1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
As of this writing, I still have Jud Fabian 1st overall on my board, but Jack Leiter is special. He’s the best pitching prospect in the last several years. There will be some teams who shy away from a 6’0″ righthander, but this isn’t 2012. Pitchers with Leiter’s four pitch (all above average to plus) profile can dominate in baseball, especially with his low vertical approach angle. Sure, his pro starts won’t all be 16K/1BB no-hitters, but Leiter is a dynamic talent. Pittsburgh takes a pitcher with true ace potential who should quickly rise the system.
2. Texas Rangers
Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Well that’s a surprise. Madden is pitching his way into the top 10 selection territory already. Similar to Baltimore’s selection of Kjerstad #2 overall, Texas takes a player who signs for a bit less in slot money, but who is very worthy of a high pick. Madden is a high velocity college righthander who was waiting for his curveball and changeup to show improvements in command and shape. Both are vastly improved in 2021. Ty Madden pitching three hours away should give the Rangers ample opportunity to see him in action even accounting for scouting restrictions due to COVID-19. Chris Young, in his first season as general manager, will be an intriguing element to the upper picks in this year’s draft, though Amateur Scouting director Kip Fagg stayed in his current position within the organization. Lawler, Fabian, Rocker, and Adrian Del Castillo all make sense here too. Texas is in an enviable position.
3. Detroit Tigers
Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Detroit is building a heck of a system that looks primed to win very soon. In this mock, the Tigers don’t overthink the selection. They take the best player (in my opinion) on the board. It doesn’t hurt that Fabian has (1) consistently hit despite being one the youngest players on the field, (2) played a solid CF, (3) succeeded with wood bats. There’s swing and miss to Fabian’s game (currently has a 30% K%), but that should be just be monitored as the draft approaches. Teams shouldn’t draft for need, however Jud Fabian should be quick to the majors and plays a premium position. Another player to consider here is Henry Davis if he keeps up his torrid pace into July.
4. Boston Red Sox
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Even casual fans of the draft may have heard Kumar Rocker’s name. He was a hot commodity in the 2018 draft but a firm commitment to Vanderbilt led him to campus. So far that decision appears to have paid off for Rocker. The Red Sox take the dynamic righthander who has some of the most MLB-ready physical and pitching qualities in the draft class. It’s hard to say if the Red Sox under Chaim Bloom will choose to pay the high price needed for Rocker, but Scouting VP, Gus Quattlebaum, has been with the organization for 10 years and has never picked higher than 7th. It makes sense for a premier organization like the Red Sox to seize the opportunity to select a player who could be in the starting rotation sometime in 2022.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)
Mayer has a strong likelihood to be a starting caliber shortstop with good bat-to-ball skills and plus raw power. He’s an exciting talent and is in the running for top prep shortstop in a very deep class. He also has been showing off a steeper bat path through the zone. The Orioles benefit from just taking best player on the board and while I overall like Westburg and Henderson in their system, Mayer would (for me) immediately slide in as Baltimore’s top shortstop prospect.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (HS)
Arizona can be very prep heavy, but unlike several teams, age doesn’t have as much weight into their draft model with selections like Bryce Jarvis, Brennan Malone, and Drey Jameson all slightly older than their classmates. Enter Jordan Lawler who is also a strong bet to stay at shortstop for a long time though will be almost 19 when the draft arrives. The Diamondbacks have succeeded with hitting profiles similar to Lawler, which is more geared for hit over power and Arizona was heavily tied to shortstops in the 2020 draft. In this mock, AZ doesn’t have to reach for one of the elite talents in the draft.
7. Kansas City Royals
Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
ADC (Del Castillo) has been working out this winter with Royals catcher, Salvador Pérez. The biggest question with Del Castillo is whether a team believes he has a chance to stick behind the plate. A team drafting him this high likely believes he can be a catcher at the next level. The Royals (through Pérez) have an inside track on his behind the scenes work in that area. I have Henry Davis as the top catcher on my board, but if a team believes ADC can be an average catcher he could get drafted early. KC also has a tendency to take individuals who “fall” in a draft.
8. Colorado Rockies
Brady House, 3B, Winder-Barrow (HS)
Colorado has been willing to take a high school talent if the option present itself, but is generally focused on going the college route in the first rough. The draft really starts to open up here with teams having very different valuations on players. This mock has Brady House who sports some hitting metrics related to bat path that are very impressive.
9. Los Angeles Angels
Henry Davis, C, Louisville
The Angels took Louisville LHP Reid Detmers, who is already impressing in spring training and in this mock, they nap Detmers’ battery-mate. Davis is a name on the rise with teams. He is off to a blistering start this season driving the ball to all fields. A starting catcher with a plus hit tool (especially with some pop) from an accomplished college program is not likely to be on the board for too long.
