2021 MLB Draft Instant Analysis, Full Scouting Reports For Every First-Round Pick
Below, find our immediate feedback on each pick of the MLB Draft, as well as a full scouting report for every player selected once the draft begins at 7 p.m. ET.
Here is the order for tonight.
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Texas Rangers
- Detroit Tigers
- Boston Red Sox
- Baltimore Orioles
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Kansas City Royals
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Angels
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- Seattle Mariners
- Philadelphia Phillies
- San Francisco Giants
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Miami Marlins
- Cincinnati Reds
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Toronto Blue Jays
- New York Yankees
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Indians
- Atlanta Braves
- Oakland Athletics
- Minnesota Twins
- San Diego Padres
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Los Angeles Dodgers
Pick: Henry Davis
Instant Analysis: Well, it's not Marcelo Mayer or Jack Leiter at 1-1. There will be plenty of what-ifs to look back on if Leiter or one of the elite high school shortstops on the board go on to stardom. But the reality is that there isn't a no-brainer call to make with the No. 1 overall pick this year, and Davis separated himself as the best college position player in the draft. While other college hitters stumbled, Davis climbed up draft boards throughout the year with a strong offensive output, showing good pitch recognition, strike-zone discipline, plate coverage and power. That's before getting to his best raw tool, a 70 arm from behind the plate. While there's still some work to do to clean up his blocking and receiving, Davis' offensive ability should translate to immediate success at the A-ball level with the potential to become an above-average regular within a few years.
Scouting Report: Davis ranked as the No. 306 prospect in the 2018 class out of Fox Lane High in Bedford, N.Y., but at the time he was seen as a defensive-first catcher with work to do offensively. His loudest tool was by far his arm, with some scouts grading it as a 70 at the time and comparing it to the best throwing arms in the majors while he was still in high school. That remains the case for Davis, whose arm strength is elite and at least a 70-grade tool now, but his offensive development and performance this spring have pushed him up draft boards to the point where most teams consider him the best college bat in the 2021 class. A 6-foot-2, 210-pound backstop, Davis entered Louisville with a swing that was described as too steep, lengthy and stiff. He’s improved that significantly over three seasons, though his swing is still a bit unorthodox. Davis sets up with a crouched and open stance, with his hands at shoulder length before cocking back in his load and striding to an even or closed setup with his feet. It’s a strength-based swing more than a twitchy, fluid, bat speed operation, but Davis combines standout zone recognition, pure bat-to-ball skills and plus power to his pull side to make everything work. Davis has walked more than he’s struck out in his Louisville career, with 31 walks to 23 strikeouts through 49 games in 2021 and was flirting with .400 for a decent stretch of the season while also tapping into a career-high 14 homers. Most of that power goes to the pull side, and Davis’ approach in general has been to his pull side. He’s produced against every pitch type this spring, with an OPS over 1.000 against fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed offerings, though he has shown more swing and miss against changeups than other pitch types. Scouts are split on whether or not Davis will catch at the next level. He has the arm strength and athleticism—he’s a good runner for a catcher—but needs to work on his blocking and receiving.
Pick: Jack Leiter
Instant Analysis: This pick is a big one for the Rangers, a franchise staring down its fifth straight losing season with farm system that's deep but not elite. They get an elite prospect here though with Leiter, who has an electric arm and will immediately slot in among the very top pitching prospects in baseball. He has a power fastball with carry up in the zone to miss bats, swing-and-miss secondaries (he averaged a cool 14.6 K/9 this year) and feel for pitching that you would expect from the son of a pitcher with a 19-year big league career.
Scouting Report: Leiter was a first-round talent out of high school and ranked as the No. 21 prospect in the 2019 class, but a high price tag and strong Vanderbilt commitment meant he got to campus in Nashville. Draft-eligible in his second year with the Commodores, Leiter—the son of long-time big league pitcher Al Leiter—dominated in his first full season of collegiate baseball, posting a 2.12 ERA over 76.1 innings and 13 starts, while striking out 127 batters (15 K/9) and walking 34 (4.0). Known for his polish and pitchability out of high school, scouts continue to praise Leiter’s moxie on the mound, with a deep pitch mix that includes five offerings if you count a two-seam and four-seam fastball. Leiter is a shorter righthander, listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he has added strength to his frame since high school, particularly in his lower half. This spring, Leiter has primarily worked with a fastball, curveball, slider combination. His fastball has been up to 98 mph, but averages 93-95 mph, with excellent carry that generates plenty of whiffs in the zone and above it. Teams love the metrics on Leiter’s fastball, and the combination of his size, extension and carry on the pitch allow it to play up, even when he’s sitting in the 90-93 mph range. His curveball is his best secondary offering now, an upper-70s, 12-to-6 downer that he lands consistently in the zone when he wants but can also bury for a put-away pitch. Leiter throws a slider in the low 80s that has less depth but might wind up being a better out-of-the-zone chase offering and he also infrequently throws a mid-80s changeup that scouts loved out of high school and could become an above-average secondary with more reps. Durability was the one concern scouts had with Leiter, and while he did post most weeks throughout the season, he skipped one start to manage fatigue and at times was a bit homer-prone. While Leiter might not project as an ace, scouts see a pitcher who should fit in a No. 2 or No. 3 role and pitch in the big leagues for a long time.
Pick: Jackson Jobe
Position: Heritage Hall HS, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Instant Analysis: Yes, high school righthanders are historically a risky bunch. That's still true for Jobe, but he checks off the boxes you want to see from a high school pitcher. He throws a power fastball, but his best pitch is a slider that he has phenomenal feel to spin and is a potential wipeout offering. His changeup could give him another plus pitch, he's an excellent athlete and he throws frequent strikes from a sound delivery. He will be an immediate Top 100 prospect in the minors with a chance to develop into a frontline starter.
