Written by: Ray Butler
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You are currently viewing the first MLB Mock Draft I’ve ever published.
June 10th will be here before you know it, and team-related information regarding particular prospects is becoming more clear and publicized by the day. As data continues to trickle out, it feels like an opportune time to release my only mock draft before turning the reins back over to our Mason McRae and Ian Smith, who have already published their first mock drafts of 2020 (here and here, respectively) with much more on the way prior to draft day.
The write-ups for each pick within this mock are intentionally brief and focus primarily on a team overview rather than specifics on the selected prospect. Thankfully, I recently released the first edition of my 2021 First Year Player Draft list, which dives into full reports for 80 high school, college and J2 amateurs. If you want the intricate details of the prospect your favorite team selected in this mock, simply check out that list (there’s also a link attached to each prospect’s ranking at the end of their write-up). I also recently discussed several draft scenarios on a recent episode of the Prospects 365 Fantasy Baseball Podcast, so make sure you check that out as well.
Lastly, the ‘Others to watch’ at the end of each pick is simply a compilation of other names I’ve heard associated with an organization in the first round. This mock draft itself won’t be flawless, but I am hopeful to post a decent success rate between the actual picks and the ‘Others to watch’ inclusions.
Without further ado. My first-ever try at an MLB Mock Draft….
Keep it simple, stupid. The Tigers desperately need an infusion of pure offense into their organization, and Torkelson embodies that as a player at the top of this draft class. You might have heard some whispers of an Asa Lacy underslot at this pick, but I assume those are simply rumors that won’t hold any credence on June 10th. In this scenario, Torkelson will join Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Riley Greene, Tarik Skubal and Isaac Paredes within the wave of talent that should help the Tigers emerge from the depths of the AL Central. Some within the industry have speculated the 20-year-old could see time at left field or even third base professionally, but why risk stunting the offensive development of a 1.1 prospect you’re hoping becomes a cornerstone for your organization? I hope the Tigers simply let Torkelson cook from first base. Current FYPD Rank: 1st, Others to watch: Asa Lacy, Austin Martin
This pick appears fairly elementary for the Orioles, but—as big believers in pitch analytics—I wouldn’t be shocked if they’re legitimately contemplating Asa Lacy and his vertical movement wizardry. In the end, Baltimore should opt with Martin and his well-rounded, highly-regarded skillset; regardless of the 21-year-old’s eventual defensive home (not everyone is sold on his ability to play shortstop or center field), he should ascend the minors fairly quickly, possibly becoming ready to impact the Orioles’ big league lineup around the same time as DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. Nick Swiney is a name to watch once the Orioles go back on the clock at 30th overall during the Comp A round. Current FYPD Rank: 2nd, Others to watch: Asa Lacy, Nick Gonzales
There appears to be some legitimate smoke the Marlins are considering Garrett Crochet in an underslot here, but I just can’t see a scenario in which dropping from Lacy (who possesses a long, well-documented track record of success) to Crochet (who pitched all of 3.1 innings in 2020) at 3rd overall is worth gaining the capability of an overslot later in the draft. From a stuff standpoint, Lacy will immediately join Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera in what could (should?) become a formidable trio at the big league level within the next few seasons. Current FYPD Rank: 5th, Others to watch: Garrett Crochet, Austin Martin
Just about everyone in the industry agrees the Royals hold a lot of cards in their hand as it relates to how the top-10 unfolds. I said it recently in an episode of the P365 FBP, but Hancock and his high-floor and middle-of-the-rotation type stuff will fit extremely well in an organization that also boasts the likes of Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic within its farm system. There’s an outside chance Hancock’s mediocre start to the 2020 season—including a lack of gaudy swing-and-miss output amongst opposing hitters—will leave him a bit lower on draft models than is perceived publicly, but the Royals choose to prioritize the right-hander’s holistic body of work as they lock him in at 4th overall. Current FYPD Rank: 6th, Others to watch: Zac Veen, Nick Gonzales
