2021 BA 500 Draft Rankings
The BA 500 is an attempt to capture the industry’s consensus on the talent of the 2021 draft class—not to predict where players will be selected. The list was compiled in consultation with major league scouts, front office executives, scouting directors, college coaches and other professional evaluators. Ben Badler, Alexis Brudnicki, Teddy Cahill, JJ Cooper, Kyle Glaser, Joe Healy, Bill Mitchell, Chris Trenkle and Carlos Collazo contributed to the reporting and writing. Mark Chiarelli, Josh Norris and Chris Trenkle contributed to editing.
By Carlos Collazo
Well, it’s finally here—the 2021 BA 500!
No, we’re not late, but this is the deepest into the calendar year we have ever released the BA 500, as the 2021 draft is the first to be moved into July and tied to the MLB All-Star Break.
Baseball has largely put Covid-19 behind it this spring, but the 2021 draft class has still felt the ripple effects of the pandemic. While it won’t be remembered as the Covid draft in the same way the five-round 2020 draft last year will be, there’s an argument to be made that the 2021 draft class is equally impacted by the virus—if not more so.
Scouts wondered if that would be the case a year ago, as Covid largely blew up the summer evaluation period for scouts and players alike, especially amongst the college ranks. No Collegiate National Team. No Cape Cod League. No 18U National Team. While many high school events took place in the South, players from the West Coast were more limited in their options and scouts themselves had to miss events entirely due to personnel restrictions (and in some cases layoffs) and further step into the world of video scouting by writing reports remotely.
That dynamic has led to plenty of volatility during the season as players who previously didn't have a chance to establish a track record or baseline of performance stood out, and others with some history struggled. Teams are now left to try and sort out the signal from the noise by more heavily relying on area scouts and their history and/or adjusting their models to incorporate a much smaller sample of college stats.
Those factors—on top of the exceptional depth of the 2021 class thanks to the five-round draft last year that brought back many players who would have been drafted in a typical year—have led to less consensus on the class than ever.
“This year I have no expectations because it is so wide open,” said one scouting director. “When I walk into that draft room the night of the draft I wouldn’t be surprised if it was completely all over the place in terms of where guys go. Just not a lot of consensus.”
There’s not a consensus No. 1 player in the class and instead a group of five players are generally seen as the top tier of talent. That group includes toolsy prep shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer, renowned Vanderbilt righthanders Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker and Louisville catcher Henry Davis, who was one of the best performers of the season.
After a full spring, the high school class looks more impressive than the college group. The 2021 class has a chance to be one of the best prep shortstop classes we’ve ever seen, with four potential top-10 picks at the position and a slew of intriguing depth options as well. Outside of the shortstops there is a bounty of up-the-middle position players with unusually impressive athleticism and tools.
The high school pitching group, led by righthanders Jackson Jobe and Andrew Painter, seems close to average, with several legitimate first-round talents and perhaps more lefthanded pitching depth than in an average class.
Scouting departments were worried about the college hitting class entering the year, but there was hope that throughout the spring players would step forward and make it at least average. That doesn’t appear to have been the case. Most evaluators see the college hitters as the weakest demographic of the group—with a notable absence of shortstops and corner profiles with power—and it’s a solidly below-average college hitting class overall.
The college pitching saw attrition during the season as potential top-10 players like Gunnar Hoglund and Jaden Hill suffered season-ending injuries, but the group seems solid or a tick above-average on talent—but significantly below-average in terms of innings and established track record.
Overall, the 2021 class seems weaker than teams would prefer at the very top, but with elite depth that might leave organizations more excited with their draftees on Days Two and Three than in a typical year.
We will continue to make tweaks and adjust the BA 500 as necessary as we get closer to draft day.
*BA Grades and Tool Grades — We’re excited to roll out BA Grades and tool grades for the top 200 players in the class for the first time. BA readers familiar with the Prospect Handbook should be familiar with these grades, which are based on the 20-80 scouting scale. Our attempt is to provide a deeper understanding of the class in a quantifiable manner and to also make it easier for readers to have a rough estimate of where a player might rank within a team’s Top 30 once they are drafted. Please note that all player grades and tool grades are future grades, not present grades.
**Rapscores — 85% of Baseball America’s Top 500 MLB prospects use Rapsodo data for player development and evaluation. In collaboration with Driveline Baseball, Rapsodo developed RapScore as a standard scale for scouting and recruiting. Utilizing the principles of the 20-80 scale and the verified data collected by Rapsodo’s technology, RapScore provides a quantifiable way to compare athletes of all ages. Players that complete a Rapsodo Certified Assessment receive a RapScore and are listed on the Rapsodo National Player Database.
