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.
- 20Last: 19Notes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 200 | B-T: B-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.8
Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Field: 55 | Arm: 60
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
In a 2021 class littered with standout high school athletes, Chandler might be one of the best. A multi-sport athlete, Chandler is a four-star quarterback according to 247Sports and is committed to Clemson for both football and baseball. He can throw a football 40 yards down field with his left hand and he can also windmill dunk on the basketball court. Understandably, many teams are excited about the massive upside Chandler could have if he ever focuses exclusively on baseball. On the diamond, he’s a talented righthander and shortstop, with most teams preferring him on the mound, but a handful are either on him as a hitter or open-minded to letting him try the two-way experiment. Chandler has touched 97 mph this spring, but more typically works in the 89-93 mph range with his fastball. He’s shown a mid-70s curveball with above-average spin rate that scouts believe could develop into a plus pitch and he’s also thrown a changeup that needs more work. Chandler’s delivery needs work, as he gets by more on athleticism than on pristine mechanics. He doesn’t fully incorporate his legs at the moment, and while he has a super-fast arm, some scouts don’t love his high arm slot. His secondaries are both inconsistent now and his strikes have been scattered, but those who like Chandler believe he has the athleticism and natural feel for spin to make a massive leap with the help of pro player development and with an 100% focus on baseball. Chandler is a switch-hitting shortstop who has solid raw power in the tank and a better swing from the right side than the left, with lots of contact out of a quick, line-drive oriented swing. Chandler isn’t a refined defender now, but when he gets moving he can cover plenty of ground and he certainly has the arm strength for the left side of the infield. With all of those tools and athleticism in a 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, Chandler’s upside is tremendous, and he should find a home in the first round unless he’s dead set on joining one of the best football programs in the nation.More Less
- 21Last: 26Notes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 175 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.5
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 70 | Field: 60 | Arm: 55
Clemson routinely turns out professional athletes, but it’s perhaps a bit more rare for the program to have not one, but two commits to the football program who are also potential first-round talents on the baseball field. That’s the case this year with Taylor and Georgia two-way player Bubba Chandler. Taylor is a three-star athlete, according to 247Sports, and has gotten interest from Clemson as a quarterback and slot receiver, in addition to being a standout high school wrestler. Taylor jumped on draft boards in a big way last summer when he was arguably the most impressive performer at East Coast Pro, standing out for his running ability and hitting performance. He clocked a 6.45-second 60-yard dash and is a double-plus runner, and he also showed an ability to square up velocity and sit back and drive offspeed stuff. Taylor gets a bit rigid in his swing at times, but he has shown bat speed, the ability to manipulate the barrel and a line-drive approach that suits his running ability. Scouts think he has a chance to be an above-average hitter with the speed to profile as a leadoff type. His power is the one tool that evaluators question. It’s below-average now, but Taylor did add strength to his 6-foot, 175-pound frame over the offseason and could continue to get more physical in the future but barring a significant development in that area in addition to a more leveraged swing, he’s unlikely to be a huge power threat. Taylor will take some inconsistent routes in the outfield currently, but he has the running ability, foot speed and explosion to develop into a plus defensive center fielder, with above-average arm strength on top of it. The teams highest on Taylor’s hitting ability and swing likely have him as a first-round talent, but most of the industry sees him as a top-50 type in a class that gets fairly jumbled beyond the first 20 players. His football and baseball commitment to Clemson could complicate things depending on where he lands.More Less
- 133Last: 134Notes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 195 | B-T: L-LBA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.9
Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
Holton might be a player who goes a bit under the radar as one watches him walk to the mound, thanks to an undersized, 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame. As soon as he starts pitching, though, it’s hard not to like him. Holton showed impressive stuff from the left side last summer to go along with a competitive demeanor on the mound and an advanced approach to pitching. Holton mostly sat in the 90-94 mph range last summer and has been in a similar spot this spring, touching 95 and occasionally getting to that peak velocity late in games. He throws both a curveball and a slider, but the pitches blend together at times in shape and aren’t always easily distinguishable. His best breaking ball looks like more of a curveball, with 1-to-7 shape and good vertical bite. Holton also throws a changeup, which is more of a solid offering right now. Holton’s entire arsenal plays up because he does a nice job sequencing, changing speeds and attacking hitters with tempo while changing eye-level. He hides his arm pretty well behind his body, even though at times his arm stroke is a bit longer than scouts would prefer. While nothing is plus at the moment, it’s not hard to see an entire pitch-mix of above-average offerings with solid control. Holton is a Vanderbilt commit, but in a matchup with Bubba Chandler in the Georgia playoffs he stole the show in front of a good mix of scouting directors—so despite limited physical projection, he might not make it to campus.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