MLB Mock Draft
By Carlos Collazo
Barring a tweak in the draft order process from commissioner Rob Manfred given the shortened 2020 season, we now know what the 2021 draft order looks like.
While most eyes are looking toward the playoffs, here at Baseball America we’re constantly looking ahead to the draft. As we’ve done for the past few years, here’s a look at a way-too-early mock for the top 10 picks in next year’s draft now that we have a preliminary order.
While this exercise is largely guess work given where we are in the calendar, it has proven to be somewhat informative of the names that are going high in the draft. Last year, five of the 10 players we had mocked at the end of the regular season went among the first 10 picks, while two others went in the first round.
While the 2021 class faces more unknowns than a typical class would at this point in the year—particularly on the college side—Vanderbilt righthander Kumar Rocker appears to be the early favorite to go 1-1. After Rocker, the college class is filled with outfielders and pitchers with stuff but limited track record, while the high school class is top-heavy on up-the-middle athletes and pitchers with loud pure stuff.
The last three years have featured at least seven college players going among the first top 10 picks—with a record seven straight in 2020—and our top 10 below is equally college-heavy. Let’s jump into it.
Here are players who just missed today's mock:
- 1Vanderbilt RHPNotes:
The No. 1 player in the college class, Rocker combines excellent physicality and pure stuff with a solid collegiate track record to back it up. Rocker’s 114.2 innings, mostly as a starter, with Vanderbilt certainly separates him from many of the pitchers in this college class. He combines safety with plenty of upside to make him the easiest choice for the first pick at this point. As a high schooler, Rocker was a legitimate first round talent, and he’s improved his control and refined his game since joining the Commodores.
In GM Ben Cherington’s first draft with the Pirates in 2020, the team took SS Nick Gonzales and RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, who both established themselves in the Cape Cod League prior to their draft years. There’s no Cape track record to fall back on with Rocker, but he certainly has built a beefy resume and has elite high school pedigree as well.More Less
- 2Miami CNotes:
Del Castillo ranks as the No. 3 player in the college class, and he’s arguably the best hitter in the entire draft class. Like Rocker, Del Castillo was highly regarded out of high school, and scouts loved his natural feel for the barrel then. He’s mashed with Miami over 77 games, putting up a .336/.430/.571 line with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and more walks (43) than strikeouts (32). College catchers routinely get driven up the draft board, and Del Castillo’s bat would play exceptionally well if he can stick behind the plate.
The Rangers have taken proven college hitters in the first round in the last two drafts (Mississippi State 2B Justin Foscue in 2020 and Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung in 2019) and Del Castillo offers more upside than either of them. Sure, C Sam Huff is one of the team’s better prospects, but that shouldn’t be a factor when you’re picking this high.More Less
House entered the summer as the top prospect in the prep class and retains that No. 1 title, thanks to a tantalizing mix of loud tools that includes plus hitting potential and massive power. His combination of advanced hittability and usable power while sticking on the left side of the infield should have him flying off draft boards next spring.
Detroit’s farm system ranked No. 30 in 2015, but it has slowly improved the group and is now the sixth-best system in baseball. The team has taken several different demographics in recent years at the top of the draft and mostly seems to target the best player available, though House’s size and power-oriented game do seem to match Detroit’s tendencies.More Less
- 4Dallas Jesuit HS SSNotes:
Lawlar was a big riser in our recent update to the 2021 prep class. He checks in at No. 2 behind House and has a better chance to stick at shortstop, with a well-rounded package of tools. The Vanderbilt commit has a chance to get to 55-grade tools across the board and has shown an advanced approach against some of the better arms in the class this summer.
