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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.

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

    Jordan Lawlar

    Dallas Jesuit HS SS
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Vanderbilt
    Age At Draft: 19.0
    RapScore: 43

    BA Grade: 65 | Risk: Very High
    Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Field: 60 | Arm: 55

    Whichever team picks Lawlar will be selecting a prep shortstop with a long track record of success. Lawlar was the shortstop and three-hole hitter for Dallas Jesuit from his first game as a sophomore to the final game of his senior year. He left an inch taller (6-foot-2) and 25 pounds heavier (195 pounds) than he was when he arrived, but his performance was remarkably consistent. Lawlar hit over .400 all three seasons and was one of the best hitters on the summer showcase circuit in both 2019 and 2020. Because he’s coming out of Texas two years after Bobby Witt Jr. (and like Witt he’s nearly 19 on draft day), Lawlar draws understandable comparisons. Witt had louder tools almost across the board with the exception of the hit tool, but Lawlar has plenty of plus tools himself, with future 60 speed (he’ll turn in 70 times right now) to go with 60 hit, a 60 glove and an above-average arm and future power. Lawlar has a high likelihood of staying at shortstop. Witt (picked No. 2 in 2019) is the only Texas prep shortstop to ever go in the top-10 picks, and Lawlar should be the second. There were concerns when Lawlar showed more swing and miss early in the season, but he resolved that as the season wore on. He struck out in 20% of his plate appearances over the first 21 games of the season. In his final 15 games he struck out once in 55 plate appearances with no degradation in his power production. Lawlar’s swing is compact with above-average bat speed. Lawlar is a fast-twitch athlete. Projecting how his power develops separates those who see him as the best prospect in the draft class from those who see him as just a top-tier draft prospect. If his power catches up to his other tools in his 20s, he could be a regular all-star. If not, his hitting ability, speed and defense still would give him a solid path to being an MLB regular with defensive value. The Vanderbilt commit also impresses with his intelligence and maturity.
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    Jordan Wicks

    Kansas State LHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 220 | B-T: L-L
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 21.9
    RapScore: 47

    BA Grade: 55 | Risk: High
    Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 70 | Control: 65

    With arguably the best changeup in the draft class, intriguing fastball metrics and a track record of performance, Wicks could easily become Kansas State’s first-ever first-rounder, and the first lefthander off the board in July. The solidly-built, 6-foot-3, 220-pound southpaw has been up to 95 mph in all of his outings this year for the Wildcats, regularly sitting 92-93 with run, cut, and ride to his fastball that allows for incredible deception and disappearing action. His low-80s changeup is his most lethal weapon, and the Arkansas native relies on the plus-plus offering as much as any guy with a 70-grade secondary would. Wicks has improved his slider from being fringe-average at best to flashing plus throughout the 2021 season, and he has a curveball in the upper 70s to round out his repertoire. The lefty has great feel to pitch and extreme competitiveness that have helped him find success in the Big 12 Conference, despite pitching in a hitter-friendly home park in front of a defense that he hasn’t always been able to rely on. Wicks has earned multiple honors in each of his three years at Kansas State, consistently performing and improving. Following up his summer in the Northwoods League, where the 21-year-old posted a 0.45 ERA over four starts and 20 innings with a 29-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, this season for the Wildcats, Wicks made 15 starts and threw 92.1 innings. He posted a 3.70 ERA, allowing 90 hits and an opponent average of .249, walking 28 and striking out 118. In 203 career innings in the Big 12, he walked 58 and struck out 230. Wicks is a high-floor lefthanded strike-thrower with a history of college performance, and there just aren’t many like him in the draft class. Though he’s not a flamethrower, he can’t be labeled a ‘vanilla stuff’ pitcher with his standout changeup and the fact that his fastball plays like an invisiball.
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  3. 37
    Last: 38

    Jay Allen

    Carroll Catholic, Fort Pierce, Fla. OF
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 190 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Florida
    Age At Draft: 18.6
    RapScore: 50

