Chicago Cubs Ten-Round Mock Draft

“What is the optimal strategy in this year’s draft for the Cubs?”

There are countless different “ideal options” in the current landscape of the MLB Draft. Since the first year of the 10-round bonus pool draft format in 2012, we’ve seen teams be creative in how they stretch their imposed financial constraints to get the most talent out of the draft. For a breakdown in how the 2021 draft operates, check out the Chicago Cubs Draft Primer, but here’s a quick summary.

Since these bonus allotments aren’t fixed (only a guideline), the draft is really separated into two drafts. The first 10 rounds becomes its own beast with teams strategically drafting certain players to “save money” for higher priced picks. Often, this involves drafting players in the latter half of the first 10 rounds who are seniors in college and lack leverage in negotiations.”

Ivy Futures Draft Primer

A special thanks to David Elliott (@Davidrelliott) for the suggestion for the article

Disclaimer: I reference the signability of players casually, but these conjectures are based entirely on speculation and reports by draft analysts. No financial figure should be interpreted as a specific figure or information gathered from a player or advisor.

Round 1, Pick 21: James Triantos, SS, Madison HS

Slot figure $3,132,300; approximate signing $2.7 million
Savings $432,300
Report: I previously wrote that if any player in this draft provided a profile similar to last year’s surprise first-round pick, Nick Yorke, that it was Triantos. Additionally, I believe James Triantos ranks high on the Cubs board. This is far from the consensus, but in this scenario, Triantos offers an a slot savings deal while bringing in a player that had some of the strongest batted-ball data on last year’s showcase circuit. Triantos is from Cubs area scout Billy Swoop’s territory and he’s rising on draft boards. Ultimately, more scouts view him as a SS/3B long-term. He may be the best high school hitter to come out of Virginia in the past five years, according to Prospects Live’s Draft Director, Joe Doyle.

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Round 2, Pick 56: Jackson Linn, OF, Cambridge Rindge and Latin 

Slot figure $1,276,400; approximate signing $1.8 million
Savings -$523,600
Report: With the money saved from the pick at 21, the Chicago Cubs take a chance at another rising high school bat, Jackson Linn. The outfielder produced big time exit velocities at the MLB Draft Combine. He is a power bat that also shows off a plus-plus arm (hit 98 mph off the mound). He has a smooth easy stroke with a consistent hitting pattern. The Cambridge Rindge and Latin player has teams interested in the second and third rounds, with Baltimore at 41 offering a high water mark for him. This mock sends Linn to the Cubs for the 41st pick’s value.

Round 3, Pick 93: Grant Holman, RHP, California

Slot Figure $627,900; approximate signing $500k
Savings $127,900
Report: California’s Grant Holman is an upside prospect in this year’s draft. He is a recent convert to pitching and utilizing a long extension (over 7′), which boosts the perceived velocity (the ball looks faster to the hitter because the ball is released closer to the plate) on the pitch. His secondaries don’t play as well as his 92-95 fastball, but his split-change and slider show flashes of being better than average. The fastball incorporates heavy sink on the pitch, which is a fastball characteristic the Cubs have historically liked. This is another selection where the Cubs invest in a large, athletic player who boasts characteristics they like and features an impressive ceiling.

Round 4, Pick 123: Denzel Clarke, OF, Cal State Northridge

Slot Figure $464,500; approximate signing $500,000
Savings -$35,500

Report: Clarke is a name on the rise after his stellar performance at the MLB Draft Combine. He is a big power/speed threat at the next level. And he uses that speed to be a strong centerfielder (Big West’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2021). Clarke’s power is still raw, but it appears after his performance in the MLB Draft Combine, that he’s starting to realize that power. Clarke is a mammoth of a man, standing 6’5″ and 220 pounds. He’s gaining a lot of buzz and should go on day two of this year’s draft.

Round 5, Pick 153: Rohan Handa, LHP, Yale

Slot Figure $343,400; approximate signing $343,400
Savings $0
Report: The Hartford Courant put out an incredible article on Handa who is a big-time pop-up arm. The Yale pitcher remade himself this past season and is intriguing teams with upper 90s velocity and plus slider. No one knows where to place him in the draft, but with the interest in Handa, a team is likely going to need to take him relatively early even if it is just a bullpen profile. The Cubs invested in power lefty arms in last year’s draft (Carraway and Luke Little) and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them do it again this season.

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Round 6, Pick 184: Garrett Horn, LHP, Glenn HS

Slot Figure $263,700; approximate signing $563,700
Savings -$300,000
Report: In the past several year’s the Cubs have leaned heavily on prep pitching in North Carolina. Horn may not be a familiar name but he’s a 6’2″, projectable lefthander who throws five pitches with his four seam (90-95 mph), curveball (77-81 mph), circle changeup (low to mid 80s), and cutter (87-91 mph) his primary pitches. He will mix in a two-seam fastball. Horn recently had a successful showcase at the MLB Draft Combine and I believe he’ll be on teams’ radars, including the Cubs.

Round 7, Pick 214: Wyatt Hendrie, C, San Diego State

Slot Figure $206,500; approximate signing $56,500
Savings $150,000
Report: Hendrie was the lone pick in the first ten-rounds of the draft to not sign with the Cubs during Theo Epstein’s tenure. Some believe that Hendrie’s failed signing was the sole reason for Theo Epstein to leave the club over a year later. Those aren’t people you should associate with without witnesses. Hendrie looks like a future back-up catcher with more upside. He’s a rare hitter who has almost as many walks as strikeouts and his defense looks above-average behind the plate. He may never hit for much power, but Hendrie should have success at the next level.