Scouting Report: The son of a PGA touring pro (Brandt Jobe) who still competes on the PGA’s senior tour, the younger Jobe is likely to be the first prep arm off the board. The question is just how high will he go? In the past two years, no prep pitcher has been selected higher than 15th (Mick Abel, 2020). Jobe’s elite spin rates, four-pitch package and fresh arm could mean he goes higher than that. Jobe is still relatively new to focusing on pitching—he was a shortstop and quarterback who was still viewed in a similar regard as a shortstop prospect as he was as a pitcher last summer. There are no such debates now. His shortstop play in addition to his pitching helped Heritage Hall to an Oklahoma 4A state title, but everyone sees Jobe moving to the mound full-time as a pro. Jobe’s 3,000-rpm slider is one of the best pitches in the class. It’s a future plus-plus pitch that has excellent depth and bite and he’s shown he can land it for strikes as well. His mid-90s fastball is another plus pitch. It has life up in the zone and he’s demonstrated he can work it in and out. When he throws it down in the zone, it has solid arm-side ride. Unlike many high school stars, Jobe already shows feel for a future plus mid-80s changeup as well. He shows confidence in it and it has late downward dive. He even has a fourth future above-average pitch in a spike curve with 11-to-5 break and depth. Jobe’s delivery includes a clean arm action with minimal effort. There’s reason to believe he will continue to get stronger and eventually throw even harder. Jobe’s spin rates and vertical movement on his fastball are alluring to teams. He’s an excellent athlete who would be a pro prospect as a shortstop if not for his pitching ability. He’s a Mississippi commit, but his draft stock makes it unlikely he will make it to school.
4. Red Sox
Pick: Marcelo Mayer
School: Eastlake HS, Chula Vista, Calif.
Instant Analysis: So the Red Sox don't get Jack Leiter, who went two picks earlier. Instead, the Red Sox end up with an outstanding scenario, as they get a player who could have comfortably fit as the No. 1 overall pick. Everything seems to come easy for Mayer, who hits with a calm, fluid swing with good balance and path through the hitting zone, has the strength projection to hit for power in his prime, and plays a smooth, under control game at shortstop. Mayer might not be as famous as yet Leiter and fellow Vanderbilt righthander Kumar Rocker, but several teams have him as the top overall player on their boards. The upside is there to be an impact player who could stick at shortstop and hit in the middle of a lineup.
Scouting Report: Mayer is the next big prospect to come out of a powerhouse Eastlake (Calif.) High program that produced Adrian Gonzalez, 2019 first-round pick Keoni Cavaco and 2020 second-rounder Casey Schmitt (by way of San Diego State). Mayer started getting attention from scouts at Eastlake as a freshman, where he showed a smooth lefthanded swing and advanced defensive actions up the middle. He capped his four-year varsity career by hitting .410 with 13 home runs in the regular season this spring while playing excellent high school competition in San Diego County’s top division. Mayer is arguably the top defensive shortstop in a class that is deep at the position. He glides around the infield with silky smooth actions and has the hands, footwork and arm strength to stick at shortstop long term. He slows the game down and has no problem throwing from multiple angles with an accurate arm. Though he is a below-average runner, he moves fluidly around the dirt and should be at least an above-average defender. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Mayer also has upside offensively. He’s a plus hitter with excellent barrel control and extension in his swing and drives balls hard in the air from gap-to-gap. He can turn on good fastballs and drive them off the right-field fence or let pitches on the outer half travel deep and line them hard up the middle or the opposite way. He has fringe-average power now, but could tap into above-average power in the future as he fills out his projectable frame. He controls the strike zone and has a calm, steady presence in the batter’s box. Mayer is committed to Southern California, but as a surefire top-five pick, it’s unlikely he ever steps foot on campus. He has a chance to be taken with the top pick and join Gonzalez, who was selected first overall in 2000, in making Eastlake the only high school to ever have two players drafted No. 1 overall.
Pick: Colton Cowser
School: Sam Houston State
Instant Analysis: Cowser entered the year with a reputation as one of the better pure hitters in college baseball and he lived up to expectations, building on his impressive track record of hitting at a high level. He could start out his pro career in center field, though with his size, some scouts think he might ultimately end up in a corner. Cowser fits as a top 15 pick on talent (he was No. 11 on the BA 500), though at No. 5 overall, the Orioles are probably cutting an under slot deal here to be able to shuffle some bonus pool around money to other players later in the draft.
Scouting Report: In a year where teams are frustrated by the lack of college hitters with lengthy track records of production, Cowser is a rare safe harbor who provides a long history of hitting. He hit .374/.490/.680 as a second-year sophomore with 16 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts. He’s hit .354/.460/.608 for his career at Sam Houston State with more walks (78) than strikeouts (70). And he became the first player in school history to play for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team when he did so in 2019 after his freshman season, so scouts got to see him against top competition during the summer. That solid performance with Team USA helps blunt some of the criticisms that he played at a mid-major school. A high school teammate of Texas righthander and likely first-rounder Ty Madden (as well as 2019 supplemental first-round pick J.J. Goss and second-rounder Mathew Thompson), Cowser finished the season on an 18-game hitting streak. Cowser rarely misses a fastball. According to statistics compiled by Synergy, he has 17 extra-base hits on fastballs and just 19 swings and misses. He is more a hitter than a slugger for now, but he’s started to add strength and scouts wouldn’t be surprised to see his knack for hitting turn into 20-25 home run power eventually. Many of his home runs for now are pull shots or opposite-field balls that just clear the wall. Cowser is a plus runner who takes direct routes although his reads sometimes are a little slower than ideal. He shows an above-average arm when he lets loose and does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly. He should be able to stay in center field at least for a few years, and maybe longer than that depending on how his body matures. As a lefthanded hitter and up-the-middle defender with excellent hand-eye coordination and speed, Cowser is one of the safer bets in the first round.
Pick: Jordan Lawlar
School: Dallas Jesuit HS
Instant Analysis: There isn't a consensus No. 1 player in this year's draft class, but the D-backs get the No. 1 player on the Baseball America board with the sixth pick in the draft. Lawlar brings an exciting mix of tools, athleticism, game skills and track record to the table as one of the top offensive performers on the summer circuit last year. There's a chance for five average to plus tools here at a premium position in shortstop.
Scouting Report: Whichever team picks Lawlar will be selecting a prep shortstop with a long track record of success. Lawlar was the shortstop and three-hole hitter for Dallas Jesuit from his first game as a sophomore to the final game of his senior year. He left an inch taller (6-foot-2) and 25 pounds heavier (195 pounds) than he was when he arrived, but his performance was remarkably consistent. Lawlar hit over .400 all three seasons and was one of the best hitters on the summer showcase circuit in both 2019 and 2020. Because he’s coming out of Texas two years after Bobby Witt Jr. (and like Witt he’s nearly 19 on draft day), Lawlar draws understandable comparisons. Witt had louder tools almost across the board with the exception of the hit tool, but Lawlar has plenty of plus tools himself, with future 60 speed (he’ll turn in 70 times right now) to go with 60 hit, a 60 glove and an above-average arm and future power. Lawlar has a high likelihood of staying at shortstop. Witt (picked No. 2 in 2019) is the only Texas prep shortstop to ever go in the top-10 picks, and Lawlar should be the second. There were concerns when Lawlar showed more swing and miss early in the season, but he resolved that as the season wore on. He struck out in 20% of his plate appearances over the first 21 games of the season. In his final 15 games he struck out once in 55 plate appearances with no degradation in his power production. Lawlar’s swing is compact with above-average bat speed. Lawlar is a fast-twitch athlete. Projecting how his power develops separates those who see him as the best prospect in the draft class from those who see him as just a top-tier draft prospect. If his power catches up to his other tools in his 20s, he could be a regular all-star. If not, his hitting ability, speed and defense still would give him a solid path to being an MLB regular with defensive value. The Vanderbilt commit also impresses with his intelligence and maturity.