There’s been quite a bit of noise that Veen isn’t as highly-regarded amongst organizations as he is throughout the draft industry, but most are adamant he’ll be the first prep player off the board nonetheless. This selection is simply reactive after the Blue Jays were sniped on a player they’ve been closely connected to leading up to next month’s draft, but grabbing a prospect with Veen’s talent is a nice consolation prize. If everything goes according to plan here, the teenager will be ready to debut at the big league level just as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Nate Pearson are entering their respective primes. There’s also a chance Toronto is able to slightly underslot the high schooler at 5th overall, which would set the stage for an aggressive pick or two in later rounds. Current FYPD Rank: 4th, Others to watch: Emerson Hancock, Max Meyer, Nick Gonzales
Jerry Dipoto has gone on the record saying the Mariners are targeting up-the-middle help with the 6th-overall pick next month. General managers misconstrue the truth all the time, but I’d assume the organization would be more than happy to select the best second baseman in the class if Gonzales is still available here. The 21-year-old should be a fast mover, and he’d immediately join an immensely-talented farm system that includes Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic, Evan White, Logan Gilbert, Noelvi Marte, George Kirby and Justin Dunn. Seattle should be one of the league’s most fun teams by 2023. Current FYPD Rank: 3rd, Others to watch: Max Meyer, Zac Veen
This is a sentimental selection, as GM Ben Cherrington and the new Pirates front office extend a proverbial olive branch to disgruntled fans by selecting a Pennsylvania prep player with Pittsburgh’s first round pick. A bit old for his demographic as he turns 19 on June 15th, Hendrick is a likely underslot candidate, which would allow the Pirates to continue building a young core with aggressive picks later in the draft (including 31st overall in the Comp A round). Current FYPD Rank: 21st, Others to watch: Heston Kjerstad, Max Meyer
I believe our Mason McRae was the first to slot Hassell to San Diego, and I’m going to stick with that prediction here. If general manager A.J. Preller and amateur scouting director Mark Conner opt to prioritize ETA instead of Best Player Available as the Padres’ contention window begins to open, Max Meyer and underslot candidate Dillon Dingler are two names to monitor closely. However, it currently appears San Diego is locked-on to Hassell, who should provide a solid floor with sneaky upside that should pair well with 2019 first round pick CJ Abrams’ explosive skillset. Current FYPD Rank: 14th. Others to watch: Max Meyer, Dillon Dingler, Zac Veen
Kjerstad (pronounced KERR-stad) leverages a fast start to the shortened 2020 season into a top-10 overall selection. The good news connected to Kjerstad being drafted by the Rockies is 40 home run upside while playing home games in the friendly confines of Coors Field. The bad news—half jokingly—is that the outfielder’s ETA would be approximately two years later than it would be with any other organization. Kjerstad limiting his strikeout rate (which directly correlates with improving his contact rate) and simply remaining healthy might be the only things that could hinder the 21-year-old from becoming an every day big leaguer. Current FYPD Rank: 25th, Others to watch: Austin Hendrick, Robert Hassell III, Max Meyer, Reid Detmers
The Angels haven’t selected a pitcher in the first round since 2014, but Max Meyer is a fantastic reason to stray from an organizational track record. The 21-year-old has the highest ceiling amongst all right-handed college pitchers in this class, and even a 30th-40th percentile outcome means he would be a reliable big league reliever. There will be a lot of nonsensical talk in the coming weeks that ‘several’ 2020 first round picks could make their big league debuts this summer during a unique MLB season. While most of those rumors will be invalid, I could see Meyer and his fastball/slider combination playing a role in the Angels’ bullpen at some point in 2020 if Billy Eppler chooses to be aggressive. Current FYPD Rank: 8th, Others to watch: Robert Hassell III, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Patrick Bailey, Tyler Soderstrom
