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Ian Smith’s 2021 MLB Mock Draft 1.0

Written by: Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty)

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It’s about that time again. 

Mock… Draft… Season.

The 200 meter sprint that was the 2020 MLB season is now in our rearview mirror as the Los Angeles Dodgers are World Champions for the first time in over 20 years. Now, it’s full steam ahead to all things 2021. Of course that would mean next season’s MLB Draft. 

The 2021 draft class is an intriguing one. It’s widely been regarded as a down class compared to most years in regards to true stars, but I think that’s selling this class short.

It’s not very often you could have three pitchers at the top of your board with potential to have SP1 upside, but that’s what we have in Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and LSU’s Jaden Hill. Behind that there’s a whole gang of high velocity college arms with first round grades. College bats overall may be slightly behind other years, but you still have your Jud Fabians and Alex Binelases at the top providing high end value. 

On the prep side of things, the shortstop class may end being one of the best prep SS classes we’ve seen in quite some time. I’m standing by the fact that uber-prospect Brady House can at least start his career at shortstop with his supreme athleticism and 70 grade raw power, and Marcelo Mayer and Kahlil Watson give you some of the best left handed bats in the entire class regardless of position combined with 60 grade gloves. 

That being said, it’s time to find out where I believe some of the best first round fits are right now based on what I’m hearing combined with team philosophy and makeup. Let’s remember it’s early in the draft season, but it’s still a great time to get a feel for things. Enjoy! 

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1. Pittsburgh Pirates 

The Pick- RHP Kumar Rocker • Vanderbilt    

            6’5” • 255lb 

Kumar Rocker has been foreseen to be the first overall pick by many for most of the past year, and I’m staying the course *for now*. The Vanderbilt ace presents the most ready MLB body and arsenal as we stand right now, led by a plus fastball sitting in the high 90s with a wipeout slider that could grade out to be a 70-grade offering. Shows quality feel for a changeup that has flashed plus on occasion, though the usage has been low to this point of Rocker’s career. Command has been a slight knock in his 1+ collegiate season, but he’s shown the polish to give you a high upside arm with an impressive floor to fall back on.

2. Texas Rangers

The Pick- RHP Jack Leiter • Vanderbilt         

            6’1” • 195lb 

Well, Vanderbilt’s Friday and Saturday night starters will be kicking-off this mock at 1-2. Jack Leiter has one of the better fastball in this entire class, and he has popped a few 97s this fall. We’ll receive affirmation of the pitch’s eliteness this spring. He pairs that with a deep bag of secondaries including a slider and curveball that both show above average at the very least. Changeup is fringy, but shows potential. Leiter has big league makeup with an extremely sound and easy operation on the mound. A sky high ceiling with polish gives Texas a solid building block as they begin to reassemble a respectable farm system. 

3. Detroit Tigers 

The Pick- SS Jordan Lawlar • Dallas Jesuit (TX)       

            6’3” • 195lb 

First prep player comes off the board here at 3rd overall, and I feel like it will end up being a steal for Detroit long term. Jordan Lawlar gives you everything you’d ask for in a highly rated prep bat in my eyes. Projectable, plus glove at a premium position, advanced approach and plus hit tool, and plus raw power projection; Lawlar checks all the boxes. You watch this kid play the game, and it becomes extremely difficult to find negative things to say about him. 1.1 type of talent all day long in my eyes, and brings the right attitude to a very talented Tigers system. 

4. Boston Red Sox 

The Pick- RHP Jaden Hill • LSU           

            6’4” • 215lb 

Boston misses the next Xander Bogaerts by one pick, but instead ends up landing a potential frontline dude in Jaden Hill. 93-95 with some higher numbers in the past on the fastball with a slider and changeup that shows impressive movement but raw command. MLB body at 6-foot-4, 200+ pounds with an extremely easy delivery that looks the part when he’s on the mound. For now, the problem is we’ve barely seen him there. Signs are pointing to a big spring at LSU, and Boston could be walking away with a new ‘best pitcher in their system’ in July. 

