So much of this draft season is still in flux and rumors are flying fast. It is sometimes hard to differentiate real intel from info put out by teams as a smokescreen. This mock is a projection of where things will stand in July so some players (Fabian, Leiter, Arroyo) would be taken with different selections if the draft was held in May.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (HS)
I’ve heard more talk surrounding the Pirates taking a prep talent here and Jordan Lawler is the best prep player available. There’s a strong argument to be made that Lawler is the best player in the entire draft. The “five-tool” term is thrown out endlessly, but Lawler may indeed have five-tools that project to be above-average. My only concern is a bit more swing-and-miss than you’d like to see, but he has high upside and should be able to stick at shortstop long-term. Pittsburgh is able to build for the long-haul and selecting Lawler to anchor your farm system would be a strong move for an organization that is trying to recapture the magic of 2013-2015.
2. Texas Rangers
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)
I still feel like the Rangers are a possible team that will surprise here so Henry Davis, Frelick, or a college arm could be an option here. However Mayer is the top talent on the board. The Rangers are building for the long-haul and an elite prep SS has a great track record. It’s an incredible high school shortstop class and specific teams may rank Lawler, Mayer, or Watson in any order. Here Texas can still take a player many view as solidly in the top three overall. Mayer has true all-star upside.
3. Detroit Tigers
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Tigers have had tremendous success targeting college talent and their board could skew so that Rocker, Davis, or a college outfielder could interest the organization. However Leiter here is too good to pass up here and, if healthy, could be up in the Tigers rotation sometime in 2022. Leiter recently was scratch late from a start due to “workload management”. The timing of the announcement being so late has led to some skepticism as to the accuracy of the rationale for Leiter being skipped. If no serious concerns arise, it’s hard for Leiter to slide too far. He still has a legitimate argument to be the top college arm since Stephen Strasburg.
4. Boston Red Sox
Brady House, 3B, Winder-Barrow (HS)
Brady House was the most heralded prospect from the high school class for the past few seasons. In that time, scouts have had ample time to pick apart his game. House has had to face the best of the best both in his class and the surrounding ones. The pendulum appears to have shifted the other way as prospect evaluators can appreciate just how special House’s hitting ability are at present. There even a few teams that think House deserves the chance to get a run at SS before deciding if he needs to move to the hot corner. Boston has the ability to do something the organization hasn’t been able to do for years, take a superstar near the top of the draft. Rocker, Watson, Davis could all be on the table as well to the Red Sox.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
It has been speculated that Mike Ellis won’t take a pitcher in the first round after debacles related to the selections of Brady Aiken and Mark Appel during his time in Houston. That seems wildly overexaggerated and a terrible strategy to completely eliminate all pitching from consideration. Rocker will be a fascinating player to watch in the lead up to the draft. He could easily be the first player from the class to make his debut due to his advanced slider. The fastball and changeup are no slouch either. There has been frequent consternation over Rocker’s velocity, but if he’s sitting 93-95 mph at the end of the season, he should be in a position to go high.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Henry Davis has been on fire all season. He’s sporting a .389/.511/.671 triple slash with 11 home runs and good defense added on top. As one of the most sure-fire college bats at a premium position, he won’t last long in the draft. Unlike their high school counterparts, college catchers are a less risky demographic. Davis would be a coup for a host of teams in the top 10.
7. Kansas City Royals
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)
The Royals have had the most success with high school hitters and college arms. Kahlil Watson has top 5 potential and a beautiful swing. Scouts are less certain he can stick at shortstop, but that’s not a deal breaker for the Royals who took the supremely talented Bobby Witt Jr. and watched him blossom into a top prospect. If Rocker were to make it down to this selection, I’d guess he doesn’t make it past KC.
8. Colorado Rockies
Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Jud Fabian entered 2021 in the discussion for top overall prospect. His ability to stick in centerfield, hit with wood bats, and succeed against advanced competition in the SEC form a young age were all promising characteristics. Unfortunately Fabian had massive issues with Ks entering the season. He’s come on as of late and his overall K% is down to 27.5% as of May. Fabian offers Colorado an advanced bat with above-average power that should patrol CF in Coors in short order. Is this a bit high for Fabian? Maybe, but by the end of the season we may be looking at him as a Top 10 pick.
9. Los Angeles Angels
Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)
The Angels were rumored to be making a “reach pick” in the 2020 draft. Whether that was in an effort to punt the pick or whether it was to take a high upside high school pick they could save money on is left to your imagination. There are some rumors that Harry Ford could sneak into the Top 10 picks according to Jim Callis. That’s info that I haven’t heard, but the Angels could fit that picture. Ford is a ton of fun with supreme athleticism and a first-round HS catcher worth the risk.
10. New York Mets
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS
High school righthanders carry an inherent risk in the draft. Between the significant injury concerns and the risk of complete flameout (Kohl Stewart and Tyler Kolek are a few of the notable misses), prep righties often tumble down draft boards. It sounds like Jobe is on the rise and even teams normally wary of prep pitchers have to be at least monitoring the situation. Jobe is largely seen as a pitcher at the next level, but he had some success as his team’s shortstop as well so his added versatility does mitigate a small portion of risk seen with prep pitchers.
