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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.

3 Matches
Expand Collapse All Updated on: 7/5/2021
  1. 27
    Last: 27

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 195 | B-T: R-L
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 20.8

    BA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
    Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Field: 70 | Arm: 55

    Fabian has become one of the biggest conundrums of the 2021 draft class. One of the youngest college players in the class after graduating from high school early and enrolling at Florida, Fabian won’t turn 21 until September and has been a standout defensive center fielder for the Gators since the day he stepped on campus. On top of that, this spring he has been among the top home run hitters in the country and through 57 games was tied for sixth among Division I bats with 20 dingers. Fabian’s age, defensive profile and power output should have him as one of the top players in the class, but teams have plenty of concerns about his pure feel for hitting and his high strikeout rates. He entered the year with question marks about his swing and miss against spin but has whiffed more than 30% against each pitch type. Fabian has attempted to make some tweaks mechanically to cut down on his strikeouts, removing a leg kick in two-strike counts which did help him lower his strikeout rate, but it’s still higher than the 25% mark teams generally prefer with first-round bats. Fabian does have solid bat speed and plus raw power that has translated mostly to the pull side, but he’s hit a few impressive homers over the right-field fence as well. A righthanded hitter and lefthanded thrower, Fabian should have no issues handling center field and playing it at a high level defensively at the next level. He’s an above-average runner but what makes him a special defender are his defensive instincts, first step, reads off the bat, athleticism and arm strength. He’s at least a plus defender in the outfield and some scouts have gone as far as putting double-plus grades on his glove, making him one of the best defensive center fielders in the 2021 draft class. While some teams might be scared off given the swing and miss, Fabian has upside with his age, power and defensive profile and has more leverage than most college hitters at the top of the draft considering he would still be age-appropriate in the 2022 class.
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  2. 92
    Last: 93

    Michael Robertson

    Venice (Fla.) HS OF

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 170 | B-T: L-R
    Commit/Drafted: Florida
    Age At Draft: 18.9
    RapScore: 36

    BA Grade: 50 | Risk: Extreme
    Hit: 45 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Field: 60 | Arm: 50

    Robertson is one of the fastest players in the 2021 draft class and turned in the quickest electronic-timed 60-yard dash at East Coast Pro last summer—6.26 seconds, an 80-grade time. While scouts view him as more of a 70 runner overall given how his speed plays out of the box, he still uses that running ability to cover massive swaths of ground in center field, with an old-school offensive approach that features drag bunts and slapping the ball the other way. While power will likely never be a huge part of Robertson’s game, scouts said he added about 15 pounds of good weight over the offseason and hit well against solid Florida competition, with very little swing and miss. He has some similarities to Vanderbilt center fielder Enrique Bradfield in terms of tool set and style of play, and Robertson could easily step right into Jud Fabian’s shoes at Florida and continue giving the program an advanced defensive center fielder to anchor the outfield defense. How much a team buys into Robertson’s swing and pure hitting ability will determine where he goes in the draft. At times last summer his swing looked better in batting practice than games and with a 6-foot, 170-pound frame it will be difficult to project much strength or power gains in the future. Still, his defense and speed could be carrying tools if he’s able to control the zone, limit his strikeouts and get on base.
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  3. 353
    Last: 354

    Jacob Young

    Florida OF

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 175 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.0

    Perhaps if Jud Fabian wasn’t beside him in the outfield Young would get a bit more recognition or excitement from the scouting industry. As it stands, Young is an above-average runner who patrols left field for the Gators and has quietly been a .330/.400/.447 hitter over his three-year career in Gainesville. Standing at 6 feet, 175 pounds, Young certainly doesn’t look like a corner outfielder, but it would make all the sense in the world for a team to draft him and give him a chance to prove he can’t play in the middle of the outfield at the next level. He has the speed and has shown solid route running and athleticism in left field, though his arm might make right field a tougher sell. Young is a contact bat offensively, with below-average raw power, but he led the Gators in hits (80), doubles (16), runs (56) and stolen bases (13) this spring. While he doesn’t have a carrying tool, he does some things well and his track record of hitting in the SEC should give him a shot for a club that values that sort of statistical performance.
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