The following mock draft is courtesy of prospect writer Mason McRae.
With the college season nearly a month away, scouts have finished putting together their preference lists. For the next month, they will likely be focusing on the JUCO (junior college) side, as they’ve already had exhibition games against other teams, and with the season for them starting in less than two weeks, it’s the best opportunity for area scouts to check-in on high end prep guys that decommitted from a four-year, to re-enter the draft as a teenager again.
Because of the heavy dose of amateur baseball starting up soon (college baseball practices resume this Friday), most scouts have their personal favorites already. While these are just preferences – by no means players already “linked” to them – these are trends you try to follow closely as the draft inches closer.
You can find full reports and rankings on the 2021 draft by clicking here.
So, here’s a look at my updated first round projection for the 2021 draft:
1st Overall – Pittsburgh Pirates
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Until we see an entire weekend of games from Rocker, Leiter, and Fabian, there’s nothing to suggest Rocker wouldn’t go first overall. He’s the most famous name in the draft, has been a premier arm since his underclassmen days at his Georgia high school, and would go first overall today assuming the medicals check out.
2nd Overall – Texas Rangers
Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Texas’ draft last year was its first attempt at using a model. It seemingly worked for them, but a pandemic hit and they had to lay off some employees, including a select few that helped build said model. Remains to be seen how they’ll orchestrate this year’s draft, but Kip Fagg is extremely risk-averse and as of now, Adrian Del Castillo appears to be at the top of their board and will save them some money. Contrary to the popular belief, Jack Leiter is very much in play here for Texas.
3rd Overall – Detroit Tigers
Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
There’s no real answer for who’d go here if Pittsburgh passed on Rocker for Fabian, and both went before Detroit selected, but Fabian’s still here and Detroit tends to draft from the college side. They’d prefer Rocker over Leiter if it was between them, and probably prefer Hill over Leiter if Fabian and Rocker were both gone. Instead they grab the best positional player in the class.
4th Overall – Boston Red Sox
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Leiter’s ultra-flat approach angle combined with the above average vertical carry and much improved velocity this fall make him appealing three picks earlier. In the case all three teams ahead balk on Leiter, Boston’s all over him. If Leiter’s gone like we expect come July, they’ll be in the running for a large variety of players.
5th Overall – Baltimore Orioles
Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Part of me thinks Hill’s fastball (which will be a two-seamer at the next level, regardless of it currently being a four-seamer) is actually open to some drastic improvement with some seam shifting. And the three above average or better secondaries mean he’s far from a reliever at the next level. If Baltimore thinks they could turn his FB from a below average four-seamer, into an above average turbo sinker type pitch, he’ll make a lot of sense here if the medicals check out.
6th Overall – Arizona Diamondbacks
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (HS)
Perhaps he’s gone before this as he’ll provide financial flexibility later on for the team selecting him. Lawlar isn’t the consensus top prep player this year, but he’s the overwhelming favorite right now it appears.
7th Overall – Kansas City Royals
Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville
There are a lot of caveats at this spot; the first being the lack of college arms available here, or so it appears, that could change with a larger sample of data and opportunity for pitchers to jump velo-wise. The other caveat being if Binelas can perform as well as he did as a freshman coming off hamate surgery. If he does, he’s in play earlier.
8th Overall – Colorado Rockies
Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Madden’s fastball metrically is one of the worst in the class, but he throws hard, has size, and can throw a breaking ball for a strike, so scouts like him. I’m doubting he’ll actually go as high as people think he will, but it appears he’s in play this early. He’s a sinker-guy, which doesn’t bode well in terms of upside, especially when you only have one above average secondary pitch.
9th Overall – Los Angeles Angels
Brady House, 3B, Winder-Barrow (HS)
In Perry Minasian’s draft he ends up with somes favorite high school player in the entire draft. He’s well-known, and put together his best weekend of play in Fort Myers this past fall with dozens of scouts in attendance for every game.
10th Overall – New York Mets
Alex Mooney, SS, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (HS)
Mooney didn’t wow scouts at the WWBA, but he’s above average defensively and offensively with a lot of people buying into more power coming in the future. He’s one of the better bets in terms of staying at SS as well.
11th Overall – Washington Nationals
Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
Washington is traditional, and so are McLain’s skill sets, making this a perfect match. McLain in the same archetype as David Fletcher and Whit Merrifield, which means elite contact rates at numerous positions.
12th Overall – Seattle Mariners
Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
Seattle loves velocity, extension, and tight-spinning sliders. Cusick has all three, as well as above average vertical movement on an elite FB. His control for the FB isn’t great but it really doesn’t matter and if his stuff in the spring is as good as it was in the fall, he’s going to be in the conversation about ten picks before this.
13th Overall – Philadelphia Phillies
Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)
Philadelphia is one of the more traditional teams in scouting. Fortunately for them, amateur director Brian Barber is one of the best scouts in baseball. Painter’s got plus spin rates on the FB that attract progressive teams, but they come from a high release height and short extension (relative to height). Which creates a steep approach angle, his low spin efficiency means player dev opportunity, but it could be all for nothing; he’s most definitely a sinker-guy at the next level, meaning potentially a lower ceiling.
