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.
- 37Last: 38Notes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 190 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.6
Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Field: 55 | Arm: 50
An impressive three-sport athlete, Allen was named the third-best athlete among position players in Baseball America’s preseason poll voted on by scouting directors, trailing only Texas shortstop Jordan Lawlar and Pennsylvania outfielder Benny Montgomery among high school players. Allen was a talented high school quarterback and basketball player at Carroll Catholic, and scouts were impressed with how easily he seemed to bounce from the basketball court to the diamond and swing the bat well. Allen impressed evaluators with his ability to drive the ball to both sides of the field this spring, against solid pitching, and those who believe in his bat think he has a chance to add solid power in the future as he fills out a 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. While Allen has turned in plus run times in the past, some scouts were surprised with the lack of explosion Allen showed in the run times they got on the stopwatch this spring. At the same time, he’s shown impressive baserunning instincts in the past with good acceleration and a solid first step. For teams who believe Allen is more of a good runner than a great one, there will likely be some concern that he has to move off of center field to a corner, but there are scouts who think he will be able to handle center field and also be a top-of-the-lineup hitter. Allen is committed to Florida, but some teams like him inside the top-two rounds.More Less
- 53Last: 54Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale, Ariz. 3BNotes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 200 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Commit/Drafted: Arizona State
Age At Draft: 19.0
Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 40 | Field: 50 | Arm: 60
Kath got plenty of eyeballs on him as soon as MLB allowed amateur scouts to get back on the field last summer, with the lefthanded-hitting infielder playing in quite a few tournaments leading into his final high school season at Desert Mountain (Ariz.) High. The Arizona State commit was up to the challenge as he steadily started climbing draft boards, putting an exclamation point on his high school career when he slammed a long home run over the right-field bullpen at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the Wolves’ successful Arizona 5-A state championship game. Kath looks the part of an old-school ballplayer, not using batting gloves at the plate and having a consistency to his game. He shows plus raw power with an at least average hit tool, using a nice, easy flat swing and having a plan at the plate. It’s more gap-to-gap doubles power now with the ability to make adjustments and use all fields, but he’s expected to grow into more over-the-fence pop with age and experience. Most scouts believe Kath will have to move off shortstop to a corner infield spot, as he lacks twitchiness and good footwork coupled with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. Observers who think he has a chance to stay at shortstop point out the good instincts and ability to finish plays. He has a plus arm with good carry on his throws. Kath is a below-average runner but better underway. The consensus opinion is that he’s a second-round talent, but there is speculation that with enough teams on him he could go before the end of the first round.More Less
- 140Last: 141Notes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 205 | B-T: R-LBA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
Commit/Drafted: Louisiana State
Age At Draft: 18.9
Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 40 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 40
Selvidge has been a significant member of the 2021 draft class since his sophomore year of high school, with early projections that he would follow a similar path as Matthew Liberatore, the last southpaw pitcher from Arizona to be drafted in the first round when the Mountain Ridge High hurler was taken in 2018 by Tampa Bay with the 16th overall pick. But Selvidge’s senior season at Hamilton (Ariz.) High hasn’t gone as projected. In the past, Selvidge commanded a fastball sitting 90-92 mph and touching 94-95, with a low-80s slider with hard and tight movement and late break and an 80-84 mph changeup with tumbling action and thrown with good arm speed. In his senior season at Hamilton, talent evaluators saw him having to work harder to get to his ideal velocity, affecting the command and control of his pitches, with walk rates approaching five per seven innings. The development of the secondary pitches hasn’t advanced, all grading as below-average pitches, and he abandoned the use of a curveball earlier this season. The life and movement on his fastball have also been below-average. With a strong commitment to Louisiana State, Selvidge might be viewed as unsignable, causing his name to drop off draft boards. His competitiveness and makeup is outstanding and the components for success are still there, so a different approach and the challenges of pitching in the SEC could provide a boost.More Less
