Image credit: (Photo courtesy UCLA)
Carlos Collazo: Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by to chat draft! And thank you for being BA supporters because if you’re in here that means you are a subscriber. We really appreciate your support and I can’t thank you enough for it. We’re talking draft today, with our recently updated and expanded draft rankings hitting the site yesterday. If you haven’t checked that out yet, I would recommend it since that’s what we are going to be discussing.
Carlos Collazo: Also, a few notes on this 200-300 update since I was having this conversation with a few scouts and some people at BA. I generally find the first in-season update and expansion to be among the most challenging for a variety of reasons.
Carlos Collazo: 1. Once you get so deep into a draft list like we do with 300 players, the ordinal rank of everyone overstates the actual talent gap, to a large degree. 2. It can be difficult to differentiate the signal from the noise with early season collegiate performance and looks, so balancing over-reacting and not reacting enough to legitimate improvement can be tough. 3. Over the summer and fall your biases and thoughts on players can get fairly ingrained, so I often wonder about how that affects a list.
Carlos Collazo: The dynamics of the 2021 draft class only exacerbate these issues, which makes it a real challenge (but a fun one!). Just note that we expected a ton of movement and we probably should continue to expect lots of movement as players perform, regress and the industry is able to get a better idea of the draft class as a whole. With that preamble out of the way, let’s get into the questions!
Braxton (Michigan): What accounts for Jaden Hill’s 5.18 ERA this season and will teams near the top of the first round look past the lack of production vs SEC opponents so long as he stays healthy and keeps flashing premium stuff?
Carlos Collazo: Well, most of that damage came against Oral Roberts, when Hill didn’t get out of the first inning and allowed five hits and eight earned runs after recording just one out. That is going to ding the ERA for a while. But Mississippi State did some damage against him in his last outing, though the six runs he allowed that time were spread out over 7.1 innings. I was curious about the feedback that we would get for dropping Hill in this update given his struggles in a few games, but there seems to be a hesitancy from many teams because of how promising Hill is when he’s on, and the stuff he has shown. So far this year his slider has not been up to the same grade he’s shown with it in the past, and his fastball has looked fairly hittable at times. I really love Hill’s fastball command and his changeup overall (the command of the pitch, the arm speed, the movement and bat missing potential), but scouts are going to have to bear down on just how well his FB plays in a starting role and so far it’s a real question.
Fred (Michigan): When will ur next mock draft be up? Looking forward to it. Will Comp round A picks be included? Thanks
Carlos Collazo: You should look for the next mock at some point… soon. Sorry that’s a cryptic answer but know that I am eyeing it and beginning work on it. No supplemental picks because let’s be honest doing a mock at this point is not super informative for a draft that is going to take place in July. I try to pack as much new scouting info and any real team/player links into them as I can to give readers good value… but teams don’t yet know who they are picking so how would I? I think they are more useful for entertainment and getting a good snapshot of where players stand “today” than any real predictive value beyond the first few picks. THOUGH, we did have Joey Bart pegged to the Giants in February (I think?) back in 2018, so you never know.
Justin (Tucson, AZ): From a pure offensive standpoint which player has the highest ceiling with average and power? Are there any players projected as a .300 with 30 hr hitter?
Carlos Collazo: I think if you are strictly looking for ceiling it would be hard to argue against either IMG Academy outfielder James Wood or Winder-Barrow High shortstop Brady House. Both have a chance for 70-grade raw power in the future and at times have shown impressive ability to get to that power in-game. House has struggled at times and some people are a bit skeptical of Wood’s pure hit tool and overall approach, but he’s a really good athlete and when they are both on… man it is very special to see. So pure upside, let’s go with them. At this point it’s hard to see a .300/30 homer hitter in the class if that means 70 hit tool and 60 power.
Joe (Syracuse, NY): How many rounds do you think the draft will end up being?
Carlos Collazo: It would be pretty nice if we knew with certainty, huh? Most people I have talked with are just assuming it’s going to be 20 rounds. So I’ve just gone with so far as I think through it, but the agreement between MLB/MLBPA a year ago (man it feels like a lifetime ago, now) stated this year’s draft would be between 20-30 rounds. Seems like a safe bet to go with 20 rounds until we hear something different.