Round 8, Pick 244: Michael Kirian, LHP, Louisville

Slot Figure $168,500; approximate signing $168,500
Savings $0
Report: It was almost a rite of passage for a Louisville pitcher to be selected by the Chicago Cubs in the draft. Here the Cubs select a giant lefty (6’6″, 230 pounds) who still needs considerable mechanical refinement and pitch development. The Cubs have invested heavily in their high performance and performance science infrastructure and have the foundation to develop Kirian either as a starter or in the pen.

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Round 9, Pick 274: Brett Harris, 3B, Gonzaga

Slot Figure $152,300; approximate signing $52,300
Savings $100,000
Report: Brett Harris is a classic “senior sign” player from a solid program. He performed well this past season and, per scouts, showed good makeup with his teammates. At the NCAA Regionals, multiple scouts from the Oakland A’s were impressed with Harris. The defense wasn’t spectacular in that outing, but he’s a steady bat.

Round 10, Pick 304: Griffin Doersching, 1B/3B, Northern Kentucky

Slot Figure $143,900; approximate signing $43,900
Savings $100,000
Report: The Cubs were heavily linked to East Carolina’s Alec Burleson (1B) in last year’s draft before the Cardinals nabbed him in the third round. They then landed Matt Mervis in the post-draft free agency period. After year’s of avoiding the profile, I believe the Cubs see value in college first basemen. Griffin Doersching’s 20 home runs and his improving performance warrant a serious look.

Bonus Pool

Spending: $6,728,300
Savings: $51,100
Savings plus 5% overage: $390,070

Savings can be used to offer above the $125,000 threshold for players in rounds 11-20. Effectively the Cubs could bring in several $250,000 players in the later rounds since only the funds above $125,000 are counted against the pool. The Cubs did this in 2018 to great success.

Parting thoughts

Ten-round mock drafts are not built to be accurate exercises, but they are fun. It will be fascinating to see who the Cubs target early in this draft. This mock incorporates a few player demographics and qualities that I hope the Cubs target: high school talent, upside college players, premier athletes, and an emphasis on high performance/performance science.

Don’t Mock the Mock

The Prospects Live 2021 Mock Draft

“With the 56th selection in the 2021 MLB (Prospects Live) First-Year Player Draft, the Chicago Cubs select…”

Greg Zumach

Last summer, as the major sports had ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and baseball players and owners were locked in a negotiation standstill, the only baseball event which continued to be held on schedule was the MLB Draft. Fortunately, if any event in baseball could lift my spirits, it would be the Draft. I’ve gone on record that my favorite day of the year is the first day of the MLB Draft. While my wife doesn’t like to hear such talk around the holidays, I stand behind it.

Since 2001 (the Mark Prior draft), I’ve followed the Draft and have done so passionately for over a decade. So when sports became more fantasy than reality last summer, I experienced a brief moment of normality, even if it was one-eighth the length of a standard Draft.

Prospects Live began in 2018, and I started to follow them in early 2020. As a free resource, I found their prospect and draft analysis to be quite robust and well-written. Now it’s become a go-to publication with content that matches up with any in the industry. What has now become an annual event is their Prospects Live Mock Draft, where writers, analysts, and other Draft gurus join in drafting for their respective teams in a streamed event. As of this writing, Prospects Live’s 2020 Mock Draft has over 4,100 views on YouTube. I’m reasonably sure I account for at least ten of those.

It was a thrill to be able to participate in this year’s event. And I want to take a moment to thank Bryan Smith of Bleacher Nation, who served as General Manager (GM) picking for the Chicago Cubs. He was very generous in including me in the process as “Scouting Director”. You can watch the entire Mock Draft here. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the Cubs selections.

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Draft Prep

In the week lead-up to the Mock, Bryan and I compiled our boards before meeting. My draft board leading into this week included 85 profiles, with 150 players ranked in total. Bryan had viewed video/ranked over 75 players. Since the Cubs were drafting at the 21st and 56th selections, we were in great shape to cover both picks. The day before the Mock, we met to hammer out a board and talk about players where our opinions diverged. We planned to collaborate on both picks with Bryan hopping on to the stream for pick 21 and me for pick 56.

Draft Day

Diverging Opinions

One player that was sure to garner mixed emotions was Florida centerfielder, Jud Fabian. To be clear, both Bryan and I rank Fabian within our top 30 prospects but acknowledge his strikeout concerns (29% K%). The upside of Fabian, though, is undeniable, and since we were picking at 21 for the Cubs, he was a player we needed to consider. So while both Bryan and I were not completely sold, I gave him a pitch in case, as GM, he wanted to make that selection:

“You could speak to: Justin Stone, [Fabian’s] other qualities (abv-avg defense in CF, plus power), and his mid-season swing adjustment (from 4/6-5/15, he had a 16% K%). So if you believe you can get him back to that, you have an upper-echelon player. The Cubs have made investments in the player development infrastructure; it’s time to make a pick with high performance and performance science at the forefront of the selection.”

Man of Mystery

A late addition to my board has been James Triantos, a SS (and RHP) out of Madison HS in Virginia. Triantos (SS, Madison HS) deserves some more publicity. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “If there’s one player who could be this year’s Nick Yorke (who was a surprise mid-first round selection), I’ll say it is James Triantos.” Bryan and I spent a good bit of time analyzing his swing and video before agreeing that we planned to consider him at pick 56.

