Prep Baseball Report

Utah: A look ahead to 2021 (Top 5 Players)

Jeff Scholzen
Utah Scouting Director

UT: Top heavy draft talent carries the Beehive state in ‘21

With Prep Baseball Report now in the Beehive State, players are getting the coverage they have not received from any other outlet or baseball source, until now! The response to our coverage has been great and players, parents and coaches want to be involved and are big fans of what we do. We jump into the preseason content with our look at the top 5 players in the 2021 class. The list is loaded with D1 signee’s, however these top 5 players will also garner scouting coverage from MLB area scouts and cross-checkers. If our readers didn’t know, MLB held their draft this past year under the cloud of CoVid-19 and with teams losing millions of dollars, the draft was limited to only 5 rounds, and with past drafts being 40 rounds, the changes caused over 1,000 players to be shut out from being drafted, thus pushing high school players to college. As a result of this, it’s caused a back log of top talent at the JUCO and 4 year college levels, making it even more difficult to be selected. It has yet to be confirmed, but MLB is considering and more than likely going to hold a proposed 20 round draft, because of not needing as many drafted players, with the recent contraction of the MiLB system, as 40+ teams have been eliminated from the player development pipeline for now. 

High school players, who have youth and leverage to work on their side, being that they can go to college instead of turning pro, most are looking for life changing money at 18 years old and who can blame them? Or they take their talents to the college game, and develop, so they can get 3 years of schooling behind them, while taking another shot at the draft, either at the JUCO level, where a player is eligible all two years, or their junior year/21st birthday, whichever comes first at a four year program. For the vast majority this is the best path to take, because not only do players mature physically, but mentally, emotionally and are on their own for the first time, now better preparing them for the lifestyle of being a professional athlete. MLB clubs know more of what they are getting with a college player, because of the reasons stated vs. unproven HS players and the inferior competition they face. However top HS players still have to be scouted and reports filed, so if they choose the college route, or having it basically chosen for them, a paper trail is now established to see their progression over the years, until they are draft eligible again. This process allows for scouts and clubs to see their development or improvements through the college years, as they now play much stiffer competition, thus allowing for a much better evaluation of their tools and skills. So we look at the players in the state who will garner attention from MLB clubs, but a lot can happen from now until draft day, which has always taken place the 1st week of June. With the elimination of all Rookie Advanced “stadium” league’s, new players will not have to report to those rookie level leagues as soon, so the draft has been confirmed for MLB All-Star weekend, in the middle of July, which this year the all-star game will be in Atlanta, hosted by the Braves. The draft will now rotate to the various all-star sites on a yearly basis, to create more interest, much like the NFL draft. 

Utah typically has 20+ D1 signees a year, yet reeled in 14 this year. Don’t be fooled by the number, as more than a handful are going to have immediate impact as incoming freshmen, with the first 5 in the states top 10 rankings, drawing MLB draft attention, from the four corners/southwest area scouts.

Leading the list is the #1 player in the state, 6-3 185 Janzen Keisel-RHP (Gunnison Valley HS) from a town of 3,000 residents in Central Utah. Keisel is a BYU signee and with a lean athletic and highly projectable build, he recently came back from Tommy John surgery this last fall, and didn’t look to have missed a beat. With a revamped and much improved delivery, Keisel’s FB 90-94 drew a huge crowd at the Arizona Sr. Fall Classic in October. The CB has tight biting depth and looks to have a 3 pitch mix that should develop nicely in college or professional baseball. One draft hurdle, besides having elbow surgery, will be the location of his hometown, as it’s off the beaten path and will be difficult for the scouting community, but in the end if you’re good and Keisel is plenty good, scouts will find a way to get to Gunnison, UT, especially if Keisel turns heads at the upcoming PBR SUPER 60 in February.

Next on the list, is another SUPER 60 arm, in #2 ranked Cameron Day-RHP (Layton HS) a recent U of Utah signee. At 6-2 195, Day has a frame to continue to add size and strength, coupled with an EZ fast arm. Day showed off his arsenal at our recent Fall Prospect I.D, and the FB 90-94 had plenty of late hop and did it with an ease to his operation. Day has flown under the radar screen, but shouldn’t much longer, when he takes the mound at the Super 60. I expect a big spring from Day!

Continuing the trend of hard throwing arms, is #3 ranked Cal State Fullerton signee and another SUPER 60 participant Colton Sundloff-RHP (Stansbury HS). At 6-4 195 and with another 15-20 lbs to fill on his lean athletic frame, Colton is a bit different in how he creates his 89-94 MPH velocity. With a LTQ/sidearm slot, Sundloff touches velos you don’t see everyday from this type of arm action. The FB features late ground ball sinking life and the SL sweeps away from RHH’s, along with a CH that bottoms out with deception. Any one of these 3 RHP’s could be the #1 guy in the state, so the spring will address who steps forward and takes the bull by the horns.

If you like hitters, the state has 2 of the best in BYU signees, Chandler Reber-CF (Desert Hills HS) a SUPER 60 participant and Mason Strong-C (Snow Canyon HS). Reber the #4 ranked player is a 5-11 200 compact, tight chiseled athlete with big bat speed (82 max) and an EV of 101. Also ran an event best 6.54/60 at the Fall Prospect I.D, and displayed his abv avg bat speed and exit velo without selling out for power. The swing is controlled and fluid and he uses his back leg well in loading his lower ½ to utilize his legs to generate proj power to straightaway CF and LF.

Strong the #5 ranked player, is the wildcard, as the 6-0 185 RHH catcher, shows bat speeds up to 83 and exit velos hovering around 100+. Strong recently has had a couple of private workouts with MLB clubs and one recently with a clubs area scout and one of their cross checkers. Strong has really filled out over the past year and taken his game to another level. 

This Fab 5 could all be in the running for the coveted “Mr. Baseball” Award for Utah, as it should be an exciting year in the Beehive state!

NOTE: QA’s will be sent to all the HS coaches throughout the state this coming week, to fill out and provide information on their respective teams. We will provide weekly state and region rankings and give out players and pitchers of the week, based on their in game performances. Any coach who fills out a QA, will have their team spotlighted on a daily or two basis, leading up to the spring ‘21 season. This coverage is new to the state and one I firmly believe will be welcomed and exciting for all involved!