the pro game better, in due time.

With as much talent as is available, the Cubs "doing well," or even really well, doesn't bump them into the upper half of prospect pools. Many baseball fans have blinders on about other prospect pools. Because Eric Longenhagen says nice things about an early Cubs selection doesn't dismiss that he has nice things to say about 300-plus other guys, as well. The Cubs system moves up when the Cubs system performs well, and for that reason only.

I enjoy how one level feeds the next, and the pipeline. Mostly, though, I want to honestly assess how the Cubs pipeline is doing, as compared to others. Some blow smoke up the proverbial tailpipe. Others seek doom, whenever possible. I want to try to emphasize if the arrow is pointing up or down, and why I assess it as such.

Here is Mason McRae’s latest mock draft. I always appreciate his insight. I wouldn’t consider his choice for the Cubs at 21 for that spot, but the weekend reminded me how many obscenely good college players are in the mix this cycle. I was going to bombard with info, but for now, I leave with one more vignette for the week.

Among my favorite games of the weekend was a tilt between Clemson and Cincinnati. The Bearcats went with lefty Evan Shawver, who brings a virtual pharmacy of splitters, change-ups, sliders, and all the other necessities. McRae notes he was at 91-94, which isn’t ideal. The Clemson color commentator had been in hitter practice the last week, and noted how Tiger hitters were committed to identifying his litany of pitches as quickly as possible. They still did little damage, and only tallied once on a guy I’d put as an entirely valid second rounder as the snow struggles to melt in northern Illinois. Clemson’s starter was Davis Sharpe, who was more 93-95, with a fastball, split, change mix. The Bearcats had no answer, and fanned nine times over five innings before Sharpe turned it over to the bullpen. Sharpe makes every sense in the world as a third rounder off of an early look, and yes. Things will change.

As is the case in the NBA Draft, the top five or six names will draw the headlines. The top 200 names will all be players with legitimate chances to be valid big league talents, depending. Teams aren’t limited to two or three good players, by my words or someone else’s predilections. Quality talent will continue beyond the draft and the last MiLB roster spot, which is now a concern. It’s about which teams develop what they have, and figure out ways to maximize return.