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High School | General | 2/18/2021

Regional HS Preview: Mid-Atlantic

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Kahlil Watson (Perfect Game)
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2021 High School Baseball Preview

Regional Previews: Florida | Pacific Southeast | Texahoma | Southwest | Midwest

While Georgia has been the big story over the last decade as a state that has improved tremendously in its baseball talent base, the Mid-Atlantic Region may be the area that really steps forward during the 2020s. Seven juniors are mentioned in the All-Region categories below, with a number of highly-ranked 2022s just missing recognition. And that doesn’t even consider sophomores TayShaun Walton (Virginia) and Walker Jenkins (North Carolina), the top two outfield prospects in the 2023 class.
 
While talented high-ceiling athletes abound in the region, the depth to populate the PG High School Top 50 hasn’t quite happened yet. Two North Carolina teams, Charlotte Christian (33rd) and Reagan (50th), are the region's only representatives.
 
It should be noted that three of the All-Region selections, PG All-Americans outfielder James Wood and left-handed pitcher Mason Albright, along with junior left-hander Jackson Ferris, all attend high school at IMG Academy in Florida but are included in the Mid-Atlantic Region, as that is where all three call home.
 
C – Jacob Cozart (Sr., Wesleyan Christian Academy, N.C.)
Cozart is a well-rounded catcher with polished defensive skills behind the plate and a strong left-handed bat that has both barrel skills and power potential. He hails from one of the top baseball families in the country, with his father, Craig, being the head coach at High Point, his older brother Caleb a right-handed pitcher at North Carolina, and his younger brother, Samuel, another right-handed pitcher, being the top-ranked player in the 2025 class.

1B – Grant Hussey (Sr., Parkersburg South HS, W.V.)
Hussey is a big left-handed hitter with a loose and fluid swing and he doesn’t have to work very hard to get to his power in games and register 100+ mph exit velocities. He’s also a very good athlete with 7.00 speed who will be an asset at first base and has a chance to be a corner outfielder in the future if a team needs him at that position. Hussey is signed to stay in-state at West Virginia.

MIF – Kahlil Watson (Sr., Wake Forest HS, N.C.)
Watson was better known as a cornerback/wide receiver on the football field prior to last summer and had played very little on the baseball travel circuit. That changed quickly when he was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2020 17U BCS National Championships for the Dirtbags and followed that up by hitting .476-0-11 at the WWBA 17U National Championships the next week. Those performances and Watson’s high-level athleticism earned him a late spot in the PG All-American Classic.

MIF – Alvin Keels (Jr., Maury HS, Va.)
Keels is a high-level athlete with 6.6 speed in the sixty and middle-of-the-field tools on defense. His best tool, though, might be his right-handed bat speed, which features very fast hands and plenty of raw pull side power. Keels is committed to Miami.

3B – Tucker Toman (Jr., Hammond HS, S.C.)
Toman is a switch-hitter who has some of the best left-handed bat speed of any high school hitter in the country and is a career .404 hitter in 80 Perfect Game tournament games. The son of long-time college coach Jim Toman, now at Middle Tennessee, Toman is a polished defender at both third base and second base with plenty of arm strength.
 
OF – Will Taylor (Sr., Dutch Fork HS, S.C.)
Taylor is a dynamic fast-twitch athlete who has been recruited to play both baseball and football by Clemson. He hasn’t played as much baseball as many of his peers but the 6-foot, 170-pound Taylor has prototype center field/leadoff tools and a chance to develop more power in his bat as he fills out.

OF – Michael Gupton (Jr., Nolesville HS, N.C.)
Gupton has gotten plenty of attention for his blazing speed but the strongly built 5-foot-9 athlete stands out just as much for his strong right-handed bat and overall offensive potential. He hit .364-2-13 at the 2020 WWBA 16U National Championships playing for Team Elite and is currently the No. 26 player in the 2022 class. Gupton is committed to North Carolina State.

OF – James Wood (Sr., IMG Academy, Fla./Mary.)
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Wood is the highest-ranked player in the region, checking in at fourth overall in the PG 2021 class rankings. Wood’s left-handed swing is smooth and fluid with huge power potential and he’s a superb athlete for that size, running a 6.70 sixty and able to play an impressive center field on defense.

P – Mason Albright (Sr., IMG Academy, Fla./Mary.)
One of two Perfect Game All-American pitchers on the Mid-Atlantic team along with Josh Hartle, Albright is a 6-foot left-hander with a fastball up to 94 mph to go along with a devastating hard breaking ball from a deceptive arm slot that is one of the best breaking balls in the class. He is signed with Virginia Tech.

P – Daniel Brooks (Sr. Bishop England HS, S.C.)
Brooks is one of the larger top prospect pitchers in the country, measuring it at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds but with plenty of athleticism that could make him a two-way player at College of Charleston if he doesn’t sign professionally. Brooks has been up to 94 mph on his fastball and has good feel for changing the shape of his breaking ball while also turning over a promising changeup.
 
P – Jackson Ferris (Jr., IMG Academy, Fla/N.C.)
Ferris features a very projectable 6-foot-4, 185-pound build and a short and compact arm action that hides the ball very well from hitters and makes his raw stuff, which includes a fastball up to 93 mph and a tight curveball, play up. The No. 15 player in the 2022 class nationally, Ferris absolutely dominated hitters at 2020 PG tournaments, striking out 43 hitters in 24 innings while allowing only five hits.