5. Baltimore Orioles

The Pick- OF Jud Fabian • Florida        

           6’1” • 190lb 

Time for a name that’s had 1.1 helium for over a year now, but he falls to the Orioles at 5th overall here. It would make back-to-back years where Baltimore is taking an SEC bat in the top-5 with their surprising selection of Heston Kjerstad in 2020. Fabian is the cream of the crop outfield prospect in this year’s class, without question. A short, compact right-handed swing with elite hands in the box that allows him to tap into every ounce of his 55+ grade raw power. Tools to stick in center field, with a plus arm and above average speed. Has shown the tendency to take an aggressive approach leading to some strikeout concerns, but the overall makeup is too good to pass up. Fabian, Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad could be a special trio of bats to build upon. 

6. Arizona Diamondbacks 

The Pick- SS/3B Marcelo Mayer • Eastlake HS (CA)       

           6’3” • 195lb 

First real surprise off the board here with Arizona taking the California prep Marcelo Mayer, but once you dig you’ll understand why. One of the more visually appealing left handed swings you’re going to find anywhere in this class. Very short to the ball with elite barrel control. 60 grade hit tool with possible plus raw power to come as he starts to fill out his frame. Plus glove at either shortstop or third base right now, but the hot corner will be his long term home as he matures. Potential sleeping giant star-power with this kid. 

7. Kansas City Royals 

The Pick- C/1B Adrian Del Castillo        

            6’0” • 190lb

Royals luck out here at 7th overall and land the best pure hit tool in the college ranks in ADC. Del Castillo presents a highly advanced approach at the plate with an easy, left handed cut that screams plus power potential as he develops. Truly have no idea where he will be playing defensively at the pro level as he will be drafted as a catcher, but I think a home at first base or designated hitter is more likely. 

8. Colorado Rockies 

The Pick- SS/3B Brady House • Winder-Barrow HS (GA)        

            6’3” • 210lb 

This fit just has me giddy, Brady House in Coors Field is a match made in heaven. The uber-athletic shortstop out of Georgia has been famous on the prep scene the past few years, showcasing his 70 grade raw power since he was 15-years-old. The hit tool is slightly above average, and it remains to be seen how he will handle velocity going forward, but he does not miss mistakes. A 30+ home run ceiling is easy to project due to his freakish separation and hand speed. Glove could be equally as impressive as the bat in all honesty, where it’s probably a 60 paired with 60 grade arm strength. If everything goes to plan with House, the ceiling is hard to fathom. 

9. Los Angeles Angels

The Pick- OF Ethan Wilson • South Alabama     

            6’2” • 210lb

Angels need to win sooner than later. 2020 first rounder LHP Reid Detmers should shoot through the minors, and now they draft a bat that could do the same. Ethan Wilson is a corner outfielder long term with massive juice in the bat. 44 extra base knocks in 74 games so far at South Alabama with 20 of those being dingers. A very polished left-handed hitter who starts from a high handset and showcases elite bat speed. Swing can get long on occasion leading to some swing and miss, but this bat is way too potent to pass up. Sneaky athleticism plays up in right field, and the glove is at worst a 50. With Brandon Marsh seeing reps at first base earlier this year, an Adell/Trout/Wilson trio is fun OF to project going forward, though I’m sure Jordyn Adams will have his say as well. 

10. New York Mets 

The Pick- 3B/1B Alex Binelas • Louisville    

            6’3” • 210lb

Mets potentially grab their third baseman of the future with this Wisconsin native. Binelas might be the best power threat at the college level in this class. He hit 14 home runs during his freshman season and produces MLB level exit velocities on nearly every ball he puts into play. Slight swing and miss with a higher K% as freshman, but the bat is loud enough to overcome as he continues his development. Very thick frame, will possibly slide to 1B or a corner OF as he matures, but shows the glove and instincts at the hot corner to stick there for now. Only played two games in a shortened 2020 season, so a massive spring could raise his stock even higher. 