The Red Sox haven’t picked this high in more than 50 years. They had the third pick in 1967 and picked fourth in 1966. That could change how Boston goes about things. The team’s last two first-round picks have been prep infielders (3B Triston Casas in 2018 and 2B Nick Yorke in 2020) and Lawlar profiles better than both while also coming with more upside—which shouldn’t be a surprise considering where the team is picking.More Less
An early enrollee at Florida, Fabian is the top-ranked outfielder in a college class that’s deep at the position. Fabian has all-fields power and on-base skills, and he also performed well in the Cape Cod League in 2019 as an 18-year-old. Fabian will still be 20 years old on draft day and is the second-youngest college player ranked among the current top 100.
The Orioles should continue to be difficult to project in 2021, picking further down the board with a number of different options potentially available to them. Baltimore GM Mike Elias has favored college players from power conferences in the last decade in the first round.More Less
- 6Vanderbilt RHPNotes:
Leiter ranks as the No. 2 prospect on our college board at the moment, but he could have more variance than the other names on this list. While Leiter entered college with an extremely advanced understanding of how to pitch, he also sat around 91 mph with his fastball and his changeup was less of a weapon than teams expected it to be. His performance over three games was exceptional (15.2 innings, 1.72 ERA, 12.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9), but he still has plenty to prove.
Even with those question marks, Leiter is a Northern arm without a ton of mileage, big league bloodlines, has shown a deep pitch mix of usable offerings and was seen as a first round talent out of high school. With scouting director Deric Ladnier calling the shots, Arizona had previously targeted position players with their first pick in the draft, but last year the team took Duke RHP Bryce Jarvis with the 18th overall pick.More Less
- 7UCLA SSNotes:
A first-round pick in 2018 out of high school, McLain is now one of the better prospects in the 2021 class and is the best college shortstop of the group—a great spot to be in. Ranked No. 4 in the college class, McLain has a solid Cape stint under his belt and was off to a strong start with the bat in 2020 before the season ended. He has good barrel control and defensive versatility, but has the skill and toolset to stick at shortstop.
Kansas City has gone after pitching as much as anyone in recent years, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team continue to go after arms here, but college shortstops are typically in high demand in any draft.More Less
- 8South Alabama OFNotes:
Wilson will be a fascinating prospect to follow over the next 10 months. How does a hitter who plays in a small conference get evaluated with no Cape Cod League or Team USA experience on his resume? How would teams have thought about New Mexico State SS Nick Gonzales without his loud summer on the Cape in 2019? Most evaluators said that performance was key for his draft stock. Without that, it could be a challenge for Wilson to prove his bat. He has impressive hitting and power grades on the scout card, but will teams knock him for playing in the Sun Belt Conference? Pre-draft programming or playing in a summer league after the 2021 college season is now a possibility with a July draft and that could be a boon for Wilson’s profile.
The Rockies don’t have any notable trends in the first round in recent years, attacking a wide range of demographics and positions with their first pick. Wilson is one of the better power hitters in the class, which is always exciting to think about pairing with Coors Field, just like OF Zac Veen in 2020.More Less
Like Wilson, Cowser could get knocked for playing in a smaller conference. Unlike Wilson, Cowser has track record with Team USA on his resume and scouts came away impressed with his swing and ability to control the strike zone after watching him as a rising sophomore with the team in 2019. The No. 6 prospect in the college class, Cowser has a projectable frame with above-average speed, solid instincts and solid hitting ability and power.
Los Angeles could be a wild card in the draft after firing GM Billy Eppler after the 2020 season and the team is also picking in a range where the board tends to open up.More Less
- 10Louisiana State RHPNotes:
Hill has a wide range of outcomes given his pure stuff and track record as a starter at the college level. The former is exceptional and could be argued to be the best of any pitcher in the 2021 class, while the latter is … close to non-existent. Hill has three 60-grade pitches and a potential 55-grade fourth offering, but he’s thrown just 21.2 innings with LSU and half of those have come out of the bullpen.
Hill could rocket up boards by establishing his starter credentials in 2021, but he’ll have to go out and prove it. The Mets attacked college players aggressively in the middle of the last decade but each of the team’s last three first-rounders have been high school products.More Less