11. Washington Nationals
Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Washington will consistently take pitching risks (be it injury, signability, or character risks) in an effort to find high-impact talent. 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. It’s also possible that Madden’s fastball is able to be optimized for more ride up in the zone and may still appeal to teams with strong pitching infrastructures. Gunnar Hoglund could be in play here.
12. Seattle Mariners
Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
Safe college bats with average or better tools always have value to organizations. Cowser stands out as one of the top options in that regard due to an overall weak college hitting class. He should be an option to slot into the Seattle outfield in a few years. Ty Madden may be an option here as well. The Mariners had success with Emerson Hancock who entered 2020 in the 1-1 discussion before slipping to 6 with similar complaints about his fastball. Hancock has since soared up prospect rankings with a few pitching development modifications.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
Frelick is more of a sure-thing when it comes to prospecting prognostications. He may not have elite upside, but he looks like a fairly sure bet to make it to the majors where could succeed as a high contact centerfielder. His run tool is about a 65. I do wonder if he is moved around at the next level. He has logged time at 2B and SS in the FCBL summer league in 2020. The fact that he is more of a “sure-thing” and the lack of college bats makes it likely he ends up somewhere in the top 10, but sometimes the board falls a certain way. And come on, you know you want a guy named “Sal” to end up in Philly.
14. San Francisco Giants
Matt McLain, SS/OF, UCLA
The Giants pick up a polished college hitter not too far from their own backyard. McLain has been raking in previous weeks and I don’t buy that a broken thumb will severely hamper his draft stock. Teams got a front row view to what McLain could do. Polished college bats are in short supply in this year’s draft. Most scouts don’t feel McLain is a shortstop at the next level, but his bat looks like it could play at 2B or in the outfield. A team that does believe he could stick at short could take him higher than the middle of the draft. Colorado and Seattle may be other landing spots for McLain. It is doubtful he falls much further than 12-14. I’d be shocked if he made it past the Cubs at 21.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS
Milwaukee has not been afraid to draft a hitter in need of a swing change. Garrett Mitchell (Milwaukee’s first round pick in 2020) was one of the most talented players in last year’s draft, but he slid due to a choppy swing. Montgomery has quieted down that hitch already in recent weeks and there are more teams who he would appeal to. Benny Montgomery has the potential to compete with Mitchell to determine for who should man centerfield in a few years with top the charts athleticism.
16. Miami Marlins
Will Taylor, CF, Dutch Fork (HS)
Taylor has surged up draft boards and is one of the many high upside high school talents in the class. Taylor entered the class as a contact-oriented bat with solid grade in centerfield. The main question mark was if he had enough pop in the bat to justify taking him early enough to prevent him playing baseball and football (slot receiver) at Clemson. He’s shown more explosiveness at the plate recently and done so in front of scouts and decision-makers in organizations. Miami has no issue dreaming on upside.
17. Cincinnati Reds
Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami of OH
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. I believe that #17 to Cincinnati may be the high point for Alex Mooney (prep shortstop as well) who may consider him at 35.
18. St. Louis Cardinals
Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS
The Cardinals are willing to take a developmental prospect and can handle signability concerns. Saint Louis has also invested in two way prospects as recently as 2020. Chandler is a popular pick in the top 10 overall (the Angels could be in the market) so he may not be here when St. Louis picks at 18, but if he is, I would imagine the Cardinals organization would jump at the chance to bring him in. Chandler likely needs to go fairly high to convince him to give up his football aspirations at Clemson, where he is a top recruit to play quarterback.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Wicks is the top college lefthander though there’s work to be done. He still boasts a plus changeup and his fastball and breaking ball flash above-average. Toronto has done a great job with Alek Manoah and Nate Pearson’s development. In the right developmental organization, Wicks could be a quick-to-the-majors option for a host of competitive clubs.
20. New York Yankees
Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East (HS)
Mack boasts strong hitting metrics, which should fit well within the Yankees developmental system. New York has not shied away from selecting prep catchers in the first round (2018 Anthony Siegler). Mack has good power and a real shot to stick at C. If not, the bat can play on its own. It’s possible that the Yankees try to find some slot savings here to try to sign Jaden Hill in the second round.
21. Chicago Cubs
Michael McGreevy, RHP, UCSB
I featured Michael McGreevy as a potential Cubs target and we’ll continue with that in this mock. High school hitters are the most common demographic linked to the Cubs and I do think the organization is open to high upside selections, but I don’t think it’s a given that it will occur in the first round (see below). The high school hitting class is deep and there should be excellent talent available in the following rounds. If the Cubs feel that an ascending college arm in McGreevy is the top talent on the board, this could be the selection. The UCSB righthander has a 92-95 mph sinker and above-average slider and curveball. He throws a fourth pitch in his changeup that profiles as average. His data is rumored to be excellent and the Cubs have began to significantly target pitchers with certain data points. Sam Bachmann and Will Bednar could be targets here as well.