The White Sox have been tied to several players leading up the next month’s draft. The organization hasn’t selected a high school player in the first round since 2012, but that impressive streak could be in jeopardy as new amateur scouting director Mike Shirley looks to officially announce his presence (they’ve been heavily tied to Jared Kelley and Ed Howard, amongst others). Here, Chicago goes the high-floor + track record route with Detmers, who will make a quicker impact on a big league roster that appears ready to contend for the next decade. Current FYPD Rank: 18th, Others to watch: Jared Kelley, Ed Howard, Patrick Bailey
Take a second and visualize Cade Cavalli forming a dynamite 1/2 duo with Nick Lodolo as both prospects develop under the tutelage of Kyle Boddy and other Driveline employees. The right-hander’s fastball possesses premium velocity and above average vertical movement created by an over-the-top arm slot. The secondary offerings, projectable frame and injury history are much more ball of clay-ish, which make Cincinnati the perfect destination. Cavalli becoming optimized from a mechanical and arsenal standpoint would be a scary thought for all NL Central hitters. Current FYPD Rank: 24th, Others to watch: Tyler Soderstrom, Heston Kjerstad, Mick Abel
The ole ‘you don’t draft for need in the MLB Draft’ maxim was tough here as the Giants desperately need young pitching talent in their farm system. And while I think Garrett Crochet will be a legitimate factor when the Giants go on the clock, Soderstrom—a California native whose dad was a first round pick by San Francisco in 1993—also makes a ton of sense. Don’t worry about the ‘C’ next to the teenager’s name here or on the MLB Network draft ticker on June 10th; it’s likely Soderstrom eventually moves to third base or right field to maximize his offensive development. Current FYPD Rank: 30th, Others to watch: Garrett Crochet, Jared Kelley, Ed Howard
Dingler has been tied to several teams lately, including the Padres, Phillies, Indians, Rays and Yankees. Here, the backstop sneaks into the backend of the top-15 after making big strides at the plate during the shortened collegiate season. The 21-year-old possesses solid offensive skills, is a superb athlete (he played infield as a prep and center field during his freshman season at Ohio State) and has a strong throwing arm; he’ll be anointed as an organization’s future, every day catcher the moment he’s drafted. Dingler’s upside narrowly makes him the first catcher selected behind Patrick Bailey and his high-floor profile. If the Rangers play their cards right, this will be an underslot that sets the stage for the remainder of their draft. Current FYPD Rank: 28th, Others to watch: Jared Kelley, Patrick Bailey, Heston Kjerstad
Bailey completes our catcher run quite poetically, as the Phillies select their ‘heir apparent’ to J.T. Realmuto’s throne as he enters free agency during the 2020-2021 offseason. The 21-year-old has a fantastic statistical track record and is a sure bet to remain behind the plate professionally, making him a ‘safe’ bet in a scary draft demographic. In five years, there’s a decent chance the only switch-hitting catchers at the MLB level will be Bailey and some guy named Adley Rutschman. Current FYPD Rank: 59th, Others to watch: Pete Crow-Armstrong, Heston Kjerstad, Dillon Dingler, Garrett Mitchell, Nick Bitsko
All things considered, this is a fantastic pick for the Cubs. College pitcher is the heavy assumption here, and—in my eyes—Crochet being available here is the difference in drafting the 11th-ranked prospect on my recently-released FYPD list and the 27th-ranked (or worse) prospect. The southpaw has massive potential, but his lack of 2020 sample (3.1 IP in a single start) is sure to make organizations reluctant. It hasn’t been publicized much, but the Cubs have done a good employing analytics and pitch data to develop their minor league pitchers; this will certainly help as Crochet looks to add a viable third pitch as a professional. The hypothetical duo of Crochet and Brailyn Marquez in the Windy City is a frightening thought for opposing hitters; the former could be a bullpen option of Chicago later this summer. Current FYPD Rank: 11th, Others to watch: Tanner Burns, Cole Wilcox