- 167Last: 168Mississippi State OFNotes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 184 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 40 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: Rockies 2019 (34)
Age At Draft: 23.1
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 55 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Allen has been drafted twice before in his career—in the 36th round by the Cubs in 2017 and the 34th round by the Rockies in 2019—and should make it a third time this spring after an impressive season with Mississippi State. Through 57 games, Allen posted a .395/.467/.614 slash line, which was good for the highest batting average of any SEC hitter and among the best for all Division I hitters. That performance alone could get him drafted among the top-five rounds by an analytically-inclined team in a down year for college bats, but Allen has a solid-average toolset behind that performance as well. He’s a bit of a tweener outfield profile who improved his speed and arm strength this season and might warrant a try in center field as an above-average runner, but more than likely fits best in a corner. Coaches have praised his work ethic and the progress he’s made as a defender, and he should have enough arm strength for right field—where he’s logged most of his time with Mississippi State this spring. Allen has a solid approach at the plate with an ability to hit to all fields, and he’s performed well against high-end velocity and offspeed offerings. With a 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame, there’s not a ton of physical projection left for Allen and he’s probably more of a hit-over-power bat who will need to rely more on gap power and a high batting average to profile in a corner instead of big-time over-the-fence juice. Allen just turned 23, but his offensive performance in the SEC should be rewarded on draft day.More Less
- 177Last: 178South Carolina OFNotes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 218 | B-T: R-LBA Grade: 40 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: Yankees' 18 (39)
Age At Draft: 21.9
Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Allen was a notable two-way prospect out of Jenkins High in Lakeland, Fla., and ranked at the back end of the 2018 BA 500. He’s improved his draft stock after three seasons with South Carolina, where he’s been a hitter only, and early this spring was one of the more impressive bats in the SEC. Through his first 18 games Allen hit .324/.405/.592 with four three-hit games, though he cooled off in the second half and finished with a .276/.375/.516 slash line. Allen has played all three outfield positions for South Carolina, but profiles best in a corner at the next level. He’s a solid runner, but not a burner and his best tool might be his above-average raw power, which should give him a chance to profile in a corner. Allen does have a solid approach at the plate and walked 12% of the time compared to an 18% strikeout rate, but most scouts view him as a power-over-hit bat. Each SEC team gets scouted heavily every year, but South Carolina was particularly loaded with draft prospects this spring and Allen was one of the better performers among the bats. He looks like a solid Day Two selection whose range will be determined by a team’s conviction in his hit tool.More Less
- 201Last: 202Notes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 180 | B-T: R-RSirota wasn't at most of the prominent events on the showcase circuit last summer, and in a rich year for talent in the Northeast, he has fallen under the radar for some clubs. Those who have gone in to see Sirota have been intrigued by his athleticism, tools and youth. He's one of the younger players in the draft, playing his high school season at 17 and turning 18 on June 16. He's an athletic center fielder with plus speed and a strong arm, showing good defensive instincts and reads off the bat. While a lot of teams haven't seen Sirota against top competition, he has generally hit well in games, including at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association Championship last year in October and the PG High School Showdown in Alabama this year in March. Sirota isn't the most physically imposing player, but he shows good bat speed, a patient approach and over-the-fence pop now with some strength projection remaining for that to tick up.
