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.
- 12 –Last: 12Texas RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: High
Commit/Drafted: Royals '18 (34)
Age At Draft: 21.4
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 55
In Madden’s senior season at Houston’s Cypress Ranch High, he was the ace of a team that also included junior righthanders J.J. Goss (a 2019 supplemental first-round pick of the Rays) and Matthew Thompson (a 2019 second-round pick of the White Sox). Outfielder Colton Cowser, another likely 2021 first-round pick, roamed the outfield and catcher Jared Alvarez-Lopez was a 2019 17th-round pick. Madden ranked No. 238 on Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects coming out of high school. The Royals selected him in the 34th round in 2018, but he headed to Texas instead, where he stepped into the weekend rotation by the end of his freshman season. Madden sat 90-93 mph in his first two seasons at Texas, but this year he’s proven to be one of the hardest throwing starters in college baseball, sitting 94-96 mph and regularly getting to 99. He also proved to be one of the most consistent Friday night starters in the country, combining that top-end velocity with above-average control. Madden’s plus fastball doesn’t have elite movement to go with that velocity, which may limit which teams are most enamored with him. His heater is much more effective down in the zone than up—hitters hit .333/.350/.846 on his fastball when he spotted it in the upper third of the strike zone, but only .179/.179/.282 in the bottom third. His fastball does pair well with his slider (which earns 60 grades as well and will flash plus-plus). His mid-80s slider has solid downward break with adequate power and depth. Madden largely shelved his fringe-average 86-89 mph changeup in 2021, but it’s been promising in the past. Madden works up and down. He largely works in on lefties and down and away from righthanded hitters. Some evaluators fear he’ll end up as a two-pitch power reliever, but his durable frame (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), long track record of success and above-average control give him a solid path to being a durable mid-rotation starter. He should be the first player from Texas selected in the first-round since Taylor Jungman in 2011.More Less
- 21Last: 26Notes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 175 | B-T: R-RBA Grade: 55 | Risk: Extreme
Age At Draft: 18.5
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 70 | Field: 60 | Arm: 55
Clemson routinely turns out professional athletes, but it’s perhaps a bit more rare for the program to have not one, but two commits to the football program who are also potential first-round talents on the baseball field. That’s the case this year with Taylor and Georgia two-way player Bubba Chandler. Taylor is a three-star athlete, according to 247Sports, and has gotten interest from Clemson as a quarterback and slot receiver, in addition to being a standout high school wrestler. Taylor jumped on draft boards in a big way last summer when he was arguably the most impressive performer at East Coast Pro, standing out for his running ability and hitting performance. He clocked a 6.45-second 60-yard dash and is a double-plus runner, and he also showed an ability to square up velocity and sit back and drive offspeed stuff. Taylor gets a bit rigid in his swing at times, but he has shown bat speed, the ability to manipulate the barrel and a line-drive approach that suits his running ability. Scouts think he has a chance to be an above-average hitter with the speed to profile as a leadoff type. His power is the one tool that evaluators question. It’s below-average now, but Taylor did add strength to his 6-foot, 175-pound frame over the offseason and could continue to get more physical in the future but barring a significant development in that area in addition to a more leveraged swing, he’s unlikely to be a huge power threat. Taylor will take some inconsistent routes in the outfield currently, but he has the running ability, foot speed and explosion to develop into a plus defensive center fielder, with above-average arm strength on top of it. The teams highest on Taylor’s hitting ability and swing likely have him as a first-round talent, but most of the industry sees him as a top-50 type in a class that gets fairly jumbled beyond the first 20 players. His football and baseball commitment to Clemson could complicate things depending on where he lands.More Less
- 367Last: 368
Taylor BroadwayMississippi RHPNotes:
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 205 | B-T: R-RAn undersized, 5-foot-11, 205-pound righthander, Broadway has been an effective closer for Mississippi this spring, posting a 3.44 ERA over 49.2 innings with 66 strikeouts (12 K/9) and just nine walks (1.6 BB/9). Broadway throws a fastball in the 91-95 mph range that has been up to 97 with good riding life and mixes in two distinct breaking balls. His slider is a hard pitch in the upper 80s with impressive vertical bite and his curveball is a bit slower but still in the lower 80s with a bit of a bigger shape. Broadway is old for the class after turning 24 in April, but he has the stuff and strike-throwing ability to potentially be a quick mover through the minor leagues.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 24.3More Less
- 381Last: 382Florence (Ala.) HS RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 220 | B-T: R-RTaylor has been touching 95 mph since he was just 15 years old and because of that he’s been a fairly well-known name among college recruiters and scouts alike. Listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Taylor is a Louisiana State commit who has consistently pitched in the low 90s over the last few years and touched 94-95 this spring. Taylor has mostly been a two-pitch arm, with a curveball that some scouts see as an average pitch and some scouts view as a pitch that flashes plus. The pitch is in the low-to-mid 70s with 12-to-6 shape and good depth at its best and looks like a real swing-and-miss offering below the zone when he hits on it—especially if he can add more power and velocity in the future. His changeup is still developing, and many evaluators think he has more of a reliever profile at the next level, despite a frame that looks like a workhorse-starter type. His arm action is long and gets stabby in the back at times. Taylor will be 19 on draft day and if he makes it to campus at LSU, he’ll be draft-eligible as a sophomore.
Commit/Drafted: Louisiana State
Age At Draft: 19.2More Less