GM Bryan Smith in action picking at 21

21st Selection: Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State

Our shortlist of available players heading into pick 21 included (in no particular order): Ryan Cusick (RHP, Wake Forest), Jud Fabian, Will Bednar (RHP, Mississippi State), and Colson Montgomery (SS, Southridge High School). Ultimately, Will Bednar was too good to pass up. He ranked 12th on my board and similar for Bryan. Bryan locked in the pick on the Prospects Live Mock google doc. Bednar’s key qualities match up well with qualities the Cubs have gravitated towards in recent years.

Bednar brings a low-to-mid 90s fastball (tops at 95) along with an above-average slider and a solid curve and changeup. The fastball has late arm-side life, which benefits overall pitch movement, but can cause him to miss to his arm side (inside to righties). His slider is his best secondary with a good sharp break. The curveball and changeup are a tad behind his other offerings. However, this is a four-pitch pitcher with a starter’s build from the SEC. Even more, Bednar boasts good extension, which is a metric that some teams (like the Cubs) focus on in their draft models. The selection happens around the 1:48:00 mark in the stream.

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56th Selection: James Triantos, SS, Madison High School 

Our second-round selection was the most challenging. As Bryan and I reconvened at pick 50 to hammer out our selection, we had a larger group of players on our boards. The top four players in our rankings were Thatcher Hurd (RHP, Mira Costa HS), Josh Hartle (LHP, Reagan HS), Andrew Abbott (LHP, Virginia), and James Triantos (SS, Madison HS). Other players considered for the pick included Ben Kudrna (RHP, Blue Valley Southwest HS), Ian Moller (C, Dubuque Wahlert HS), Ky Bush (LHP, St. Mary’s College), and Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP/SS, Nebraska). After we selected Bednar in the first round, Bryan and I discussed who we preferred at pick 56. I am an enormous fan of both Thatcher Hurd and Josh Hartle, who I profiled as ideal Cubs pitching targets. However, Bryan agreed that we had an opportunity to have a fun selection and one that both matches up with Cubs’ drafting tendencies and that could generate some great discussion. Bryan was gracious to let me make the selection and hop on the video to discuss our mystery man and rising prospect, James Triantos. The selection happens around the 3:58:00 mark.

Wrap Up and Next Steps

Ultimately I loved who we brought in during our two picks in this mock. Both Bednar and Triantos represent players that match skills and metrics that the Cubs organization has targeted in prior drafts. I can’t wait for the actual MLB Draft, where we can dive into 20 rounds of talent. Greg Huss, Jimmy Nelligan, and I will be hosting this year’s MLB Draft Special on The Rant Live, beginning with the first pick and continuing about 30 minutes after the Cubs selection. And once the 2021 Draft ends, I’ll be turning my attention to the next class of Draft prospects. In between, you’re going to see a lot more Cubs minor league content.

It’s been a blast to have the opportunity to analyze this Draft class as I’ve started Ivy Futures, and while it’s been successful, I’ve also learned a lot along the way to improve when I start next year’s rankings. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

A sincere ‘thank-you’ to Bryan Smith for allowing me to participate and Joe Doyle, Geoff Pontes, Matt Thompson, Eddy Almaguer, Trevor Hooth, and Kris Dunn of ProspectsLive.com for hosting the event.

MLB Mock Draft 2021 Version 3.0

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 and covers the entire first round and competitive balance round A (36 picks in all). There will be a few surprises in this mock, because surprises happen every year during the draft. These picks are still held to the same standard that I attempt to employ: source information, match organization trends, and mirror historical picks. I’ll make one more mock draft for IvyFutures.com that should come out prior to the draft.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Henry Davis, C, Louisville

There’s a significant amount of chatter the Pirates will take the player who offers the best deal from among the Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawler, and Jack Leiter quartet. Ultimately that is likely Henry Davis, who not only could succeed at catcher, but has the type of bat that allows a team to seriously consider playing him in the outfield. Davis is no consolation prize. He’s more than qualified to be the number one overall pick this season.

2. Texas Rangers

Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)

The Rangers have had a significant presence at Kahlil Watson’s more recent performances. It’s hard to tell whether that is related to North Carolina’s season just simply running later or whether it’s real heat for Watson in particular. But Watson has been coming on strong and is a great bet to hit long-term. His steep bat path offers solid power and hit tools at the next level.

3. Detroit Tigers

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)

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 it’s been speculated that the Tigers love Mayer. It’s not hard to imagine Detroit being willing to pay a price to get the stud shortstop at third in the draft. Some projections identify Mayer as having the best hit tool in the class (I still have Peyton Stovall as slightly better than Mayer). The young shortstop also offers a future solid average or better defensive grade.

4. Boston Red Sox

Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

The Fangraphs duo of Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein noted rumors of Jack Leiter trying to land in Boston and the Red Sox being all too willing to make that happen. I very much buy that chatter. At some point Leiter may not have much to improve upon like some teams may want, but his floor is already so high. There is still some room for improvement, especially related to his curveball. He could be up in the Red Sox rotation sometime in 2022 and he still has a legitimate argument to be the top college arm since Stephen Strasburg.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)

Baltimore rocked many 2020 mocks when they took Heston Kjerstad with the 2nd overall pick in a money-saving gambit. Orioles GM, Mike Elias, spent his time in the Astros front office where Houston consistently employed that strategy (most notably in 2012 when they paired up Carlos Correa and used the savings for Lance McCullers). I expect the Orioles to do the same this season and have heard them connected with Harry Ford. This may be the high point for Ford (I haven’t heard him associated any higher). Ford offers an exciting array of tools. The biggest question for teams is whether to play him at catcher or let him move quicker at another position. He has the athleticism and bat to succeed all around the diamond.

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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. While it may surprise some to see Lawler fall to six, it’s a very real possibility. Arizona was heavily tied to shortstops in the 2020 draft and you can bet they’d run to the podium for this selection.

