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.
- 9 –Last: 9Notes:
Ht: 5-9 | Wt: 175 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.2
Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Run: 70 | Field: 60 | Arm: 50
Undrafted out of high school, Frelick emerged as one of the most exciting players in college baseball, combining a mix of explosive athleticism and speed at a premium position with high contact skills and strong game performance. Frelick is a quick-burst athlete who accelerates fast into 70-grade speed, consistently getting home to first in 4.0 seconds from the left side and sometimes a tick under. An infielder in high school, Frelick moved to the outfield and played primarily right field his first two years, but he handled center field in 2021 and showed strong instincts that improved throughout the season en route to becoming the ACC defensive player of the year. His speed translates to good range in center field, where he has a fringe-average arm with good accuracy. Frelick hit .359/.443/.559 in 2021, showing a simple, direct swing from the left side without much movement. At 5-foot-9, he has a small strike zone and mostly stays within that zone, with good hand-eye coordination to make frequent contact, even on times when he does chase. Frelick does a good job of going with where the ball is pitched, with quick hands, and he's able to pull inside fastballs up and in while also sending pitches on the outer third to left field. Frelick has some sneaky power for his size, with the ability to drive the ball out pull side when he gets a pitch up in the zone, but it's more occasional pop that plays below-average in games. Frelick doesn't get off his best swings on pitches down in the zone, but his bat-to-ball skills and elite speed help him beat out infield hits. Frelick is one of the safer college hitters in the draft, with a chance to be a dynamic sparkplug who hits at the top of a lineup and plays good defense in the middle of the field.More Less
- 25Last: 24Notes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 210 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 50 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: White Sox '18 (36)
Age At Draft: 21.8
Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 30 | Field: 45 | Arm: 45
In a draft class light on college bats, Del Castillo entered the year as the clear-cut, top college hitter in the class, with a track record of hitting that dates back to his time as a high schooler with Gulliver Prep in Miami when he was a top-200 prospect in the 2018 class. After hitting .336/.430/.571 over his first two seasons with Miami, Del Castillo took a step back in his draft-eligible third year this spring, hitting .284/.388/.411 through 51 games with more strikeouts (28) than walks (25) for the first time in his career, and just three home runs. That lack of over-the-fence power is concerning for teams who are skeptical about Del Castillo sticking behind the plate at the next level. He would have to play a corner if he can’t catch, which will put more pressure on his bat and his power production. Each of his three home runs this spring were to right field, and historically in his better home run seasons, Del Castillo has mostly used the pull side. He did homer five times in 37 games in the Cape Cod League in 2019, but that power production with a wood bat also came with an uncharacteristic 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk rate. This spring he did most of his damage on fastballs and struggled to regularly impact breaking stuff, though that wasn’t much of an issue for him in previous years. Del Castillo does have a loose, easy swing from the left side, with solid zone recognition and low strikeout rates for his career, so many scouts still think he’ll be a plus hitter, but the question of defensive profile and impact potential loom after his 2021 season. Del Castillo put in plenty of work over the summer with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, where he worked on improving his arm strength, blocking and receiving but he still needs work in those areas—particularly the latter two. While teams are split about his chances to catch, his pure hitting ability and offensive track record should make him a first-rounder.More Less
- 45Last: 46Notes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 175 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 50 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.5
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 50 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Morissette and his center field teammate Sal Frelick brought plenty of scouts to Boston College to watch the two best college hitters in the Northeast. A hand injury slowed Morissette early in the spring and he re-aggravated it later, which may have taken a toll on his numbers when he returned, but he ended the season with a flourish to hit .321/.398/.497 in 41 games. While Frelick is a more dynamic, quick-twitch athlete with elite speed, Morissette is more steady than flashy, with his hitting ability standing out the most. Morissette has a better pure swing than Frelick. It's a fluid, easy stroke from the left side that's calm, smooth and under control with a compact path to the ball and good bat speed. That helps Morissette square up pitches middle-in consistently, and he generally stays within the strike zone, though he's been vulnerable against sliders at times. Morissette's raw power is fringe-average now with home run juice to his pull side. His swing is conducive to hitting the ball in the air, and with his bat speed, some strength projection remaining and barrel skills, he could get to average power, though it's a hit-over-power profile now. An average runner with an average arm, Morissette played second base this spring and projects to stay there in pro ball, though a team could also try him at third base or possibly the outfield as well in a utility role. Morissette doesn't make the acrobatic, highlight-reel plays or have above-average range, but he's a steady, reliable defender who should fit comfortably at second base.More Less
- 180Last: 181Notes:
Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 165 | B-T: L-RBA Grade: 45 | Risk: Extreme
Commit/Drafted: Long Beach State
Age At Draft: 19.0
Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 55 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Saldivar struggled to hit at the Future Stars Series at Fenway Park last fall, but his speed and athleticism nonetheless stood out to evaluators. Once he began hitting this spring, he became one of the fastest-rising prospects on the West Coast. Saldivar has a loose, whippy lefthanded swing that generates a lot of hard contact. He has an advanced approach for a high schooler and consistently finds the barrel. He projects to be at least an average hitter and, though he’s only 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, makes so much quality contact he may reach double-digit home runs as he adds strength to his frame. Saldivar is limited to second base defensively and has a chance to be an average defender who makes the routine plays. He is an above-average runner and has the above-average arm strength to turn double plays or make throws from deep up the middle. Saldivar needs to add considerable weight and strength to his frame, but his pure hitting ability from the left side has teams interested on the draft’s second day. He is committed to Long Beach State.More Less
- 264Last: 265De La Salle HS, Concord, Calif. 1BNotes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 235 | B-T: L-LBurke struggled on the showcase circuit last summer but re-emerged this spring in better shape and showed some of the best raw power in the draft class. He hit .554 for his high school team and showed plus-plus raw power that invited colorful adjectives from observers. Burke is a big, physical masher at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds and still has room to get bigger and stronger. He has a sound lefthanded swing and has flashed the ability to get to his power in games, although his swing occasionally gets too long and he can get caught out front. Burke is a good athlete for his size. He moves well around the bag at first base and might be playable in left field. He is committed to Tennessee and will require a sizable bonus to sign.
Age At Draft: 18.1
RapScore: 53More Less
- 426Last: 427Salisbury (Conn.) HS OFNotes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 220 | B-T: L-RPeña hasn't played much this spring due to an ankle injury, making him a difficult evaluation for scouts, but he's scheduled to join the new MLB Draft League, which will offer a strong test for his offensive ability against older college pitchers. What Peña does in the batter's box will drive his value, and he looked encouraging at times last year on the showcase circuit. He has a fairly sound swing from the left side and his advanced strength helps him drive the ball for extra-base damage in games with the potential for plus raw power. He has hit well in games with a solid feel for the strike zone, though his swing can get long at times. Peña has a large, physically mature body at 6 feet, 220 pounds and he moves well for his size, but he's still a below-average runner who looks like he will slow down. He has an average arm that could fit in right field, but he has spent some time at first base and could end up there long term.
Age At Draft: 18.0More Less