Pick: Frank Mozzicato
School: East Catholic HS, Manchester, Conn
Instant Analysis: Wow! I love Frank Mozzicato. He's young for the class, he's athletic, has an easy delivery, good physical projection to add more to a fastball that's sitting 88-91, touching 93 and his curveball is one of the best in the draft, a plus pitch that should miss a ton of bats. It's not the biggest present velocity, but Mozzicato has a ton of projection arrows pointing the right way. Still, it's surprising to see him go this high, especially with players like Vanderbilt righthander Kumar Rocker or prep shortstops Kahlil Watson and Brady House still available.
Scouting Report: Mozzicato didn't pitch at big national events last summer, which kept him under the radar. At the time, he was mostly throwing in the mid-to-upper 80s with good feel for a curveball and looked like a safe bet to get to Connecticut. Instead, his stock skyrocketed this spring, when he rattled off a stretch of no-hitters in four straight starts and ended the regular season averaging 21.7 K/9. One of the younger players in the class (he turns 18 on June 19), Mozzicato has plenty of projection arrows pointing up, with easy arm action, a low-effort delivery and more space to fill out his projectable frame. That should help him add to a fastball that has trended up this spring, with Mozzicato now sitting at 88-91 mph and reaching 93. His separator is a plus curveball, a 74-80 mph pitch that's one of the best breaking balls in the country from a high school lefty. It's a tight spinning pitch with top-to-bottom action, sharp bite and good depth to rack up whiffs. Mozzicato already manipulates speeds on his curveball based on the situation like a veteran, with an ability to consistently execute and command the pitch well beyond his years. Mozzicato mostly carves through hitters with his fastball and curve, but he has shown feel for a low-80s changeup that could develop into an average or better pitch. Mozzicato's pitchability is advanced for his age but he needs to improve his fastball command, though his athleticism and repeatable delivery should help him do so. Mozzicato doesn't have the present velocity of some other pitchers, but his combination of youth, delivery, physical projection and a knockout curveball have catapulted him into Day One consideration.
Pick: Benny Montgomery
School: Red Land HS, Lewisberry, Pa.
Instant Analysis: If you're just looking for raw tools and athleticism, it's hard to top Montgomery. He's a bursty athlete with plus-plus wheels, elite bat speed, big power that should only climb as he fills out his long, wiry frame and a strong arm that could also get stronger as he puts on weight. There is a fair amount of risk here though because of his swing and timing issues that scouts have seen against live pitching, especially compared to high school shortstops Kahlil Watson and Brady House who were still available, or speedy Boston College center fielder Sal Frelick, but all of Montgomery's other tools will immediately rank among the best in the Rockies organization the moment he signs.
Scouting Report: 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.
Pick: Sam Bachman
School: Miami (Ohio)
Instant Analysis: Bachman has some of the nastiest pure stuff in the class, with a lively fastball that regularly registers in the mid-to-upper 90s and flashes triple-digit velocity to go with an outstanding, 70-grade slider. Some scouts see reliever risk because of the effort in his delivery and some durability concerns, but the stuff coming out of his hand could make him a dominant reliever. If he can hold up as a starter, there's a chance for a midrotation or better pitcher here.
Scouting Report: Bachman made an immediate impact for Miami (Ohio) during his freshman season in 2019, being named first-team All-MAC after posting a 3.93 ERA over 14 starts. For three years now he’s been a reliable starter for the Redhawks and should become the program’s first ever first-round product thanks to perhaps the best two-pitch combination in the 2021 class. Bachman has one of the hardest fastballs in the class and sits in the 95-97 mph range with the pitch, regularly getting to triple-digits with impressive arm-side running action and sink. On top of that, Bachman’s slider has an argument for being the best breaking ball in the class. It’s a hard, biting pitch that is routinely in the upper 80s and has eclipsed 90 mph plenty of times, with tremendous late life that generates whiffs inside the zone and out of it—mostly down and to his glove side. Both pitches grade out as at least 70s and there are scouts in the industry who have put 80 grades on both as well. Bachman predominantly works off of his fastball/slider combination, but he also throws a mid-80s changeup that has some diving action and could give him an average third pitch—though he’s thrown it less than 10% of the time this spring. Despite walking between two and three batters per nine innings the last two seasons, there is some reliever risk with Bachman, thanks to a delivery that has effort and isn’t the most fluid. His arm action is inverted in the back and he’s a palm-up pitcher, which scares some in the industry, and he also finishes with a bit of violence and falls off to the left. That delivery, combined with medical questions (he missed two starts this spring with arm soreness) and the fact that he pitched into the seventh just twice this spring have many evaluators confident he’ll be a bullpen arm in the majors. Whatever the role, it seems safe Bachman goes off the board somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Pick: Kumar Rocker
Instant Analysis: The Mets get a potential frontline starter with the 10th pick in the draft, something that would have seemed like a longshot for them in this spot in January. Rocker helped lead Vanderbilt to the final game of the College World Series, posting a 2.73 ERA in 122 innings with a superb 179 strikeouts and 39 walks along the way. His velocity has fluctuated this spring, but Rocker has an outstanding track record and misses a ton of bats with one of the best sliders in college baseball.