11. Washington Nationals 

The Pick- OF James Wood • IMG Academy (FL)

            6’7” • 230lb 

This pick could come as a surprise to some but James Wood is currently the most complete prep outfielder in the 2021 class. He gives you a hulking 6-foot-7 frame with high level athleticism and a frame that seems as though it will age well. Above average actions in the field with plus arm strength but his value is truly coming from his bat that has stood out among his peers this summer. Massive raw power as you’d expect, but it comes out a very compact left-handed swing that shows a natural feel for the barrel. Impressive approach for his size, and could eventually be a 60 hit, 70 power type of player if everything clicks. In a Nationals system that’s starving for high upside bats, Wood brings you so much to dream on. 

12. Seattle Mariners 

The Pick- 2B/CF Matt McLain • UCLA

            5’11” • 175lb 

You want a best player available pick? Here it is, McLain is a Top 10 player on nearly every draft board you will find and was already a first round choice in 2018 out of high school. Seattle should be ecstatic to see him on the board here, which makes the selection easy. Easy, short right-handed swing shows a clear plus hit tool that works the gaps to all fields. Started to really tap into his power potential in 2020 summer league action, which will be something to watch this spring. Stocky yet athletic frame has deceptive foot speed with fringe level arm strength and above average glove. Currently a shortstop, McLain is probably best suited for the cornerstone at the pro level. 

13. Philadelphia Phillies 

The Pick- C Henry Davis • Louisville 

            6’2” • 195lb 

One of the quickest risers on my Big Board (coming soon) over the last couple months slides in here at 13th overall. Davis is armed with one of the best arms I’ve seen behind the plate in recent years, currently graded a 60 but it’s shown better on film. Strong frame, but moves very well and shows the flexibility to stick behind the plate long term. Impressive game manager, but receiving skills are still a work in progress. Very compact swing from the right side with a short follow through that currently saps some of his natural raw power, but the approach and hit tool are plus all day long. 

14. San Francisco Giants 

The Pick- OF Christian Franklin • Arkansas 

            5’11” • 180lb 

This could be a player we are talking about as a consensus top-10 player in a few months, but for now I have the athletic Hogs outfielder landing in a perfect spot in SF. Possibly the best outfield defender in the 2021 class; he’ll play center field in 2021 and profiles as a plus glove at all three outfield spots. Right-handed bat with tremendous hand speed and gets the barrel through the zone as well as anyone. Hit and power tools have only been trending up since arriving on campus. This is an absolute freak athlete who could show ‘best player in the draft’ potential with a big spring. 

15. Milwaukee Brewers 

The Pick- RHP Andrew Painter • Calvary Christian (FL)

            6’7” • 225lb

The highest rated prep arm finally comes off the board here at 15. Painter stands a massive 6-foot-7 frame with a heavy mid 90s fastball that touched 97 this past summer with potential for even more down the road. True starter repertoire with a slider, curveball and changeup that all show to be above average to plus pitches at peak. High level mechanics and body control of his frame stand out when you’re watching film on Painter giving him a very solid foundation to build on. He could be in play as early as the top-8, but Milwaukee gets a steal here at 15th overall. 

16. Miami Marlins 

The Pick- C Harry Ford • North Cobb (GA)

            5’10” • 205lb 

Miami makes Harry Ford the 10th prep catcher drafted in the first round in the last 10 years, and it’s simple to see why. Ford is one of the more tooled players in the entire prep class. Grading out plus with his power, arm, glove and even speed, as he’s a 6.5 runner in the 60. Hit tool is currently a 50 from a compact, quiet approach from the right side. Doesn’t get much wrap, but generates all star MLB level bat speed. Absolutely dominated the summer circuit with the bat. Receiving skills are as good as you’ll find at the prep level with elite level pop times. Ford fills a massive hole in a Marlins system that has a long-term need behind the plate, and the teenager could have a very solid floor due to the quality of tools. 

