Levi Usher has made tremendous strides on the baseball field over the last two years.
He received just two college offers in high school, selecting Kirkwood Community College over Iowa, he said. After his freshman year at Kirkwood, Usher was a 37th-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2019 MLB draft. He attended Louisville instead and showed promising results in a shortened season this spring.
Usher’s development since his senior year of high school at Prairie High School in Iowa has vaulted him into early-round draft consideration for 2021. Professional scouts project the outfielder as a potential first-round pick in June’s draft.
“I feel like I would be pressing more if I hadn’t gone through it before,” Usher said. “I would maybe question myself on if I was even good enough to be drafted. Just thoughts like that. It does help having gone through the process and know what teams are going to ask me.”
Usher hit .409 with three home runs and 31 RBIs as a freshman at Kirkwood in 2019. He also stole 36 bases in his freshman year.
Usher hoped to start a pro career after his freshman campaign. But after he was a late-round pick in the 2019 draft, Usher knew Louisville was the best fit for him. He wanted to enhance his draft status to position himself as one of the country’s best players by 2021.
That decision has worked out well for Usher. He played in 16 of Louisville’s 17 games this before the season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had a .411 batting average with three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
Usher carried that success into this summer with the Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League. Although he has tailed off a bit since his hot start, Usher is hitting .264 with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 17 RBIs in 25 games. He also has added five stolen bases.
“I started it off pretty good, and I was hitting it well,” Usher said. “I took a week off because of a little injury and knew it was only going to get better if I let it heal. Then I kind of hit a little bit of a rough patch. But overall, it’s gone pretty good. I like getting all the at-bats. I could tell once I got back into the outfield for the first time that I was a little rusty.”
Usher has an impressive set of tools. The left-handed hitter has notable bat speed with some pop in his bat and an ability to hit for average. He also has above-average speed that he uses on the base pads and defensively in the outfield.
Although he characterizes himself as a well-rounded baseball player, he considers his hitting ability as his top trait.
“I am trying to not put pressure on myself with one specific area, but in the spring, I hit really well,” Usher said. “I always try to take the pressure off myself by saying I don’t have to get hits. I can also get walks and steal a couple of bags. I can also make good plays in the outfield. I would say I am well rounded.”
Usher is an exciting player offensively and defensively. He hopes to improve his consistency offensively and refine his outfield skills over the next year in preparation for pro ball.
“I would like to lock in a little more at the plate,” Usher said. “I am still a little rusty on my jumps in the outfield. I am not as comfortable as I used to be with playing up against the wall in the outfield. That is something we work on a lot at Louisville is tracking balls down and being comfortable finding the wall. I just want to work on the little things.”
Usher has the intangibles to play all three outfield positions in pro ball. This spring, he played eight games in left field, six in right field and one in center field. His combination of speed and arm strength make him a likely candidate to end up in center field or right field long-term,
“I don’t see myself playing left field long-term,” Usher said. “I would say I am more of a center fielder or right fielder. I don’t mind either position. I prefer those two positions, but if someone wants to put me in left, I am fine with that too.”
Usher hopes to show growth over the next year as he prepares for his junior season. Louisville competes at the highest level and pumps out talent for pro ball every year, which will only benefit Usher as he readies for the draft.
He likely will hear his name called in the early rounds of next year’s draft, and when he does, it’ll be a memorable moment for the Iowa native who went undrafted out of high school.
“I feel like I have come a long way with just learning the game,” Usher said. “The hitting philosophies were different between junior college and Louisville. I have been able to learn a lot about my swing. I feel a lot more comfortable. Just running the bases too. My baseball knowledge has come a long way.”
Read more stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.