Scouting Report: Rocker was one of the top high school pitching prospects in the loaded 2018 prep pitching class that included lefthanders Matthew Liberatore and Ryan Weathers and righthanders Ethan Hankins and Carter Stewart, among others. Despite ranking as the No. 13 player in the class and a consensus first-round talent, Rocker made it to campus at Vanderbilt where he was the highest-ranked player in Baseball America’s college recruiting rankings history. He delivered on the hype and became the 2019 Freshman of the Year after posting a 3.25 ERA in 16 starts and 99.2 innings with 114 strikeouts to just 21 walks. Because of Rocker’s pedigree and collegiate track record, he entered the tumultuous 2021 draft cycle as the de facto No. 1 player in the 2021 class and remains in the top tier of players despite a lack of consensus on any standout 1-1 player in this year’s group. Rocker has a large, 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame befitting a workhorse big league starter that leaves no doubt about his professional bloodlines. Rocker’s father, Tracy, played football at Auburn and briefly in the NFL. He has power stuff out of that powerful frame, headlined by a fastball up to 99 mph at his best and a devastating slider in the low-to-mid 80s that grades out as a double-plus offering at its best and is one of the better breaking balls in the 2021 class. Rocker has dealt with inconsistent velocity this spring, sitting in the 89-93 mph range at times before getting back to his usual mid-90s stuff. He’s still succeeded and overwhelmed SEC hitters even without his best velocity, but scouts question how that pitch will play at the next level, especially due to the fact that his fastball has played down at times dating back to high school. Rocker experimented with a cutter in the 88-91 mph range this season and has also thrown a firm changeup with slight fading action. Both offerings could give him something to keep lefthanders off his fastball at the next level, and his changeup in particular has shown upside in the past, but both need more refinement and usage before teams will feel confident projecting plus grades. While some teams think Rocker has reliever risk thanks to inconsistent fastball command at times, his pure stuff, pedigree and track record give him significant upside and he should be one of the first arms selected.
Pick: Brady House
School: Winder-Barrow HS, Winder, Ga.
Instant Analysis: The Nationals' farm system has some big arms, but it's lighter on potential impact hitters. This pick will start to change that, as the Nationals land a potential middle of the order bat with House, who has outstanding raw power and has shown the ability to tap into that power against live pitching. He moves well at shortstop right now for his size, but he most likely slides over to third base, with a chance to be above-average on both sides of the ball.
Scouting Report: House entered the 2021 draft cycle as the top high school prospect in the class thanks to an impressive combination of physicality, explosive tools and a lengthy track record of hitting at a high level. Listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, House stands out for his impressive bat speed and natural strength, with many scouts believing he will grow into 70-grade raw power at physical maturity. He pairs that power with an advanced offensive approach that includes solid pitch recognition and the ability to turn around velocity and recognize spin out of the hand. House wasn’t quite as explosive as scouts wanted him to be offensively over the showcase circuit, showing more swing and miss than desired, but he more than flashed his upside and skill set. While he does have a tendency to swing through pitches, when he makes contact it’s frequently hard with standout exit velocities. Outside of his power, House’s arm strength is likely his loudest tool, with a true howitzer of an arm that has been up into the mid 90s when he’s gotten on the mound and would easily play at third base or right field if necessary. A shortstop now, House has proven to be a better defender than scouts anticipated considering his size. Most expect that he’ll move off the position in the long run, but he has solid hands and reactions, as well as an impressive internal clock, body control and athleticism that allow him to make difficult plays. He does have the tools to be a solid defender at shortstop or a very good one at third base, but there’s no reason to move him off short until a superior defender forces him off or until his lack of elite quick-twitch mobility becomes prohibitive. House projects as an average runner in the future, though he has turned in above-average run times. The Tennessee commit seems like a safe top-10 pick and has some of the loudest offensive upside in the class.
Pick: Harry Ford
School: North Cobb HS, Kennesaw, Ga.
Instant Analysis: The Mariners have some dynamic athletes and hitters in the system with outfielder Julio Rodriguez and shortstop Noelvi Marte, and they get another one here with Ford, who doesn't have a typical catcher's skill set. He's one of the fastest players in the class, with the speed, arm strength and athleticism that could make him a fit at a variety of positions. His uncanny speed and athletic ability for a catcher is what gets talked about the most, but he's also one of the better pure hitters in the 2021 high school class with a good swing and a track record of hitting well on the showcase circuit.
Scouting Report: The state of Georgia has produced a few uniquely athletic high school catchers in recent years including the ambidextrous and switch-hitting Anthony Seigler in 2018 and now Ford in 2021. Ford has been described as a “unicorn” thanks to speed that’s almost unheard of at the catcher position. Ford ran the second-fastest 60-yard dash time at East Coast Pro last summer (6.42) and is a legitimate plus runner with the athleticism to handle a number of positions, including third base, second base or even center field if a team wants to try him there. He hasn’t spent much game time at any of those positions, but evaluators have liked his actions in the infield during workout environments and with above-average arm strength and quick-twitch mobility, he has the toolset to handle such a transition if a team wanted to move him through the minors more quickly. Offensively, Ford has plenty of bat speed and lots of natural strength in a compact, 5-foot-10, 200-pound frame. Ford has shown solid bat-to-ball skills and barrel awareness in the past, but some evaluators think he’ll be more of a power-over-hit offensive player in the future thanks to a low handset and a hook in his swing that could limit him. Ford was one of the more impressive performers over the summer but has had more of a solid than a spectacular spring with the bat. Like most prep catchers, Ford has refinement to do behind the plate, but he has all of the physical and mental tools teams believe are necessary at the next level. He will occasionally muff pitches or fail to stick a backhand but has strong hands and is flexible with more than enough athleticism for the position and at least an above-average arm that gets some plus grades as well. Ford is committed to Georgia Tech, but will likely be drafted too high to make it to campus. His range is fairly wide, which might be natural for a prep catcher considering the track record of the demographic, with some interest among the top-10 picks but it’s more likely he goes off the board in the 10-30 range.
Pick: Andrew Painter
School: Calvary Christian HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Instant Analysis: The Phillies took a 6-foot-5 prep righthander at No. 15 overall last year in Mick Abel, with encouraging early returns. This year they go with the 6-foot-6 Painter, who entered the year as the top high school righthander in the country. While Jackson Jobe (who went 3rd overall to Detroit) took his game to a new level this year to surpass him, Painter is the No. 2 prep righthander in the class for many clubs. North Carolina prep shortstop Kahlil Watson, Boston College center fielder Sal Frelick and UCLA shortstop Matt McLain were all available for the Phillies to bolster their position prospects, but the Phillies instead doubled down with another physical prep righthander.