Age At Draft: 18.1More Less
- 221Last: 222Auburn RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 200 | B-T: R-RComing out of fall ball, Fitts looked like a first-round pick. After sitting 88-90 mph as a freshman and 91-93 mph in 2020, Fitts was sitting in the mid 90s in fall ball, touching 97 and showing a buzz-saw of a slider. He began the season as Auburn’s ace, but very quickly everything went sideways. Fitts struggled in two of his first three starts of the year, and moved back and forth between the bullpen and rotation the rest of the year. His stuff rarely reached the heights that it had flashed in the fall. A right foot injury that slowed him may have played a part in that, and Fitts did finish strong by one-hitting LSU for six innings and one-hitting Missouri for eight scoreless innings. But even those two starts were sandwiched around a one-inning outing against Texas A&M where eight of the 11 batters he faced reached base. Fitts sat 91-95 mph in 2021, but his fastball too often flattened out. He was extremely prone to home runs (10 in just 41.1 innings). His slider didn’t have the plus bite and shape it showed in the fall and he rarely threw the split-change that had flashed above-average. Figuring out whether the fall was a glimpse of what’s to come if Fitts is fully healthy or just a blip for a pitcher who has a 5.23 career ERA with more hits than innings pitched is a challenge for scouting departments.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.6
RapScore: 40More Less
- 233Last: 234Independence HS, Ashburn, Va. LHPNotes:
Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 210 | B-T: L-LClarke wasn’t scouted last summer after recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had in 2019, but was a big-time pop-up player early this spring after showing a fastball up to 97 mph from the left side, with an impressive ability to spin a breaking ball as well. Scouts who saw him early in the season thought he had the stuff to be a first- or second-round pick. That sort of heat has fallen off throughout the season, however, as Clarke has struggled with consistency and control and his velocity has tapered off. There are scouts who don’t love his arm action, despite plenty of arm speed, and wonder if he’s going to be a reliever at the next level because of his scattered strikes, while others think his control and consistency will come as he gets further away from surgery. Clarke is a solid athlete with a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and is committed to Alabama.
Age At Draft: 18.3More Less
- 408Last: 409UC Santa Barbara 2BNotes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 185 | B-T: R-RCastanon fell under the radar in high school playing in talent-rich Southern California, but he frequently outperformed more high-profile players and set his school record for most career hits. He continued that trend as a four-year starter at UC Santa Barbara and hit .412/.508/.742 this spring through the Gauchos’ regional opener despite missing almost two months with a broken hand. Castanon is a strong 6-foot, 195-pound infielder who just plain hits. He has solid bat speed, controls the strike zone and has a natural feel for the barrel. He crushes fastballs, stays on breaking balls and drives the ball with authority from center to left field. He began tapping into power more this year and hit a career-high eight home runs in only 25 games. There are no doubts about Castanon’s bat, but finding a position for him is challenging. He is a below-average runner, has a below-average arm and has poor range at second base because he doesn’t move well laterally. He has a thick build with a strong lower half and projects to slow down more with age. Castanon’s bat fits in the top-10 rounds, but his defensive limitations make him a Day Three draft candidate for most teams. He is a fourth-year junior considered likely to sign.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 22.3More Less
- 452Last: 453Notes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 185 | B-T: R-RThe Ivy League didn’t play this spring, making Hood an extremely challenging evaluation for scouts with little game action to go on the last two years. As a freshman in 2019, Hood made the All-Ivy first team and was the conference’s unanimous rookie of the year, hitting .331/.411/.580 with 20 walks and 21 strikeouts in 41 games. Some scouts liked what they saw from Hood then and in workouts since, but he’s in a difficult spot as the draft approaches. He's heading to North Carolina State next season, where he could take over for Jose Torres as the team's starting shortstop and raise his stock for the 2022 draft.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.0More Less
- 457Last: 458
Ryan HigginsSt. Luke's HS, New Canaan, Conn. RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 195 | B-T: R-RWith so many players to track in the Northeast this year and Higgins seeming to have a strong commitment to Duke, he has fallen down the priority list for scouts to see this spring, but he is one of the more promising pitchers in the area. Higgins has a loose arm and pitches with a low-90s fastball and solid strike-throwing skills. He pairs the fastball with good feel to spin a curveball that has the components to develop into an above-average pitch. Higgins has a changeup but rarely throws it against high school hitters. If Higgins does go to Duke, he has the upside to develop into one of the better pitchers in the Atlantic Coast Conference within the next few years.
Age At Draft: 18.8
RapScore: 44More Less