Murray (Carlsbad, CA): Is it great to be the Pirates right now, or given their history, is it absolutely terrifying to be the Pirates right now?
Carlos Collazo: I mean, generally, it is not good to be whatever team is picking No. 1. You are a pretty bad baseball team if you are picking No. 1. If you are referring to … “is this a good year to pick No. 1,” it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s no Bryce Harper/Stephen Strasburg level talent and there isn’t even an Adley Rutschman—duh, he’s the first guy off the board—sort of player. So in that sense, no, there doesn’t seem to be the clear cut elite tier player that Pittsburgh can happily select without thinking much about it. Perhaps by July that thought is different.
Steve B. (USA): Have you heard any projections or comps for Marcelo Mayer’s offensive upside? Are we looking at a glove first SS who can hit enough or is there more to dream on?
Carlos Collazo: He’s not a glove-first shortstop by any means. In fact, some scouts have even wondered if he eventually moves off the position to SS. But he was the player scouts voted as “best defensive infielder” in our preseason poll of scouting departments, so I don’t think that is a consensus opinion. I still think he can be a really good SS. The comp that seems to be flying around a lot for Mayer at this point is Corey Seager, in the sense that both are bigger shortstops (Seager was more physical than Mayer now, but Mayer has some room to add a lot of strength to his frame) who aren’t great runners but handle the position well with fluidity, reliable hands, a good throwing arm and instincts. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to develop into a plus hitter with above-average power. That’s why he’s in that top four group of players and on the cusp of the “big three trio of Rocker/Leiter/Lawlar” or even already in that group for some teams. He’s a very good offensive prospect.
John (Boston): As a Red Sox fan I can’t help but feel disappointed that we pick 4th in what seems like a Top 3-person draft. I know we still have a long way to go but am I right or wrong for feeling this way?
Carlos Collazo: I would not get too disappointed. You might be right in the sweet spot for this year’s class. I was talking with JJ and Ben the other day and it seems like either No. 3 or No. 4 is going to be a great spot to be. As I mentioned in the last comment, Mayer is either right on the cusp of that elite trio in the class or already in it. Don’t be too surprised if in July we are talking about the four top guys and then the next tier. If that’s the case I would have to imagine Boston and Boston fans would be pretty happy.
Scott (DfE): Who sees the big leagues first? Rocker or Leiter? Earliest possible ETA?
Carlos Collazo: This is an impossible question to answer given how much MLB team situation matters in these promotions, typically. They both seem pretty close to big league ready now if a team wanted them to be. It’s hard for me to not think Rocker could go into a big-league pen and get outs now after seeing what Garrett Crochet just did. And perhaps no one in the entire class is more prepared for what big league life is like than Leiter. Both could be fast-movers if their clubs wanted in my opinion, but there’s little to no incentive for the teams who are picking at the top of the draft to move their blue chippers that fast—at least with the current CBA.
Snapper Bean (Greater Kensington): Seems like the pre-season top ranked college hitters have disappointed out of the gates. Agree?
Carlos Collazo: Generally, yes. That seems to be the case. Outside of Sal Frelick and Henry Davis (who both moved from the 10-20 range into the top 10) scouts seem to be looking around and wondering where the college bats are. Jud Fabian, Matt McLain and Colton Cowser have all dropped a modest amount in this update, while players like Alex Binelas, Ethan Wilson, Cody Morissette have taken a bit more of a tumble. North Carolina State’s Luca Tresh has been a bit of a saving grace in this regard (while admittedly we could have been light on him on the preseason list) but generally the college bats continue to be seen as the weakness of this draft class.
Mr. Dipoto (Seattle): Henry Davis to Mariners still realistic? He has played himself up the board.
Carlos Collazo: He has, but I think the second tier of players once you get out passed Marcelo Mayer is quite a bit bigger, so teams could have the Del Castillo-Andrew Painter range of players lined up quite a bit differently depending on the club. For instance, I’ve talked with some people who think James Wood is a top five-talent or close to it, while others have him more in the middle of the first-round range. The same could also be said for a guy like Gunnar Hoglund, though perhaps his floor is a bit higher given his performance early this season. At this point almost all of our feedback was to get Henry Davis solidly into the top 10 range so I would say unlikely he gets to Seattle, but again there is plenty of time still remaining and teams are shuffling their orders of the class almost daily. Tough to really lock anything in at this point in this year’s class.
