The 2021 MLB draft is about four months away. That is still a lot of time, especially with scouts having less information on college players than usual due to the college season ending prematurely last year with the pandemic.
The first four picks in this mock draft are the same as my first mock draft. However, that could easily change as there is a debate between Vanderbilt teammates Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter on who is the top prospect in this year’s draft. Florida outfielder Jud Fabian also is a top-five pick in this mock draft, but he needs to perform at a high level the remainder of the season to maintain that status.
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 71 (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 has long been the favorite to go first overall in the 2021 MLB draft. A mid-90s fastball and above-average slider headline his four-pitch repertoire. He needs to refine his command and improve the overall execution of his pitches.
Scouts I have spoken with are split on Rocker and teammate Jack Leiter. While Leiter also is an extremely talented right-handed pitcher who profiles as a high-end starter in pro ball, he hasn’t done enough to move past Rocker.
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 has five-tool potential and all the intangibles to be a star in pro ball. But he has been inconsistent at the plate to start this season, featuring some swing and miss in his game. Right now, I am not counting out Fabian to be a top-five pick. His performance in Southeastern Conference play will dictate how high he goes in the draft.
Fabian is young for his class, as he enrolled early at Florida in 2019.
4. Boston Red Sox: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Some professional scouts believe Leiter is a better pro prospect than his Vanderbilt teammate Kumar Rocker. 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.
Like Rocker, he needs to refine his command and improve the overall execution of his pitches.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (Calif.) HS
Mayer 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.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks: 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.
7. Kansas City Royals: Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Del Castillo is an offensive-minded catcher who has the offensive skill set to thrive in the pro ranks. Although some scouts are split on his future defensive position, his offseason work has shown this season. He spent time working with Royals catcher Salvador Perez last summer to refine his defensive skills. I believe Del Castillo will stick at catcher long-term, which only enhances his value.
8. Colorado Rockies: Brady House, SS/RHP, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) HS
House is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound two-way player who is intriguing in the field and on the mound. House is off to a strong start offensively this spring after struggling at times last summer.
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. House has hit 96 mph with his fastball and mixes in a breaking pitch and changeup on the mound.
9. Los Angeles Angels: 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.
10. New York Mets: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Madden has made notable strides in his development in his first 2½ 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 based on his intangibles and potential. But this season, Hill needs to consistently prove to scouts that he can be a high-end starting pitcher in pro ball. In his third start of the season, Hill allowed eight runs while recording just one out against Oral Roberts, who had no troubles hitting his fastball.
12. Seattle Mariners: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Davis is a complete player. His best trait is his above-average arm strength. He has all the attributes 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. He has destroyed the ball early on this season.
13. Philadelphia Phillies: 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 above-average 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 outfield during the fall and spring seasons at Boston College.
14. San Francisco Giants: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
Hoglund is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander who is one of the best strike throwers in college baseball. He has exceptional control and command of his pitches and isn’t afraid to attack the strike zone. His fastball previously sat in the low-90s but has experienced an uptick in velocity this spring. He has reached 97 mph with his fastball this season.
15. Milwaukee Brewers: 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. His best pitch is his high-90s fastball that has reached triple digits. It’s arguably the best fastball in this year’s draft class. This spring, Cusick has to show improved command and control of his pitches to solidify himself as an early pick in the first round.
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: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (OH)
Bachman is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a two-seam fastball, gyro slider and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot. He has some effort to his delivery but maintains his velocity late into starts. His fastball sits in the mid-to-high-90s.
18. St. Louis Cardinals: 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.
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: 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 caused scouts to project Ford in center field. Over the last year, Ford has improved his offensive skills.
21. Chicago Cubs: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (Okla.) HS
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: Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville
Binelas, a Wisconsin native, made an immediate impact his freshman year in 2019. But he missed most of last season with an injury and has struggled this year. Although he hasn’t produced this season, he has the intangibles. He can drive the ball to all parts of the field. 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.
23. Cleveland Indians: Braden Montgomery, OF, Madison Central (Miss.) HS
Montgomery has notable tools headlined by his above-average arm strength. He is a switch-hitter who has a simple setup and gap-to-gap approach. He consistently barrels up pitches and displays power potential from both sides of the plate. Montgomery is an intriguing player with a well-balanced set of tools. He is a Stanford commit.
24. Atlanta Braves: 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.
25. Oakland Athletics: Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida
Mace, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, was a well-regarded prospect last year but bet on himself and returned to Florida for this season. He possesses a mid-90s fastball. He is a safe bet to start in pro ball, although he might not have the upside some other first-round pitchers have in the 2021 MLB draft class.
26. Minnesota Twins: 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 will stick at shortstop long-term. Overall, Mooney is just a consistent producer who has a well-balanced toolset.
27. San Diego Padres: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (Fa.) Academy
Some scouts believe Painter is the top prep arm in the 2021 MLB draft class, but he has struggled at times early on this spring. He has a notable 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame and repeats his low-effort delivery well. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and shows a solid feel for his changeup, curveball, and slider.
28. Tampa Bay Rays: Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (Mass.) HS
Baez has an intriguing toolset. 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.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers: Malakhi Knight, OF, Marysville-Getchell (Wash.) HS
Knight is an athletic center fielder who should stick at the position in the future. Offensively, he has solid bat-to-ball skills and drives the ball with authority to all parts of the field. He hopes to refine his approach and show more power potential this spring.
Supplemental Round A
30. Miami Marlins: Sean Burke, RHP, Maryland
Burke has not pitched a full season in his time at Maryland, but he presents potential and the intangibles to move up draft boards this spring. He is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right who relies heavily on his fastball-curveball combination. His fastball sits in the mid-90s.
31. Detroit Tigers: Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon State
Abel was eligible for the 2020 draft but went undrafted after missing the entire season with an injury. In three starts this spring, Abel has allowed five hits and posted a 0.57 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. He throws a mid-90s fastball, solid changeup and a curveball.
32. Milwaukee Brewers: Cody Morissette, SS, Boston College
The 6-foot, 175-pound left-handed hitter has a quick swing with an advanced approach and notable bat-to-ball skills. He hits for average and is a gap-to-gap hitter. Morissette is versatile defensively, as he has experience playing second base, third base and shortstop.
33. Tampa Bay Rays: Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa (Calif.) HS
Hurd just started pitching less than a year ago, he told BPJ. Although he’s newer to pitching, he has intriguing potential. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righty throws a low-90s fastball but has room to add velocity as he continues to evolve as a pitcher.
34. Cincinnati Reds: 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.
35. Minnesota Twins: Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
Wilson has struggled early on this season. He has the tools and potential to be a first-round pick, but his draft stock will fall if he doesn’t start producing.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has 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 has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.