- 15 –Last: 15Notes:
Ht: 6-6 | Wt: 230 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 60 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.3
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60
Painter established himself as the top pitcher in the high school class last summer and entered the season as the sole unanimous selection on Baseball America’s preseason All-America Team, as voted on by scouting directors. He was never the hardest thrower on the field, but it is difficult to find a pitcher in this year’s class who checks as many boxes as Painter—which has led to comparisons to 2020 prep righthander Mick Abel. Painter is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound righty with a buttery smooth delivery and a tremendously loose, easy arm action that should give him above-average or plus command in the future. It’s rare to put 60-grade control on a prep arm, but some scouts have even gone as far as putting 70 grades on his future control. In terms of stuff, Painter has a four-pitch mix that’s above-average or better across the board. This spring, Painter has run his fastball up into the upper 90s at his peak, and he’s held 94-95 mph deep into his outings, which is a solid tick up from the low 90s range he settled into last summer. His best secondary is a changeup in the low 80s that scouts put plus grades on, and he throws both a curveball and a slider. Painter’s breaking stuff has been inconsistent at times, but he’s shown enough flashes and general feel for spin for both to project as above-average in the future. Painter was just OK during his first few starts of the season, which caused him to lose his grip on the “consensus top prep arm” label of the class that he entered the season with. Despite that, and despite the industry’s general hesitance to spend significant draft capital on high school righthanders, Painter checks all of the boxes to become a first-round pick and shouldn’t make it to campus at Florida. Calvary Christian had three players drafted in the 2010s (Luke Jackson, Jake Eder, Raynel Delgado) but Painter should become the highest drafted of the bunch, and the highest ever for the program.More Less
- 99Last: 100Notes:
Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 200 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 50 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.8
Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 40
There’s a good chance that Carter is the best No. 2 high school arm in the country as the teammate of fellow 2021 righthander Andrew Painter. While Carter might benefit from being on the same team as Painter in terms of scouting eyeballs, he’s a talented prospect in his own right with a three-pitch mix, super projectable frame and athleticism that give him exciting upside. Carter throws a fastball that sits in the low 90s and gets up into the 95 mph range at its best, with good downhill angle out of a high, three-quarter arm slot. After throwing more of a traditional 12-to-6 curveball earlier in his prep career, Carter transitioned to a slider last summer, and the pitch has shown plus potential with power and two-plane break in the mid-to-upper 80s with spin rates in the 2500 rpm range. He’ll need to improve the consistency of the pitch, as he’ll get around the ball at times, but it has real out-pitch potential. Carter also throws a mid-80s changeup with good arm speed, though he’ll bury the pitch in the dirt fairly regularly. Carter has the athleticism and starter frame that teams are looking for, but he’ll need to refine his strike throwing and potentially clean up his delivery to avoid a bullpen projection. There’s plenty of effort in the delivery and he has length in his arm stroke with stabbing action in the back that could create issues with timing and repeating his breaking ball. Coaches and scouts alike do love his mentality and demeanor on the mound, however. Carter is a Miami commit.More Less
- 256Last: 257Notes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 180 | B-T: R-RUlloa has been scouted frequently this spring as a member of the same Calvary Christian High team that righthanders Andrew Painter and Irving Carter pitch for. That scouting magnifying glass helps, but Ulloa did well to make a name for himself last summer by showing impressive feel for hitting. He turned around some of the better pitchers in the class and drove the ball to both fields, doing a nice job taking what he was given and using an all-fields approach with a line-drive swing and solid understanding of the strike zone. While scouts really like his barrel control, he doesn’t have the loudest raw tool set. Listed at just 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, he has well below-average power now and projects to be more of a doubles hitter than a middle-of-the-lineup slugger. Defensively at shortstop he shows solid actions with an advanced internal clock and clean footwork around the bag. He doesn’t have huge arm strength, but scouts think his actions allow it to play up. He’s an average runner. Ulloa is the sort of high school profile that many clubs like but would prefer to let go to college and prove his hitting ability. He is committed to Oklahoma State.
Commit/Drafted: Oklahoma State
Age At Draft: 18.7
RapScore: 37More Less
- 262Last: 263Notes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 205 | B-T: R-RCalvary Christian is loaded with draft prospects this spring and while Lastres isn’t seen in the same caliber as righthanders Andrew Painter and Irving Carter, he’s a talented player in his own right. Lastres is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound backstop with the defensive tools that could allow him to become a 55-grade catcher and the size and strength to grow into power from the right side as well. He shows off a strong arm that’s at least above-average and has recorded pop times around 2.00 seconds in games, which is right around the MLB average. He has strong hands and has shown an ability to spot pitches in the zone well, and also blocks well with runners on, though he’ll get into one-knee setups at times and get inconsistent in this area as well. Physically, he moves well side to side but has some room for improvement in terms of centering and smothering pitches that are off line. This is a bit nitpicky for a high school catcher, however, and Lastres has spent plenty of time handling some of the best pitching this class has to offer. Lastres has a bit of a long swing at the moment, and some swing and miss that could limit his offensive game, but does project to have solid or better raw power. Like his batterymate Painter, Lastres is committed to Florida.
Age At Draft: 18.0
RapScore: 52More Less
- 376Last: 377Spruce Creek HS, Port Orange, Fla. OFNotes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 165 | B-T: R-RScouts have solid history with Robinson, thanks in part to playing with first-round pick Zac Venn at Spruce Creek High in Port Orange, Fla., a year ago. While not the caliber of prospect that Veen was at the same time, Robinson is a solid center fielder with quick-twitch athleticism and above-average running ability. He didn’t perform offensively at the level that scouts expected last summer, and some scouts thought he tried to hit for too much power, which hampered his approach. Robinson has shown barrel ability against some of the better pitchers in this class and the 2020 class, standing out in back-to-back years at PBR’s Florida Preseason Classic and homering against 95 mph fastballs from Miami righthander Alejandro Rosario and 2021 righthander Andrew Painter. His swing and miss last summer will be tough for scouts to forget about, however, so opinions on his hit tool could be mixed. Robinson is committed to Florida.
Age At Draft: 19.5More Less