The 2021 Men's College World Series is scheduled to begin play on Saturday, June 19 at Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Our own Dayn Perry has provided a handy primer for the tournament as a whole, however, we wanted to get in on the action in this week's Prospect Watch by highlighting the best MLB draft prospect on each of the eight contending squads -- that way, fans can keep an eye on players who their team might select this July.
Unlike in past years, when the draft was held in mid-June, MLB moved this year's edition back to coincide with the All-Star Break, meaning the first round will begin on Sunday, July 11 and will be hosted in Denver, Colorado. CBS Sports will be publishing its top 50 prospect list (among other draft-related content) in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, let's get to the good stuff. (Do note that the teams are presented in order of their pre-tournament rank.)
Tennessee: RHP Chad Dallas
Dallas, who wears rec specs, à la Tyler Clippard, led the Volunteers in innings pitched and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine and 6.21 strikeouts per walk in his first full season at Tennessee. (He transferred there from Panola College, located in Texas, prior to the 2020 campaign.) He even fared admirably against Kumar Rocker and Vanderbilt in a mid-April start, though he lost that game by virtue of allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings. (Rocker also worked seven innings, albeit of the shutout variety.) Dallas doesn't have Rocker's upside, of course, but he does have a quality track record against SEC competition and a three-pitch mix (a low-90s fastball and a pair of breaking balls) that could land him within the top 100 picks.
Honorable mentions: 2B Max Ferguson; 3B Jake Rucker; RHP Jackson Leath
Texas: RHP Ty Madden
The Longhorns haven't produced a pitcher who made 50-plus starts in the majors since Roger Clemens. "The Rocket" was drafted in 1983. Madden has a chance to end that drought. This season, he compiled a 2.41 ERA and a 29.5 percent strikeout rate in 100 innings pitched. He's a well-built right-hander with a good fastball-slider combination and a steep, high-three-quarters release point. The catch is that Madden might end up in the bullpen if he's unable to improve his changeup. He's likely to go within the top 15 picks, suggesting he should receive ample opportunity to develop a better cambio before being shuffled off to the bullpen.
Honorable mentions: 1B Ivan Melendez; 1B Zach Zubia; RHP Cole Quintanilla; LHP Pete Hansen; RHP Kolby Kubichek
Vanderbilt: RHP Jack Leiter
Leiter, our preseason No. 1, is all but certain to come off the board within the top four picks. He has a high-grade fastball; some promising secondaries; an analytically favorable release point; and the reputation for being a hard worker with big-league bloodlines. (His father, uncle, and cousin all pitched in the majors.) Leiter also has a remarkable, if brief track record with the Commodores: in 20 appearances, he's posted a 2.10 ERA and a 41.4 percent strikeout rate. It would qualify as a major surprise if he isn't the first pitcher taken this July.
Honorable mentions: RHP Kumar Rocker; OF Isaiah Thomas; UTL Dominic Keegan; C CJ Rodriguez; LHP Hugh Fisher; RHP Ethan Smith
Arizona: OF Ryan Holgate
Holgate has already been drafted once before, in the 32nd round of the 2018 edition by the Minnesota Twins. He didn't sign, obviously, and that decision should result in him going earlier this summer, perhaps even within the top 100 picks. During his three-year stint with the Wildcats, he batted .316/.412/.522 with 18 home runs. Holgate's game is predicated on loud contact, as he isn't much of a defender (he'll be anchored in left) or basestealing threat; he's also prone to striking out, with his 18.8 percent clip exceeding that of his teammates' (17.9 percent).
Honorable mentions: RHP Chase Silseth; OF/1B Branden Boissiere; UTL Kobe Kato; RHP Mat Olsen; OF Donta Williams
Stanford: RHP Brendan Beck
Brendan's older brother, Tristan, is a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization who was originally chosen by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Brendan ought to go a little higher, earning him bragging rights at family gatherings. He's a senior who improved his velocity en route to career-best marks in innings, ERA, strikeout rate, and walk rate. Beck saved arguably his best outing of the season for late May, when he struck out 10 as part of a three-hit shutout against the Oregon State Beavers. (He was opposed in that game by Kevin Abel, who will also hear his name called at some point in the top four or five rounds.)
Honorable mentions: UTL Tim Tawa; 1B Nick Brueser; OF Christian Robinson; RHP Alex Williams
Mississippi State: RHP Will Bednar
Bednar is one of three Bulldogs likely to be taken in the draft, alongside lefty Christian MacLeod and former hockey draftee (really) Eric Cerantola. He solidified himself by posting a 3.53 ERA and a 5.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season in 16 appearances (13 starts), including a road victory against Jack Leiter and Vanderbilt in late April. Bednar gets by with a three-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a good slider, and a changeup. He should go top 50.
Honorable mentions: LHP Christian MacLeod; OF Tanner Allen; RHP Eric Cerantola; OF Rowdey Jordan
North Carolina State: C Luca Tresh
The Wolfpack had one catcher taken early last June (Patrick Bailey, 13th, to the Giants); this July, they're likely to see Tresh go within the first 100 picks. Tresh is an intriguing prospect because he hits the ball hard (as evidenced by his 15 home runs this season in 245 trips to the dish) and his adequate defensive skill set. Unfortunately, he's an attrition risk because of his proneness to punching out. More than 26 percent of his plate appearances ended in a K, which is worrisome considering the rest of the Wolfpack struck out less than 20 percent of the time. Some team will pop Tresh with the hope they can improve his contact woes, but it's fair to wonder if his hit tool will play any higher than well-below-average.
Honorable mentions: SS Jose Torres; UTL Tyler McDonough; 1B Austin Murr; OF Jonny Butler
Virginia: 3B Zack Gelof
You can make the case that this spot should belong to left-hander Andrew Abbott. We're giving Gelof the nod because the paucity of college bats could push him upstream. Gelof hit .298/.380/.472 with nine home runs this season, running his Cavaliers career marks to .310/.390/.472. He doesn't project to have a plus tool in his box, but a team convinced that he's going to stick at third base and hit a lick could take him within the first two rounds.
Honorable mentions: LHP Andrew Abbott; RHP Mike Vasil; RHP Zach Messinger; SS Nic Kent; RHP Griff McGarry