7. Kansas City Royals

Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

The Royals have had the most success with high school hitters and college arms. The Royals also have shown success taking talented players that “fall” to them in the draft. Rocker, House, Watson, all make sense and so could Jackson Jobe. The Royals are building a formidable pitching staff and plan to compete soon. Rocker is a volatile prospect who can look like an ace one day and struggle the next. He’s also pitching significantly more innings this season so the fastball velocity variance may simply be a by product of adjusting to a challenging schedule.

8. Colorado Rockies

Brady House, 3B, Winder-Barrow (HS)

Colorado has been willing to take a high school talent if the option presented itself, but is generally focused on going the college route in the first rough. They have been most often associated with college players so far, but Brady House being available would be very enticing to Colorado. 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 and max exit velocity that are very impressive.

9. Los Angeles Angels

Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork (HS)

The Angels are a wild card and could go in any number of ways. Will Taylor has been associated with the club. And the Angels have been in see Jackson Jobe (RHP; Heritage Hall, HS), Bubba Chandler (RHP/SS; North Oconee HS), and Frank Mozzicato (LHP; East Catholic HS). The point is that the Angels are very willing to take a prep talent here. I forecast the multisport South Carolina prep outfielder, Will Taylor, to be the pick. Taylor combines an athletic profile with excellent hitting data from the showcase circuits. The thought is that Taylor will require a higher price to buy him out his Clemson commitment to play baseball and line up as the slot receiver on the football team, however the prevailing thought is that the price isn’t prohibitive. While I won’t speculate on signability figures, a team drafting this high could even offer a discount from their bonus pool and still put out a $4 million dollar deal.

10. New York Mets

Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS

New York has leaned prep talent in recent years building out a solid group in the lower levels of the minors. High school righthanders carry an inherent risk in the draft so that is always a consideration. Jobe is on the rise with chatter Detroit at pick three is interested. 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. He will show three above-average to plus pitches and there are some evaluators who have him as the top pitcher in the class long-term (high school and college).

11. Washington Nationals

Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina

Williams only threw three innings in 2020 due to a broken finger and COVID-19, however he was dominant this past season including a dominant 7 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 unearned runs, with a 13/2 K/BB line in the Super Regionals against Vanderbilt. Williams showcases an exceptional fastball with elite velocity (95-99 mph) and movement patterns. His breaking pitches (curveball and slider are both plus and above-average respectively). His fourth pitch is his changeup and that is more inconsistent, but has been coming on of late. It flashes plus as well. Simply, Gavin Williams is coming and should be flying up draft boards. Recent communication suggested teams are wary of his injury history, but this feels nebulous and hardly in line with how teams were clamoring to draft Garret Crochet in 2020 after he threw 4 1/3 innings and had an active shoulder injury. I believe a team is going to draft Gavin Williams early and a team like Washington who isn’t known as an elite pitching development organization should feel comfortable taking Williams and letting him run out there. Gunnar Hoglund, Kumar Rocker, and Jackson Jobe could be in play here as well.

12. Seattle Mariners

Matt McLain, SS/OF, UCLA

Seattle appears to be focused on college bats so any of the McLain, Cowser, Frelick trio could all be options. McLain offers sure production at the next level. There are some scouts that feel he can handle shortstop in pro ball, thought most I’ve talked with feel it’s a 2B or OF profile. 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.

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13. Philadelphia Phillies

Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College

Frelick 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 (or second baseman). 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. From my previous mock, “And come on, you know you want a guy named “Sal” to end up in Philly”.

14. San Francisco Giants

Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State

Cowser has average or better tools across the board and while he played for the relatively small, Sam Houston State, he played for USA baseball and is well-known to scouts. San Francisco has been connected to all of the college hitters (Frelick, Cowser, and McLain) along with Jordan Wicks this draft cycle. I still lean to them taking one of the college bats if they have that option.

15. Milwaukee Brewers

Matthew Mikulski, LHP, Fordham

Mason McRae first linked Matthew Mikulski as an arm to watch in the top 20 picks for a significant cost savings. The fit is perfect here between Milwaukee and Mikulski who sports excellent pitching metrics. Milwaukee could also snag Jordan Wicks, who many regard as the top lefthander in the draft class.

With three picks in the first two rounds, Milwaukee has a lot of money to work with to handle tough signs. The team also had no problem taking a hitter with a challenging swing. 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. It’s rumored that Benny Montgomery (OF; Red Land, HS) could be a tough sign and he has a significant hitch in his swing that comes and goes. In this mock, the Brewers are in a position to save a significant amount of pool money with this pick (and take a affordable player in the comp round) before splurging on Montgomery with a later pick. Benny Montgomery has the potential to compete with Mitchell to determine who should man centerfield in a few years with top the charts athleticism.

16. Miami Marlins

Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS

Chandler is a high-upside impact talent who could succeed as either a pitcher or as a shortstop, where his rocket arm gives him a weapon. Scouts are mixed as to whether he should commit to pitching or hitting, but it appears there’s more of a push for him to pitch. As a pitcher, he throws a plus fastball and curveball, but will show off both a slider and changeup. Miami excels in developing changeups so it’s not hard to envision Chandler settling in as a four-pitch guy with three above-average or better offerings. Miami has no issue dreaming on upside. 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. Miami has three early picks (31 and 52) and is armed with some of the most money in the class.

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17. Cincinnati Reds

Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois

Trey Sweeney does everything you could want in a hitter with upper echelon exit velocities, as well as contact and chase rates. He keeps getting named with teams in the 20s in the draft, but could offer an immense value to a team higher at a discount. Cincinnati has three picks in the first 35 selections and a value play here early could allow the Reds to do big things in this draft.