Scouting Report: Painter established himself as the top pitcher in the high school class last summer and entered the season as the sole unanimous selection on Baseball America’s preseason All-America Team, as voted on by scouting directors. He was never the hardest thrower on the field, but it is difficult to find a pitcher in this year’s class who checks as many boxes as Painter—which has led to comparisons to 2020 prep righthander Mick Abel. Painter is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound righty with a buttery smooth delivery and a tremendously loose, easy arm action that should give him above-average or plus command in the future. It’s rare to put 60-grade control on a prep arm, but some scouts have even gone as far as putting 70 grades on his future control. In terms of stuff, Painter has a four-pitch mix that’s above-average or better across the board. This spring, Painter has run his fastball up into the upper 90s at his peak, and he’s held 94-95 mph deep into his outings, which is a solid tick up from the low 90s range he settled into last summer. His best secondary is a changeup in the low 80s that scouts put plus grades on, and he throws both a curveball and a slider. Painter’s breaking stuff has been inconsistent at times, but he’s shown enough flashes and general feel for spin for both to project as above-average in the future. Painter was just OK during his first few starts of the season, which caused him to lose his grip on the “consensus top prep arm” label of the class that he entered the season with. Despite that, and despite the industry’s general hesitance to spend significant draft capital on high school righthanders, Painter checks all of the boxes to become a first-round pick and shouldn’t make it to campus at Florida. Calvary Christian had three players drafted in the 2010s (Luke Jackson, Jake Eder, Raynel Delgado) but Painter should become the highest drafted of the bunch, and the highest ever for the program.
Pick: Will Bednar
Position: Mississippi State
Instant Analysis: The Giants farm system is filled with talented hitters from their international signings and the draft, led by shortstop Marco Luciano. Now they add more balance to the system with Bednar, who helped his stock during the postseason en route to leading Mississippi State to a College World Series title. He has starter traits as a strike-thrower with a power arm and a quality three-pitch mix.
Scouting Report: Bednar was trending in the right direction with both his fastball velocity and the efficiency with his delivery during his senior year of high school, but he suffered a shoulder injury and wound up making it to campus at Mississippi State. He impressed in a limited look during the shortened 2020 season, posting a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings with a fastball up into the mid 90s and three solid secondaries. His draft-eligible second season was delayed thanks to a neck injury, but since ramping up in late March, he’s been reliable, posting a 3.17 ERA through 12 starts and 71 innings, while striking out 109 batters (13.8 K/9) and walking 18 (2.3 BB/9). Bednar throws a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range and touches 97, but the pitch plays up and gets an impressive amount of whiffs, especially up in the zone. Both his slider and changeup have been swing-and-miss offerings for him this spring, though he’s relied much more heavily on the breaking ball. His slider is a mid-80s pitch with hard and tight bite that has good vertical action when he’s on top of the pitch and keeping it down, but it has flattened out at times when he leaves it up in the zone. Bednar’s changeup is a similar velocity, with arm-side running action and while it’s been effective in generating whiffs and limiting hard contact, he uses it less than 10% of the time. Bednar is physical with some effort in his delivery, but he’s filled up the strike zone this spring. His brother, David, is a reliever for the Pirates.
Pick: Sal Frelick
School: Boston College
Instant Analysis: Last year the Brewers got a potential steal when UCLA center fielder Garrett Mitchell fell into their laps with the 20th overall pick. Getting Frelick here at No. 15 overall isn't quite the same steepness of a slide, but the Brewers have to be happy to get one of the top college hitters in the draft in the middle of the first round. Frelick is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete who has premium speed and the hand-eye coordination to put the ball in play at a high clip. He's not a big power threat, but his contact skills, speed and ability to play a premium position give him a chance to develop into an above-average regular in the middle of the field.
Scouting Report: 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.
2023 Rangers Top 10 Prospects Podcast
Josh Norris joins Kyle Glaser to break down the Texas Rangers farm system.
Pick: Kahlil Watson
School: Wake Forest (N.C.) HS
Instant Analysis: Watson should not have lasted this long. It's a dream scenario for the Marlins, who get a potentially huge steal in the middle of the first round. Coming into 2021, Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer ranked ahead of Watson as the consensus top shortstops in the draft. Watson narrowed that gap this year, to the point where some scouts think Watson might end up the best of the bunch in a draft stacked with premium high school shortstops. He has a sweet lefthanded stroke, makes frequent contact, has explosive bat speed and puts a strong charge into the ball especially for his 5-foot-9 size, with his athleticism, plus speed and strong arm standing out too. The Marlins have to be elated to get him here.
Scouting Report: Watson was one of the standout performers over the summer showcase circuit and immediately put himself in first-round territory after a standout showing at East Coast Pro, where he ran a 6.5 60-yard-dash and looked like one of the best hitters at the event. Watson isn’t the most physical player you’ll see, listed at 5-foot-9, 178 pounds, but there are scouts in the industry who believe his combination of athleticism, tools and defensive profile give him the most upside in the class. Watson has outstanding bat speed and plenty of strength in his swing, with a tendency to take massive hacks and try to hit for power. Despite that approach, he has shown a smooth, lefthanded swing and an ability to manipulate his barrel, with impressive at-bats against some of the best pitchers in the class over the summer. Against mid-90s fastballs and some of the best breaking balls the prep class has to offer, Watson seemed perfectly comfortable within his at-bats, spitting on pitches out of the zone, drawing walks when he needed to and driving pitches in his hitting zone when the opportunity arose. That approach and his physical tools should allow him to project as an above-average hitter with solid or better power. Watson is a tremendous athlete who has turned in 70-grade run times at various events and should be at least a plus runner consistently. Defensively, he has all the tools to stick at shortstop, with quick-twitch actions, solid glove work and 60-grade arm strength. There have been some scouts who think he might fit best at second base or perhaps in center field in the long run thanks to his speed and athleticism, but there’s no tool he’s missing that he needs to be an above-average defensive shortstop. Watson is committed to North Carolina State, where he would continue a solid run of impressive shortstops out of the program, but he is a lock to be drafted among the top-10 picks.
Pick: Matt McLain
Instant Analysis: McLain's decision to pass on signing with the D-backs out of high school as the 25th overall pick in 2018 paid off for him. He has one of the better mixes of performance and ability to play somewhere in the middle of the field among college hitters this year, though where he fits best defensively is still to be determined.
Scouting Report: McLain was the biggest riser in the 2018 draft class after a huge senior season at Beckman (Calif.) High. The D-backs drafted him 25th overall, but he was strongly committed to UCLA and did not sign. McLain rebounded from a poor freshman season for the Bruins with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League and the abbreviated 2020 season. He followed up with his best season as a junior this spring, batting .323/.429/.569 with nine home runs during the regular season despite missing nearly three weeks with a broken thumb. McLain is undersized at a listed 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, but he is a dangerous hitter who is strong in his frame. He has a short, direct swing and consistently lines balls hard from gap to gap. He has a knack for finding the barrel, separates balls from strikes and rarely chases outside the strike zone. He is a consensus above-average to plus hitter and projects to hit at the top of a lineup for a first-division team. The only question about McLain’s offensive game is how much power he will produce. Though he hit for power in college, his fringe-average raw power will likely translate more to doubles with a wood bat and limit him to 10-15 home runs per season. He has plus speed and consistently runs hard to beat out infield singles and leg out doubles and triples. McLain played shortstop the last two seasons at UCLA and is playable there, but he lacks the natural actions for the position and projects better at second base. Some teams prefer him in center field, where he played as a freshman, and others think he projects best as a multi-positional player who bounces around the diamond. He is an instinctive defender who positions himself well, gets good reads off the bat and has above-average arm strength at any position. Regardless of where he ends up defensively, McLain is one of the top hitters in the class and will be taken in the first round again this year.