    BA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
    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.
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  4. 88
    Last: 89

    Jordan McCants

    Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic HS SS
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 170 | B-T: L-R
    Commit/Drafted: Mississippi State
    Age At Draft: 19.2

    BA Grade: 50 | Risk: Extreme
    Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Field: 55 | Arm: 45

    The younger brother of TJ McCants—who ranked No. 359 on the 2020 BA 500 and currently plays at Mississippi—Jordan is credited as the more advanced of the siblings, with above-average hitting, running and defensive ability at shortstop. He’s turned in 70-grade run times in the 60-yard dash and is at least a plus runner who is regularly a nuisance for pitchers when he gets on base. That speed allows him to cover plenty of range at shortstop, and some scouts believe he has the glovework and intangibles to play the position at the big league level. He’ll make some flashy plays and all of the routine ones as well, but his current fringe-average arm strength could lead some teams to project him as a second baseman in the long run, while others think his actions and exchanges will always let his arm play up from its strength. McCants has solid hitting traits from the left side, with a slow heartbeat in the box and a solid understanding of the strike zone. He has contact ability and can put pressure on defenses with his legs, but this spring drove the ball a bit more than scouts have seen him do in the past, showing an ability to drive the ball into the left-center gap to the opposite side after adding some strength to his frame in the offseason. McCants won’t be intriguing for every team given his size and the fact that he’ll be 19 on draft day, but he has everyday upside potential at a premium position.
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    Last: 149

    Jordan Marks

    South Carolina-Upstate RHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 220 | B-T: L-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.2
    RapScore: 49

    BA Grade: 40 | Risk: High
    Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60

    Marks has been a terrific strike thrower for South Carolina-Upstate for four years, with a 2.0 BB/9 rate for his career. The Canadian native had a strong 2021 campaign, posting a 2.54 ERA over 15 starts and 95.2 innings, with 101 strikeouts (9.5 K/9) and 20 walks (1.9 BB/9). Listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Marks has a simple, repeatable delivery with a bit of head whack and a balanced finish. He pitches mostly in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball but has been up to 97-98 mph with the pitch this spring. While his fastball is a solid pitch that he can locate to any quadrant of the zone, Marks’ secondary offerings are a bit fringy. He throws a 78-82 mph slider that has moderate shape and depth, but the pitch lacks late or hard biting action and doesn’t feature much tilt. It’s gotten some whiffs against Big South competition, but likely because he spots the pitch well to his glove side and can mirror it well off his fastball more than any direct qualities of the breaking ball itself. Like the rest of his pitches, Marks shows good feel to land a low-80s changeup that is effective down and to his arm side, with good running life out of the zone that’s gotten whiffs against righties and lefties. How those secondaries play against professional hitters will determine how much upside Marks has, but his outstanding command and a fastball that’s gotten into the upper 90s should make him an attractive pick on the second day of the draft.
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  6. 163
    Last: 164

    Tommy White

    IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. 3B
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 220 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: North Carolina State
    Age At Draft: 18.4

    BA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
    Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Field: 40 | Arm: 45

    White is one of the better corner infield prospects in the high school class, as a third baseman at the moment with a big and powerful swing from the right side. Listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, White has a physically mature frame with raw power to match it, and he frequently takes big and aggressive hacks, always looking to do damage at the plate. That approach and strength lead to plenty of home runs, but scouts also see a decent amount of swing and miss and wonder how that approach will fare for him when he’s consistently seeing velocity in the 90-plus mph range. Still, evaluators seem to like his swing path and mechanics at the plate and have pointed out that he tracks breaking balls and offspeed stuff well. It’s easy to compare White to Blaze Jordan from the 2020 draft class, though most scouts believe White doesn’t have the same pure feel for hitting or bat speed. White shows solid instincts and hands at third base now, but the industry seems to think he’ll have to move to first base at the next level thanks to his size and a lack of foot speed and side-to-side mobility. He’s shown a strong arm in the past, but last summer scouts thought it was more fringe-average. Because of his defensive profile many teams would prefer to let him go to college at North Carolina State and prove his bat, but others might want to take a chance on his above-average power out of high school.
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  7. 185
    Last: 186