14th Overall – San Francisco Giants
Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas
Barring something unexpected, Michael Holmes and the Giants will have a first-round pick NOT invested into a college catcher after the organization has selected two in the past three drafts. This year’s depth seems similar to that of 2019, so Holmes will have a grab bag of options at play with this pick. Franklin’s elite exit velocities will play their way into the first round, but his swing can get flat at times, meaning a job on the player development side.
15th Overall – Milwaukee Brewers
Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
Milwaukee will draft based on their model and veer off track at times but they’ve been successful when doing both. One of the many notable mid-major prospects this year, Cowser draws comparison to Milwaukee’s first rounder last year (Garrett Mitchell) and could end up going higher than him.
16th Overall – Miami Marlins
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)
Miami’s amateur director was in house for Mayer’s best game at Fort Myers. Some see Mayer as the surest bet to play shortstop and hit for contact at the top of a major league lineup. Others see an oversized infielder prone to a position change.
17th Overall – Cincinnati Reds
Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land (HS)
Cincinnati’s selection of high-school outfielder Austin Hendrick last year was the perfect example of making a selection based on financial value for the spot. Montgomery’s a metric-galore and has the rotational acceleration plus bat speed to put plus hit/power grades on. He’s also a plus (maybe plus plus) runner at six foot four.
18th Overall – St. Louis Cardinals
Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
Teams are rightfully going to be treading water with Wilson because of the last first round pick from South Alabama, but Wilson is his own man and teams love the power. If he performs this spring, he’ll have a shot at going higher then Travis Swaggerty did (10th overall) in 2018.
19th Overall – Toronto Blue Jays
Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami of Ohio
Bachman is a rather unknown commodity to the draft audience, but he’s actually a consensus first rounder in conversations I’ve had. His three pitch-mix is perhaps the best in the class and the Blue Jays love their model, which will value Bachman’s three optimized pitches very highly. One scout did say his delivery is a turn-off, and that the medicals would be a big factor, so it’ll be something to monitor.
20th Overall – New York Yankees
Levi Usher, OF, Louisville
Both Louisville bats are in play here, and some people think catcher Henry Davis is better than Usher for the right reasons. Davis had better exit velocities then Wells last year and will actually stick at catcher, so maybe he’s the pick here. In this scenario, Usher’s five average or better tools give him the edge though.
21st Overall – Chicago Cubs
Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)
There’s a chance Ford gets the Bryce Harper treatment (not comparing talent by any means, just positional flexibility) and moves to the outfield as he’s an uber-athlete who can hit, but he’s also good enough to play catcher. Chicago did a great job handling Kyle Schwarber out of college, although that was a different hitting coordinator and regime.
22nd Overall – Chicago White Sox
Steve Hajjar, LHP, Michigan
Chicago shares a training camp with the Dodgers, which explains the recent uptick in pitch design related signings/selections. That makes this pick a questionable one, he lacks velo and has a high release height which hinders the plus vertical carry fastball from playing up. There’s no real standout quality from Hajjar outside of a decent low spin efficiency SL. A pair of Bearcat left-handers in Evan Shawver and Drake Batcho are in play here.
23rd Overall – Cleveland Indians
Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East (HS)
Cleveland already took a high school catcher up north in Bo Naylor a few years back and Mack should end up going before the end of day one because of his power from the left side. It’s uncertain whether or not he can catch at the pro level but he’s recently started using the new one knee down technique. Himself and Ian Moller didn’t partake in the WWBA tournament last year, but scouts still love them both.
24th Overall – Atlanta Braves
Robby Martin, OF, Florida State
Martin hasn’t produced like a first rounder but scouts love the body and projection on the power side. He’ll have to hit his way into the first round but Atlanta likes under slots in the first round and Martin should do just that.
25th Overall – Oakland Athletics
Ryan Spikes, SS, Parkview (HS)
One scout said Spikes is the second best shortstop in the country. He looked overwhelmed at times in Fort Myers but showcased fantastic bat-to-ball skills hitting ahead of Brady House. He looks like Jose Ramirez and could move around defensively like him, though he should be alright at shortstop.
26th Overall – Minnesota Twins
Khalil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)
In my opinion, Watson has the best swing in the draft from the prep side. And he performed extremely well in Fort Myers this past October; including a home run to deep right field with at least three amater directors in attendance.
27th Overall – San Diego Padres
Tyree Reed, OF, American Canyon (HS)
There’s reasonable reports/rankings on Reed that have him in the top ten but he managed to slip into the hands of AJ Preller who tends to invest a first round pick every year into a profile like Reed’s. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t come close to this spot come July, but Preller tends to get players in spots he shouldn’t all the time – Cole Wilcox & Hudson Head are the most recent examples.
28th Overall – Tampa Bay Rays
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (HS)
If any team has the capability of turning Jobe’s low spin efficiency fastball into a traditional four-seam pitch through seam shifting, it’s the Rays, who adopted pitch design into pro ball. He has arguably the best slider from the prep side and velo plus athleticism which bodes well in terms of future success.
29th Overall – Los Angeles Dodgers
Rodney Boone, LHP, UC Santa Barbara
He’s got one of the flattest approach angles and possesses elite vertical carry on a fastball with velocity climbing into the 90s. He’s left-handed and will be nearly every progressive organization’s number one priority with their second selection this year. The Dodgers scoop him up before anybody has the chance to do that here though.