10 Breakout College Baseball Players So Far In 2021
Branden Boissiere, 1B, Arizona
Coming into the season, Boissiere might have been an overlooked piece of an Arizona lineup that has proven to be one of the best in college baseball, but consider him overlooked no more. The third-year sophomore is hitting .395/.515/.618 with increased power and better plate discipline. After hitting four total home runs in his first two seasons in Tucson, he has four already this season. He has also walked 18 times compared to 14 strikeouts after striking out 34 times and walking 20 in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Wes Clarke, 1B, South Carolina
Clarke was one of the best power hitters in the country last season, and he carried that momentum right on through into 2021. If you date back to Feb. 29 of last season against Clemson and go until Feb. 28 of this season against Clemson, Clarke had a stretch when he clubbed 12 home runs in 13 games. On the season, Clarke is hitting .338/.494/.877 with 11 home runs and 23 RBIs. From a draft perspective, his raw power and production so far this season have given him some helium, despite his defensive limitations.
Shane Connolly, LHP, Virginia Tech
A transfer from The Citadel, Connolly has had a starring role on a pitching staff that has helped Virginia Tech earn a spot in the Top 25 for the first time since 2013. A slider enthusiast who throws that pitch nearly 50% of the time, Connolly was extremely effective out of the bullpen to begin the season, stacking up five scoreless appearances before giving up his first run of the season. Last weekend against Clemson, he moved into the rotation and he excelled there as well, giving up three hits and one run with 11 strikeouts in seven innings.
Geremy Guerrero, LHP, Indiana State
Prior to this season, Guerrero was a swingman at Indiana State with a career ERA over 5.00. This season, he has emerged as one of the most effective starting pitchers not just at the mid-major level but in the entire country. A true crafty lefty, Guerrero’s fastball tops out in the high 80s, but he pounds the strike zone at a 73% clip and he clearly understands how to get hitters out. He’s 4-0 this season with a 1.14 ERA, a 44-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .157 opponent batting average in 31.2 innings.
Dominic Keegan, 1B, Vanderbilt
After collecting just 22 at-bats on a national title team in 2019 and getting off to a slow start in 2020, Keegan has made up for lost time by knocking the cover off the ball early in 2021. He’s hitting .461 on the season, and of his 18 hits, 13 have gone for extra bases—seven doubles, two triples and four home runs. Keegan missed a couple of weeks after he tested positive for Covid-19, but returned Sunday of last weekend and played again on Tuesday, hoping to return to being one of the hottest hitters in college baseball.
Parker Messick, LHP/DH, Florida State
In a rebuilt Florida State rotation, Messick was looked to as the next in line to start on Fridays, and save for a tough first start of the season against North Florida, he has lived up to that. The second-year freshman is 2-2 on the season with a 3.00 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 27 innings. More recently, beginning at a time when Florida State’s offense was stuck in neutral, Messick has found his way into at-bats as the team’s DH and has swung the bat well. He’s hitting .364/.391/.500, which includes a 3-for-5 day against Virginia Tech in his first start at DH on March 14.
Patrick Monteverde, LHP, Texas Tech
On a team that returned a good number of proven pitchers and big arms, a Division III transfer in Monteverde seemed like an odd candidate to become Texas Tech’s most reliable starting pitcher, but that’s what he has been thus far. The lefthander doesn’t light up the radar gun with his fastball, but he can use both a changeup and slider to get swings and misses, as evidenced by whiff rates greater than 40% on both offerings. In five starts, he’s 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA, 30 strikeouts compared to three walks and a .160 opponent batting average in 29 innings.
Justice Thompson, OF, North Carolina
A transfer from Northwest Florida JC, Thompson wasted little time making an impact for the Tar Heels. In his first ACC contest, he made what has to be one of the best ACC debuts in history, going 3-for-4 with a double, home run and a stolen base against Virginia, while also making several highlight reel plays in center field, including robbing Virginia slugger Zack Gelof of a home run in a one-run game in the ninth. Through five weeks, Thompson has clearly been the centerpiece of the UNC lineup, hitting .356/.466/.575 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases, and has established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the ACC.
Luca Tresh, C, North Carolina State
In past seasons, Tresh has shown glimpses of his game-breaking power at the plate, but it has been on full display in 2021. The third-year sophomore catcher, who is known for putting up absurd exit velocities, is hitting .352/.410/.778 with seven home runs, all while handling catching full-time for the first time in his career. Like Clarke, his future is largely tied to his offensive production, but proving that he can handle his position can’t hurt his professional prospects.
Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina
With Alec Burleson drafted after last season and uncertainty about what to expect from righthander Gavin Williams as a rotation option, East Carolina needed someone to step up on the weekend, and Whisenhunt has been that guy. A second-year freshman who got more playing time last season as a reserve position player, Whisenhunt works with a fastball that has been up to 95 mph and a changeup that boasts a 68% whiff rate so far this season. That combination has helped him to a 4-0 start with a 2.28 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 27.2 innings for a top-10 Pirates team.