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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.

2 Matches
Expand Collapse All Updated on: 7/5/2021
  1. 49
    Last: 50

    Chase Burns

    Beech HS, Hendersonville, Tenn. RHP

    Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 215 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Tennessee
    Age At Draft: 18.5
    RapScore: 56

    BA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
    Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45

    After making tremendous strides forward with his strength and velocity over the last two years, Burns now has some of the best pure stuff in the 2021 high school pitching class. Last summer he showed one of the better fastballs of the group, running his heater up to 100 mph and consistently getting into the upper 90s. Listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Burns attacks hitters downhill out of a high, three-quarter arm slot and his fastball has shown impressive riding life. Burns has two breaking balls—one is a downer curveball that has shown average potential and the other is a more promising mid-to-upper-80s slider with sweeping action that shows hard tilt and bite at its best. Scouts seem to prefer the harder breaking ball and have given it future plus grades, while evaluators are more mixed on Burns’ changeup. Burns brings some reliever risk to the table because of his history of throwing scattered strikes, and given his long arm action that leads to inconsistencies with the timing in his delivery and with the consistency of his secondary offerings. Burns has shown an ability to pitch with lower velocity and improve the quality of his control, but scouts think he still needs to learn how to control his body, figure out his wingspan and fine tune some of the details of his mechanics to get the most out of his top-end stuff (which is exceptional) with more consistency. Burns is a Tennessee commit, but could get drafted among the top-two rounds.
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  2. 105
    Last: 106

    Logan Henderson

    McLennan (Texas) JC RHP

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 165 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Texas A&M
    Age At Draft: 19.4
    RapScore: 52

    BA Grade: 50 | Risk: Extreme
    Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60

    Normally the best pitching prospects in junior college baseball have a fire-breathing dragon of a fastball. That was the case for Luke Little, Nate Pearson, Jackson Rutledge and Antoine Kelly. Henderson is a different kind of pitching prospect. He’s maybe 6-feet tall, and while he can touch 94 mph, he generally sits at 90-92. But his high-spin rate fastball gets swings and misses up in the zone and he has three average or better pitches that all play up thanks to his plus control and command. The NJCAA Division I pitcher of the year, the true freshman led NJCAA Division I with 166 strikeouts and was third with a 1.66 ERA. He threw a seven-inning perfect game in late April and struck out 31 while allowing one run in 16 innings in two NJCAA World Series starts as he helped McLennan to the national title. Henderson’s plus mid-70s changeup is a weapon with excellent deception and late drop. He’ll use it against righties and lefties and is comfortable pitching in and out. He also throws his fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone with plus control. His mid-70s curve is an average offering as well and like everything else he throws, he commands it well. Henderson is committed to Texas A&M and he could make an immediate impact if he heads there, but his advanced feel, plus control and solid three-pitch package could entice a team to take him in the third or fourth round.
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