    Brannon Jordan

    South Carolina RHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 190 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Rays '19 (31)
    Age At Draft: 23.0
    RapScore: 55

    BA Grade: 40 | Risk: High
    Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45

    Jordan had some interest as a top-five-round pick in the shortened 2020 draft, but he wound up going undrafted and made it back to South Carolina for his second season with the program after transferring in from Cowley County (Kan.) JC in 2019. Jordan was lights out for the Gamecocks in 2020, posting a 1.71 ERA over four starts, but his control backed up this spring and he managed just a 4.58 ERA over 15 starts and 72.2 innings. He still struck out batters at a decent clip (12.1 K/9), but his walk rate jumped from 3.9 BB/9 to 5.9 BB/9. Jordan has a four-pitch mix but primarily works off of his low-90s fastball and low-80s slider. The fastball has touched 95 mph at its peak and scouts like how it plays in the zone, while his slider flashes plus potential, but he doesn’t consistently hit on the pitch. When he throws a good one, it shows hard tilt in the 83-85 mph range and creates ugly swings from opposing batters from either side of the plate. Jordan also throws a slower curveball with more 12-to-6 shape and a seldomly used mid-80s changeup. The changeup has shown interesting tumbling life at times, but it’s tough for scouts to fully evaluate it with how often he’s thrown the pitch. Jordan was less consistent from start to start this season than scouts expected and there are starter/reliever questions given his strike throwing this year.
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  8. 294
    Last: 295

    Caleb Lomavita

    St. Louis HS, Honolulu C
    Notes:

    Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 180 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: California
    Age At Draft: 18.7
    RapScore: 44

    Lomavita is the latest standout from St. Louis High in Honolulu, the school that produced Brandon League and Jordan Yamamoto among other big leaguers. He impressed as Hawaii’s only player at the Area Code Games last summer and solidified himself as the state’s top high school player this spring. Lomavita is an excellent athlete who projects to stick behind the plate. He is an average runner, rare for a catcher, and is a solid receiver with a plus arm. He’s touched 93 mph on the mound and has the hands and range to play third base if needed. Lomavita has solid bat speed and some nascent power, but he’s raw as a hitter and needs more reps against high-quality pitching. He is very academic and college-oriented and likely to stick with his commitment to Cal.
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  9. 392
    Last: 393

    Rowdey Jordan

    Mississippi State OF
    Notes:

    Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 185 | B-T: B-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.5

    Jordan entered this spring having hit above .300 in two of his first three seasons with Mississippi State, and in his fourth year he broke out for the best offensive campaign of his career. Jordan hit .326/.428/.572 in 61 games up until the College World Series, with 10 home runs, 20 doubles and solid strikeout (13%) and walk (10%) rates as a switch-hitter. He was one of the most productive bats in the SEC and analytical teams should take notice of that for the draft. He’s not the toolsiest player and with a 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame doesn’t have big raw power, but he worked hard over the offseason to improve his foot speed and started every game for the Bulldogs in center field, after playing left field in the past. He probably will be a tweener profile for teams at the next level. Jordan has always been an efficient baserunner and over his career has gone 25-for-29 (86%) in stolen base attempts.
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  10. 402
    Last: 403

    Jordan Viars

    Ricky Reed HS, Frisco, Texas OF
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 215 | B-T: L-L
    Commit/Drafted: Arkansas
    Age At Draft: 18.0

    One of the younger players in the draft class (he’ll turn 18 a week after the draft), Viars is an already filled-out (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) lefthanded hitter who has the plus power potential that teams look for in a corner infielder. A team could see if he can stick in a corner outfield spot, but he’s likely to slow further as he matures. Viars hits from a crouched stance, generating power with leverage. He’s an Arkansas signee who finished his senior season with a flourish.
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