2021 MLB Mock Draft: One Month To Go

We’re a month away from the 2021 Draft and it’s time for our first mock draft of the season. We have also posted an updated ranking of the prospects, which is available over on The Board. In a typical year, the Draft, which usually leads into the first or second weekend of June, would be wrapping up and teams would be beginning to prep for next year’s affair by heading to PG National in St. Petersburg to watch many of the top 2022 high schoolers. With the pandemic once again shifting the schedule, the draft is instead still a month out, and only now is substantive information circulating that makes a mock based on more than speculation and educated guessing viable.

Below we have names with teams down to pick 17, where the Reds (who also pick 30th and 35th) select. After that we have a smattering of dope and rumors to pass along, but otherwise still think it’s an exercise in futility to connect specific names with clubs toward the back half of the first round. This mock was compiled with info sourced from team personnel (a couple of general managers, scouts, cross checkers, directors, etc.), agents, and our own experiences at games (scouting the scouts and execs), as well as our own logical conclusions. As we receive feedback from more of our sources, and as teams cease scouting and huddle in the draft room for the next month, the rankings will grow and change, and we will update and lengthen our mock.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Pick: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (CA)

EL: I think some part of what will ultimately drive what Pittsburgh does will be influenced by the way the couple of teams picking behind them line up their boards. If the Pirates have a group of players evaluated at a similar level and one of them doesn’t have another potential landing spot until several picks later, it’s a mutually beneficial situation for the player to sign for well under slot (so the Pirates have can flex bonus pool space later in the draft) but also for more than he’d have gotten otherwise. The names our sources typically put in the Pirates mix are high school shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer, and Louisville catcher Henry Davis. It’s likely that whoever the Pirates do at 1.1 will come in at least a little under slot, even if we’re talking about Jack Leiter. An epic first pick haircut — let’s say a deal for $2 million under slot, which means adding either an additional elite high schooler or two solid ones — would mean the player in question’s next highest home would need to be Baltimore. The names mentioned with Pittsburgh right now are also mentioned right behind them, so a cut that big feels unlikely at this point. Ben Cherington’s tenure with Boston (as GM) and Toronto (as an assistant GM) saw those clubs select college players (remember Trey Ball?) with their highest picks.

KG: The only consensus with the Pirates seems to be that the team itself has no consensus on who the top player is. This might come down to a day of the draft game of chicken to see who among Mayer, Lawlar and Davis will take the biggest haircut with the top pick and allow the Pirates to redistribute the largest bonus pool in the draft elsewhere.

2. Texas Rangers
Pick: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Preparatory School (TX)

KG: It’s felt for a while like the Rangers will take the big name high school shortstop the Pirates don’t select. If the Pirates do Davis at one, this pick becomes more interesting.

EL: Lawlar’s name has been attached to the Rangers for quite a while, in part because he’s good and also because he’s a local kid. Clubs have seen heavy-hitting Rangers personnel, including special assistant Scott Littlefield, in to see North Carolina shortstop Kahlil Watson lately, but everyone has been in to see Watson lately because his season started later than most players. Lawlar, meanwhile, has been done for more than a month.

3. Detroit Tigers
Pick: Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (GA)

EL: The Tigers were five scouts deep, including GM Al Avila, at one of Texas high schooler Jackson Jobe’s starts a couple of weeks ago. A couple of my sources speculated that this regime’s behavior will be influenced by the need to show big league results soon, and that that points to Davis or an amenable Leiter. Henry Davis has a lot of overlap with Spencer Torkelson and/or Dillon Dingler. Making draft decisions based on who is already in your system feels like a bad idea but so does making one based on pressure for the big club to perform soon. Georgia high schooler Brady House has a Riley Greene vibe to him: a corner defensive fit, but clear big league physicality and a long track record of performance. Detroit was also heavy in Nashville over the weekend to see Kumar Rocker and Leiter, who both shoved.

KG: This one feels like the first wild card, but House provides a high school bat who some scouts have put the rare combo of plus bat/plus power on. Davis is in the mix here as well, as would be Mayer or Lawlar if one is still on the board.

4. Boston Red Sox
Pick: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

KG: Word is Leiter is trying to price himself down to Boston and wants to land there. Word is that Boston would love that as well. Thus, a match made in heaven.

EL: Yup.

5. Baltimore Orioles
Pick: Henry Davis, C, Louisville

EL: We have Davis’ name here because, in this scenario, he’d just be too strong a value to pass on. But the general sense from teams picking behind Baltimore is that they’d like to cut a high school bat. Mike Elias has usurped A.J. Preller as the GM scouts are most likely to eyeball at games, and this spring that has included House, Watson (whose name is mentioned at two, and then from here onward), Sal Frelick and Colton Cowser.

KG: When you have the best catching prospect in baseball, it feels a bit foolish to select Davis, but he’d be too hard to pass up at number five, and could move to first base or a corner outfield slot to just focus on the offensive ability. Plenty still think they’ll play it similarly to last year and cut a deal with an 8-15 range talent.