P – Josh Hartle (Sr., Reagan HS, N.C.)
Hartle is the No. 17 player and second ranked left-handed pitcher in the 2021 class. He’s also one of the most projectable pitchers in the class, with a very athletic 6-foot-5, 195-pound build and lots of strength gains ahead of him. Although he only tops out at 91 mph now, he possesses outstanding pitchability and is a strong bet to continue to add velocity as he gets stronger. The PG All-American is signed with Wake Forest.

P – Tristan Smith (Jr., Boiling Springs HS, S.C.)
Smith has a power pitcher’s approach and arm on a strong 6-foot-2, 200-pound build. He works up to 95 mph on his fastball and compliments his fastball with a big breaking upper-70s slider that has angle to it. Like his fellow junior All-Region southpaw, Jackson Ferris, Smith was dominant in PG tournaments in 2020, striking out 40 hitters in 20 innings while allowing only eight hits.

UT – James Triantos (Sr., Madison HS, Va.)
Triantos has been a highly-ranked two-way prospect since his freshman year but he really stood out this fall at the WWBA World Championships. The North Carolina signee went 10-19 at the plate with two home runs for Stars Baseball and also was up to 92 mph while striking out eight hitters in a five-inning one-hit performance.

Mid-Atlantic Region Top Tools

Best Hitter for Average: Kahlil Watson (Sr., Wake Forest HS, N.C.)
A left-handed hitter with extremely fast hands and surprising power despite a slender 5-foot-10 build, Watson hit .434-2-29 with 18 stolen bases across four high-level PG tournaments last summer and fall. He is signed with North Carolina State but is the ninth-ranked player in the 2021 class rankings and a potential first round pick.
 
Best Hitter for Power: James Wood (Sr., IMG Academy, Fla./Mary.)
Wood’s size gives him huge leverage at the plate and he hit some of the most impressive home runs on the travel circuit last summer. Interestingly, his power extends to more than just home runs, as Wood has hit 11 triples in 46 games the last two years in PG tournaments.

Best Baserunner: Will Taylor (Sr., Dutch Fork HS, S.C.)
Michael Gupton would win this honor in almost any other region, as he is a track and field standout with a 10.52 100 meter and 21.57 200 meter time to his credit. But when Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney says, “He (Taylor) can fly, I mean he can flat-out run. His acceleration makes him special,” that sort of stands out.
 
Best Defensive Catcher: Ethan Anderson (Sr., Frank Cox HS, Va.)
Anderson is a big and strong switch-hitting catcher who recently reclassed to the 2021 group. He is very athletic behind the plate with especially quick lower half actions that give him lateral range and a quick release on his throws.

Best Defensive Infielder: Kahlil Watson (Sr., Wake Forest HS, N.C.)
Watson doesn’t have a cannon infield arm, but then no one in the region really does. What Watson has is excellent first step quickness and a soft and sure glove working through the ball. He could end up as a second baseman professionally.

Best Defensive Outfielder: James Wood (Sr., IMG Academy, Fla./Mary.)
The most obvious tool and size comparison for Wood is likely Jason Heyward and that includes a comparison to Heyward’s Gold Glove defensive abilities, too, although Wood obviously has lots of game work to do to get to that level. The speed, instincts and arm strength are all there to be a superb defender.

Best Defensive Arm: Calvert Clark (Jr., Charlotte Christian HS, N.C.)
North Carolina’s 2022 class is loaded, with six players, including the multi-talented Clark, ranking in the top-50. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Clark, a Clemson commit, is a two-way standout with a big right-handed bat at the plate, 6.9 speed in the sixty and a 92 mph fastball on the mound.

Best Fastball: Daniel Brooks (Sr. Bishop England HS, S.C.)
Brooks may not have the top radar gun fastball in the region right now but with his huge downhill angle to the plate and big extension out front it probably looks that way to hitters. In addition, Brooks has had an ideal velocity progression over the last three years, gaining 5-6 mph each year, and there is no reason to believe he’s hit his velocity ceiling yet.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: Mason Albright (Sr., IMG Academy, Fla./Mary.)
Albright’s breaking ball could be called either a curveball or a slider, as it has curveball depth and more of a sweeping slider shape at 78-80 mph. He has very good command of the pitch and can spot it to both sides of the plate or locate it outside the zone as a chase pitch to both right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Best Pitchability: Josh Hartle (Sr., Reagan HS, N.C.)
Hartle has already mastered two of the most elusive skills of any pitcher; he is adept at pitching inside to hitters and moving his fastball from side to side and he has the ability to tunnel his release point on his curveball and changeup precisely with his fastball, creating plenty of deception on those secondary pitches.

Best Multi-Sport Athlete: Will Taylor (Sr., Dutch Fork HS, S.C.)
For a player with his speed, Taylor is surprisingly more accomplished as a passing quarterback, having thrown for 2,237 yards and 21 touchdowns in 10 games while only rushing for 448 yards and 11 more scores. Clemson plans on auditioning him at quarterback before transitioning him to wide receiver. Michael Gupton, with his track and field exploits, is again a worthy consideration here.

 

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