Jim (Georgia): Historically high school catchers have been very difficult to project and high draft picks have struggled at a higher rate than other positions. You have two rated in the top 25, Harry Ford and Joe Mack. Thoughts on likelihood either is actually drafted in the first round?
Carlos Collazo: You are right that the HS catching demographic is a really tough one, and historically the one with the biggest hit rates. I think where that might not apply, are guys who were drafted as high school catchers but moved off the position shortly into their pro careers. So, essentially, if you think a high school catcher has a first round caliber bat, take him and move him off the position if you have to. Guys like Tyler Soderstrom and Noah Naylor seem to fit this mold of player in recent years, and I think Joe Mack might be thought of in a similar manner. Ford is a different animal entirely and perhaps the most unique catching prospect I have covered in my time (though Anthony Seigler being a switch-pitching, switch-hitting catcher would be close) at BA, and a player who might be able to play a number of other positions. If you’re just drafting a high school catcher on his defense, that might be a bit more risky. I think both Ford and Mack do enough other things well that it would not be surprising or crazy for them to be drafted in the first.
Ray (NJ): Which are the top northeast HS arms are you most looking forward to seeing?
Carlos Collazo: Does 2023 lefthander Thomas White count? He’s pretty insane. But for this year’s class there are a ton. Chase Petty has arguably the best fastball in the class, so he’s up there. Anthony Solometo, Michael Morales, and Peter Heubeck if I am allowed to count Maryland here. Jackson Linn for a guy further down the board who is massively tooled up but… can he actually pitch? Who knows?
Edwin Weatherly (Florence, South Carolina): Is there much of a lag on the list? What I mean is was the list done on games through a week ago or 2 weeks ago? Or is there very little lag at all?
Carlos Collazo: This is a really good question. There’s always going to be some sort of lag on our lists because they are driven by industry feedback instead of my personal opinion on players. I will say that while we talk to scouts throughout the season, we also send around a prelim list to people in the industry and try to give about a week to collect as much up/down feedback as possible. That is the process generally. But I do tweak it up until the day before it’s published, to try and make sure we aren’t missing anything that we currently have on a guy.
Tyler (Maryland): Do you see your top five going in that exact order for the upcoming draft?
Carlos Collazo: I would be a poor gambler if I said yes to this question. Baltimore picking in the top five means I’ll likely never feel confident in the top five order.
Chris (Massachusetts): Who is the Matt Allan in this draft ?? A prep player that drops due to signability but is drafted and signs ??
Carlos Collazo: That could be any of the guys in the first-round range. All three of our top high school arms are committed to SEC or ACC programs—including Bubba Chandler who has the Clemson QB thing going on—so they have real leverage to use. Just depends on how the draft unfolds. Though none of the Jobe/Chandler/Painter trio have a similar Matt Allan profile in my mind, if you are curious at all about the baseball side of the equation.
Paul (San Francisco): Matt McLain has dropped on the board, and it looks like position (is he a SS) and power are the two biggest strikes against him. The rough Freshman year, good 3 weeks last year, and now more time to evaluate him has probably raised questions Is he still projected as a Major League regular (55) or a Will Wilson of the Giants type of prospect?
Carlos Collazo: Yeah I think you have a good feel for this one. Those are the biggest questions. No one seems to think he’s anything other than a really good hitter, but 1) is he a shortstop and 2) how much power is he going to get to? The 2020 sample was a 13-game stint where he put up a .621 SLG but that seems like more of an outlier to the rest of his college profile. And he doesn’t have the sort of physical tools like Garrett Mitchell did, where you could hope that a swing change or a shift in approach unlocks more in-game power at the next level. Teams seem to be struggling to figure him out so far, so he’ll need to show them what sort of player he is the rest of the way.
Greg Z (Corvallis, OR): Hi Carlos, Thanks for the chat. Jud Fabian is sporting about a 30% K%. Is there still a realistic scenario he falls out of the top 15 come July? Or does his history succeeding against older competition, hitting with wood bats in summer leagues, and ability to stay up the middle keep him in the top half of the first round?
