High school baseball: Dylan Lesko, Drake Varnado headline list of MaxPreps National Player of the Year candidates

Kevin Askeland | MaxPreps.com Monday, May 3, 2021 11:30am

Buford ace has been force for top-ranked Wolves, while IMG Academy star pacing Ascenders on offense.

The high school baseball season is in full swing in some parts of the country while others are just getting underway. States like Florida, Georgia and Louisiana jump into the postseason this week.

That makes identifying candidates for MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors a little bit of a tricky exercise but some standouts have emerged, including pitcher Dylan Lesko of No. 1-ranked Buford (Ga.).

Read on for a look at 10 of the top contenders for high school baseball's highest honor.

Past MaxPreps National Players of the Year
2020 — No award (Pandemic)
2019 — Bobby Witt Jr., Colleyville Heritage (Colleyville, Texas)
2018 — Nolan Gorman, O'Connor (Phoenix)
2017 — Jordan Adell, Ballard (Louisville, Ky.)
2016 — Kyle Muller, Dallas Jesuit (Dallas)
2015 — Joe DeMers, College Park (Pleasant Hill, Calif.)
2014 — Jack Flaherty, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
2013 — Jack Flaherty, Harvard-Westlake
2012 — Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
2011 — Dylan Bundy, Owasso (Okla.)
2010 — Stetson Allie, St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio)
2009 — Matt Hobgood, Norco (Calif.)
2008 — Jake Odorizzi, Highland (Ill.)
Drake Varnado, IMG Academy
Photo by Robbie Rakestraw
Drake Varnado, IMG Academy
Baseball Player of the Year Watch List



Chris Arroyo, Stoneman Douglas (Parkland, Fla.)
The ace of the Eagles staff is 9-0 on the season with a 0.97 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 43.1 innings pitched for the team that's reached No. 4 in the nation at one point this season. He threw six, no-hit innings with 13 strikeouts against Monsignor Pace and he threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts against Coral Springs.

Dominic Castellano, Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
The Tigers' ace is 7-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched as the Florida squad has been among the best teams all season. He also threw a no-hitter and was one of three pitchers to combine for a second no-hitter. He threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Sarasota, winning 3-0 with  eight strikeouts.

Jake Dresselhouse, St. Mary Prep (Orchard Lake, Mich.)
The Eaglets' lead-off batter has been a heavy hitter this year. He's bashed seven home runs, including three grand slams, while leading St. Mary Prep to 21 straight wins to begin the season, and 41 in a row dating back to the 2019 season. He's batting .422 with 40 runs scored and 34 RBI.

Jackson Ferris, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
He opened the season with a no-hitter against Palmetto and followed that up with a perfect game against Flower Mound (Texas). He had double-digit strikeout totals in his first five games and didn't allow an earned run until his sixth outing. He's 8-0 record with a 0.55 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched.

Cooper Kinney, Baylor (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
The Red Raiders picked up a big win last week, 5-2 over Farragut. Kinney had a double, a home run and three RBI in the win, a performance that has become typical for the Baylor infielder. Kinney is batting .468 with 26 runs, 37 RBI, 16 doubles and seven home runs.

Dylan Lesko, Buford (Ga.)
Lesko has been a force on the mound and at the plate for the No. 1 ranked Wolves. Ranked as the No. 2 junior in the nation by Perfect Game, Lesko is 10-0 on the mound with a 0.26 ERA and 102 strikeouts and 12 walks. His best outings include an 18 strikeout game and he's thrown one no-hitter. On offense, Lesko is batting .412 (35 for 85) with 16 runs, 25 RBI, 7 doubles, a triple and 3 home runs.



Braden Montgomery, Madison Central (Madison, Miss.)
The Jaguars got off to a 24-0 start to the season and rose all the way to No. 3 in the national rankings before falling back following a loss. Montgomery has been key in the Jags' success, batting .459 with 39 RBI, four doubles, five triples and five home runs. He has also been stellar on the mound with a 6-1 record, a 0.39 ERA, and 71 strikeouts. His best outing came against Warren Central when he pitched six, no-hit innings with 16 strikeouts.

Sal Stewart, Westminster Christian (Miami)
After hitting four homers as a freshman and no home runs in a shortened 2020 season, Stewart leads the nation in home runs with 16. A total of 29 of his 42 base hits have gone for extra bases with a 11 doubles and two triples. He's batting .560 with 35 RBI and 39 runs. He came up big in Westminster Christian's win over nationally-ranked Stoneman Douglas with a home run and a pair of RBI.

Drake Varnado, IMG Academy
On a team loaded with potential first-round MLB draft picks, Varnado has been the consistent threat for the Ascenders. He leads IMG starters in batting average (.434), runs (33), hits (36), and home runs (7). He had two home runs in wins over Florence and Montverde Academy.

Jack Walker, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
After sitting out his junior season with an arm injury, Walker has returned to form this year leading Barbe to a 35-2 record. He is 12-0 with a 0.44 ERA. In 63.2 innings pitched, has 97 strikeouts. Walker has thrown two no-hitters on the season, including one in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.