6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Pick: Khalil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC)

KG: The Diamondbacks have frequently been attached to the two best college outfielders over the last six weeks in Cowser and Frelick, but those two feel like a bit of a reach this high, and Watson’s top-grade tool set is too good to pass up.

EL: The general sense surrounding the D-backs right now is that if one of the high school shortstops gets here they’d be thrilled, and if not, they’re deciding among the college bats, most likely Frelick (who people put with them because he’s so much like all the little, lefty-hitting outfielders they’ve picked recently) and Cowser (who raked in front of acting GM Amiel Sawdaye).

7. Kansas City Royals
Pick: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

EL: It indeed feels like, even with a dandy Super Regional start fresh in everyone’s mind, the volatility of Rocker’s stuff will cause him to fall. At some point a team will decide it’s worth the risk to take him and teams tend to think that range begins here with Kansas City. House and Watson have each been mentioned here, too.

KG: The Royals have had tremendous success drafting big-school college arms of late, and Rocker’s late-season surge makes him the perfect fit here.

8. Colorado Rockies
Pick: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State

KG: The Rockies are a real wild card; Eric and I have combined to hear nearly 10 names attached to this pick. Cowser is a bit of a safety net selection who could come along quickly and projects as an everyday bat in the corner.

EL: This is another org that scouts/execs I’ve spoken with think is hoping for one of the high school hitters to fall, but that is likely to pivot to a college bat if that doesn’t occur. I’ve had a couple sources put Pennsylvania prep outfielder Benny Montgomery in the mix here.

9. Los Angeles Angels
Pick: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (OK)

EL: This feels like another potential Rocker landing spot. Jobe has huge stuff and fits in this range on talent, and Angels decision-makers have seen him. But they haven’t drafted high school pitching this high, opting instead for either premium athlete high school bats or college statistical performers, often young ones, though now that Perry Minasian is in charge the org’s thinking might shift.

KG: Jobe arguably has the best single pitch in the draft with a slider that has earned some 80 grades, but comes with all of the usual risks attached to high school arms. He has one of the bigger ranges of outcomes at this time, but it’s hard to see him falling out of the top 10.

10. New York Mets
Pick: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA

KG: The Mets have been attached to McLain for some time now, and he’s still here in this scenario. He’s either a great future trade chip or can slide over to second base to accommodate Francisco Lindor if he develops into the hitter many think he will.

EL: The Mets had the most heat in to see McLain during his final regular season weekend at ASU.

11. Washington Nationals
Pick: Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College

EL: This feels like the floor for Rocker given Washington’s willingness to snap up guys falling like he might, though it’s likely someone in the five or so picks before this just takes him. Ole Miss righty Gunnar Hoglund is also a logical speculation name to put here considering Washington’s success with TJ guys in the past. But in this scenario, Frelick is just great value.

KG: There’s been some talk of Frelick in the top 10 as a money saving move, but the talent falls more in the 11-15 range. He’s not an exceptionally physical guy, but he’s also shown a good approach, contact ability and sneaky pop while improving his draft value this spring by proving he can handle center field.

12. Seattle Mariners
Pick: Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (PA)

KG: The Mariners are a tough team to project right now. Montgomery is a big, athletic outfielder who provides speed and plus power potential and fits the mold of what the club looks for. This is probably the ceiling for Ty Madden as well.

EL: I’ve heard Montgomery’s name mentioned here, and also that this is the spot where UC Santa Barbara righty Michael McGreevy’s market seems to start. He’s a strike-thrower like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert before him, athletic and young and he might throw harder, and the Mariners have been open to guys with a fastball movement shape like this recently.

13. Philadelphia Phillies
Pick: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (GA)

EL: The dope has been pretty dry around Philly, with just a couple sources pointing toward Montgomery, though that may just be due to proximity. If the month between now and the draft allows teams to talk themselves out of taking a high school pitcher early, then maybe we have a Mick Abel repeat here with Jobe. Ford is just good value here.

KG: Ford has been rumored as high as fifth overall; the question is where will he play as a pro. He’s shown promise behind the plate, but some scouts feel he has the tools to play center field, which would take much less of a physical toll than catching.

14. San Francisco Giants
Pick: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas

KG: Madden looks like a top 10 pick one Friday and then a back of the first-round type the next, so this middle area feels like a good landing spot. He’s also a good fit for the Giants, who will need to replenish their rotation quickly after 2021.

EL: The last few years the Giants have happily walked away with whatever falling college bat gets a little further down than expected, and one of Frelick and McLain would have the best chance of being that guy in 2021, though it’s unlikely either gets here. Madden is a pitching version of this after having a mixed season. The Giants haven’t been strictly on vertical slot guys, so maybe Hoglund (14th on The Board despite his surgery) and Kansas State lefty Jordan Wicks are possible up here, too.