One of the surest bets in the first round: the Red Sox are going to make a splash. General manager Chaim Bloom and amateur director Paul Toboni have no second round pick, and prioritizing a farm system re-stock opens the door to absorbing some risk at opportune times. Here, that means drafting one of the most athletic, explosive prospects from one of the most volatile draft demographics. We’re about to see a gigantic uptick in the Red Sox utilizing technology in player development, and Abel will immediately become a poster child as Boston ushers in a new era. Current FYPD Rank: 9th, Others to watch: Nick Bitsko
The Diamondbacks and amateur scouting director Deric Ladnier have had a lot of success selecting well-rounded outfielders early in recent drafts (Alek Thomas, Corbin Carroll), and Crow-Armstrong certainly fits that mold with a defensive ceiling that includes Gold Glove awards in center field. Logistically, the Diamondbacks drafting PCA over Ed Howard (a player Arizona has been highly connected to) would officially mean the latter is in free fall. No inside information here, but Jared Jones would be a dynamite Brennan Malone replacement during the Comp A round. Current FYPD Rank: 15th, Others to watch: Ed Howard, Nick Bitsko
With this pick, it makes all the sense in the world for the Mets to target a ‘Jarred Kelenic replacement’ in Pete Crow-Armstrong. Here, they have to ‘settle’ for one of the best college pitchers in this class after PCA is selected at 18th overall. With Noah Syndergaard likely signing elsewhere following the 2021 season and Simeon Woods-Richardson now a top pitching prospect for another organization, Wilcox can play a large role in healing those wounds in the near future. The right-hander was fantastic during the shortened 2020 collegiate season, showcasing a polished arsenal with three pitches that flashed above average or better. Current FYPD Rank: 27th, Others to watch: Pete Crow-Armstrong, Carmen Mlodzinski, Tanner Burns
There has been an extreme lack of noise from the Brewers regarding their plan of attack with the 20th overall pick. After selecting a pitcher in the first and second rounds last summer, Milwaukee dips back into that well with this pick and grabs a pitcher who’s highly perceived to be one of the best preps in this class. Kelley and his Bugs Bunny changeup have been connected to teams as high as the tail-end of the top-10, so the Brewers would consider this a high-value selection if the right-hander remains on the board at pick 20. While Milwaukee doesn’t historically target prospects with Kelley’s pitch data, this would be a fantastic landing spot for a pitcher who desperately needs to develop a viable breaking ball to reach his ceiling. Current FYPD Rank: 31st, Others to watch: Tyler Soderstrom, Garrett Mitchell, Ed Howard
If you believe in track records, the Cardinals—under the helm of Randy Flores—will almost certainly take a player who drops to 21st overall on June 10th. Here, they grab the ultimate dropper in Garrett Mitchell, a player who was widely mocked inside of the top-10 less than a month ago. I discussed Mitchell’s mechanical issues here, but at minimum, the Cardinals are selecting a sure-fire center fielder with elite speed and an adequate hit tool while sticking to their track record. Mitchell unlocking the extent of his power means Baseball Twitter will someday wonder how 20 teams passed on him in the first round. Current FYPD Rank: 7th, Others to watch: Ed Howard, Jared Kelley, Casey Martin
Since 2011, the Nationals have selected a pitcher with six of their eight first round picks. It’s widely assumed they’re targeting one of the many talented college pitchers at 22nd overall; instead, they grab the arm that’s widely assumed to be the most advanced within this prep class. There’s a chance the Nationals have to go overslot to ensure Bitsko abandons his pledge to the University of Virginia, but amateur director Eddie Longosz and company wouldn’t make this pick if there wasn’t an outstanding chance to cross the finish line. The right-hander would immediately join Jackson Rutledge as one of the more intriguing pitcher duos in the minor leagues. Current FYPD Rank: 23rd, Others to watch: Cole Wilcox, Tanner Burns, Dillon Dingler
The Indians haven’t drafted a college player in the first round since 2014, but the immense depth and quality of the college pitcher subgroup within this class leads to a bit of a surprise pick here. I don’t have to tell you about Cleveland’s ability to develop pitchers, and Burns has the fastball command, arsenal depth and track record to really make this a notable pick in the first round moving forward. This pick would also be a gigantic middle finger to those who simply Googled Burns’ size (6-foot, 205 pounds) and questioned his ability to start long-term without actually watching him pitch. Also, don’t be surprised if the Indians go out in a Blaze of glory at 36th overall in the Comp A round. Current FYPD Rank: 53rd, Others to watch: Dillon Dingler, Nick Bitsko