Pick: Michael McGreevy
School: UC Santa Barbara
Instant Analysis: McGreevy boosted his stock this year, and this was the range we expected him to go. If you want a prolific strike-thrower, McGreevy is your guy. There's potential 70 control from a pitcher with starter traits who should move quickly. It's not like he's a soft tosser either, with a fastball that sits in the low-90s, bumps 95-96 mph and good feel for his secondaries.
Scouting Report: McGreevy caught scouts’ attention in high school with a velocity spike at the end of his senior year, but his short track record and questions about his signability allowed him to get to campus at UC Santa Barbara. He starred immediately for the Gauchos, earning Freshman All-America honors as a multi-inning reliever before moving into the rotation as a sophomore and posting a 0.99 ERA before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season. McGreevy picked up where he left off in 2021, assuming the Friday night starter’s role for UCSB and emerging as the best college pitcher on the West Coast. He went 9-1, 2.92 with 109 strikeouts and 10 walks in 95.2 innings during the regular season. A standout shortstop in high school, McGreevy is an excellent athlete who fills up the strike zone with four pitches. His fastball sits 91-93 mph and touches 95-96 with sink and finish to his arm side. His low-80s curveball with downer action flashes plus, and his mid-80s slider and changeup each project as average to slightly above. McGreevy stands out most for his control. He is an elite strike-thrower who walked only 30 batters in 183.1 career innings at UCSB and projects to have plus-plus control, with evaluators noting his misses are smaller than former Gaucho and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber’s were at the same age. McGreevy locates his fastball to both sides of the plate, lands all three of his secondary pitches for strikes and works quickly and efficiently. With a strong, durable body at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and an athletic, repeatable delivery, McGreevy holds his stuff deep into games and is a no-doubt starting pitcher. Most see him as a potential mid-rotation starter, but he’s young for the class at only 20 and is a candidate to take a jump in an organization with a strong player development team.
19. Blue Jays
Pick: Gunnar Hoglund
Instant Analysis: With the 19th overall pick, the Blue Jays get the No. 19 player on the BA 500 in Hoglund. Until he had Tommy John surgery this spring, Hoglund looked like a potential top-10 pick, so the Blue Jays are getting a talented pitcher with a strong track record when healthy, but they will have to be patient for him to return at some point next summer.
Scouting Report: A supplemental first-round pick of the Pirates in 2018 after he went 7-0, 0.27 at Fivay High in Hudson, Fla., Hoglund’s command has long stood out. It made him an immediate contributor at Ole Miss, and it has helped him be one of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference in 2020 and 2021. Hoglund’s 2021 season came to a premature end when he blew out his pitching elbow in his May 7 start against Texas A&M. His rehab from Tommy John surgery means he’ll be sidelined until midway through 2022, and it likely ended any chance he had of being a top-10 pick. But Hoglund’s body of work (154 innings in three years at Ole Miss) gives teams a lot of comfort with who Hoglund is—a relatively safe starting pitcher with plus command who has the ability to throw three pitches for strikes no matter what the count. Hoglund came into 2021 viewed as a starter likely to be taken in the back of the first round, but he quickly showed improved stuff. Hoglund had touched 95 mph going back to high school, but he generally sat 90-92. This year, he sat 92-94 mph. His slider got a little harder and sharper as well. Hoglund has shown he can spot his above-average fastball to the arm side or glove side, but he generally aims to keep his fastball away—he’ll work glove side to righthanders and arm side to lefties. He consistently wins at 0-0 in the count, getting ahead which means he can then attack righties with his above-average, 80-84 mph slider, again generally staying away. Lefties have to worry about his low-80s, above-average changeup, but he’s also shown he’s comfortable working in on their hands with his slider. It’s that ability to spot all three pitches and avoid the heart of the plate that is key to his success. Even after his elbow injury, he’s seen as a low-risk surefire starter with a consistent, easy delivery.
Pick: Trey Sweeney
School: Eastern Illinois
Instant Analysis: We have Sweeney ranked at No. 54 on the BA 500, but the reality is that draft boards across the league are going to diverge significantly once we get to this range. We heard the Yankees connected to a variety of college infielders where the bat is their best tool, and that's the case with Sweeney. The Yankees have used high picks in recent years on bat-driven infield draft picks like Anthony Volpe (first round in 2019), Josh Smith (second round in 2019) and Trevor Hauver (third round in 2020), with good early returns on those players.
Scouting Report: Sweeney is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound infielder who ranks among the top of the bat-first, tweener profile players in the draft. He’s been a shortstop at Eastern Illinois and was previously viewed as a player who would not stick at the position and would eventually move to a corner or become more of a utility player, but he showed improvements this season at the position. He’s an average athlete with a plus arm, and he’s shown the ability to get to power, but the hit tool is what has most impressed. Sweeney controls the zone, has good bat-to-ball skills, and makes hard contact. For the Panthers this year he slashed .382/.522/.712 with 14 homers in 48 games, walking 46 times with just 24 strikeouts. Scouts have wondered what he might do against tougher competition on a consistent basis, but he continued to show up when he did come across tough arms. He has a big leg kick and a big bat tip in a noisy swing, but if he’s able to quiet it down, what he does at the plate could translate to the next level. He showed fewer holes in the swing on the outer half this season and he’s done a better job of keeping his barrel in the zone. Sweeney has been an impressive college shortstop and has a long track record of production and steady play.
Pick: Jordan Wicks
School: Kansas State
Instant Analysis: Wicks was No. 13 on the BA 500, but the Cubs are able to get him here at 21. Wicks doesn't throw as hard as some of the fireballers going in the first round tonight, but he's a strike thrower who sits in the low 90s, touches 95 mph and has a beautiful changeup that draws 70 grades from scouts on the 20-80 scale.