18. St. Louis Cardinals

Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/RHP, Nebraska

The Cardinals have shown the willingness to take developmental prospects and, along with that, two-way players. Schwellenbach’s likely future lies on the mound where he got a chance in 2021 to showcase three pitches. His fastball and slider both are plus. Despite not throwing many innings, scouts feel he has the ability to start at the next level.

19. Toronto Blue Jays

Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State

Bednar may not be here this late in the draft, but some team is going to get a stud. He’ll barely be 21 years old and is already showcasing upper-level stuff. His fastball generates whiffs, especially up in the zone and his slider is plus as well. Young, successful SEC aces don’t last long in drafts, especially when they have impressive pitch metrics. Toronto reaps the benefits here in this mock. The Blue Jays are also associated with a host of higher-upside players like Anthony Solometo, Jay Allen, Jud Fabian, and Joe Mack.

20. New York Yankees

Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss

The Yankees have shown a willingness to take injured pitchers early in the draft. Hoglund was a top 10 (possibly top 5) overall selection in the draft prior to his injury. Andrew Painter has been associated with the Yankees for awhile now as well. He entered the draft cycle as the top overall prep pitcher, but he showed four average or better pitches (but no plus offerings) this season. If the Yankees go with someone like Joe Mack or Trey Sweeney, 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

Colson Montgomery, SS, Southridge (HS)

I featured Colson Montgomery in my most recent Draft hitting targets for the Cubs. Montgomery plays a solid SS, but may move over to third in professional ball. He has the arm to thrive at the hot corner if needed. The hitting data is the most exciting aspect of Montgomery as a first round prospect. In the showcase circuit last year, Montgomery put up a similar max exit velo to Kahlil Watson, Harry Ford, Will Taylor, and Peyton Stovall, while posting a solid 80% contact rate and only a 17% chase rate. All three of those figures stand up with some of the top players in the class. Montgomery projects for above-average hit and power down the line.

Other players linked to the Cubs include Trey Sweeney (mentioned above), Jud Fabian (OF, Florida), Will Taylor (above), Mike McGreevy (RHP, UCSB), Anthony Solometo (LHP, Bishop Eustace HS). But in an effort to add to the conversation, James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) deserves some more publicity. Triantos sported a 94% contact rate in the showcase circuit last year (tops in the class) with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and the aforementioned Colson Montgomery. He did see his chase rate in a higher tier, but in the same range as Jordan Lawler (23%). Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. If there’s one player who could be this year’s Nick Yorke (who was a surprise mid-first round selection), I’ll say it is James Triantos.

22. Chicago White Sox

Max Muncy, SS, Thousand Oaks (SS)

The White Sox have been all over high school players recently. Most notably the Sox have been heavy on Colson Montgomery and fellow prep SS, Max Muncy (no relation to the big-leaguer). With Montgomery off the board to the Northsiders, Max Muncy is the selection. Wes Kath (3B, Desert Mountain HS) is another name mentioned in association with the White Sox.

23. Cleveland Baseball Team

Carson Williams, SS, Torrey Pines (HS)

Cleveland heavily factors in age to their draft model and Carson Williams is an impressive high school infielder with age on his side. Carson Williams is one of the many prep shortstops who should go high in this class. He will turn 18 only a few weeks before the draft, so his age will appeal to some teams who heavily factor it into their model. Williams is hit over power and a sure bet to stay at SS long term. He has a strong arm. Williams also dabbled on the mound, but it sounds like he’s more likely to stay on the infield. Williams showed good contact rates in the showcase circuit.

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24. Atlanta Braves

Ty Madden, RHP, Texas

Madden is frequently linked to teams higher in the first round. On the surface that makes sense as he’s been very successful this season, including his recent College World Series performance. But there has been significant questions related to Madden’s fastball shape. His fastball has a natural cut dynamic without intending to do so. Effectively it’s a pitch in the middle and while additional movement can be a positive on the surface, there are teams that actually view that as a ding on an otherwise stellar resume. It’s a fairly similar profile to Cade Cavalli, who went 23rd overall, but was frequently linked to teams in the early teens. Cavalli ultimately went to a team who perceives things through more of a traditional scouting lens in Washington (which is one of the reasons they’ve been linked to Madden at 11). But that is all to put into context that Madden is a very good pitcher. He could provide great value to Atlanta here.

25. Oakland Athletics

Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State

Jordan Wicks has been firmly listed as the top college lefty in the class during the draft cycle largely on the success of an above-average fastball (plays up due to deception) and a supremely impressive changeup. While his pitching metrics won’t blow you away, they’re solid and he’s polished. A team in contention, like Oakland, should expect him up relatively soon.

26. Minnesota Twins

Jud Fabian, OF, Florida

Jud Fabian has otherworldly talent, but the Ks just kept piling up. Even after he made a mid-season adjustment, the Ks crept back. He settled in around 29% K% for the year, which is way too high for most teams. But Fabian is still a premier athlete and defender in centerfield with above-average to plus power. Minnesota has shown a willingness to deal with strikeouts at the expense of power before.

27. San Diego Padres

Lonnie White, OF, Malvern Prep (HS)

Look for the Padres to take a player with impressive metrics (pitching or hitting). Lonnie White gets the nod here after he demonstrated some of the best batted ball data in the showcases last year. He reigned supreme in max exit velocity with a solid contact rate. His chase rate was 23% (a tad high, but not outrageous), which was similar to Jordan Lawler. Peyton Stovall out of Haughton HS in Louisiana could be another name to watch here.