I would love to see what the Rays could do with one of the college pitchers at pick 24, but it’s impossible to deny how well Loftin fits Tampa Bay’s ‘balanced and versatile’ modus operandi. While shortstop is the 21-year-old’s current defensive home, he actually began his collegiate career at Baylor in the outfield; re-acclimating to the grass is at least a possibility as a professional. Loftin is highly-regarded as a glove-first prospect, but a max exit velocity of 106.8 mph during the shortened college season—following an offseason swing change—means his suitor might help him unlock a surprising amount of pop in the near future. Bobby Miller falling to 37th overall (the Rays’ pick in the Comp A round) would be arousing. Current FYPD Rank: 72nd, Others to watch: Bobby Miller, Dillon Dingler, Casey Martin
While my recently-released First Year Player Draft list would argue there are better options within the ‘college pitcher’ demographic remaining on the board, Mlodzinksi’s success in the Cape Cod League last summer and early this season at South Carolina make it probable he’s selected towards the end of the first round. The right-hander doesn’t possess ace upside, but his sinker/cutter/slider combination and pitchability should make him a quick mover throughout the Braves’ minor league system. Both Cole Wilcox (a Georgia native and current Georgia Bulldog) and Tanner Burns make a lot of sense if either are still available at this pick. Current FYPD Rank: 62nd, Others to watch: Cole Wilcox, Nick Bitsko, Tanner Burns
Howard is reportedly in-play as high as 12th overall (White Sox) in the first round, but some shoulder concerns in an already-volatile draft for high schoolers means he falls all the way into the Athletics’ laps here. This shocker needs two things to occur to become possible: 1) the other teams Howard has been connected to (namely the Brewers and Cardinals) also take advantage of fallers (Jared Kelley and Garrett Mitchell in this mock), and 2) the shortstop simply slips between the cracks amongst teams targeting college pitchers in the first round. Current FYPD Rank: 16th, Others to watch: Nick Loftin, Alika Williams, Chris McMahon, Freddy Zamora
If this pick comes to fruition, Westburg would be the fifth shortstop the Twins have selected in the first round in the past decade. The 21-year-old is a natural fit in the Bomba Squad Minnesota has created (though he’ll need to elevate the ball more frequently to fully unlock his power), but the real challenge will be developing Westburg’s approach and contact skills. I’m higher on Westburg defensively at shortstop than the industry consensus, so I’m interested to see how much leeway the Twins will give him at the position. Current FYPD Rank: 33rd, Others to watch: Alika Williams, Freddy Zamora, Carmen Mlodzinski, Casey Martin
This pick makes sense for multiple reasons. One, the Yankees have already proven they’re willing to absorb some defensive inequities behind the plate if their catcher provides surplus offensive value. Secondly, it’s likely Major League Baseball will implement an electronic strike zone before Wells is ready to debut at the big league level. It’s still likely the 20-year-old moves to either first base or left field eventually, but his left-handed bat (which should lean a bit on the Three True Outcomes) projects quite nicely to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. Current FYPD Rank: 32nd, Others to watch: Justin Foscue
In the first edition of my 2021 First Year Player Draft list, I called Foscue “the Kody Hoese of this draft class”. Others within the industry have recently compared him to Michael Busch. With this pick, the Dodgers continue their trend of selecting college infielders in the first round that began last season (though Michael Busch was drafted in the Comp A round). While Foscue’s skillset is more well-rounded than explosive, he’s versatile defensively and should progress quickly throughout the minor leagues. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Dodgers helped Foscue utilize a similar approach as recently-traded Jeter Downs, maximizing his power output by prioritizing elevating the ball to his pull-side. Current FYPD Rank: 48th, Others to watch: Nick Swiney, Daniel Cabrera
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