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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.

6 Matches
Expand Collapse All Updated on: 7/5/2021
  1. 73
    Last: 74

    Noah Miller

    Ozaukee HS, Fredonia, Wis. SS

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 180 | B-T: B-R
    Commit/Drafted: Alabama
    Age At Draft: 18.7

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

    Miller is a switch-hitting shortstop with big league bloodlines since his brother Owen made his major league debut with Cleveland this year. The 6-foot, 180-pound infielder is an impressive athlete and polished defender with about as good an infield clock as it gets in high school. His elite defense is his standout tool, accompanied by a high baseball IQ and incredible feel for the game. At the plate, the top-ranked player out of Wisconsin has good bat-to-ball skills with a solid approach, and a short, simple stroke from both sides. From the left side Miller has a simpler, line-drive stroke with feel to use the whole field, and from the right side he has more lift with a little more strength and pop to it, though he doesn’t show huge power. He hasn’t faced an impressive array of arms, but he has been able to take what’s given to him and hit balls hard the other way. Miller has at least a solid-average arm with a clean action, and an understanding of when to let loose and when to hold back on throws. The Alabama commit sits back on the ball well when he needs to and does a good job of reading hops and creating angles on the ball. His run tool is average and though he doesn’t have loud tools, Miller offers an impressive package of an all-around player who should be able to play shortstop at the next level.
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  2. 156
    Last: 157

    Bryce Miller

    Texas A&M RHP

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 190 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Marlins '18 (38)
    Age At Draft: 22.9
    RapScore: 58

    BA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
    Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 40

    After a year at Blinn (Texas) JC and two years in Texas A&M’s bullpen, Miller stepped into the Aggies rotation this year. At times, he looks like a potential mid-rotation stalwart. He held No. 1 Arkansas to one run in six innings. He dominated New Mexico State, fanning 15 in seven scoreless innings. But Miller struggles to string that dominance together for long, which explains why he finished the year 3-2, 4.45. It could be his inexperience in a starting role, but could also be more a result of issues with control and his delivery. Usually a few times each game he will completely lose a fastball, sometimes yanking it and sometimes flying open. Miller’s plus 93-94 mph fastball has real teeth. He’ll reach back for 96-97, and he can blow hitters away up in the zone. His breaking ball has morphed into two distinct pitches as he throws a bigger, slower, downward-breaking, mid-70s fringe-average curveball and a harder, tight, fringe-average slider that has modest break. His average low-80s changeup has more deception than movement, but it will flash some arm-side fade. Miller missed two starts this year because of Covid-19, but otherwise has been durable. He has more upside than most of the players who will be picked around him in the draft, but he also has work to do to improve his control.
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  3. 202
    Last: 203

    Jake Miller

    San Diego RHP

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 210 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 21.0

    Miller ranked No. 484 on the BA 500 out of high school and spent two seasons as the Friday night starter at San Diego. While many of the expected top college pitchers in the West struggled this spring, Miller was steady throughout the year and went 6-2, 2.52 with 77 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60.2 innings. Miller is a physical righthander who stands 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and has an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball sits at 90-91 and touches 94-95 mph with four-seam ride that helps it play up in the zone. Miller attacks with his fastball and effectively mixes his secondary pitches to keep batters guessing. His average changeup keeps hitters off-balance, although he’ll occasionally fall in love with it and throw it too often. His slurvy breaking ball is a fringy, but usable, third offering he can land for strikes. Miller pitches more than he overpowers hitters, but he’s consistent and effective. He does have some effort in his delivery and has had control issues in the past, so some teams believe he will ultimately end up in relief. Others see the pitchability to remain a starter and are interested in taking him on the draft’s second day.
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  4. 235
    Last: 236

    Mason Miller

    Gardner-Webb RHP

    Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 200 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.9
    RapScore: 52

    Miller is older for the class after spending four seasons at Division III Waynesburg, and he’ll turn 23 shortly after the draft, but he has a big arm and pitched well this spring for Gardner-Webb in the Big South. Miller led the Bulldogs in innings pitched (92.2) and posted a 3.30 ERA over 14 starts, while striking out 121 batters (11.8 K/9) and walking 30 (2.9 BB/9). That walk rate was easily the best of his collegiate career, so there is bound to be some skepticism about whether or not his control has taken a step forward, but it was solid this spring. Miller throws a fastball that sits in the 94-96 mph range fairly consistently and runs the pitch up to 99 at his best. He generated a lot of whiffs with a low-80s slider that showed hard, two-plane break out of the zone and also mixed in a mid-80s changeup. Miller has a solidly built, 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and throws from a three-quarter arm slot with solid downhill plane thanks to his height and long levers.
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  5. 273
    Last: 274

    Michael Kirian

    Louisville LHP

    Ht: 6-6 | Wt: 235 | B-T: R-L
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.5
    RapScore: 44

    Louisille had two pitchers drafted in the first round in 2020—lefthander Reid Detmers and righthander Bobby Miller—and so Kirian went from the bullpen role he had pitched in his first three seasons to a starting role this spring. It wasn’t an easy transition, as Kirian pitched to a 4.80 ERA over 69.1 innings, striking out 75 batters (9.7 K/9) and walking 28 (3.6 BB/9) while giving up about a hit per inning. That strikeout rate seems solid with no context, but it was actually the lowest rate of his collegiate career, which will make plenty of scouts think he’s still better suited to a bullpen role at the next level. Kirian has an extra-large frame at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and a fastball that has been up to 96 mph, though he sits in the 90-92 mph range. He throws a slurvy breaking ball in the 78-82 mph range that he can land for a strike consistently, but scouts wonder how much of a true bat-missing pitch it is. After being mostly a fastball/breaking ball pitcher a year ago, Kirian has thrown a low-80s changeup sparingly this spring, but he has less feel for it than his two primary offerings. While Kirian’s stuff isn’t overwhelming on paper, he does have some deception in his delivery, and he hides the ball well.
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  6. 396
    Last: 397

    Tyler Miller

    Auburn 1B

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 193 | B-T: L-R
    Commit/Drafted: Pirates '18 (23)
    Age At Draft: 21.6

    Auburn’s coaching staff thought Miller was one of the most improved hitters on the team last fall, and that seemed to be the case this spring in his standout season with the bat. After hitting .229/.333/.286 in 12 games during the shortened 2020 season, Miller hit .313/.354/.601 this spring, with 16 home runs and 10 doubles. Miller’s power went almost exclusively to the pull side this spring and it came with a strikeout rate close to 20%, but more concerning than those whiffs might be a lack of walks, as he took a free pass just 15 times in 231 plate appearances—a 6.5% walk rate that was towards the bottom for SEC hitters. Another potential concern is Miller’s ability to recognize and hit breaking stuff, as scouts noted that he struggled with those pitch types this spring and almost all of his impact came against fastballs. Miller has played a number of positions at Auburn, including third base, shortstop and both corner outfield spots, but spent almost all of his time at first this spring.
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