The natural question with the Cubs is whether they would, instead, focus on high-ceiling high school hitting talent. Though this mock is listed as what teams would more likely do, taking a high school hitter (Ford in a dream scenario) would be my personal selection. As I’ve asked around, I’ve heard conflicting comments as to what people inside and outside the organization feel the Cubs will do. No one will be tipping their hand and it is only May, but there was enough conversation around college talents that I went that way for this mock. Players to consider from the prep class include the aforementioned Harry Ford and Joe Mack. In the outfield, Will Taylor, Josh Baez, James Wood, Lonnie White, and Malakhi Knight all could be options. I don’t believe the Cubs will take a prep arm in the first round.
22. Chicago White Sox
Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
The Chicago White Sox had a remarkable success taking a college arm who had reliever questions in Garrett Crochet. By September, Crochet was leading baseball in the number of 100 mph pitches thrown. Cusick offers similar potential, albeit from the righthand side. The White Sox also had a huge presence at a Will Bednar start recently, although he may be more of a second-round target. Christian Franklin out of Arkansas also fits the White Sox M.O. and could be an option with this selection.
23. Cleveland Baseball Team
Edwin Arroyo, SS, Central Pointe Academy (HS)
Cleveland heavily factors in age to their draft model and Arroyo is a dynamic high school infielder with age on his side. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills and has succeeded against older competition. Arroyo is still developing. In a class full of dynamic high school shortstops, Arroyo’s age, switch-hitting, defense first, contact bat may entice Cleveland. Cleveland’s current President of Baseball Ops was the club’s General Manager during the 2011 draft when he selected a 17-year-old, switch-hitting, defense-first, high school shortstop. That move worked very well for both the organization and Francisco Lindor. Arroyo hasn’t been consistently mocked in the first round, but he’s been coming on of late and a team with an heavy age-weighting in a draft model like Cleveland could see him and fall in love. This is admittedly a bit of a projection pick.
24. Atlanta Braves
Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida
Mace should be a quick-moving arm due to age and experience in the SEC. He’s refined a few points in his pitch design this spring and now looks to be going in the top two rounds. Though he’s not a huge money saving pick, Mace’s age likely allows a club to save a bit here to overslot later in the draft. Here the Braves are able to nab an arm they should be very familiar with who could make major league appearances in short order, while potentially saving to invest in the 2nd/3rd rounds.
25. Oakland Athletics
James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (HS)
Wood is a divisive prospect with a high variance in ceiling and floor. That doesn’t appeal to some teams who naturally gravitate to a more sure return on investment that a first-round pick requires in both financials and opportunity. Oakland has been willing to take significant risks in the first round multiple times in the past five years. It’s been a mixed bag on that front. Wood came into the year with whispers that he could be a top five overall pick. Those talks have largely quelled, but Wood still has impressive upside. At this point in the draft, there are some teams who would jump at the opportunity to take a player with true star potential.
26. Minnesota Twins
Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
ADC, as he’s affectionately known, came into the season as a potential top 5 pick. He started off slow, but has picked it up as of late. Scouts are still split on whether he remains a long-term catcher, but a team drafting Del Castillo high likely would run him out there in pro ball. If he lasts longer in the draft, his value as a polished college hitter starts to even out his future defensive concerns. Minnesota has defaulted to selecting bats while worrying about defensive homes later.
27. San Diego Padres
Peyton Stovall, 2B, Haughton (HS)
While San Diego may start to factor projected proximity to the majors more in their draft model to supplement their core, the Padres still excel at taking the highest upside high school talent on the board. It’s what has built a good portion of the organizational foundation. Stovall has looked great this spring and his hit over power grades are respected by San Diego, who invested heavily in Robert Hassell III at 9th overall in 2020.
28. Tampa Bay Rays
Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (HS)
Tampa Bay was linked to Baez at different points this spring. They haven’t been shy from drafting players from the Northeast and Baez has immense potential both at the plate and, if necessary, on the mound. Joshua Baez could be in play for a variety of teams in the middle of the first round. Baez has a commitment to Vanderbilt so that could always come into play, but I won’t speculate on signing bonus demands. Eastern Illinois’s Trey Sweeney (a SS who likely moves to 3B) also may be in consideration here, though it’s hard to tell how much helium he has at the moment.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers
Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss
This pick is a bit of a mystery as a number of talented players could land in LA’s lap. Hoglund’s stock is also just as much of a mystery after he left his most recent start due to injury. Kiley McDaniel reported that he will need Tommy John surgery. In the past few years very few teams have taken significantly injured arms in the first round (Yankees in 2017 – Schmidt, San Diego in 2016 – Quantrill, and the Dodgers in 2015 – Buehler). With their pitching infrastructure and a number of young, talented arms in the pipeline, the Dodgers can afford to take a risk. Hoglund was ticketed for a selection in the top 10 prior to his injury.