10. New York Mets
Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas
Franklin has all-star potential in centerfield with above-average tools almost across the board. The hit tool is a tad behind the others, but he’s a top talent that shouldn’t fall far in the draft. So far this season, Franklin is sporting a 27% K%, which is higher than you’d like in a top 10 draft pick. It’s something to monitor as players get more game action.
11. Washington Nationals
Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Washington will consistently take pitching risks (be it injury, signability, or character risks) in an effort to find high-impact talent. Jaden Hill represents the injury risk, but he has an electric arm. Some organizations are moving away from drafting pitchers who feature fastballs with sinking action, but Washington took Jackson Rutledge who had similar movement on his fastball. There some implicit risk in his development, however it’s hard to find a pitcher with more ceiling left on the board.
12. Seattle Mariners
Matt McLain, SS/OF, UCLA
Seattle tends to take good scouting guys and ones who fall (Hancock, Kyle Lewis). In this mock, the Mariners continue to benefit from teams above them betting on upside over security. McLain represents a very sure bet to be a big leaguer. He’s currently off to a solid, if unspectacular start to the 2021 season. Though he’s a shortstop right now, he is a likely 2B/OF at the next level. Mariners fans could see McLain in the big leagues as early as late 2023.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)
Would Philadelphia make nearly the same selection two years in a row (after taking Mick Abel in 2020)? They could and Andrew Painter makes a lot of sense here. Armed with four average to plus pitches, the 6’7″ Painter ranks as my top prep pitcher. Like Mick Abel the previous year, Painter is well versed in pitch design and could quickly advance through the minors. In addition to his training and time on showcases, he spent time working with Cressey Sports Performance and had the time to meet Justin Verlander. High School right handers are a risky demographic, but this selection may be worth the risk.
14. San Francisco Giants
Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
If Matt McLain were to make it down to San Francisco, there would be a good chance he’d be the selection. Instead, the Giants wind up with another polished college bat in Frelick. Giants GM saw Ben Zobrist stand out as a leader on the Cubs both from an offensive perspective and as a steady defender in multiple positions. Frelick could be that type of player for the Giants though Sal offers the ability to play CF at the next level.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
Cubs fans won’t like to admit it, but the Milwaukee Brewers have a strong data-driven pitching development team. Cusick has multiple metrics that teams gravitate towards (extension, vertical approach angle) and legitimate “stuff”. He could be long gone by the time Milwaukee picks, but if Cusick falls toward the middle of the draft, there are a bevy of teams with strong pitching infrastructures lined up to take advantage.
16. Miami Marlins
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)
Watson could go way higher than this, and in my upcoming Top 100, Watson should fit comfortably in the top 10 overall. Here, Miami takes the top talent on the board. Watson came into the season with questions as to whether he’d stick at shortstop. He appears to have quieted those concerns and has the potential to be a future all-star at a premium position long term. The prep shortstop group in this draft class is special. There could be five prep shortstops taken in the top 40 picks and it wouldn’t be a surprise.
17. Cincinnati Reds
Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami of Ohio
Cincinnati is deeply connected to pitch design with Kyle Boddy now working for the Reds. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll take a pitcher, but in this mock (and likely in July) there’s an abundance of intriguing pitching talent available at this stage of the draft. Bachman is definitely in this category; he boasts some of the better three-pitch mix in the class. Bachman’s fastball, changeup, slider combo can be electric.
18. St. Louis Cardinals
Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (HS)
The Cardinals are willing to take a developmental prospect and can handle signability concerns. Joshua Baez has truly immense talent albeit from a corner outfield position. He will flash plus-plus raw power and can hit mid 90s on the mound. It will take awhile, but Baez could be patrolling RF for the Cardinals for a long time.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)
The Blue Jays are of my favorite teams to follow in the draft. They’ve taken some of my favorite picks in last three years: Groshans, Kloffenstein, Robertson, Austin Martin, and CJ Van Eyk. In this mock, they take another impressive pick with Ford who is a dynamic talent that has a solid chance to succeed at C. If he does need to move, Ford has the bat and athleticism to play all around the diamond.
20. New York Yankees
James Wood, OF, IMG Academy
I have my doubts James Wood lasts to pick 20 in July, but if so, Yankees fans should be head over heels. He is one of a handful of players who could be legitimate two-way talents. That two-way upside hasn’t scared off the Yankees before with their selection of Anthony Seigler in 2018. The Yankees also have a track record of developing giant human beings into impactful superstars. Wood has that level of upside.
