2021 MLB Mock Draft: 'Way Too Early' Top 10 Picks
You don’t need to tell us how insane it is to put out a 2021 mock draft the day after we wrapped up the 2020 draft. We know it’s crazy. But at Baseball America, sometimes we like to get a bit crazy with prospects.
That’s why, like the last two years, we’re giving you our best guess at a top 10 for the 2021 draft with a year to go before we get there. With no baseball going on, we can’t work off of the reverse order of the current standings. So we’re using the 2020 projected standings from Fangraphs.com to determine our order for these purposes.
1. Orioles — Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Rocker has the size and stuff of a 1-1 collegiate arm. He was the highest-ranked player to get to campus after the 2018 draft, has a fastball that gets into the upper-90s and a filthy slider to go along with it. He’s exceptionally physical at 6-foot-4, 255-pounds and stepped into a weekend role as a freshman in 2019, where he went 12-5, 3.25 with 114 strikeouts to 21 walks and was named Freshman of the Year.
2. Mariners — Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Leiter should compete with teammate Rocker to be the highest-drafted Vanderbilt pitcher next year. The son of former major leaguer Al, Leiter was a no-doubt first-round talent coming out of high school, but questions about his price tag meant he got to campus, where he quickly showed his stuff and pitchability was overwhelming for collegiate hitters. In three starts and four games, Leiter went 2-0, 1.72 with 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 15.2 innings. He attacks hitters with good tempo, solid fastball command and a hammer curveball.
3. Tigers — Brady House, SS/RHP, Winder-Barrow HS, Winder, Ga
House is the No. 1 ranked player in the high school class and comes with power tools and a power frame. A shortstop and righthander, House probably has more upside as a hitter even if he might have to move to third base or outfield in the future. “A premium body with tremendous feel to hit at the plate,” one scout said. “His only tool in question is his speed. Otherwise, it’s premium tools and skills.”
4. Marlins — Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Del Castillo’s bat was his calling card going back to his high school days, where scouts pointed out that he had a worn spot on the sweet spot of his wood bat because he was able to consistently place the barrel head on the ball. His feel for hitting is exceptional, and he’s proven that over a year-plus with Miami, posting a .336/.430/.571 line with more walks than strikeouts and 14 home runs. His is a fairly complete offensive profile. If he can stick at catcher, that’s a cherry on top, but he’s also shown he has the athleticism to play in the outfield.
5. Pirates — Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
McLain was drafted in the back of the first round by the Diamondbacks in 2018, but opted to not sign and went to UCLA. Scouts think that move is paying off for him, as he was off to an exceptional start in the 2020 season, hitting .397/.422/.622 through 13 games, building on an all-star summer in the Cape Cod League. He’s tapped into more power than expected out of high school, and has a good combination of speed, defensive ability at an up the middle position—shortstop, second and center field are all potential homes. He’ll have to keep hitting to go here, but scouts think he’s in the mix among the best players in the class.
6. Giants — Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian was originally a member of the 2019 draft class, but enrolled early at Florida and started 54 games in center field for the Gators after doing so. He’s got quick hands at the plate and has started to experiment with switch-hitting, though his natural side is on the right. Fabian is a good runner with the frame to add more power as he continues to fill out.
7. Royals — Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Hill was part of the loaded 2018 prep pitching class, and out of high school he had elite athleticism, a projectable 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame and a loud fastball/changeup combination. He’s only thrown 21.2 innings in a year plus with LSU and missed most of his freshman year with a right elbow strain. But he returned healthy this spring and looked dominant. He’s figured out a slider that could be a game-changer for him moving forward. He’ll start for the Tigers next year, likely at the front of their rotation, and if he continues to perform in the role with his pure stuff and frame should go good. He’s posted a 0.83 ERA with 11.6 strikeouts per nine and 3.3 walks per nine in his LSU career.
How MLB Scouting Departments Grade The 2021 Draft Class
BA surveyed major league scouting departments and asked teams to grade the class on a 20-80 scale in a number of different categories.
8. Blue Jays — Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
Cowser was the first Southland Conference player since Michael Choice in 2010 to be named to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list. That was thanks to a tremendous freshman season, where he hit .361/.450/.602 with seven home runs and 17 doubles and then impressed with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He’s a pure hitter with a loose lefthanded swing. Filling out physically and adding more power to his game will help him shoot up boards next spring.
9. Rockies — Luke Leto, SS/RHP, Portage (Mich.) Central HS
Like House, Leto is a physical two-way player with potential on both sides of the ball. He has good bat speed and power potential as a hitter and a fastball that gets into the low-90s with a good curveball.
10. Rangers — Braylon Bishop, OF, Arkansas HS, Texarkana, Ark.
Bishop has been a famous name for a long time, first appearing in Baseball America as a 15-year old who stole the show as an underclassmen at a Perfect Game MLK Tournament in Arizona. Bishop has legitimate five-tool potential with plenty of athleticism, speed and power potential in center field.