The MLB Draft is just over a week away, and unlike in past years, there is no slam dunk pick for No. 1.
In past years, it was just a question of how fast the Orioles could announce the pick of Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (2019) or whether the Tigers would start playing Arizona State hitter Spencer Torkelson at first base or third base (2020).
This year, there is a strong group of high school shortstops, a pair of exciting Vanderbilt pitchers and a few college bats that could generate some buzz anywhere in the top 10. We’re taking our best shot at what the draft will look like when the commissioner reads the first-round picks on July 11. MORE: Who is confirmed to swing in the Home Run Derby? Here’s our latest projections for a 2021 MLB Draft first round.
1. Pirates — Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake High (Chula Vista, Calif.)
The discussion around this draft has been that there is no consensus No. 1 pick as there has been in previous years, but the Pirates have been linked to Mayer for a long time. The high school shortstop has one of the best hit tools and some raw power that excites many scouts, especially when combined with his above-average defense at shortstop.
2. Rangers — Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Dallas)
The Rangers are going with the local product second overall here. Lawlar is perhaps a more dynamic talent than Mayer with his speed and power combination, but his hit tool and defense are behind the California product. A shortstop with tons of upside and a home just a few miles from Globe Life Park? It feels like a perfect fit for the rebuilding Rangers.
3. Tigers — Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) High
Prep shortstops now round out the top three as the Tigers opt to go for the upside in House’s bat over the dynamic arms of Jack Leiter and Jackson Jobe. House might have to move off shortstop eventually to play third base as he is not the most agile, but his bat will play anywhere on the diamond. House and Spencer Torkelson could make for an enviable middle-of-the-order combination down the road.
4. Red Sox — Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
The run on high school shortstops finally comes to an end at No. 4 with the Red Sox landing the son of former big leaguer Al Leiter. Vanderbilt’s ace has reportedly wanted to land in Boston and he’ll have the leverage himself down to the Red Sox as the top college arm. He’s so refined on the mound that he might not take long in the minors and could help the resurgent Red Sox earlier than many other prospects in this year’s draft.
5. Orioles — Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
The Orioles might be tempted to take the best talent off the board left in catcher Henry Davis of Louisville, even with top catching prospect Adley Rutschman in their system, but Baltimore is saving money and taking the Boston College outfielder early. Baltimore made a similar move last year in reaching to take Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad second overall, but this time instead of power upside, the Orioles go for Frelick and his hit/speed combination.
6. Diamondbacks — Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Arizona has been linked to other names like Kahlil Watson and Jackson Jobe, but if Davis is available here, the Diamondbacks would probably jump at the chance to take him. He’s a college catcher with a refined hit tool and plus power who should be able to stay at the position as he’s continued to improve behind the plate. Even if he can’t hold up there defensively, Davis offers plenty in the bat to make him worthy of a high pick.
7. Royals — Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
With recent high-round picks of Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Asa Lacy, the Royals have established they’re big on SEC pitching. It just so happens that a dynamic SEC hurler is available for them to take at this spot. Rocker was already coveted out of high school, and he’s gotten even better with improved command and refined secondary offerings. He might have the most upside of any of the college arms taken by Kansas City in recent years.
8. Rockies — Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (N.C.) High
Watson has generated a lot of buzz to go higher than No. 8 and could be a potential pick to go as high as No. 2 to the Rangers, but here, he’s falling to the Rockies. He has flown up prospect rankings of late due to his complete game, with the ability to hit for average and power, his speed and his slick defense at shortstop. The Rockies reportedly want a hitter, and they’d be more than happy with landing Watson.
9. Angels — Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall High (Oklahoma City)
Another team very happy to land a high upside prep player, the Angels watch as Jobe falls to them at No. 9. Evaluators have said Jobe might have the most upside of any pitcher in this class — yes, even higher than the Vandy arms — with premium velocity and the best slider in the draft. Jobe has ace potential and the Angels would welcome the chance to work on developing him into that arm.
10. Mets — Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
The Mets have been linked to several college bats, as well as prep third baseman Colson Montgomery as a bonus-saving pick, but here they’ll take the top college infielder in this year’s class. McLain came into the 2021 year ranked much higher by evaluators, but got off to a slow start. He put it together near the end of the season and his plus hit tool, speed and the potential to add power could make him an enticing prospect.
11. Nationals — Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
The Nationals would love it for Jobe to fall to them, but it’s not happening in this mock. Instead, they’re going to draft the top college arm left in Texas’ Ty Madden. The right-hander has mid-90s velocity, a sharp slider and above-average control that makes him a refined pitching prospect and a pitcher many see as being a potential front-of-the-rotation starter.
12. Mariners — Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston
An outfield of Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis and Taylor Trammell already sounds pretty good. Do the Mariners need more? Well, it’s always best to take the most talented player left and that’s the case with Cowser still on the board. Seattle wants a bat to draft, and Cowser offers one of the best college hit/speed combinations in this year’s class.
13. Phillies — Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land High (Lewisberry, Pa.)
The Phillies have been consistently linked to the central Pennsylvania product, who might have the most upside of any player in the draft. The hit tool has drawn questions from scouts, but he’s one of the fastest players in the draft, offers tons of raw power and can play above-average defense in center field.
14. Giants — Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
After Cowser and Frelick are off the board, San Francisco will probably be looking at Wicks as their pick. Far and away the best left-handed college pitcher in the draft, Wicks has perhaps the class’ best changeup and above-average command. He could be a quick riser in the minors given his advanced feel for pitching and well-rounded repertoire.