21. Chicago Cubs
Joshua Hartle, LHP Reagan HS (NC)
The Cubs have significantly changed their draft strategy in recent years, opting to select riskier picks with the hope that they could have players reach a higher ceiling. Prep pitchers certainly fall into that demographic. While he doesn’t throw with the same velocity, Hartle will evoke Garrett Crochet (who the Cubs liked in 2020) comparisons in overall ceiling and Josh Hader comps in arm angle and release. Part of those comparisons comes from the fact that Joshua Hartle boasts excellent “extension”. A pitcher’s extension refers to the distance a pitcher releases the ball relative to the pitching rubber and it is a metric that the Cubs absolutely love. Nearly all their top pitching selections in recent memory threw with well above-average extension. Hartle also will be well-scouted this spring and summer by Area Scout, Billy Swoope (2020 Cubs Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) who is responsible for scouting numerous Cubs selections. In the high school pitching group alone, Swoope scouted DJ Herz and Koen Moreno in back-to-back years. Scouting will be heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. It wouldn’t surprise to see the Cubs go back to a trusted well, especially one with metrics the organization loves.
More to come about Josh Hartle
22. Chicago White Sox
Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
The Chicago White Sox have pivoted to a competitive window in the last year. The White Sox continue their overall strategy here with a safe college hitter early and riskier demographics later in the draft. Cowser started off slow in 2021, but he’s rebounded. Cowser has average or better tools across the board that will fit in well in the White Sox system.
23. Cleveland Baseball Team
Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa (HS)
One of my favorite prep pitchers in the draft. A year ago, Thatcher was primarily a catcher (threw about 4 innings in high school by that point). During the shutdown he experimented on the mound and took to it like a duck to water. Hurd boasts multiple metrically inclined pitches including breaking pitches that spin over 3000 RPMs. Cleveland has an incredibly strong pitching development infrastructure which can take Thatcher Hurd from raw projectable pitcher to elite talent.
24. Atlanta Braves
Gunnar Hoglund, RHP Mississippi
Atlanta picks up a Gunnar Hoglund who’s primary specialty is superb control. This spring, Hoglund’s velocity now sits in the low 90s (and topping out at 95) and he has a four pitch mix. Hoglund should be a quick-to-the-majors arm who can slide into Atlanta’s rotation.
25. Oakland Athletics
McCade Brown, RHP, Indiana
McCade Brown is rising up boards and may not last this long this July, but if he does, there are a cavalcade of teams with strong pitching infrastructures who can help Brown continue to develop his elite “stuff”. Though Brown has an injury history, it was a back injury (not arm related) and Oakland has been aggressive in previous drafts gambling on upside.
26. Minnesota Twins
Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon State University
It feels like a lifetime ago that Kevin Abel pitched a complete game shutout to lead the Oregon State Beavers to a 2018 College World Series championship. Perhaps it was the 241 pitches in five days or perhaps it was just inherent risk with a young arm, but Abel soon missed parts of two seasons with Tommy John surgery. He’s back in a big way this year succeeding largely due to his curveball and changeup. Abel is 22 and offers a relatively safe profile. Minnesota picks up a a money-saving selection so they can splurge with their competitive balance pick. Abel is a strong bet to be a rotation candidate in a few years.
27. San Diego Padres
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (HS)
I’ll admit this felt like cheating. I took the top high school talent on the board, (especially a pitcher) and I mocked him to the Padres. Admittedly, I do wonder if this year will be a different plan. Perhaps their board changes ever so slightly to favor more college ready talents. But in this mock, Jobe just makes so much sense. He is now, almost assuredly a pitcher over SS and features an impressive metric FB/SL combo. Jackson Jobe landing in San Diego would be very fun, except if you are a fan of a Padres’ rival.
28. Tampa Bay Rays
Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustice (HS)
It may be balmy in Tampa Bay, but the Rays aren’t shy from taking players from cold weather states. Solometo is an intriguing lefty from NJ. He’s more of a FB/SL pitcher now, but those two pitches are plus. Solometo landing with a pitching development powerhouse would be fun to watch.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers
Alex Mooney, SS, Orchard St. Lake Mary’s (HS)
LA is known as one of the strongest developmental organizations in baseball. One of the their biggest strengths is the ability to take prospects who have better hit tools and line drive swings and work with them to elevate the ball without sacrificing significant contact. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep’s Alex Mooney fits that profile. Pitching talents like Florida righthander Tommy Mace and LHP Gage Jump (HS) also make sense with LA.