2021 MLB Draft: Pirates have options at No. 1

In less than two months, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be on the clock with the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft on July 11. While the top of the draft is starting to take shape, there is no clear-cut player for the Pirates as of right now that they would take first overall.

There are four options and then likely some underslot candidates the Pirates currently are debating between for the top pick. Below is a look at four options for the Pirates with the top pick in July’s draft.

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Dallas Jesuit High (Texas)

Lawlar is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound shortstop who is a five-tool player. The right-handed hitter has a compact swing and a patient approach at the plate. He uses all parts of the field and is more of a gap-to-gap hitter right now, but he should hit for respectable power as he matures physically. 

Defensively, Lawlar has all the tools to stick at shortstop in pro ball. He has above-average arm strength and speed and plenty of range to handle the position long-term. He has an accurate arm and makes all the throws necessary at shortstop.

The one area scouts nitpick about Lawlar is that he will turn 19 years old shortly after July’s draft.

You can read an in-depth feature story on Lawlar and his skills HERE.

Henry Davis, C, Louisville

Davis had an outstanding junior year for Louisville, who didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament this season after being a preseason favorite to make the College World Series.

This spring, Davis hit .370 with nine doubles, 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 184 at-bats in 50 games. He also drew 31 walks and 11 hit by pitches while striking out 24 times. He tallied 10 stolen bases.

Davis is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed hitter who uses all parts of the field, possesses respectable raw power, and an above-average approach at the plate. He has a strong strike zone disciple but is aggressive and tries to jump on mistake pitches early in the count.

Davis’ top traits come on the defensive side. He is athletic and has above-average arm strength. This spring, Davis threw out 13 of the 15 base runners that tried stealing on him.

Scouts believe Davis improved his receiving skills this spring but feel that remains an area he can get even better at in pro ball.

You can read an in-depth feature story on Davis and his skills HERE.

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake High (Calif.)

Mayer, who is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, has enhanced his draft status to move into consideration for the top pick this spring. Lawlar was the top prep prospect entering the spring season, but some scouts now view Mayer as a slightly better prospect.

Mayer is a five-tool player whose tools are solid or above-average across the board. Offensively, Mayer is a hit-over-power hitter from the left side of the plate. He figures to add more power as he matures. He has an advanced approach and consistently drives pitches to all parts of the field.

Defensively, Mayer will stick at shortstop in pro ball. He has at least solid speed and athleticism. He also possesses above-average arm strength and footwork that allows him to cover plenty of ground and make all the necessary plays.

Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

Leiter is a 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed pitcher who is athletic, projectable and possesses a deep repertoire of pitches that makes it easy for scouts to project him as a top-five pick in July’s draft.

He possesses one of the best fastballs in this year’s class. It is an elite offering that sits in the mid-90s and touches 98 mph. Analytically, his fastball draws great reviews. It also generates plenty of swings and misses. 

Leiter uses an above-average curveball and a quality slider. His curveball has a high spin rate and likely will serve as his best breaking pitch in pro ball. Scouts believe his slider also features plenty of upside and will serve as a weapon at the next level.

Leiter has had a tremendous season this spring, posting a 2.28 ERA, 135 strikeouts and 36 walks allowed in 83 innings. But scouts, who are nitpicking, believe Leiter needs to have better control and a true put-away pitch in the future. Leiter profiles as a very talented No. 2 starter in pro ball.

Read more in-depth stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects at Baseball Prospect Journal.

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.

Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski IIIhttp://BaseballProspectJournal.com
Dan Zielinski III is the creator of the Baseball Prospect Journal and has covered the MLB draft since 2015. His draft work originally appeared on The3rdManIn.com, a sports website he started in December 2011. He also covered the Milwaukee Brewers as a member of the credentialed media for four years. Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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  1. Which of these 4 most looks like they could go underslot? Would one approach be to offer underslot deals to all of the players and whoever goes lowest, that’s the pick? Then flip that for spending later in a abnormally deep class (due to 2020 being only 5 rounds)?

    A dream scenario, for me, would be to nab Lawlar or Davis underslot and get Jaden Hill above slot.

    • None of those four guys will land the full $8,415,300 signing bonus value for the top pick. They also won’t come at a big discount, since all four guys will for sure go in the top five picks.

      The Pirates have the largest signing bonus pool this year at $14,394,000. If Hill is available and they want him, they can afford him with their second pick, regardless of who they take first overall.

      Thank you for reading, Joe.

  2. Prefer Davis or Mayer. Who are the under slot prospects they are considering? Not liking the “wider net” approach if that’s what is hinted at.
    We need players who have the type of ceiling that they can be the best at their position. I trust Cherington so far, he’s gone for high ceiling prospects in trades and hopefully he continues that trend in the draft.
    It is the Pirates (and us fans) luck there is no prospect that is a generational talent, so I hope they go for the prospect with the highest upside of being that type of player.

    • Thanks for reading! It seems like the Pirates are down to Mayer, Davis, Lawlar and Leiter for the pick. All have solid ceilings with Mayer and Lawlar likely having the higher ceilings, simply because they are younger and not as developed.

      To answer your question, prep shortstop Kahlil Watson probably would be the most likely to sneak in that group just because of his intriguing skill set and high potential.


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