17. Cincinnati Reds 

The Pick- RHP Eric Cerantola • Mississippi State

            6’5” • 195lb

This was a pick that some could call a reach, but I can’t find a pick in the first round that makes more sense than this Cerantola and Cincinnati match. A raw, high velocity pitcher with feel to spin secondaries is a match made in heaven with a highly advanced and progressive pitching development organization. Big projectable frame with a fastball that is already touching 96 on the gun with more in the tank. Shows flashes of a wipeout slider and a potential out pitch in his changeup. Currently 40 grade command, but the natural stuff is too good to pass up, and I have full trust in the Reds’ player development. 

18. St. Louis Cardinals 

The Pick- RHP Jonathan Cannon • Georgia 

            6’5” • 195lb 

Here sits one of the best values in all of the first round in yet another SEC hurler. Jonathan Cannon might have the perfect last name for what his right arm is capable of. Sitting 93-96 with more coming due to his elite arm speed and frame. Gets down hill really well, and can repeat his mechanics with ease. The slider and changeup both have plus potential with the slider being a legit put-away pitch right now. One of players I felt really took a hit with the season stoppage, as I think his ceiling is a top-10 arm, but St. Louis won’t complain if he’s available at 18th overall. 

19. Toronto Blue Jays

The Pick- OF Levi Usher • Louisville 

            6’1” • 195lb 

One of the most intriguing players in this year’s class falls to Toronto here. A true center fielder with plus to double plus arm strength and an above average glove. Usher can change the game with his speed, successful on 47 out of 50 stolen base attempts in his college career including 11 in 16 games in 2020 at Louisville. Really sound left-handed swing that shows present gap power to all fields and a plus hit tool. Might be the most tooled up player in the entire college class. 

20. New York Yankees 

The Pick- RHP Ryan Cusick • Wake Forest 

            6’6” • 220lb 

A former cold weather northeast prep finds his way back to the cold with the Yankees pick here at 24th overall. A gangly 6-foot-6 frame with long limbs, Cusick shoves a plus fastball that sits 92-94 and eats at the top of the zone due to his low release combined with elite extension. Creates whiffs from his above average slide piece and shows a decent changeup when his command is on. Can show SP2 upside when he puts it all together, and slots nicely into a Yankees system needing high quality arms. 

21. Chicago Cubs 

The Pick- OF Sal Frelick • Boston College 

            5’10” • 170lb 

A gritty, hard nosed center fielder with impressive barrel skills heads to the Windy City. Frelick is built into a stocky frame that shows plus foot speed and elite instincts in center field. Will be a double digit base stealer at the next level. Compact, left-handed swing can generate surprising raw power due to some of the best in class bat speed. Hit tool is a ready plus tool and will use the whole field. This can  be a type of prospect that could make his way to Wrigley is just a couple of years due to his advanced makeup. 

22. Chicago White Sox

The Pick- OF Colton Cowser • Sam Houston State

            6’3” • 180lb 

A bit of a high value pick here to the White Sox, as Cowser is widely regarded as a top-15 type of prospect. Ultra projectable frame with a sweet, simple left-handed swing that can flash some real light tower power. Probably a 50 grade hit tool but potential is there to grow. Can be an underrated defender with sneaky speed and ability to play all three spots in the grass. In my eyes, he’ll ultimately will slot in right field long term.

23. Cleveland Indians 

The Pick- LHP Christian MacLeod • Mississippi State 

           6’4” • 227lb 

Here’s an example of the rich getting richer. A system that can get the most out of their arms gets an extremely fun one here in the Mississippi State lefty. Macleod offers a similar build to 2020 top-10 pick Asa Lacy with tons of projection left. Was masterful to start his 2020 campaign working with a low 90s fastball paired with a couple of above average secondaries; currently, the curveball is the most refined non-fastball offering. The changeup could be a true high whiff pitch as he continues developing it moving forward. While his velocity isn’t in the high 90s, his ability to paint the edges is head of the class. 

