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.
- 23Last: 22Notes:
Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 195 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.8
Hit: 40 | Power: 55 | Run: 80 | Field: 60 | Arm: 60
Montgomery's high school games drew huge crowds of club officials, who left with their scouting cards filled with 60s and 70s on his tool grades. His combination of athleticism, outstanding tools and physical upside is hard to top in this year's draft, though it's a profile that comes with risk due to his hitting ability. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Montgomery has a tall, sleek frame with plenty of room to continue filling out while staying lean and athletic. He's a 70 runner with a plus arm, projecting to stick in center field where he has long, gliding strides and good closing speed on balls hit into the gaps. At the plate, Montgomery's bat speed ranks among the best in the class. He shows plus raw power in batting practice, and as he matures physically, that power might jump another grade. The upside is obvious and exciting, but many clubs have reservations about Montgomery's ability to make it all click against live pitching. Montgomery has cleaned up his swing some since last year, doing a better job of staying back and keeping his front hip closed. He's still a long-armed hitter with a hitch in his swing, with a lack of timing and balance that add risks to his hitting ability and cut into his ability to translate his power in games. But the minute Montgomery signs, he will be one of the toolsiest players in his organization. Teams that value more refined hitting skills will have Montgomery lower than where he's ranked here, while teams that prioritize raw tools and athleticism will have him pushed up their boards. Other premium athlete high school center fielders with a hit risk like Bubba Starling, Donavan Tate, Lewis Brinson and Bubba Thompson were all first-round picks and some of them went top-five overall. Montgomery won't go in the top five, but he should follow their path as a first-rounder, with some expecting him to be the first high school outfielder off the board.More Less
- 34Last: 43Notes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 195 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 19.4
Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 45 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Montgomery drew praise from scouts last summer thanks to a strong lefthanded swing that was regularly cited as one of the most pure and smooth swings in the class. A 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop, Montgomery is also a standout high school basketball player who uses his left hand on the court but throws righthanded on the baseball field. Scouts have lauded his athleticism even though he’s not a great runner, but his impressive reactions and average arm strength should give him a shot to handle third base at the next level. He has the frame, bat speed and swing to grow into more than enough power to profile at a corner position, with some scouts thinking he has plus raw power now and could grow into more at his physical peak. He has strength in his swing now and looks like the sort of hitter who will be a consistent home run threat, but there’s some length in the swing and his longer levers could create swing-and-miss issues as well. Those swing-and-miss issues surfaced at last summer’s East Coast Pro, leading many scouts to think he’ll be a power-over-hit sort of bat. Montgomery is older for the class and turned 19 in February, so he’ll be draft-eligible in his second year at Indiana if he makes it to campus. While teams who prioritize age might be more skeptical, there are some clubs who are fully in on Montgomery’s bat, and he has a chance to come off the board late in the first round or soon after.More Less
- 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
- 86Last: 87Notes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 201 | B-T: B-RBA Grade: 50 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.2
Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 45 | Field: 50 | Arm: 70
Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
One of the best two-way players in the high school class, Montgomery impressed scouts with a smooth and easy fluidity to his game on both sides of the ball last summer. He’s not the most explosive or twitchy athlete, but he does everything on the field well, with an effortless approach to the game. Teams are split on whether they prefer him as a hitter or pitcher, but he has solid tools across the board at either spot. His loudest tool is his arm strength from the outfield. He showed one of the best outfield arms in the class last summer and it grades out as a 70, which could fit in right field if he has to move to a corner due to being a solid or fringe-average runner. A switch-hitter at the plate, Montgomery has shown solid bat-to-ball skills at times, but some scouts believe his swing needs work and think it’s too mechanical from both sides at the moment. He has solid power potential now and could grow into a bit more in the future as he fills out a still-projectable frame. His arm strength hasn’t yet fully translated to the mound, and perhaps that’s because he’s relatively new to pitching, but Montgomery sits in the low 90s with very little effort and has shown great shape to a mid-70s curveball, with advanced ability to land the pitch. He’s also shown good feel for a low-80s changeup. Montgomery is a Stanford commit, and Stanford has typically done a good job getting its prospects to campus, so he might be a tough sign.More Less
- 305Last: 306Texas Tech LHPNotes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | B-T: L-LAfter three years at Texas Tech, Montgomery is still searching for a consistent breaking ball. But Montgomery’s 90-95 mph fastball gets swings and misses up in the zone, which may be enough to convince a pro team to take a chance on a lefty with a very good arm. Montgomery’s control was well below-average early in his career at Texas Tech, but he has junked the windup he previously used. Now he pitches from an abbreviated stretch at all times, which has paid off with improved control. He has a little hiccup in his delivery that adds deception, and Montgomery works up and down in the strike zone. He has a fringe-average changeup, which he doesn’t command as well as he needs to, but it has some deception, especially when he works at the bottom of the zone. His low-80s below-average slider needs more work. He has scattershot command of it, and it doesn’t miss many bats.
Commit/Drafted: White Sox '18 (39)
Age At Draft: 21.1
RapScore: 46More Less
- 355Last: 356Northern York HS, Dillsburg, Pa. RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 160 | B-T: R-RThere were a ton of eyes on Molsky this spring when he matched up against Red Land High outfielder Benny Montgomery, a projected first-round pick. Molsky helped his stock that day, reaching 96 mph with his fastball. More often he works in the low 90s, with more velocity likely to come due to his quick arm speed and physical projection in a lean frame. Molsky has solid feel to spin a breaking ball, but there's a lot of effort to his arm action and mechanics. That has led to erratic control, so Molsky will need to smooth things out to be able to repeat his delivery and throw more strikes.
Commit/Drafted: Penn State
Age At Draft: 18.4
RapScore: 43More Less