Scouting Report: With arguably the best changeup in the draft class, intriguing fastball metrics and a track record of performance, Wicks could easily become Kansas State’s first-ever first-rounder, and the first lefthander off the board in July. The solidly-built, 6-foot-3, 220-pound southpaw has been up to 95 mph in all of his outings this year for the Wildcats, regularly sitting 92-93 with run, cut, and ride to his fastball that allows for incredible deception and disappearing action. His low-80s changeup is his most lethal weapon, and the Arkansas native relies on the plus-plus offering as much as any guy with a 70-grade secondary would. Wicks has improved his slider from being fringe-average at best to flashing plus throughout the 2021 season, and he has a curveball in the upper 70s to round out his repertoire. The lefty has great feel to pitch and extreme competitiveness that have helped him find success in the Big 12 Conference, despite pitching in a hitter-friendly home park in front of a defense that he hasn’t always been able to rely on. Wicks has earned multiple honors in each of his three years at Kansas State, consistently performing and improving. Following up his summer in the Northwoods League, where the 21-year-old posted a 0.45 ERA over four starts and 20 innings with a 29-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, this season for the Wildcats, Wicks made 15 starts and threw 92.1 innings. He posted a 3.70 ERA, allowing 90 hits and an opponent average of .249, walking 28 and striking out 118. In 203 career innings in the Big 12, he walked 58 and struck out 230. Wicks is a high-floor lefthanded strike-thrower with a history of college performance, and there just aren’t many like him in the draft class. Though he’s not a flamethrower, he can’t be labeled a ‘vanilla stuff’ pitcher with his standout changeup and the fact that his fastball plays like an invisiball.
22. White Sox
Pick: Colson Montgomery
School: Southridge HS, Huntingburg, Ind.
Instant Analysis: Montgomery had some of the most helium of any high school player this spring. A position change is likely coming, but scouts highest on him believe in his athleticism and offensive upside to profile at third base, though others see more swing-and-miss risk, especially from a player on the older end of his high school class.
Scouting Report: 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.
Pick: Gavin Williams
School: East Carolina
Instant Analysis: The Indians have had success squeezing some extra velo out of their young pitchers. They won't need any of that with Williams, who already brings it up to 100 mph. There isn't a knockout secondary pitch in his arsenal, but the offspeed stuff could be average to a tick better across the board.
Scouting Report: Going back to his prep days at Cape Fear High in Fayetteville, N.C., Williams has had plenty of velocity. He was in the mid 90s with a projectable frame at the time and scouts didn’t think it would be too long before he was touching 100 mph. They weren’t wrong, and now Williams sits with one of the hardest fastballs in the draft class. He sits 94-96 with the pitch and has been up to 100-101 mph. Despite that velocity, Williams struggled during his first three seasons—with injuries, consistency and control. As a draft-eligible member of the 2020 class, Williams ranked No. 81 in the class on the upside of his pure stuff despite throwing just three innings after being limited with a finger injury. This spring, he’s put everything together for the first time and excelled in a mostly starting role, pitching to a 1.46 ERA through his first 10 starts and 68 innings, with 108 strikeouts (14.3 K/9) and 18 walks (2.4 BB/9)—good for the lowest walk rate of his career. He improved his secondaries over the offseason and is more consistent with his breaking balls. An upper-70s curveball with 11-5 shape has been his best swing-and-miss pitch this spring, and he also throws a mid-80s slider with short, two-plane bite that is solid when he gets on top of it and keeps it down. Williams also throws a firm, upper-80s changeup that has some dive and gets whiffs when it’s located down, but he misses to his arm side with the pitch. Williams could get drafted among the top-two rounds with his breakout season and loud pitch mix.
Pick: Ryan Cusick
School: Wake Forest
Instant Analysis: Cusick is 6-foot-6 and can sit in the mid 90s with the ability to run it all the way up into the triple digits. The Braves aren't alone in liking Cusick in this range, but he's also mostly a two-pitch guy with a higher walk rate who posted a 4.24 ERA this year at Wake Forest, so some scouts think he's more of a bullpen arm.
Scouting Report: Cusick’s father played college football in Maine, and Cusick himself wouldn’t look out of place on the gridiron with a massive 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame. He has the power stuff to back it up and has been a hard thrower since his high school days, when he sat in the 92-94 mph range and touched 97. After three years at Wake Forest, Cusick now has one of the best fastballs in the country, a pitch that sits around 95 mph and has been up into the 100-102 mph range with solid life. Cusick will also flash a plus breaking ball that averages around 80 mph and has slurvey shape that looks more like a slider at times and more like a downer curve at others, but scouts have noted that the pitch is inconsistent—a critique that dates back to his prep days. The pitch itself shows quality spin, movement and bite at times, but Cusick’s usability of the pitch needs to improve. Cusick also throws a firm, upper-80s changeup that has slight fading action at times, but his usage of the pitch is extremely minimal. Cusick posted a 4.24 ERA this spring through 12 starts and 70 innings, with 108 strikeouts (13.9 K/9) to 32 walks (4.1 BB/9). He’s a control-over-command pitcher who can put the fastball over the plate enough, but some evaluators think he hasn’t made enough adjustments in his strike throwing to safely profile as a starter, and instead think he’ll be a power arm out of the bullpen.
Pick: Maxwell Muncy
School: Thousand Oaks (Calif.) HS
Instant Analysis: We heard a few teams considering Muncy here at the back of the first round, and the A's make it happen at No. 25. Muncy has one of the better blends of tools and game skills in the 2021 class. He has a chance for five average to plus tools, hitting well in games with a chance to stick at shortstop. That's a good skill set to be able to pick up this late in the first round.
Scouting Report: Thousand Oaks (Calif.) High has had a number of major leaguers come out of its program, including all-stars Kurt Stillwell and Jack Wilson. Wilson, the former Pirates shortstop, is now head coach at the school and helped Muncy grow into a top draft prospect. Muncy, who is not related to the Dodgers star of the same name, is a high-energy player with an athletic, strong body. He shows above-average hitting ability with a knack for driving the ball the other way and has the strong hands and wrists to project 20-plus home run potential. He studies opposing pitchers, has a mature approach and is rarely overmatched. Muncy tinkered with his stance and swing early this season and struggled, getting disconnected between his upper and lower halves and showing a long swing that was late to velocity, but he returned to his previous setup and swing at the end of the year and re-established himself as one of the top prep hitters in Southern California. He finished the regular season batting .452 with nine home runs while mostly facing good high school competition. Defensively, Muncy is an above-average runner with the instincts and footwork for shortstop, although he likely will have to move to third base if he gets bigger. He has the short-area quickness and above-average arm strength for the hot corner and enough athleticism to potentially play second base. Muncy’s hitting ability, athleticism and potential defensive versatility have him in top-two rounds consideration. He is committed to Arkansas.
Pick: Chase Petty
School: Mainland Regional HS, Linwood, N.J.
