Who Will Be The Highest-Drafted Position Player In The 2021 MLB Draft? (Mailbag)
We're back with our weekly draft mailbag. If you have questions about the draft or about specific players throughout draft season, feel free to send them to me on Twitter (@CarlosACollazo).
This week we also took questions from the Baseball America Instagram account, so be sure to follow us there as well.
(From Instagram) Joraangel: Who will be the highest drafted position player?
A few weeks into the season I think the favorites for this are still the top three position players we have ranked in the top five of the class. That’s Dallas Jesuit High shortstop Jordan Lawlar, Miami catcher Adrian Del Castillo and Eastlake High (Chula Vista, Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer.
The two prep shortstops probably won’t be able to do much to move themselves on the board this spring, barring a total collapse against their high school competition or freak injury. The college hitters will have more ability to move themselves up or down based on their performance this spring.
For now I would say Lawlar should be the favorite because he’s got one of the better packages of all-around tools in the high school class, arguably the best pure hitting ability of the group and he projects to stick at shortstop and play good defense there.
Those are a lot of impressive traits in one package.
(From Instagram) Logan_Field__: Are Kyle Manzardo, Justice Thompson and Will Clarke top 3 round talents now? 1st round?
I’ll touch on the latter two as I’ve had more conversations with scouts about Thompson and Clarke in recent days.
I think it’s safe to say that many national evaluators like Thompson in the top-three round range after seeing him perform against Virginia Tech last weekend. However, there are area scouts with more history who saw him swing and miss a lot last fall who perhaps are a bit more hesitant to jump him up into that range just yet.
There’s a thirst for college hitters in the industry, given the relative weakness of the demographic in this year’s class and Thompson has the supplemental tools and center field profile that should give him a reasonable floor in the draft. His bat will determine just how high he goes but with plus or better speed, plus defense and some raw power in the tank he could go somewhat high if he shows over the full season that he has improved his offensive approach and cut down the swing and miss.
As for Clarke, he’s going to face questions about his defensive profile. What position does he play at the next level? He’s mostly been a designated hitter for South Carolina this season and the scouts I have talked with believe he is a first base/DH only type in pro ball. That puts a lot of pressure on the bat.
I think teams will be fairly split on Clarke because of this, with analytical teams who put a lot of weight on his exit velocity numbers (which are quite good) and walk rates pushing him higher than other clubs who are more wary of the defensive profile. It will be important for him to keep hitting and hitting for power during SEC play. Right now I would guess that most teams have him in the top-five round range, with a few who could be higher than that, but we'll get more clarity as the season progresses for both Clarke and Thompson.
(From Instagram) Jmaierob: Any catching prospects truly first-round worthy? Or would any picked just a reach-based need?
There are quite a few first-round worthy catchers in the 2021 class. We’ve had solid catching groups in the past few years in my opinion, with four catchers ranked among the top 30 in the 2020 class (Patrick Bailey, Tyler Soderstrom, Austin Wells, Dillon Dingler) and a top-heavy 2019 group that was led by Adley Rutschman and Shea Langeliers.
There’s no Rutschman in this year’s class and I don’t think we’ll see another player like him anytime soon, but the 2021 catching class is good with a chance to look even better in July with continued performance from some of the college guys.
Miami’s Adrian Del Castillo is currently our top-ranked college bat and he’s an offensive-first catcher, but has a chance to stick at the position. Louisville’s Henry Davis has long had a 70-grade arm behind the plate and has really looked good with the bat. Williamsville East High (East Amherst, N.Y.) catcher Joe Mack seems to have the offensive and physical tools that allow a prep catcher to go in the first round despite the track record of prep catchers (like Bo Naylor and Tyler Soderstrom), while North Cobb High (Kennesaw, Ga.) catcher Harry Ford is the most freakishly athletic prep catcher I’ve covered in my time with BA.
We polled scouting directors to name our preseason college and high school All-American teams and also asked about the best tools in both classes. You can see the full list of high school best tools here.
Both Baez and House would have solid arguments if you were looking for the player with the best raw power (you could put a future 70-grade on that tool for them) but if you wanted the player with the most accessible power now, then you might go with Wood, who showed good ability to hit for power in-game last summer and has continued that this spring.
It sounds like Jay Allen is really doing well for himself so far this spring.
Allen is one of the many, uber-athletic multi-sport athletes in this 2021 prep class and I recently talked with scouts who were impressed with how he’s driven the ball to both sides of the field this spring.
He’ll be an interesting player to track in the draft out of Carroll Catholic High (Fort Pierce, Fla.). Allen is a talented quarterback prospect in his own right who had college offers to play football. Because he’s spent time with both sports, he’s not as refined as many Florida preps who play baseball almost year round, but scouts are excited about the upside and projection he offers when he does focus exclusively on baseball.
His bat-to-ball skills are quite good and he sounds like an up-arrow guy so far this spring.