28. Tampa Bay Rays

Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustace (HS)

I’ve had Tampa Bay linked to Solometo since the first mock draft so there’s no sense in deviating now. Solometo is a left hander with a funky arm action from the Northeast. The Rays haven’t shied away from any component of that profile before. Tampa Bay places added value on incorporating different looks from their pitching staff. Solometo is primarily a two-pitch guy and could stand to improve his changeup, but that’s hardly an unusual statement about cold-weather arms. The Rays brass has been spotted at several games for fellow northeast prep, Joshua Baez, and he could be in play for TB.

29. Los Angeles Dodgers

Gage Jump, LHP, JSerra Catholic (HS)

The Dodgers have shown a willingness to take undervalued talents. Gage Jump from the pitching side is a solid example of that. Shy of six-foot, the high school lefthander demonstrates success with an elevated fastball that plays up even higher due to a lower vertical approach angle. The long-term question is “will Gage Jump be a starter?” Scouts are mixed, but if he’s taken this high, a team will certainly try. He’s an athletic pitcher who would absolutely be in a great organization to succeed (Rays and Padres would be two other phenomenal fits for Jump). Conner Norby, Alex Mooney, Tommy Mace, Ryan Cusick, and Ky Bush could all be names to watch here.

30. Cincinnati Reds

Jay Allen, OF, John Carroll Catholic (HS)

Kiley McDaniel ($) of ESPN first linked Jay Allen (and later James Wood) to the Reds. Here in this mock, Cincinnati is able to get both in part due to the selection of Sweeney at pick 17. Allen has average or better tools across the board with some scouts feeling like those skills will only improve as he focuses exclusively on baseball.

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31. Miami Marlins

Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida

Mace could have been drafted last year, but had a price in mind and headed back to Florida. He’s looked good this year, but now probably represents a value play to teams in the late first/early second round. After selecting Bubba Chandler in the first round, Miami is in a position to take a quick-to-the-majors arm at a bit of a discount.

32. Detroit Tigers

Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)

Detroit should still have considerable funds to take another big swing after picking third overall. They’ve been tied to prep SS Alex Mooney, who could be available here as well. Even if they take a prep SS with their first pick, I wouldn’t rule out Mooney later, but in this mock, Detroit doesn’t have to make that choice. Here the Tigers pick up Painter to add to their future pitching options.

33. Milwaukee Brewers

Aaron Zavala, OF, Oregon

Brewer scouts were all over Aaron Zavala at the NCAA regionals in Eugene and he showed off a solid swing at the dish. His name has been creeping up boards in recent weeks. He dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the season, but looked impressive in his return. His swing is geared towards teams that place a heavy emphasis on hitting models.

34. Tampa Bay Rays

Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest

Cusick needs some refinement, but if any profile is reminiscent of Garret Crochet from 2020, it’s Cusick. He could potentially help a team win this season out of the pen before transitioning back to starting next season. There aren’t really any better teams for someone with Cusick’s stuff to end up with than Tampa Bay where their impressive pitching development infrastructure combined with their willingness to be flexible with innings would give Cusick a leg up.

35. Cincinnati Reds

James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (HS)

James Wood is a bit of an enigma. On somedays he flashes all-star potential and on others he looks lost. He is committed to Mississippi State and could be a tough sign. In this mock, Cincinnati’s selection of Mikulski paves the way for the Reds to sign overslot selections.

36. Minnesota Twins

Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East (HS)

Mack could easily be an earlier selection in the first round, but if he makes it down to here, Minnesota should consider themselves lucky. The Twins are often associated with college bats, but having taken one earlier take the prep catcher with the best likelihood of staying at the position in the class.

Potential Cubs Hitting Draft Targets

The Cubs Way

The Chicago Cubs of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era was built largely on the backs of elite hitters taken in the first round. Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Nico Hoerner experienced varying levels of success from role players to MVP, but each first-round hitter drafted from 2012-2018 made the major leagues. While every fan dreams of filling out the an All-star team with the Cubs starting lineup, it’s important to remember that even just receiving major league contributions from each of those picks is a remarkable success. That doesn’t even take into account of the ultimate goal (winning the World Series), which was finally accomplished in 2016.

But this is no time to rest on laurels and the organization dramatically adjusted organizational philosophies starting in 2018. This involved targeting players with a higher upside/risk. These players with a higher variance (between their low and higher projections) have been immensely valuable to the organization. Look for the Cubs to target players that fit that category during the upcoming MLB draft.

Disclaimer: Every major league organization uses some form of draft model and metrics to compare and rank both hitters and pitchers. This isn’t meant to reverse-engineer the Cubs draft model, but rather to highlight a few components of that model that may pertain to players selected. Teams also have access to far more biodynamic and proprietary data.

Hitting Factors to Consider

Athleticism

Every team wants athletes, but the players the Cubs have targeted in the last few years have trended to showcase more athleticism at the expense of polish, especially outside of the first round. Specific hitters like Brennen Davis, Cole Roederer, Ethan Hearn, and Jordan Nwogu are some notable examples. The Cubs have also targeted multi sport athletes, which is a good marker for well-rounded athleticism.

Positional Considerations

While the Cubs have targeted shortstops in the past few years, You Can’t Have Too Many Shortstops. It’s not impossible to see the Cubs target one of the immensely talented high school shortstops in what is viewed as possibly the best draft class of high school shortstops ever. However, there are also a bevy of high school outfielders and catchers very worthy of being drafted in the top three rounds. Unfortunately this is largely seen as a disappointing college hitter class. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t take a college hitter early, just that it will be more of a scouting challenge. College outfielders get most of the publicity in the first round, however there are a number of infielders who should find themselves drafted in rounds 1-3.