Instant Analysis: There are a lot of obvious things to like with Petty. He's an athletic pitcher who can reach 100 mph and can snap off a plus slider that teases potential of grading up even higher in the future. High school righthanders are also a risky group, and Petty has a lot of those risks, from some of the things in his delivery to control that has been erratic. For some teams, Petty is too risky even in the back of the first round, but the Twins—who have gone with a hitter for their top pick the last five years—are willing to bet on his upside at 26.
Scouting Report: Petty is the most famous prep pitcher in the country thanks to a fastball that has been up to 102 mph in a bullpen and 101 in a game this spring. He's one of the hardest-throwing high school pitchers ever, up there with Reds righthander Hunter Greene, who went No. 2 overall in 2017 and also touched 102 mph. In games, Petty's fastball has sat 93-96 mph at times and mid-to-upper 90s in other starts. He complements his fastball with an out pitch in his slider, which has tight spin and sharp bite at its best, though at times it has flattened out on him. It's a pitch that flashes plus and shows glimpses of a potential plus-plus pitch in the future. Petty doesn't need his changeup against high school hitters so he rarely throws it, but he has shown feel for that pitch too. Petty's raw stuff suggests considerable upside, but high school righthanders are a risky group as a whole and Petty has several red flags that give teams reservations. He's a good athlete but it's not an easy, fluid delivery, with considerable effort to his arm action and mechanics. His fastball control has also been erratic, with a tendency to yank the ball well out of the strike zone, especially to his glove side. That causes him to fall behind in too many counts and might lead to a high walk rate early in his pro career. Petty's slider misses a lot of bats, though some scouts have said his fastball doesn't lead to as many swings and misses as they would expect given his velocity. He rarely throws his changeup and it's inconsistent, but some scouts think it has above-average potential too. Petty's profile is similar to Lance McCullers from when he was in high school touching triple-digits with a good slider but also had reliever risk and pitchability questions. If Petty proves durable and can rein in his control, his upside is obvious, but his risk factors are ones that teams weigh more heavily now than they did even a few years ago.
Pick: Jackson Merrill
School: Severna Park (Md.) HS
Instant Analysis: Some other clubs might see this pick as a reach for the Padres, but Merrill was also a player trending up over the past year who the Padres scouted heavily even though he wasn't a famous name on the summer showcase circuit. There are some hitterish qualities here with Merrill, who has an intriguing combination of hitting ability and power from the left side.
Scouting Report: Merrill is one of the bigger draft risers late in the process and in June was getting buzz from around the industry that he wouldn’t get out of the second round. Now listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Merrill has gone through a huge growth spurt over the last six months or so, adding a significant amount of strength that has changed his profile. He’s now showing plus raw power and the teams high on him really like his lefthanded swing and feel for hitting. He has solid bat speed and a swing that’s conducive to hitting the other way, and the defensive tools that should give him a chance to stick at shortstop. He’s an average runner with solid hands and moves well enough to at least stick on the infield, with above-average arm strength. Like many players in the 2021 class, Merrill is a polarizing prospect with a wide range of opinions from the industry. More skeptical evaluators like him as a later Day Two pick and think he should go to school and prove his hitting ability, because he wasn’t at many of the big summer showcase events last summer and his Maryland competition this spring wasn’t great. Previously an Army commit, Merrill is now committed to Kentucky, but there’s been enough heat on him that there’s a real chance he doesn’t make it to campus.
Pick: Carson Williams
School: Torrey Pines HS, San Diego
Instant Analysis: Getting stronger boosted Williams' stock over the past year, as he came out this spring flashing above-average raw power. There's a split camp on Williams from scouts based on how they believe his swing and hitting ability will translate in pro ball, but he has a good track record of hitting in games so far, with scouts highest on him seeing a potential above-average hit/power combo on the left side of the infield.
Scouting Report: Williams won MVP of the WWBA Championships last fall and entered the spring as one of the top two-way players in the class. Most teams initially preferred him as a pitcher, but he added 10-15 pounds and began showing significantly increased power this spring to become one of the draft’s biggest risers as a position player. Williams now flashes above-average-to-plus raw power and shows the ability to get to it in games. He hit towering home runs that scraped the top of the trees beyond the left-field fence at his home stadium this spring, and even balls he mis-hit went out to his pull side. He has the ability to drive balls the other way for extra-base hits and frequently delivers in clutch situations. While Williams’ performance was loud, evaluators are divided on how much he will hit as a pro. Some see a potentially above-average hitter with plus power, but others are skeptical and see a grooved swing without a lot of adjustability and think he’ll struggle with a wood bat. Defensively, Williams is a good athlete with a polished glove and the plus arm strength to stay on the left side of the infield. He has a chance to stick at shortstop and be an average defender, but most project him to move to third base as he gets bigger. Williams sits 92-95 mph on the mound and has a short, biting slider that gets swings and misses to give him a fallback as a pitcher if his bat stalls. He is committed to Cal and will require a sizable bonus to sign.
Pick: Maddux Bruns
School: UMS-Wright Prep, Mobile, Ala.
Instant Analysis: Bruns has big stuff from the left side. He's a harder thrower than fellow high school lefty Frank Mozzicato, who went seventh overall to the Royals, and he flashes plus breaking stuff to miss bats. He was still available here at the end of the first round in part because of his erratic control last summer, though he did a better job throwing strikes this spring. The stuff is there, so Bruns could be good value here if the Dodgers can help him develop his command.
Scouting Report: There’s likely not a pitcher in the 2021 class who has as much pure arm talent as Bruns. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefthander wowed scouts last summer at Perfect Game’s National Showcase, running his fastball up to 97 mph and flashing two breaking balls that were both plus pitches. At later events it was clear that Bruns’ control and command were well behind his pure stuff, and he struggled not only to hit his spots but to get the ball around the zone. That made him something of an enigma entering the spring, as no one in the industry doubted his pure stuff and upside, but seemingly everyone was scared about his strike-throwing ability and the reliever risk that came with it. Scouts in the South did see better control from Bruns this spring against poor competition, but they still commented he was much more of a control-over-command arm. Bruns is strong and physical, and attacks hitters with a vertical arm slot that creates plane and a crossfire delivery that adds to his deception. While he can run his fastball up to 97-98, he pitches more effectively in the lower 90s. Bruns throws a 12-to-6 curveball in the mid-70s with tremendous depth and also has a hard slider in the low 80s with power and late biting action. On top of that, some scouts have even graded his low-80s changeup as a plus offering, but he’s not used it much to this point. Bruns is committed to Alabama, but a team could easily take a shot on his massive upside somewhere in the top-two rounds.