The outfielder is the silent but deadly selection on draft day: not as flashy and highly touted as pitching prospect, but could do a significant amount of damage to even the strongest of defensive armadas they face. Jo Adell, Luis Robert, and Jarred Kelenic are all young, dominant outfielders that could have otherwise been lost in the shuffle of breaking balls and ERAs. This year sports a class of heavy hitting outfielders, a handful of which could be early picks in the first round for teams looking to pad their lineup with more power.
These are the top five outfielders to look out for on draft day:
Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
After being drafted in the 14th round of the 2017 draft, Mitchell declined and set his course to attend college at UCLA, and boy, are we glad he did. A Swiss army knife of talent, Mitchell has maintained his position as one of the fastest players in college baseball. And the ability to cover major ground in a short amount of time is a quality I think one may want in an outfielder, but that’s just me spitballing. While his arm is strong his skill set on keeping an eye on the ball is not, making him a much stronger candidate for a corner position.
While Mitchell has an incredible amount of power and consistently makes contact, his home run rate is low, only sending six balls beyond the fence last season. That’s not to say he’s a poor offensive player though, as he has the sheer speed to turn singles into doubles and stretch doubles into triples. While parts of his swing need a little more time reworking, the ceiling on Mitchell is sky-high, and will go potentially in the first ten picks to a team that will fine tune him into a dinger machine.
Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny HS (Pa.)
The 6’1 high schoolers from Pennsylvania impressed scouts this season with his amount of power and contact. Much like Mitchell, he’s also got tons of speed on his side, clocking a 6.80 on the 60-yard dash. He bats left handed, and has a tight set up and impressive bat speed. At just a month shy of 19-years old, he already has an average exit velocity of 105 MPH. This makes him the perfect storm of the first high school players chosen in this year’s draft.
Hendrick’s official scouting report notes that he plays the ball best off of the wall, so there’s big question on whether or not centerfield would be the right place for him during the show. He’s verbally committed to Mississippi State, but if taken high enough could withdraw and take his chances in the minors. When most mock drafts are predicting him to go seventh overall to the Pirates, I say the Vegas odds are in favor of Pittsburgh fans.
Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas
The young outfielder has already etched his name into Razorback history, can he now do the same with MLB? With numbers that only seem like they could come out of Backyard Baseball or a fake trading card you make for yourself, the southpaw was hitting .448/.517/.781 when his junior season was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. But this abrupt end hasn’t interfered with his perception or draft value at all: MLB has named him number 10 in their upcoming player pipeline.
With an obvious love for the game, Kjerstad is full of one of our favorite barometers, ~ intangibles ~. Coach Dave Van Horn of Arkansas has often stated how much Kjerstad is loved by his teammates, and how he’s the ideal guy to have in a clubhouse. Van Horn was also bold enough to say the young slugger was, “the best left handed hitter in the county,”, music to the ears of many clubs. He also has a strong eye at the plate and even faster hands with the ability to rip the ball in any direction of his choosing.
Enrique Bradfield Jr., American Heritage Plantation HS (Fla.)
Another speed demon on this list, Bradfield Jr. is the fastest high school player entering the draft. While he has power behind him, he hit .542 last year which is like ya know NBD, Bradfield also draws a lot of walks, making him less of a power hitter and more of a smart batter with a lot of oomf. But this undulating power at the plate has a high ceiling, and certainly shouldn’t be looked at as the halting place of his offensive development. Standing at only 6-feet, the senior has a short swing and uses his stature to his advantage with even faster hands.
He is currently committed to Vanderbilt, the reigning College World Series champs and an iconic name in collegiate baseball as a whole. Bradfield, a known lover of education and growth, has a very tempting next step before him. While it’s hard not to want someone of his caliber developing in the minors right away, I can only imagine how his swing and especially his defensive abilities would continue to grow when immersed in a program such as Vandy.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (Calif.)
The buzz around the young outfielder has mostly stemmed from, you guessed it, Yankees fans. While Crow-Armstrong may not fall all the way to the 28th pick, Yankees fans sure know how to drum up excitement about a prep centerfielder that most people would not have set their sights on. But that’s all for good reason. During the U-18 Baseball World Cup, he slashed a hearty .364/.405/.606 while robbing multiple home runs (insert Yankee Stadium short porch jokes here). As strong as that slash line is, power is the southpaws weakest tool, mainly shining in the areas of defense and speed.
Like Brandfield, Crow-Armstrong has also committed to Vandy. After having his senior season cut short due to COVID-19, it only makes sense to continue his career and Vanderbilt, especially if he falls as low as 25 like MLB Pipeline is predicting. With that elite coaching staff, he can take his quick bat speed and tack on some much needed power and be back in the draft potentially in the top 20.