Age Considerations

All organizations include age to some extent into how they evaluate players, especially in extremes. A player who is 19 years old in high school may offer less growth than a 17 year old. Certain organizations factor age very little into their draft models (Arizona) and others are notorious for heavily factoring it in (Cleveland). The Cubs are largely in the middle of the pack. Ultimately, I wouldn’t heavily weigh age when it comes to identifying players the Cubs may target.

Contact Skills

The Cubs have prioritized players with strong bat-to-ball skills in upper rounds of the last several drafts. Players like Ed Howard, Nico Hoerner, and Chase Strumpf were some notable examples of players who showed excellent bat-to-ball skills. Every organization wants player who make contact, however it should be noted that the Cubs have prioritized hit tools over power.

Swing Changes

The Cubs heavily invested in their hitting infrastructure. Justin Stone and the hitting department showed remarkable success with Brennen Davis and the Cubs have not shied away from drafting players who need to have their swing reworked (Ed Howard and Jordan Nwogu). Though the Cubs are not alone on this island, not every organization is comfortable devoting significant financial resources to players who need a reworked swing.

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High School Hitters

Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork (HS)

Ivy Futures Report: Will Taylor may seem like a prospect on the rise, but he had an excellent showcase circuit last year. Taylor showed off the best contact rate (by a good amount) and chase rate (by a bit over Peyton Stovall). Taylor is set to play baseball and football at Clemson, but from all accounts Taylor appears signable if drafted early. Taylor is supremely athletic and is a plus-plus runner who should be able to stick in CF long-term.

Cubs connections: Taylor definitely fits the athleticism picture to a tee. His bat-to-ball skills are very well-regarded. Taylor is a good bet to stay up the middle in CF. Also, Taylor has specifically been linked to the Cubs by both Keith Law and Jim Callis. Bryan Smith from Bleacher Nation also outlined his thoughts on Taylor here.

Colson Montgomery, SS, Holland (HS)

Ivy Futures Report: Montgomery is an exciting high school shortstop that appears to be on the rise. In showcases last summer, Montgomery showed off the rare combined traits of a high contact and low chase rates, while also hitting the ball hard. Scouts are mixed as to whether he can stick at shortstop, but he has more than enough arm if he needed to move to third base. He also shows off enough defensive instincts to allow a team to send him out at SS in pro ball.

Cubs connections: Colson Montgomery may end up moving over to third base, but the Midwest shortstop brings both an athletic profile and the ability to combine bat-to-ball skills and power. His future above-average projections in both hit and power is similar to Ed Howard’s.

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Benny Montgomery, Red Land (HS)

Ivy Futures Report: Perhaps the most toolsy prospect in the entire draft, Montgomery’s main knock has been a hitch in his swing that appeared to go away before reappearing in recent games. Montgomery possesses great defense in CF with a plus arm and plus-plus run times. He’ll also show off above-average raw power. A team that believes it can iron out Montgomery’s swing will likely take him high.

Cubs connections: The presence of Justin Stone as the Cubs Director of Hitting should provide confidence in ironing out Montgomery’s swing. Montgomery may go higher than 21 (where the Cubs select), but if he’s there on the board he very well may present the best balance of floor and high upside.

Malakhi Knight, OF, Archbishop Murphy (HS)

Ivy Futures Report: Malakhi Knight uses his quiet hitting stance to cover the plate well. He is more hit (50) over power, (45) but Knight can barrel the ball. He’s comfortable in centerfield and looks like he has solid instincts. Knight’s 6’3″ 200 lb frame should add some good weight as he grows. That growth may lead to him moving to RF, but he boasts a strong arm that should allow him to thrive in a corner if needed.

Cubs connections: Knight definitely fits that athleticism and raw talent profile that the Cubs have selected recently. Knight’s hit over power profile fits with the organization’s past precedents. He may be a round 2-3 target, but a UCLA commitment likely means he won’t come cheap.

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College Hitters

Trey Sweeney, SS/3B, Eastern Illinois

Ivy Futures Report: Sweeney is a big time pop-up prospect, who sports big hitting data. Sweeney both hits the ball hard and also does not whiff often. He plays SS for Eastern Illinois University, but is a likely 3B (or even 2B) at the next level. Some organizations may shy away from Sweeney due to his program strength or just because they weren’t able to get enough evaluators in to see him to draft Sweeney high enough. Sweeney has a chance for an above-average hit and power tool.

Cubs connections: After investing in Ed Howard, the Cubs are a good bet to trust their Midwest area scouts. Sweeney’s ability to hit the ball hard while not striking out in bunches stands out in a weaker college hitting class.

Jud Fabian, CF, Florida

Ivy Futures Report: A likely above-average CF at the next level, Fabian has consistently performed against older competition. He checks off all the boxes as an up-the-middle defender, performer using wood bats on the cap, and solid hitting mechanics. This spring, his swing and miss has kept a K% way too high to be the top talent in the draft, but he’s normalized around 29%, which is still high, but may convince a team to invest. He may be better off going back to school to be in the 2022 draft.

Cubs Connections: If the Cubs feel they can adjust Fabian’s swing, they could have a superstar, but that’s a big “If”. He’s an up the middle, athletic talent, but comes with bigger risks than most college hitters.

Matt McLain, SS, UCLA

Ivy Futures Report: Plays SS at a premier program, McLain is a likely 2B or OF at the next level. He utilizes a contact approach from the right hand side, but strikes the ball well. An offensively strong MLB organization may make changes to his swing to allow him to drive the ball. Still he’s not a slap hitter and capable of driving the ball and probably has average power right now. Hit tool will be critical to be above-average to succeed.