15. Brewers — Harry Ford, C, North Cobb High (Kennesaw, Ga.)
Ford is one of the most interesting players in the draft as a catcher with an above-average run tool and the ability to play any position on the field, including center field. The Brewers have been linked to Ford and would love to add the athletic backstop with the lightning fast bat to their farm system should he fall to them at No. 15.
16. Marlins — Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork High (Irmo, S.C.)
Reports have indicated it will take a lot to pry Taylor from a dual commitment to play football and baseball at Clemson in the 2021-22 school year, but here, Miami is going to count on being able to sign him away from the Tigers. He’s one of the most athletic players in this year’s draft with one of the best run tools and the ability to develop some more power with more development.
17. Reds — Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee High (Bogart, Ga.)
The Reds have loved picking dual-threat talents in previous years, with Michael Lorenzen showing off his prowess with the bat as a bonus to his pitching skills and Hunter Greene getting the chance to bat before focusing full-time on pitching. Cincinnati will try the experiment out again with Chandler here, looking to see if the tooled-out shortstop makes more of a statement with the bat or if his lights-out fastball/curveball combo forces the team to look more at his arm.
18. Cardinals — Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State
After a dazzling outing in the final game of the College World Series to help deliver his team the win, Bednar is certainly going to be continuing his rise up prospect rankings. The Cardinals have been linked to several college arms and Bednar with his plus command and standout array of pitches would fit the team’s desire in this draft nicely.
19. Blue Jays — Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
Bachman’s slide down the board stops here. The Blue Jays have found success with hard-throwing college arms in the past like Nate Pearson and Alec Manoah, and they’ll jump on Bachman if he’s available in this spot. The Miami (Ohio) product already hits triple-digits and has one of the hardest fastballs in the draft. On top of that, he offers a wipeout slider and above-average changeup to give him a well-rounded repertoire.
20. Yankees — Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
Before he went down with Tommy John surgery, Hoglund was viewed as a possible front half of the first round talent. If the Yankees are willing to wait on him to come back from surgery, as they did with South Carolina hurler Clarke Schmidt back in 2017, who also underwent surgery before the draft, they could be getting a steal. His control is among the best in the draft and his repertoire is deep with a plus fastball and slider.
21. Cubs — Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Chicago has also been linked with Florida outfielder Jud Fabian, a risky gamble on a player with upside, but here the Cubs are going the safe route with a pitcher that has drawn comps to fellow Gaucho Shane Bieber. McGreevy draws positive marks for his well above-average control and his fastball/slider combination that could see an increase in velocity with some more development in his 6-foot-4 frame.
22. White Sox — Colson Montgomery, 3B, Southridge High (Huntingburg, Ind.)
Some rumors have had Montgomery going higher in the draft as a chance for a team to cut a deal and save money for later, but he’s falling down to No. 22 here to the White Sox. Chicago has been linked to the 19-year-old slugging third baseman, who would give the farm system a big upside play as a potential middle-of-the-order bat.
23. Indians — Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
The Indians have shown a willingness in previous drafts to gamble on upside early over the higher floor players, and that’s what Fabian offers them. A tough 2021 dropped Fabian in rankings from potentially being the first college bat taken to possibly even a second-rounder, but he has tons of raw power and offers the speed needed to play all three outfield positions. If Cleveland can get him to click, it could be getting a steal late in the first.
24. Braves — Ky Bush, LHP, Saint Mary’s
Atlanta is seemingly linked to arms every year in the draft and have done well with several recent high picks like Mike Soroka and Max Fried having positive impacts on the team. Here, they’re taking the hard-throwing lefty from Saint Mary’s, Ky Bush. If the Braves want to speed him to the big leagues, he could be a weapon out of the bullpen quickly with his fastball/slider combination, or they could work him as a starter over time.
25. Athletics — Alex Mooney, SS, St. Mary’s Prep (Orchard Lake Village, Mich.)
Mooney has made quite a rise up prospect rankings with his quick swing and a well-rounded game at shortstop. Oakland has been linked to a number of different bats and Mooney could fit what the A’s are looking for as a player that offers some upside at an up-the-middle position while also providing a high enough floor as a player already displaying impressive tools.
26. Minnesota Twins — Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Del Castillo was an early favorite among evaluators as a catcher with an exciting hit tool and some pop with the potential to stay behind the plate. Struggles in the 2021 campaign have taken him out of the conversation as the first catcher taken, but the Twins have been linked to him with the belief they could still tap into that potential and have a bat-first backstop.
27. San Diego Padres — Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The Padres have not shied away from taking tooled-out players early in the draft in the past, and they’ll nab one of the highest-upside pitchers in the class with Andrew Painter falling to them at No. 27. Painter has an explosive arm with three plus pitches and above-average control, and at 6-foot-7, there could be room for adding more velo. He could go much earlier than this spot when draft day comes.
28. Tampa Bay Rays — Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois
In a short amount of time, Sweeney has improved his draft stock by showing off one of the best hit tools in college and some pop that could grow to be an average or better tool for him. The Rays have shown in the past they can do a lot with high floor batters and Sweeney fits that mold well. His defense at short isn’t great, but the bat would play in the outfield or at third base if needed.
29. Dodgers — Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland (Linwood, N.J.)
Few teams have the track record of successfully developing high upside prospects like the Dodgers, and they’re banking on getting the most out of Petty in this year’s class. Perhaps the owner of the best raw stuff of any high school pitcher, Petty throws in the upper-90s with a fastball in the triple-digits and can spin a plus slider and average to above-average changeup. Some teams have concerns over reliever risk, but here, Los Angeles sees front-of-the-rotation potential.