New England enjoyed a tourism boost this spring thanks to the waves of scouts blanketing the area to cover one of the region’s deepest draft classes.
Boston College center fielder Sal Frelick is at the head of the class as a potential top-10 pick, with high schoolers Frank Mozzicato (East Catholic High in Manchester, Conn.) and Josh Báez (Dexter Southfield) viewed as potential first-round selections. There are perhaps a dozen additional candidates from New England who could hear their names mentioned in the first 10 rounds of the draft — a bonanza with few recent precedents.
“It’s been remarkable,” said Ray Fagnant, the Red Sox’ Northeast regional scouting supervisor. “Without question, in my 29 years of scouting, it’s far and above. No other year remotely compares. It’s been amazing.”
“It’s really the most exciting time I can remember in New England amateur baseball,” said another New England scout who called the class “by far” the best he’s covered.
There is a chance this year’s New England class could yield multiple first-rounders for the 12th time and the first since 2016, and an outside chance that this could become the third draft with three New Englanders taken that high.
That trio points to the high-end talent, yet the depth beyond that group is also noteworthy. For the first time since 2002, there’s a chance New England could yield 10 or more picks in the first 10 rounds.
“Amateur baseball has kind of blown up [in New England] in the last five or 10 years,” said Red Sox assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, who owned and ran Advanced Performance Academy from 2010-19. “The number of kids playing baseball at a high level nationally from this region has definitely gone up.”
Some evaluators believe the depth speaks to fundamental changes in baseball development in New England. Over the past decade, the region has seen the establishment of a number of highly regarded year-round indoor baseball facilities. Those facilities employ the same sort of technologies used by college programs and professional teams to aid teaching and scouting.
The combination of those resources has helped players in cold-weather states offset disadvantages they’ve traditionally confronted relative to warm-weather peers who play longer seasons.
“In the past, it was all on-field performance. Now you can see technology that plays a part in a player’s development,” said Yankees pitcher Michael King, a product of Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) High School and Boston College. “You can actually train in a batting cage or on a bullpen mound. You don’t have to be pitching in a game in warm weather to experience that.
“I think that’s another way of getting exposure for the kids who are here. As opposed to doing it for four or five months, they can do it all year round,” he added. “Development has gone up and Northeast guys have been on the radar a little bit more.”
More accurately, in 2021, New Englanders have occupied a far more prominent position on the radar of scouts — a development that should come to light in the draft starting Sunday.
Potential early-round picks from New England
Sal Frelick, Boston College, CF: Frelick is considered the best position prospect out of New England since George Springer (No. 11 pick in 2011) or Rocco Baldelli (No. 6 overall in 2000). He could land in the top 10.
Frank Mozzicato, East Catholic High (Manchester, Conn.), LHP: Four straight no-hitters put Mozzicato, a UConn commit, on the national radar. Recent projections have him going in the back of the first round.
Josh Báez, Dexter Southfield, CF: Báez possesses upside that could rival that of nearly anyone in the draft. He’s expected to go in the first or second round.
Cody Morissette, Boston College, 2B: Though Morissette’s numbers as a junior took a hit when he broke two knuckles on a slide into a catcher, he projects to have a solid offensive future, with the potential to go as early as the second round.
Other early-round candidates with N.E. ties
Ryan Cusick, Wake Forest, RHP: The 6-foot-6-inch hard-throwing righty from Sudbury passed on a chance to turn pro out of Avon Old Farms, and now possesses one of the best fastballs in the draft class, with triple-digit velocity that should carry him into the first round.
Sean Burke, Maryland, RHP: The righthander out of St. John’s (Shrewsbury) missed a ton of bats with his fastball, while also showing the ability to spin breaking balls.
Steve Hajjar, Michigan, LHP: Hajjar, the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018 at Central Catholic in Lawrence, had a strong year in the Big Ten.
Mike Vasil, Virginia, RHP: A potential first-rounder as a power pitcher out of Boston College High School in 2018, the Wellesley native became more of a command pitcher in college whose feel for his craft could still land him in the first five rounds.
Other candidates for the first 10 rounds
Ben Casparius, UConn, RHP: Casparius was largely dominant as a starter for UConn this year, featuring a three-pitch mix that will allow him to develop as a starter.
Dennis Colleran, North Attleboro HS, RHP: Though very young (17), Colleran’s mid-90s fastball is a head-turner and his slider shows solid potential.
Jared Dupere, Northeastern, OF: The redshirt sophomore from Amesbury (Governor’s Academy) hit .343/.457/.781 while setting a school record with 21 homers.
Kyler Fedko, UConn, OF: Fedko put up huge numbers (.410/.496/.697) while winning Big East Player of the Year honors. While he doesn’t have loud tools, his performance may garner consideration in the first 10 rounds.
Rohan Handa, Yale, LHP: One of the most fascinating stories in the draft, Handa metamorphosed during the COVID-19 shutdown, going from a pitcher working in the low- to mid-80s to one who tops out in the high-90s with a plus slider.
Owen Kellington, U-32 High School (Vt.), RHP: Kellington became the first prospect in decades to draw a regular stream of scouts to Vermont.
Tyler Mattison, Bryant, RHP: A 95-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 80⅓ innings with a fastball that gets to the mid-90s should generate interest.
Emmet Sheehan, Boston College, RHP: Sheehan emerged as BC’s best pitcher this year, striking out nearly one out of every three batters he faced.
Nick Sinacola, University of Maine, RHP: The North Attleboro product set school and conference strikeout records with 139 in 79⅓ innings.
Pat Winkel, UConn, C: The combination of lefthanded power with solid behind-the-plate skills should help him get taken on the second day of the draft.