It may be early in draft season (the College World Series runs through the end of June), but the top of the draft class appears to be taking shape. Mock drafts offer a way to look at an entire round and how it affects specific organizations, but fans want to know “which player should I dream about my team landing?”. So took the time to ask if you were to take one player in this draft class to build around, who would you take? The choice comes down to a few key demographics: advanced college performer, elite high school hitter, or a prep pitcher.
So, which player did you pick?
Advanced College Performers
The 2021 college season has been fantastic and it’s a great spot to begin this exercise looking at incredible talent playing in the NCAA right now! This poll featured two elite college righthanders, an upper-level outfield bat, and a top college catcher, which are three demographics that provide great building blocks to build an organization around. Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker lead a dynamic Vanderbilt rotation and the college pitching crop in this draft class. Jud Fabian began the year as one of the top talents as an elite college hitter who has succeeded with wood bats and against older competition. But Fabian’s K% of 30% has so far left much to be desired and knocked him down draft boards. He’s still a premier talent, but if that K% doesn’t start dropping, Fabian becomes a real option for teams in the middle of the first round. Sal Frelick (not included in this poll) is playing incredibly well and could substitute for Fabian if you felt inclined. Henry Davis is a standout catcher who receives top grades for his all-fields approach, solid power, and hit tool.
According to the fans, it was a two-horse race between Leiter and Rocker. Jack Leiter reigned supreme and moved on to the final round. This poll took place before March 20, 2021, which will be essential to note later.
Elite High School Hitters
The prep hitting class could be one for the record books. As many as five high school shortstops could be picked in the first round. Behind incredible shortstops (who should be upper tier draft picks) in Jordan Lawler and Marcelo Mayer (and maybe Kahlil Watson), there’s a group of bats worth keeping an eye on. Brady House has gotten a hefty portion of the publicity of the high school class. He looks more like a 3B than SS, but he still boasts hitting metrics that suggest a strong pro bat. James Wood is an exciting outfield prospect. He’ll take some time to develop, but could be an all-star outfielder in the end. Ultimately you chose the projectable shortstop with great hit tool who is growing into more power in Jordan Lawler, an excellent choice.
High School Pitchers
The riskiest demographic featured in this discussion: prep pitcher. An elite high school arm is one that could impact the major league staff as early as their age 20-21 season. There is a high ceiling that comes with an upper tier prep arm. But the risks that come with selecting an arm often push other prospects up higher on draft boards. The top two arms at present are Jackson Jobe (who was a shortstop turned pitcher with a projectable frame and metrics that are highly encouraging) and Andrew Painter (who stands a hulking 6’7″ and throws four average-to-plus pitches). Thatcher Hurd is a dynamic righty who also is a recent conversion to pitcher. The former catcher boasts an impressive curveball and a likely plus changeup down the road. His fastball sits low 90s now and may need some work on the shape of the pitch, but he has an impressive foundation to build upon. Gage Jump appears diminutive at 5’10” next to the other three pitchers, but his “stuff” can certainly stand up next to Jobe, Painter, and Hurd. Jump throws four pitches, and has a particularly effective low vertical approach angle which allows his low 90s heater to eat up batters at the top of the zone. You went with the SS turned pitcher in Jackson Jobe.
The Big Decision
Decision time! You team is on the clock at the top of the draft and you can select one player amongst all the incredible talent. Jack Leiter, with a startling 71.8% of the vote, is your selection. One note, while this poll was taking place, Leiter was in process of throwing a 16K/1BB no-hitter for Vanderbilt. Could it have skewed the results? Perhaps, but your team ended up with an incredible talent to build your organization around. Jack Leiter appears to be cementing himself as the top overall talent in the draft and likely the best college pitcher in several years.
For more information about these and 38 other draft prospects, check out the Ivy Futures Top 50 list. The Top 100 list is scheduled in May and will feature 50 new players and a complete re-ranking.