Cubs connections: He’s unlikely to make it to pick 21, but McLain has some fans in the Cubs organization. McLain is a safe college bat from an advanced program, a profile that the Cubs organization from prior years would have been all over.

For more information the 2021 Draft, check out the Ivy Futures draft page.

A Trip to the NCAA Regionals Gives a Preview of the 2021-2023 MLB Drafts

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I jumped at the opportunity to attend the NCAA regional baseball weekend games in Eugene, Oregon, which featured University of Oregon, Louisiana State University (LSU), Gonzaga, and Central Connecticut. The regional featured legitamate top three round caliber prospects from the 2021-2023 draft.

Landon Marceaux, RHP, LSU, 2021 Draft eligible

Landon Marceaux is a top 3 round caliber pitcher in this July’s MLB Draft. Marceaux stands 6’0″ and is listed at 179 lbs., but he appears to have filled out and looks closer to 190-200 lbs. He still offers some projectability. What stands out with Marceaux is his success as a starter in the SEC with the ability to tunnel three pitches effectively.

Marceaux’s fastball operated 91-93 the entire outing. He was able to locate to both sides of the plate, but when he did miss it was often to his glove side. His breaking ball is his bread and butter pitch. He struggled to get the necessary break in the first two innings, but then locked in his command. The breaking ball had curveball actions, sitting 84-86, and at it’s best was a plus offering generating feeble swings from both righties and lefties. Marceaux also threw another breaking ball with more slider action in the low 80s. Marceaux’s changeup was more of a third offering in this outing sitting in the low 80s with some depth. He used it effectively to steal strikes over the course of several innings. The changeup needs more work.

Though he has some work to do, Landon Marceaux is a battle-tested Friday night starter in a major SEC program with four pitches (one of them plus). He’ll likely hear his name called in the third to fifth rounds.

Landon Marceaux, RHP, LSU at NCAA Regionals

Aaron Zavala, RF, Oregon, 2021 Draft eligible

Aaron Zavala attracted a good amount of attention from scouts when he was up at the plate. Standing just 6’0″, the Oregon rightfielder put on a bit of a show when he drove a double deep into the damp Oregon night. Zavala had minimal chances to show off his arm, but by all accounts, it’s a solid, accurate one. Zavala has solid weight transfer and stays balanced through the hitting zone. There could be some improvements in hip rotation to minimize wasted energy (which should be cleaned up with professional), but it’s a short, compact swing. Zavala should hear his name called relatively early this July.

Aaron Zavala, RF, Oregon at NCAA Regionals
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Dylan Crews, RF, LSU, 2023 Draft eligible

If you wanted to put money on who would be the favorite for the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, I’d pick Dylan Crews. The LSU rightfielder shocked many when he withdrew from the 2020 draft. Seemingly not receiving the offers he was looking for, he took his talents to Baton Rouge, where he has done nothing but mash. Crews played a solid right field, but it’s at the dish, where he’ll make his money. Crews showed good contact skills, even against Gonzaga ace, Alek Jacob. He starts in a balanced upright position before using his momentum and diving towards the ball. The hitting stance is reminiscent of Nolan Arenado. He stays balanced through the zone and is a big time power threat. Throughout the 2021 season, Crews sported a 15% K% as a true freshman in the SEC. Feel free to pick your favorite pun, but you’ll be hearing about more than a few “Crews Missiles” in the next two seasons.

Dylan Crews, RF, LSU at NCAA Regionals

Tre’ Morgan, 1B, LSU, 2023 Draft eligible

It’s not often that you hear a first baseman raved about for his defense, but Tre’ Morgan absolutely qualifies. He was dynamic at firs base saving three errant throws by the LSU infielders. He moved well around the base and even displayed flexibility in digging a ball out on a throw while doing the splits. He very much deserves the Evan White comparisons on defense.

At the plate, Morgan is a polished hitter at the plate who shows off extra bases rather than a massive power threat. That shouldn’t sell Morgan short as he did hit 5 home runs this past season as a true freshman in the SEC. In this game, Morgan showed solid bat to ball skills with only an occasional whiff. The varied timing of Gonzaga starter Alek Jacob’s delivery fooled a good number of LSU hitters on the night.

Tre’ Morgan, LSU, at NCAA Regionals

More pearls on players at the NCAA regionals

  • Alek Jacob, RHP, Gonzaga (2021 Draft eligible): He was exceptional in Friday night’s game throwing a complete game, shutout of the star-studded LSU offense. Jacob throws from a very low 3/4 (almost sidearm) angle producing a 84-86 mph fastball. Jacob dramatically alters the timing of his delivery, frequently using pauses at the top of his motion to throw hitters off. It was very effective. To complement the fastball, Jacob breaks out the occasional slow breaking ball, which sits in the mid 60s.
  • Cade Doughty, 3B, LSU (2022 Draft eligible): I’ll have more on Doughty when I release my Top prospect rankings for the 2022 draft, but Doughty has a legitimate chance to be a first rounder next summer.
  • Trystan Vrieling, RHP, Gonzaga (2022 Draft eligible): Vrieling came on in relief in the second inning to throw 7 solid innings. Vrieling has a very over the top arm motion. His fastball sat 92-94 mph (touching 95). It had good ride up in the zone. He paired it with a 79-81 mph curveball that generated weak swings and good drop.

In the lead up to the MLB Draft in July, there will be more articles focusing on the Draft prospects. Check out the latest Draft content here

MLB Mock Draft 2021 Version 2.0

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.