24. Atlanta Braves 

The Pick- SS Kahlil Watson • Wake Forest HS (NC)

            5’11” • 175lb 

One of the biggest risers in this year’s prep class comes off the board here at 24. Watson has earned first round grades all summer long with a potent left-handed swing that creates unreal natural loft and showing plus raw power potential. The plate approach could be an even better part of his game, which will help the hit tool become a reliable facet of the skillset as a professional . Fluid actions at shortstop with quick feet and very soft hands. Can make any throw from the position, and might have the best long-term potential as a shortstop in this class. Instantly would be the best infielder in Atlanta’s system, with a ceiling to dream on. 

25. Oakland Athletics 

The Pick- RHP Gunnar Hoglund • Ole Miss 

            6’4” • 210lb

Oakland lucks out here and lands a very polished SEC arm late in the first round. Hoglund pounds the strike zone with ease with very repeatable operation. Hides the ball well and shows feel for all his pitches. Could have the best command in class, but the raw stuff doesn’t blow you away. Showed an improved ability to get strikeouts in a shortened 2020, so looking to build on that in 2021 as the ace of Ole Miss’ staff. 

26. Minnesota Twins 

The Pick- SS Alex Mooney • Orchard Lake St Mary’s (MI)

            6’1” • 175lb 

A prototypical, late-first-round pick in which organizations focus on adding toolsy middle infielders with a surprising floor and jaw-dropping ceiling. Mooney gives you one of the highest floors out of any prep infielder in 2021. Very loud summer on the circuit with a budding plus hit tool and showing easy gap power. Fundamentally sound at shortstop, with long term potential there due to a plus glove and arm. There’s five-tool potential here, with plenty of room to grow as a professional. 

27. San Diego Padres 

The Pick- RHP Jackson Jobe • Heritage Hall (OK)

            6’3” • 190lb 

Second Prep arm is finally off the board here with San Diego picking up the spin king of the 2020 circuit, Jackson Jobe. A shortstop for most of his career, Jobe showed up this summer pumping 96 with the fastball while pairing it with the best put away pitch in the draft in his 3200 RPM slider. Flashes an above average to plus changeup on occasion as well. Fairly raw on the mound from an experience standpoint, but you could never tell from his operation. A simple, repeatable delivery to the mound, and of course the advanced feel to spin. San Diego continues its fantastic recent-memory drafting by landing possibly the best prep arm in the class at the end of the round. 

28. Tampa Bay Rays 

The Pick- RHP Mason Black • Lehigh 

            6’3” • 210lb 

Another pick where I feel the rich get richer. Tampa Bay goes masterful things with high octane arms and they will be getting another in Lehigh’s Mason Black. Small school hurler who was up to 98 this summer and sits 94-96 with sink but has been tinkering with working up in the zone this fall. Made big strides on both the slider and changeup over the last eight months as well. Needs to clean up the arm path and delivery a bit, there’s potential for a triple digit SP2/3 in his future with the correct development. The Rays would ensure that happens. 

29. Los Angeles Dodgers 

The Pick- LHP Gage Jump • JSerra Catholic (CA)

            5’11” • 180lb 

This is a pick I’ve heard quite a bit of smoke on lately, and I could easily see this coming to fruition come July. Gage Jump might have the best prep fastball in the class. Not on true velocity alone, but the movement, velocity and spin profile combines to make this a 60-grade pitch with room to grow in the future. Add in the fact that he probably pounds the zone better with the heater than anyone in the high school ranks as well. The southpaw throws a really good bender for strikes as well in the 75-78 range, as well as an above average cutter. A bit on the shorter side for a starting pitcher at 5-foot-11, but Jump understands pitching very well for his age and offers a very clean, repeatable delivery. Los Angeles would salivate if this match comes true eight months from now. 

Some other names receiving First Round Buzz 

LHP Evan Shawver (Cincinnati) • OF Benny Montgomery (Red Land HS, PA) •  C Ian Moller (Walhert HS, IA) • LHP Jordan Wicks (Kansas State)

Stay tuned to Prospects 365 for more MLB Draft coverage over the next ten months as we barrel our way to the 2021 MLB Draft. 

Follow P365 MLB Draft Analyst Ian Smith on Twitter! @FlaSmitty

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Featured image courtesy of Perfect Game