As of this posting, we are a scant 19 days away from the 2021 MLB Draft. And this is a draft that, to be fair, most people are pretty much over. In a normal year it already would have happened, so the majority of the industry feels as described: Let’s just get on with it.
The hallmarks of the class haven’t changed much since the last time we dropped a board. The prep bats are extremely strong and it seems like every other week, another “slam dunk Day 1” prep bat is popping up. I will say, this is easily the most active agent-fueled rumor mill leading up to the draft that I’ve ever experienced. We’re getting a clearer picture, but this draft looks more and more like a crapshoot the closer we get to it.
There’s always a somewhat stark contrast between how the draft lines up talent-wise, and how the draft actually goes pick-by-pick. It’s strange that I have to explain this, but these draft boards are not mock drafts. The number a player is ranked at, and what pick that number corresponds to, means absolutely nothing. As far as how the draft is going to go on actual draft night, from where I’m sitting it’s anyone’s guess. Pittsburgh does not know who they are taking at 1:1 yet, any statements otherwise are false. As a result, no one else knows who they are taking with certainty either. We can draw educated guess-level lines from players to teams, certainly, but operating in absolutes at this stage is a fool’s errand.
The top tier of this class is eight deep, as we see it, starting with Marcelo Mayer at No. 1 and running all the way down through Kumar Rocker at No. 8. Mayer, the SoCal prep shortstop and presumed 1:1 favorite, is generally viewed as “The Guy” in the prep class at this point but it’s far from consensus, with Texas prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar up there in that 1:1 discussion as well. Fellow prep bats Brady House and Kahlil Watson are both in that top tier discussion, but not quite in the same 1:1 tier as Mayer/Lawlar. Jackson Jobe is the lone prep arm in that top tier, and he’s very much in play as early as No. 3 overall to Detroit.
The college side has found some clarity but it’s likely considered disappointing clarity given the hype this class came in with and the way much of it has fallen off. Jack Leiter has pitched himself into being “The Guy” as the collegiate arms go, moving up ahead of teammate Rocker at some point mid-season and now maintaining that deep into the college postseason. Those two are likely the first two college arms taken, but make no mistake, Leiter has become the dude and any draft boards relevant to reality will likely reflect that.
We decided to keep Gunnar Hoglund in the top-10 even with the Tommy John surgery for the simple reason that we still like him as a top-10 player/value in this class. We see him as a ready-made No. 3 starter profile with the polish to move quickly, and the expectation is that he won’t be far from the Show just as soon as that elbow heals. Elsewhere in collegiate arms, Texas’s Ty Madden, Kansas State’s Jordan Wicks, and Miami (Ohio)’s Sam Bachman are all sort of holding steady in that mid-first value range, but watch out for ECU’s Gavin Williams to potentially eclipse all of them on draft night.
Trey Sweeney has been a big riser this spring as a left-handed bat with hitting components, lots of power, and a non-zero chance to play shortstop long term. In a year where collegiate performers/risers with actual tools are scarce, he’s likely played his way into the first round. Other risers of note in this general section of the board include:
-Mississippi State right-hander Will Bednar, whose improved fastball command/quality along with refinements in the breaker have juiced him up into Day 1 discussions.
-Connecticut prep lefty Frank Mozzicato, who was a whispered projection name last fall who blew up this spring, and may go higher than where he’s ranked.
-Maryland prep infielder Jackson Merrill, who has had a meteoric rise this spring to where he’s viewed as a Day 1 guy, the left-handed bat and sure hands at shortstop give his profile a lot of juice right now.
The prep arms in the post-Day 1 discussion will be fascinating to watch as they come off the board next month, and then even more intriguing to monitor as their bonus agreements come out after the draft as well. These names I’m referring to include New Jersey lefties Anthony Solometo and Pierce Coppola, Alabama lefty Maddux Bruns, Iowa righty Brody Brecht, Cali righty Thatcher Hurd, and others. Brecht, notably, is an interesting story as a legitimate star football player headed to Iowa to play wide receiver who, given the state of Iowa’s decision to play high school baseball in the spring, is just now pitching in front of scouts in high school games and throwing extremely well.
I’ve been saying this for a couple months, but we’re realistically looking at a weird mid-trend bubble that could see this draft be prep-heavy, breaking a trend of recent drafts that have become increasingly more college-heavy, a trend that will almost assuredly resume in 2022.
This draft board will eventually have 682 names on it—the exact number of picks in the 2021 MLB Draft. We’ll be writing reports on the 500 you see listed below in this update, starting tomorrow and carrying on in perpetuity or until one of Vinnie or I’s hands fall off from typing. We also have a few more mock drafts on the way, as well as several other features leading up to draft day itself. Thanks for reading!
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