Carlos Collazo: Another good question. He’s sliding according to pretty much every team we have talked to because of those swing-and-miss concerns. His strikeout rate through 20 games this season is 30.5% and he entered the year with concerns about his whiff rate. That is a valid concern for clubs. He has a lot of things going for him though, and some time to right the ship especially against the best conference in college baseball. He is the youngest college hitter in the class (among players we have ranked at the moment), he is a terrific defender in center field and he has impressive power that shows up both to the pull-side and the opposite field in-game. I think especially given this year’s college hitting class, at some point that upside will become too much for teams to pass on, and it just takes one team to stop his fall, but we’ll see.
Al (Michigan): Awesome work as always Carlos. Who are you hearing the tigers are connected to or have interest at 3? Any names for them at 32 and 39? I feel like go a college arm at 32 and a falling prep at 39. Thank you as always!!
Carlos Collazo: Thank you for your question, Al, if that even is your real name. It seems like you may have accidentally submitted this question roughly seven times, in similar verbiage, from about seven different locations. That’s OK though, I’ll assume you just really want me to answer your question! The best answer I can give you is that all of the teams I’ve spoken with at the top of the draft at this point are acknowledging how fluid everything is. The Tigers are on all of the players at the top of the class, like most teams who are picking up that high. It’s too early in the process for them not to be. Those two demographics you mention with their later picks seem like perfectly viable options.
Justin (Tucson, AZ): What future grade are scouts currently putting on Adrian Del Castillo’s bat and game power? Would teams still change his position to emphasis the bat, like what happened to Bryce Harper, or is it just league average to a point where they’ll keep him behind the plate?
Carlos Collazo: I think he has a chance to be a better than league average hitter without putting him into the Bryce Harper echelon of superstar upside. I think 60 hit tool and 55 power could be fair grades for him at this point, though we will have our official tools grades for the top players closer to draft time. That’s something like a .280-.294 hitter with 26-30 homers per season over a multi-year peak—something like that. So I think regardless of the team he could be a bat that plays just fine at another position. Depending on the team he’s drafted at I think it would be worth letting him try and figure it out and work at it. If the Orioles thought he was the best player available when they picked, though, it would make all the sense in the world to me if they moved him off the position and let him get as many reps as possible somewhere else to eventually get them both in the same lineup. So the short answer is, it depends on the team, but I think ideally he should be given a shot to catch at the next level. If he can the profile just becomes so valuable.
Roger (Greenville, SC): Maybe it’s too early because of the volatility, but in terms of tiers can you quantify how much deeper this draft is because of the 5 round draft last year?
Carlos Collazo: Hmm… I am not sure how to best quantify this with specific tiers just yet. But I will say that there are significantly more 4-7 round talents than any draft I have covered before at BA. I think that makes sense, right? Most of those guys who were considered in last year’s five round draft but passed on are back and joining another crop of talented players they will have to compete with for those spots in the draft. We had scouting departments grade the depth of the class prior to the season and the average grade of 13 respondents was 59, essentially plus. But two teams graded it at 70 and one put an 80 on it. I would side more closely with the latter teams on this one. There are a ton of good players. This is partially why I think every team is going to love the guys who they wind up signing in the 3-10 round range. More players + less scouting time over the summer + less industry consensus on the class = more teams getting players at the top of their specific boards on day two.
James Vernon (Durham NC): Why isn’t Austin Vernon in the top 300 potential draft picks?
Carlos Collazo: This answer probably ties into the last one. We had Vernon ranked as the No. 285 player in the class a year ago, which would put him squarely in this big cluster of players where there’s just not that much separation in terms of talent. If you wanted to argue that Vernon is a top 300 talent, I would not fight you on it. And he certainly seems to be the sort of guy who’s going to be on a BA 500 when we get to that point. But he’s in the mix with many more players in that same range this year. I do like Vernon’s fastball and it sounds like he’s getting a lot of whiffs with the slider as well. He’s striking out a ton of batters (47 in 23.2 innings) but also walking a decent clip (16).
Brian (Somewhere in GA): Going to see IMG play on Saturday at Lakepoint. Obviously there are the big 3 guys (Woods, Greene, Albright) on the team, who else should I look for?
Carlos Collazo: That entire team is loaded with good players. Brady Neal seems like a real deal catcher in the 2022 class (we have him ranked No. 16 currently), Tommy White has real power and is fun to watch take massive hacks; Drew Gray and Drake Varnado are both other names to keep an eye.
