The 2021 MLB draft is nearly six months away. The draft has intriguing talent at the college and high school levels, which will make the spring season fun to watch in preparation for the draft.
Remember, the Houston Astros forfeited their first-round and second-round picks last year and this year due to the illegal sign-stealing incident.
If you are looking for more draft content, stay tuned to the Baseball Prospect Journal. There are already 45 (and counting) in-depth profiles on top 2021 MLB draft prospects published on the Baseball Prospect Journal.
Below is a mock draft of the first round and the first competitive balance round.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Rocker will enter the spring season as the favorite to go first overall to the Pirates in July. The right-hander had a notable freshman season, which included winning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player award, and was off to another strong year last spring until the pandemic caused college baseball to seize play.
Rocker has the makeup, size and intangibles to thrive as a starting pitcher at the major-league level. He has a low-effort delivery and a four-pitch repertoire that’s headlined by his mid-90s fastball.
2. Texas Rangers: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Dallas Jesuit (Texas) HS
Lawlar excelled on the showcase circuit last summer to position himself as the top prep player in the 2021 MLB draft class entering the spring. The prep star from Texas has five-tool potential and will stick at shortstop in pro ball.
3. Detroit Tigers: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian enrolled at Florida early in 2019, removing himself from that year’s draft. Now three years later, Fabian is one of the top players in the 2021 MLB draft class. He has five-tool potential and will stick in center field long-term. He worked on refining his plate discipline this offseason, he told BPJ.
4. Boston Red Sox: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Some professional scouts believe Leiter is a better pro prospect than his Vanderbilt teammate Kumar Rocker. He wanted to attend Vanderbilt out of high school instead of starting a pro career in 2019.
Leiter has a clean delivery, mid-90s fastball, and a really good curveball. The righty also flashes potential with his slider and changeup. He has an exceptional feel for pitching, which partly has to do with learning the craft from former MLB pitcher and his father Al Leiter.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
McLain turned down $2.6 million from the Diamondbacks to honor his commitment to UCLA out of high school. McLain is strong defensively, possessing the instincts and arm strength to stay at shortstop long-term. He also is athletic and has solid speed. He profiles more as a gap-to-gap hitter who will hit for average in pro ball.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks: Brady House, SS/RHP, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) HS
House is a 6-4, 210-pound two-way player who is intriguing in the field and on the mound. Offensively, he hits for average and power from the right side of the plate. Defensively, he currently plays shortstop and handles the position well, possessing a strong arm and smooth actions in the field.
On the mound, House has hit 96 mph with his fastball and mixes in a breaking pitch and changeup. He is a Tennessee commit.
The spring season will be critical for House after he struggled against high-end pitching at times last summer. It’s hard to deny his potential, but scouts will want to consistently see him perform on the field to feel comfortable making him a top-10 pick.
7. Kansas City Royals: Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Del Castillo is an offensive-minded catcher who has dominated college pitching the last two years. Scouts are split on his defensive skills behind the plate, though. He needs to show improvement defensively this spring. He spent time working with Royals catcher Salvador Perez last summer to refine his defensive skills.
8. Colorado Rockies: Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville
Binelas, a Wisconsin native, can drive the ball to all parts of the field. He is one of the best power hitters in the 2021 MLB draft class. He does feature some swing and miss in his game, but it’s hard to deny his potential at the plate as a power-hitting corner infielder.
9. Los Angeles Angels: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (Calif.) HS
Mayer impressed scouts on the showcase circuit last summer to enhance his draft status. He has a balanced set of tools and will stick at shortstop long-term. Mayer’s best tool is his hitting ability, as he uses a smooth and easy left-handed swing to consistently barrel up pitches and drive the ball to all fields.
10. New York Mets: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Madden has made notable strides in his development in his first two years at Texas. He has the size and diverse repertoire of pitches to thrive as a starter in pro ball. He also has improved his command and control in his time at Texas.
11. Washington Nationals: Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Hill could easily be a top-five pick in the 2021 MLB draft. But to accomplish that, Hill needs to prove to scouts that he can remain healthy for an entire season and thrive in a large sample size. He has ace potential.
12. Seattle Mariners: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Davis is a complete player. His best trait is his above-average arm strength that is accurate and has allowed him to throw out 34% of base stealers in his first two years at Louisville. He has all the traits to stick at catcher long-term. Offensively, Davis has strong plate discipline and the raw power to make an impact as a right-handed hitter.
13. Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (Fa.) Academy
Painter currently is the top prep arm in the 2021 MLB draft class. He has a notable 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame, repeats his low-effort delivery well, and fills up the strike zone. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and shows a solid feel for his changeup, curveball, and slider.
14. San Francisco Giants: James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Wood has all the traits scouts seek in a prep prospect. He has size, big-time raw power from the left side of the plate, and the attributes to play right field in pro ball. On the showcase circuit last summer, Wood was one of the standout performers.
