The 2021 MLB draft is nearly two months away. Draft boards are starting to take shape, but there will be plenty of movement between now and July as scouts and front office executives continue to evaluate prospects.
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. I have already interviewed and written in-depth stories on 88 of the top 2021 MLB draft prospects. I will continue to add more in-depth draft stories and other draft-related content as July approaches.
Below is a mock draft of the 2021 MLB draft first round and the first competitive balance round.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Vanderbilt right-hander has been nearly unhittable this season, minus the four runs he allowed to Mississippi State on April 24. Leiter’s success this season has vaulted him to the top of the 2021 MLB draft prospect list and past teammate Kumar Rocker, the preseason favorite to go first overall. There is still plenty of time between now and draft day, but Leiter is the favorite as of now to go to the Pirates. Texas prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar and Rocker also are potential options here.
2. Texas Rangers: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Dallas Jesuit (Texas) HS
The Rangers are incredibly high on Lawlar, and it doesn’t sound like they will pass on him if he’s available. Lawlar is a five-tool player who remains the top prep prospect in this year’s draft, despite California prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer moving up draft boards.
3. Detroit Tigers: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
If Leiter and Lawlar go with the first two picks, the Tigers will have their choice between Rocker, Mayer or someone else they value highly. Right now, this pick likely comes down to Rocker or Mayer. While Mayer has enhanced his value this spring, Rocker also has had an outstanding season, minus some inconsistencies with his velocity. Rocker was the top prospect before the season started and has ace potential.
4. Boston Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (Calif.) HS
Mayer has a balanced set of tools and will stick at shortstop long-term. He’s enhanced his value this spring, causing some scouts to view him as a better prospect than Lawlar. He has a smooth left-handed swing and drives the ball with ease. Rocker also would be in play here if he doesn’t go in the first three picks. Louisville catcher Henry Davis likely will be an option for the Red Sox too.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) HS
House hits for average and power from the right side of the plate. Defensively, he plays shortstop and handles the position well, possessing a strong arm and smooth actions in the field. Some teams are intrigued by his potential on the mound, but House profiles best as a position player.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Davis is having a tremendous season, showing notable ability offensively and defensively. He will stick behind the plate long-term due to his above-average arm strength. Offensively, he has solid plate discipline and raw power to make an impact as a right-handed hitter in pro ball.
7. Kansas City Royals: 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.
8. Colorado Rockies: 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.
9. Los Angeles Angels: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss
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.
10. New York Mets: Jackson Jobe, 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.
11. Washington Nationals: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
Bachman is a fascinating arm due to his high-90s fastball that has reached 101 mph and his above-average slider. He does come with some reliever risk. He has extremely high potential if he can have solid control of his pitches and handle a starter’s workload in pro ball.
12. Seattle Mariners: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
McLain is currently riding a 14-game hitting streak, showing an improved ability to barrel up pitches and impact the baseball. McLain is strong defensively, possessing the instincts and arm strength to stay at shortstop long-term. He also has the skills for second base and center field, possessing athleticism and solid speed. He profiles more as a gap-to-gap hitter who will hit for average in pro ball.
13. Philadelphia Phillies: 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.
14. San Francisco Giants: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Madden boasts an above-average fastball, which sits in the high-90s, and an above-average slider. He has consistently improved throughout his career at Texas and has frontline starter potential in pro ball.
15. Milwaukee Brewers: 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.
16. Miami Marlins: 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.
17. Cincinnati Reds: Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional (NJ) HS
Petty is a 6-foot-0, 185-pound righty who has power stuff and a good feel for pitching. His fastball hits triple digits. Petty is a high-risk, high-reward prospect who might profile better in the bullpen. Although the track record for right-handed prep pitchers who throw triple digits is not good, Petty’s potential likely will cause him to go in the first round.
The Reds are in a great position to add talent with the fourth-largest bonus pool and picks at No. 30 and No. 35. Expect them to go overslot with one of those picks in the 30s.
18. St. Louis Cardinals: Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee (Ga.) HS
Chandler is a football and baseball commit to Clemson, but he likely won’t make it to campus. He is a two-way player who most scouts believe is better suited on the mound long-term. He has a mid-90s fastball.
19. Toronto Blue Jays: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Wicks doesn’t have premium velocity, as his fastball sits low-90s, but he has the best changeup in the class. He likely will be the first left-handed pitcher selected in the draft.
20. New York Yankees: 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.
21. Chicago Cubs: 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.
22. Chicago White Sox: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (Fla.) Academy
Painter 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. He entered the spring as the top prep arm in the 2021 MLB draft class but hasn’t always dominated hitters like scouts hoped to see.
23. Cleveland Indians: 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. He is a solid runner and has above-average arm strength.
24. Atlanta Braves: Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East (N.Y.) HS
Mack has the chance to be a solid player offensively and defensively in the pro ranks. Although the history of prep catchers panning out in pro ball isn’t great, Mack has the offensive tools to thrive and profile at another position if a team wants to speed up his development.
25. Oakland Athletics: Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork (S.C.) HS
Taylor is committed to Clemson for football and baseball. His top trait is his elite speed. He is more of a contact-oriented hitter who will be a top-of-the-order hitter in the pro ranks. Scouts also speak highly of his aggressive mindset.
26. Minnesota Twins: Peyton Stovall, SS, Haughton (La.) HS
Stovall has been one of the biggest 2021 MLB draft risers this spring. He is a talented hitter who has notable power from the left side of the plate. He has a shot to stick at shortstop long-term, but some scouts believe he might be better suited for second base.
27. San Diego Padres: Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa (Calif.) HS
Hurd just started pitching about a year ago and has intriguing potential. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righty throws a low-90s fastball. His velocity has sometime sat in the high-80s this spring, but he has plenty of room to add velocity as he continues to evolve as a pitcher. His pitching skills are raw, and he will have to show growth over the remainder of the season to be a first-round pick in the 2021 MLB draft.
28. Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Mooney, SS, St. Mary’s Prep (Mich.)
Mooney, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, has a 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.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State
Bednar is in his first full season at Mississippi State after last season ended prematurely due to the pandemic. He has an above-average fastball-slider combination with a solid curveball and at least an average changeup.
The Reds receive a comp pick for the Dodgers signing right-hander Trevor Bauer. The signing causes the Dodgers to lose their second-round pick.
30. Cincinnati Reds: Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
The Reds are in position to add a quality player for an overslot deal at No. 30 or No. 35. Hill had the potential to be a top-five pick before the season started but inconsistencies and a torn UCL have caused his stock to fall.
Supplemental Round A
31. Miami Marlins: James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
32. Detroit Tigers: Izaac Pacheco, SS/3B, Friendswood (TX) HS
33. Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas
34. Tampa Bay Rays: Gage Jump, LHP, JSerra (Calif.) HS
35. Cincinnati Reds: Daylen Lile, OF, Trinity (Ky.) HS
36. Minnesota Twins: Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
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.