With Arkansas baseball needing to replace almost its entire lineup from a year ago, there should be plenty of opportunities for new players to make an impact in 2023. One player hoping for such a chance is Mason Neville.
The freshman outfielder comes from the baseball hotbed that is Las Vegas, which has produced 16 current big leaguers — including former MVPs Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds on the UA roster, Neville is one of four Razorbacks vying for a spot in a new-look outfield. Whether or not he cracks the Opening Day lineup, he is expected to see plenty of playing time this season, so Best of Arkansas Sports decided to take a closer look at what Arkansas baseball fans should expect from the exciting young player.
Recruiting Mason Neville
According to Perfect Game, Neville was the 86th-best prospect in the country and was No. 3 in the state of Nevada out of Basic High School in Las Vegas. Among outfielders, he ranked 21st in the nation.
He surged up draft boards late in the process, checking in at No. 102 on MLB Pipeline’s list of top draft prospects. That would have placed him late in the third round with a signing bonus around $500,000.
Instead, he slipped to the 18th round of the 2022 MLB Draft, when the Cincinnati Reds scooped him up with the 543rd overall pick. The drop was due to signability concerns, which proved to be warranted because he decided to play college baseball rather than begin his pro career out of high school.
Neville was originally committed to Arizona, with Arkansas being the other school in his top two. After head coach Jay Johnson left Arizona for LSU, though, he reopened his recruitment.
After giving a thought of following Johnson to the Bayou, Neville opted for the other SEC West school that was originally his runner-up choice.
“Arkansas is a great program and always has been a great program,” Neville told Baseball Prospect Journal. “I took a visit and fell in love. It was everything I could want in a college. They have the facilities, the coaching staff, a winning culture, and the opportunity to win a national championship every single year. They also have the greatest fan base in all of college baseball. Everything checked the boxes.”
Mason Neville Scouting Report
Mason Neville is a speedy center fielder with a sweet swing. Perfect Game graded him 10 out of 10 in 2021.
Their scouting report said he is a line-drive hitter who uses the middle of the field, with good projection for more power as he fills out his frame.
He recorded a max exit velocity of 99 mph, which puts him in the 99.5 percentile for the Class of 2022. His speed and line-drive approach would make him a big extra-base threat. As he gets stronger, those doubles and triples could turn into home runs.
Manny Machado is a great example of a line-drive hitter turning into a power hitter as he adds strength. In his first three MLB seasons, he had 33 home runs and 73 doubles with an OPS around .750 over 289 games. In his fourth season, he had 30 doubles and 35 home runs and an OPS of .861.
Of course, this isn’t to say Mason Neville is Manny Machado, but that is a best-case scenario for a guy with a line-drive swing still filling out his frame. Neville may not put up overly impressive power numbers as a freshman, but could develop that home run stroke as he spends more time in the Arkansas facilities, which are arguably the best in the country.
The last great left-handed Arkansas center fielder, Andrew Benintendi, can attest to those facilities. After hitting .276 with one home run as a freshman, he hit .376 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs and won the Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore. If Neville can replicate anything close to that season, Arkansas fans would be through the moon.
Neville is also considered a good defensive player with “premium athleticism,” according to MLB Pipeline. He has great range because of his speed, plus has a strong arm from his days as a pitcher.
In the 60-yard dash — baseball’s preferred metric, opposed to the 40-yard dash in football — Neville has been clocked at 6.28 seconds, which is in the top 99.8% of his class. For comparison, former Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin, who was known for his elite speed, ran the 60 in 6.5 seconds. More recently, former third baseman Cayden Wallace posted a 6.68-second 60-yard dash in high school. Those two combined to go 36 of 40 on stolen base attempts with the Razorbacks.
What Neville and Arkansas Baseball
Mason Neville adds a new wrinkle to the Hogs with his sprinting. Having a player with such elite speed at the top of a lineup can be a game changer, as seen with Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradfield. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2021 and an All-American in 2022.
Bradfield has 93 stolen bases in two years with the Commodores. Almost every time he gets on base, he’s in scoring position. His 60-yard dash time of 6.26 seconds is only a bit better than Neville’s. Anything close to the game-changing production on the bases seen below would be a huge lift to any lineup.
Neville also offers a good bat to the lineup. His line-drive approach and speed should make him a big doubles threat. He could potentially develop into a good power hitter, as well. If he pans out as expected, Neville projects as a top-of-the-order hitter, potentially capable of holding down the leadoff spot.
Defensively, there are plenty of holes to fill in the outfield. Braydon Webb and Chris Lanzilli, who started in center and right field, respectively, exhausted their eligibility last year, while left fielder Zack Gregory transferred to Grand Canyon.
Jace Bohrofen, who split time with Gregory in left field early in the season, is back, but he is the lone returner. The Razorbacks did add Tavian Josenberger from Kansas and Jared Wegner from Creighton out of the transfer portal, though.
While head coach Dave Van Horn said those three are the frontrunners entering preseason practices, which begin Friday, Mason Neville is still in position to earn some solid playing time as a freshman if he performs up to his talent. He has a lot of potential and the tools to excel at the collegiate level. Arkansas baseball fans now have to wait and see what this talented speedster has to offer right out of the gate.
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