15. Milwaukee Brewers
Pick: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State

EL: There’s general mid-round buzz on Wicks.

KG: The Brewers have a history of taking college arms and valuing command and performance as much as raw stuff, so Wicks fits the bill here.

16. Miami Marlins
Pick: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)

KG: The Marlins are consistently enamored with power arms, and nobody offers more of that than Sam Bachman, who has routinely touched triple digits this spring, although questions about where he ultimately lies on the starter/reliever continuum remain.

EL: I have no real intel on the Marlins at this time. I think they like Chase Petty but Bachman is just a more polished version of that profile and still available here.

17. Cincinnati Reds
Pick: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL)

EL: The Reds pick here and then at 30 and 35, so there are lots of possibilities. They could try to buy a top 10 talent back to this pick and then cut a deal with an older player in the comp round; they could take one of the solid college arms here and be set up to scoop up a tough signability high schooler in the comp.

KG: The Reds have made considerable investments in pitching development over the last two years, and it’s already starting to pay off. A 6-foot-7, physical arm with five offerings is a great piece of clay to throw at their PD folks.

Notes From Our Conversations

  • Ole Miss right-hander Gunner Hogland looked like a top 10 selection before undergoing Tommy John surgery, but that season-ended injury shouldn’t cost him too much in the end. He’s been rumored to go as high as the early teens, and multiple sources find the Yankees to be his floor with the 20th pick in the first round. A college arm with a broken elbow would be nothing new for the club, who took Clarke Schmidt with the 17th overall pick in 2017 a month after his Tommy John surgery.
  • While Major League Baseball pushed the draft back by a month for a variety of reasons, the clubs themselves don’t see much of a benefit from the July start date. “What the f*** do we do for a month?” one executive asked, while another worried that the situation could lead to a bit of a “paralysis by analysis” situation, with magnets moving too much on the board and leading to mistakes.
  • The old business adage of nobody getting fired for choosing IBM applies well to the draft, and the IBM of prep players is infielders from California. This is good news for players like Carson Williams, Max Muncy, Cody Schrier and Davis Diaz. The first two are generating a bit of late first-round buzz, while all four could be off the board as early as the end of the comp round.
  • Oakland has been mentioned with Vegas high school outfielder Tyler Whittaker, and some of the area scouts think he could be their first rounder. He has power, speed, and a great frame, but a high-risk hit tool. Oakland has also been mentioned with California prep center fielder Matthew Polk, a contact-oriented prospect with a Vanderbilt commitment.
  • Arizona high school shortstop Wes Kath has suitors toward the back of the first round, including the White Sox and the Rays. The Rays had three scouts at Kath’s last game.
  • Beyond the Mariners rumors, the White Sox scouting director and a Yankees national cross checker were both at Michael McGreevy’s final start, though it wasn’t a great outing for the right-hander. The White Sox have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Colson Montgomery late in the first round.
  • Teams picking toward the back of round one think New Jersey high school fireballer Chase Petty will be gone by the time they pick, though he’s ranked behind that range on The Board (his delivery scares us). The Cubs (Ryan Jensen) and Yankees (Matt Sauer) are recent examples of teams that have used high picks on pitchers with violent deliveries like Petty’s.

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2 years ago

First off thanks for all this coverage – absolutely great stuff.

2nd – love it if my Sox land Leiter at #4.

3rd – I’ve always thought it would be interesting to experiment with 2 good-hitting young catchers to get them time at a 2nd position so that you could have them each play nearly every day in the majors. So for the Orioles, if they get Davis, he could catch 40 games and play 100+ games elsewhere, leaving Rutschman to catch 120 games and play another 20-30 elsewhere. This would be a bit like Evan Gattis backing up Brian McCann not so long ago.

2 years ago
Reply to  tz

This scenario would be an absolute dream for the Red Sox with both Leiter and Davis still on the board. But given their previous draft tendencies, it seems rather unlikely that both the Rangers and Tigers will pass on Leiter. Texas has gone from selecting from the riskier demographics to the safer ones, and the Tigers keep picking SEC arms. I think he’s gone, but if he goes to the Rangers there’s still a decent chance Davis will still be on the board because apparently every Tigers decision maker has gone to see House and Mayer.

I guess it’s hard to see Leiter falling to the Red Sox or Davis falling to the Orioles, but one of the narrative conventions of mock drafts is that the counterfactuals don’t get shown, only what happens based on their guesses up top. In their descriptions it sounds like things are bit more fluid.

2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I feel like the Tigers’ affinity for SEC arms is overblown at this point. Since 2018 the Tigers’ have taken 2 SEC pitchers in the first 10 rounds. One was Casey Mize who was the consensus top player at the time and the other was Zack Hess in the 7th round.

Smiling Politely
2 years ago
Reply to  tz

The Dodgers have made having multiple starting catchers work since way back when Grandal swung the bat

2 years ago

Lol – they’ve done this so well, I’ve forgotten about this.