15. Milwaukee Brewers: Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
Scouts rank Wilson’s offensive tools, especially his power, as his best traits. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-handed hitting outfielder generates loft in his swing and consistently displays above-average power. He also has a strong understanding of the strike zone and typically remains patient at the plate. Wilson will play a corner outfield position in pro ball.
16. Miami Marlins: Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (N.C.) HS
Speed is Watson’s biggest asset. He has a strong arm and solid footwork to give him a legitimate chance to stick at shortstop in the future. He has room to add strength to his 5-foot-9, 178-pound frame. The left-handed hitter has an aggressive swing and notable raw power.
17. Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
Cusick is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander who has improved his craft in his time at Wake Forest after the Reds drafted him in the 40th round of the 2018 draft. His best pitch is his high-90s fastball that has reached triple digits. This spring, Cusick has to show improved command and control of his pitches to solidify himself as a first-round pick.
18. St. Louis Cardinals: Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas
Franklin is a 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-handed hitter with a balanced setup, quick hands, and solid bat speed at the plate. He has intriguing five-tool potential and offers an exciting mix of power and speed.
19. Toronto Blue Jays: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
Cowser, a left-handed hitter, offers an intriguing combination of average and power offensively and hits the ball to all parts of the field. He also displays a notable strike zone discipline. He is an above-average runner who uses his speed on the base pads and in the outfield. Cowser has the intangibles to play center field in pro ball.
20. New York Yankees: Steven Hajjar, LHP, Michigan
Hajjar has risk due to his limited track record after missing his entire freshman season with a torn ACL while last season ended early due to the pandemic. But Hajjar has the size and potential MLB teams seek. Hajjar will have to prove he’s healthy and improved velocity this spring to be a first-round pick.
21. Chicago Cubs: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (Okla.)
Jobe has athleticism, feel for his four-pitch mix, and intriguing upside. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound righty also has explosive arm speed that allows him to get notable spin on his mid-90s fastball and slider.
His slider is his top offering and draws rave reviews from scouts. His slider has an elite spin rate, as he typically throws the pitch with 3,100-plus revolutions per minute.
22. Chicago White Sox: Levi Usher, OF, Louisville
Usher has an impressive set of tools. The left-handed hitter has notable bat speed with some pop in his bat and an ability to hit for average. He also has above-average speed that he uses on the base pads and defensively in the outfield. Usher can play all three outfield positions.
23. Cleveland Indians: Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
Frelick profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter due to his strong plate disciple and ability to hit for average and power. He also is athletic and possesses solid speed, which he uses to impact the game on the base pads and defensively in the outfield. Frelick has unique versatility on defense with experience playing second base, shortstop, third base and in the outfield throughout his time in college.
24. Atlanta Braves: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (Ga.) HS
Ford has outstanding athleticism for a catcher. He has above-average arm strength and quick actions behind the plate. He also has the leadership traits teams seek in a catcher and has called his own games since freshman year. Those skills have scouts to also project Ford in center field. Over the last year, Ford has improved his offensive skills.
25. Oakland Athletics: Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land (Pa.) HS
Montgomery has elite speed, a strong arm from the outfield, and raw power at the plate. He needs to refine his offensive skills and clean up his swing to get to his power consistently. Montgomery has a high-ceiling but comes with some risk.
26. Minnesota Twins: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Wicks has dominated opposing hitters in his first two years at Kansas State to position himself as one of the top college arms in the 2021 MLB draft. He doesn’t have premium velocity, as his fastball sits low-90s, but he has the best changeup in the class. If he can increase his fastball velocity this spring, Wicks will move up draft boards.
27. San Diego Padres: Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland (N.J.) HS
Petty’s fastball sits in the high-90s and has reached triple digits. He also has a wipeout slider that plays well off his fastball. The biggest question mark with Petty, a 6-foot, 185-pound righty, is his delivery. There is some effort in his low three-quarters arm slot, which sometimes impacts his command.
28. Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Mooney, SS, St. Mary’s (Mich.) HS
Mooney, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, has a simple and compact swing with overall clean mechanics that he repeats consistently each time he steps into the batter’s box. Defensively, Mooney he will stick at shortstop long-term. Overall, Mooney is just a consistent producer who has a well-balanced toolset.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers: Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (Mass.) HS
Baez has an intriguing tool set. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitter has major raw power. He has swing-and-miss concerns and will need to show he can consistently square up the ball, especially on breaking pitches, this spring. He is a solid runner right now and has above-average arm strength.
Supplemental Round A
30. Miami Marlins: Mason Black, RHP, Lehigh
31. Detroit Tigers: Izaac Pacheco, 3B, Friendswood (Texas) HS
32. Milwaukee Brewers: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
33. Tampa Bay Rays: Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia
34. Cincinnati Reds: Evan Shower, LHP, Cincinnati
35. Minnesota Twins: Braden Montgomery, OF, Madison Central (Miss.) HS
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.