Brady Neal transferred to IMG Academy (Fla.) after his freshman year at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Florida. The decision to move to the top baseball academy in the country and play alongside an extremely talented roster paid off for Neal.
Besides developing his skills, Neal also performed at a high level on the field. As a sophomore last year, Neal hit .371 with 22 RBIs and nine extra-base hits in 62 plate appearances. His success caused him to reclassify from the 2023 class to the 2022 class.
After talking with his family and individuals close to him, Neal felt it was best to skip a grade of high school. Neal thrived throughout the summer showcase circuit to give him confidence going into his senior year in 2021-22.
Neal’s skills, success against older players in showcase events, and potential have caused him to rise in prospect rankings. Scouts believe Neal is one of the top prep players in the 2022 class and a potential early-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft.
“It’s a blessing, honestly,” Neal said. “I can’t really explain it. I watched all those guys go through it last year and how they handled all the scouts there. You can be nervous, or you can be relaxed and play your game. That’s just what I try to do is play my game. It came up on me a little quicker because I skipped a grade. But I just know that if I keep working.”
Neal is a 5-foot-10, 178-pound catcher who is athletic and displays impressive defensive skills for his age. He has above-average arm strength, solid blocking skills and clean transfers behind the plate. His arm strength and quick releases make him difficult for opposing players to run against him.
Neal can play center field and infield, but scouts believe he has all the traits to remain behind the plate long-term.
“The biggest strength in my game right now is my defense,” Neal said. “I am really confident in my defense, and I think I proved that last year when I was catching all those talented guys as a sophomore. It’s just something I am really confident in is my defense and throwing guys out.”
Offensively, Neal is a left-handed hitter who has a simple setup at the plate. He is short to the ball and drives the ball to all fields. He consistently drives the ball with authority and displays solid power potential.
In the offseason leading up to his senior season, Neal wants to work on his offensive skills to develop a more consistent approach at the plate.
“I want to improve on my consistency at the plate,” Neal said. “I started being a lot more consistent last high school season and kept it going last summer. I’ll be fine if I keep doing that, and I can hit for a high average while not striking out a lot. I have worked on improving my plate discipline and drawing more walks.”
Besides his status as a top draft prospect, Neal also is a Louisiana State commit. Neal committed to LSU as a freshman on Sept. 23, 2019, to then-coach Paul Mainieri. Mainieri retired in the offseason, and LSU hired former Arizona coach Jay Johnson.
Despite the coaching change, Neal remains committed to LSU. He cites the program’s history of competing at the national level and his relationship with Johnson for his reasons for staying committed to LSU. He also believes playing in the Southeastern Conference will help him develop for pro ball.
“The tradition was big for me,” Neal said. “LSU has a tradition of winning baseball games. That’s what I want to do. I’m a winner, and I want to win. The fans too. You can’t beat that and their support. I went to a game last year, and it was just awesome. I want to play there every night.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.