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.
- 48Last: 49Notes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 210 | B-T: L-LBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Commit/Drafted: Mississippi State
Age At Draft: 19.1
Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 40
There’s likely not a pitcher in the 2021 class who has as much pure arm talent as Bruns. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefthander wowed scouts last summer at Perfect Game’s National Showcase, running his fastball up to 97 mph and flashing two breaking balls that were both plus pitches. At later events it was clear that Bruns’ control and command were well behind his pure stuff, and he struggled not only to hit his spots but to get the ball around the zone. That made him something of an enigma entering the spring, as no one in the industry doubted his pure stuff and upside, but seemingly everyone was scared about his strike-throwing ability and the reliever risk that came with it. Scouts in the South did see better control from Bruns this spring against poor competition, but they still commented he was much more of a control-over-command arm. Bruns is strong and physical, and attacks hitters with a vertical arm slot that creates plane and a crossfire delivery that adds to his deception. While he can run his fastball up to 97-98, he pitches more effectively in the lower 90s. Bruns throws a 12-to-6 curveball in the mid-70s with tremendous depth and also has a hard slider in the low 80s with power and late biting action. On top of that, some scouts have even graded his low-80s changeup as a plus offering, but he’s not used it much to this point. Bruns is committed to Alabama, but a team could easily take a shot on his massive upside somewhere in the top-two rounds.More Less
- 200Last: 201Mississippi State RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 222 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
Commit/Drafted: Rays '18 (30)
Age At Draft: 21.2
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 70 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 35
Cerantola was a super-projectable arm out of high school in Canada and was actually a more advanced hockey player at the time—he was selected in the eighth round of the Ontario Hockey League draft in 2016. Scouts figured that he would grow into his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, improve on a fastball that touched 93 mph and further refine a big-time breaking ball that was already getting plus grades. Well, those scouts were right—in part. Cerantola has added strength to his frame and is now listed at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds, and his pure stuff is some of the best in the class. Area scouts this spring thought he had the best pure arm talent of anyone outside of Louisiana State righthander Jaden Hill and prep lefthander Maddux Bruns. Cerantola’s fastball now sits around 95 mph and he has touched 99-100. His curveball has an argument as the best curve in the draft class, a low-80s power hammer with extremely hard and sharp downward biting action. The pitch gets plenty of 70-grade reports and he’s also gotten plus grades on a low-80s changeup, though he has little feel to consistently land the pitch. In terms of pure stuff, Cerantola stacks up with anyone, but his control is well below-average, to the point that Mississippi State quickly moved him from the starting rotation to the bullpen and only had him throw 17.1 innings. He struck out 24 batters (12.5 K/9) but also walked 11 (5.7 BB/9) and allowed 11 earned runs, good for a 5.71 ERA. Cerantola is a solid athlete (as evidenced by his hockey background), but his mechanics are all over the place and his release point wanders significantly.More Less