Chris Griffin (Quahog): Which player in your top 25 would surprise you he ends up as the best player in the draft?
Carlos Collazo: Jordan Wicks seems like the type of player who doesn’t have the upside that many of the others do. I don’t mean this as a knock on him. He has one of the safer profiles of any player in the class and making it as a big leaguer is the entire point. I could easily see him having a very solid, lengthy career but not being as impactful as someone else from this class. I think that is what you were asking for? Hope that’s a good answer.
Andy (Pepco): Carlos, thanks for the Draft chat. Do you have a sleeper name or two currently ranked in the 100-300 range that could make a big move into the top 50 by the time the Draft rolls around? Thanks.
Carlos Collazo: Parker Chavers (122) actually might be an interesting one. He has a really good blend of tools and is out of the gates with Coastal Carolina at a pretty good clip (.346/.454/.551 with two HRs, 7 SBs and as many walks as strikeouts). If he was injured last year he almost certainly would have gone in the top five round range. The more I’m thinking about this one the more I like it actually. I think some teams like Green Hope High SS Payton Green (129) in that range already, but he’s been a polarizing player so far, as we mentioned in his report.
JD (CT): Is it starting to feel like college starter might be the best/most realistic option for Mets at 10? Hill, Madden, Hoglund etc.
Carlos Collazo: Yeah, there could certainly be a lot of college pitching options for the Mets there with that pick. All of those guys and maybe one of the second-tier HS shortstops (Brady House, Kahlil Watson) or their pick of the high school pitching class maybe? Just spitballing in March, though.
Travis (California): The switch to objective statistics has completely changed how we evaluate professionals in the past 20 years. However, this approach hasn’t been as impactful in amateur ball due to a number of reasons. What has been the successes, in terms of quantitative analysis, for amateur players? What have been the areas where you think we (as quantitative analysts) can do better?
Carlos Collazo: I would probably need to talk with you more specifically to better understand what you are referring to and asking about. This seems fairly vague from my end, though it’s possible the draft chat has turned my brain to mush over the last two hours or so. I think generally, statistics are less useful for players who are still growing and developing than for big leaguers or professionals who more generally, “are what they are.”
Mark (Michigan): Best arms in the state of michigan?
Carlos Collazo: Steven Hajjar, Cam Weston, Mason Erla is how we have it right now.
Edwin Weatherly (Florence, South Carolina): Some of the guys who dropped are now hitting (Wilson & Morissette are examples). Could we see them rise on the next draft update?
Carlos Collazo: I would definitely expect plenty of movement the rest of the way. If guys perform and play well they are generally going to move up, and vice versa. Still a lot of games to play!
DH (PA): How many of the last 15 or so drafts has it been really beneficial to have had the #1 pick? I don’t mean judging years later. I mean when the #1 was seen as better than any other pick. Strasburg and Harper and ….
Carlos Collazo: I mean, one benefit of having the No. 1 pick is simply being able to choose ANY player you want in a given draft class. If you have a good scouting process and trust your evaluators and player development folks, picking first is better than not. We shouldn’t really complicate it too much. But more to your point, in each of the last three years, the top players (Mize, Rutschman, Torkelson) were generally seen as the clear No. 1 guys at the time of the draft. Perhaps by the time July comes this year someone will have established themselves there, but for now that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Tanner (New York): I recently read an article that advocated for the Mets to use a draft strategy where they would bring in as many top prospects as possible by wildly exceeding their bonus pool and excepting the penalties. If a team did decide to do this, how much talent could they realistically acquire and would it be worth the penalties?
Carlos Collazo: I have no idea but I would love to see them (or any team) do this.
Carlos Collazo: OK everyone, that is going to wrap it up for today’s chat. We’ve been going for about two hours or so. There were a lot I wasn’t able to get to and for that I apologize, but thank you all so much for submitting questions, for reading and supporting Baseball America as subscribers. You guys allow us to do everything we do, every day. So thank you. One final plug: check out my new podcast with Ben Badler, Future Projection. You can listen to it wherever you listen to your normal podcasts. All sorts of amateur prospect talk, draft talk, scouting talk, etc. Have a good day everyone!