The Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) is continuing the countdown to the beginning of its 11th year of summer action in late May, but college players all across the country recently returned to the diamond to get their spring seasons underway.
After an exciting 2020 summer season featuring the most talented rosters in Futures League history, many players received collegiate accolades from national publications such as Baseball America, D1Baseball and Perfect Game prior to the start of this highly-anticipated spring. Friday, Feb. 19 marked Opening Day across the Division 1 baseball landscape.
Boston College infielder Cody Morissette (Nashua ‘18, North Shore ‘20), outfielder Sal Frelick (North Shore ‘18, ‘20) and Virginia infielder Zack Gelof (Brockton ‘18) all earned various Preseason All-America honors and were named to the 55-player watch list for USA Baseball’s prestigious Golden Spikes Award, which is presented annually to the top amateur player in the country.
Morissette and Gelof, who were both selected as First Team Preseason All-Americans by two different publications, join Frelick and BC pitcher Mason Pelio (Nashua ‘18) among the top prospects for the 2021 MLB Draft to be held in July. MLB.com included Frelick (#25), Pelio (#31), Morissette (#43) and Gelof (#58) in its top 100.
The highest nationally-ranked team featuring former Futures League players is 2019 College World Series champion Vanderbilt. Among the four Commodores is Dominic Keegan (Nashua ‘20, North Shore ‘18), who was ranked as the country’s No. 21 first baseman by D1Baseball after being named to the All-FCBL First Team and leading the league in RBI last summer. Keegan is off to a monster start to the spring, having gone 12-for-21 with nine extra-base hits, nine runs scored and 13 RBI through Vandy's first seven games. He was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's (NCBWA) National Player of the Week on March 2.
Draft lists from D1Baseball and Baseball America include the top 100 and 200 prospects in the college game, respectively. Those lists include three other Futures League alumni in UConn’s Preseason All-Big East catcher Pat Winkel (Bristol ‘18) and ace pitcher Ben Casparius (New Britain ‘20), and Fordham lefty Matt Mikulski (Martha’s Vineyard ‘18).
Baseball America’s 2021 College Baseball Top 150 includes Frelick (#13), Morissette (#22), Gelof (#31), Pelio (#39), Oklahoma State pitcher Bryce Osmond (Pittsfield ‘19) (#98) and Winkel (#143). Osmond, who was primarily a shortstop during his time with the Suns, is already expected to be one of the top Big 12 draftees in 2022.
UConn’s Caleb Wurster (Brockton ‘18) and Northeastern’s Brandon Dufault (Nashua ‘18, ‘20) are both being considered for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award as the nation’s top relief pitcher. Wurster is also a D1Baseball Second Team Preseason All-American, while Dufault is the Colonial Athletic Association’s No. 1 prospect according to that website.
Casparius and his talented two-way teammate Reggie Crawford (Westfield ‘20) -- a 2020 Freshman All-American first baseman at UConn -- are Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s Big East Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively. Mikulski projects as the Atlantic 10’s top arm, while Rhode Island outfielder Mark Coley (Pittsfield ‘19, Westfield ‘20) and Dayton reliever Bryce Hellgeth (Worcester ‘19) are among its other draft prospects.
Hartford lefty and Crawford’s Starfires teammate Nick Dombkowski (Westfield ‘20, Wachusett ‘17) earned America East Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors, but the race will certainly include reigning FCBL Pitcher of the Year Nick Sinacola (Brockton ‘19-’20) as well.
At the regional level, the Futures League has had a hand in developing 12 of this year’s top 20 New England draft prospects according to the latest New England Baseball Journal ranking. Frelick (#3), Morissette (#5), Pelio (#7), Keegan (#8), Casparius (#9) and Winkel (#10) are all ranked in the top half. Reigning FCBL Relief Pitcher of the Year Joey Walsh (Brockton ‘20) of Boston College and Most Valuable Player Ben Rice (Worcester ‘19, ‘20) of Dartmouth are also among the Futures Leaguers on NEBJ’s list, along with Dombkowski, Dufault and Wurster.
Dufault isn’t nearly the only Futures League alum from Northeastern making headlines. Among the CAA’s draft prospects are two-time All-FCBL outfielders Jared Dupere (Nashua ‘19-’20) and Ben Malgeri (North Shore ‘19-’20) and 2017 FCBL Championship Series MVP Kyle Murphy (Nashua ‘17). Baseball America’s CAA Preseason Pitcher of the Year is Sebastian Keane (North Shore ‘19).
Other members of Perfect Game’s Preseason All-Conference squads are Merrimack shortstop Nick Shumski (Brockton ‘19, Nashua ‘20) and relief pitcher Jacob Thibault (Nashua ‘20-’21) and Central Connecticut State ace Brandon Fox (Bristol ‘16-’17) in the Northeast Conference, as well as Rhode Island infielder Josh Brodeur (Nashua ‘19) in the A10.
As for impact freshmen, look out for All-FCBL infielders Jake Gelof (Brockton ‘20) at Virginia and Matt Shaw (Worcester ‘20) at Maryland. Northeastern also has one in infielder Max Viera (Nashua ‘20). UMass Lowell’s Michael Quigley (Brockton ‘20) and Hartford’s Coleman Picard (Worcester ‘20) are noted from America East teams.