The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021. We take a look at Daylen Lile, a prep outfielder who is arguably the best pure hitter in the entire draft.
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Daylen Lile, Outfielder, Trinity (KY.)
Weight: 195 lbs.
2021: 43G, .550/.730/.1360, 61 H, 61 RBI, 18 HR, 41 BB
Lile is a very talented left-handed hitter, as evidenced by his incredible stat line from his senior season at Trinity. He’s a decent fielder with solid speed, too, though concerns about his throwing arm could hurt his draft stock. His future power remains an uncertainty, too.
There’s no denying that hitting is Lile’s best trait. He put on a show over four years in high school and was even named Gatorade’s 2019-20 Kentucky Baseball Player of the Year. He has a good approach at the plate and an impressive swing. The 18-year-old has shown the ability to hit the ball hard and to all parts of the field, making him unpredictable for opposing defenses. Lile’s high IQ cannot go unnoticed, either; he’s able to recognize where he needs to make adjustments, then adapt to have a better performance at the plate. He also understands the strike zone and has elite-level pitch recognition. Lile should be a player who walks more times than they strike out no matter what level he is playing at.
Lile is a decent fielder and runner, too. These traits don’t compare to his hitting ability, but he has demonstrated a knack for looking fluid while fielding balls in the outfield. His speed is also a factor in this as it allows him to get range and track down tricky fly balls.
Lile’s power isn’t necessarily a weakness, but it’s an area that scouts might not be exceptionally fond of. This may come as a surprise considering he raked (18 homers) this season, but the fact of the matter is that he may not develop much more as a power hitter if he goes directly from high school to the pros. His offensive metrics are bound to decrease at the next level, and he may not be able to counter this with power development. Bottom line: if his power does not develop too much more than it already has, it’s going to be an average-at-best trait once he reaches the higher levels of affiliated ball.
The biggest concern with Lile is his arm strength, and this might be the main reason why he won’t be drafted in the first round. Lile doesn’t have an abysmal arm, but it’s weak enough to require a move to left field. The difference between left and center when looking at draft prospects is massive, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where teams pursue him in the first round unless they are wowed by his throwing ability.
Pro Comparison: Michael Brantley
The similarities aren’t perfect, but I can’t get away from a Brantley comparison for Lile. In terms of things they have in common, both are able to hit and get on base at an incredible clip. The Houston Astros outfielder has posted an incredible .353/.401/.523 slash line with four homers and 29 RBI this year. Brantley doesn’t walk as much as Lile exhibits (Brantley has a walk rate of 6.8 percent), but he does have a very low strikeout rate of just 11 percent. They’re both left-handed hitters, and while Brantley is two inches taller, he plays left field with average speed and average-at-best arm strength. He doesn’t have tremendous power, either.
Draft Projection: Mid Second-Round Pick
As exciting as Lile is as a prospect, his poor arm strength is going to prevent him from being a first-round pick. The second round seems far more likely and appropriate. With that said, there is a sense that Lile may attend Louisville if he’s not a first-round selection. He evidently has some holes in his game, and building on his power, speed, and defensive ability in college rather than going straight from high school to the pros might be a better choice in the long run. We’ll see if this signability (or lack thereof) ultimately has any impact on where he’s drafted.