It’s draft day! I always enjoy watching the draft in all four major sports, and this year’s MLB draft is going to be very interesting. Unlike last year, where Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson was a near lock to go to the Tigers with the first pick, this draft has many players who have the talent to be picked with the Pirates’ selection. Here’s my opinion on who each team should pick this year to make their organization stronger for the future.
Pittsburgh – Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (CA)
In a draft without a clear-cut #1 pick, Pittsburgh has a wealth of talent available with their first pick. I have them taking Mayer, a prep shortstop who has been consistently mocked in the top five this year. Scouts compliment Mayer’s style of play, almost as if he was born to be a shortstop. There’s a wealth of talent available for the Pirates here, and they’ve been linked to Mayer, Jordan Lawlar, Jack Leiter, and Henry Davis. It’s hard to pass on Mayer here, though, instantly becoming the top prospect in the Pirates’ system and becoming the centerpiece of the Pirates’ rebuild.
Texas – Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC)
Much of the conversation about the shortstop prospects in this draft have been centered around Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar, but there’s good reason to believe that the Rangers pick Watson, the dynamic North Carolina high schooler. Watson has just been on fire this season, hitting over .500 with a 1.834 OPS (!!). Oh yeah, and he’s struck out just once in 15 games. Easily the most fun to watch player in this draft class (think a Tim Anderson or Fernando Tatis), Watson is moving up draft boards quickly. Texas would love to add his spark to their farm system.
Detroit – Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (TX)
Detroit gets to choose between the two prep school ballplayers that they have been rumored to be high on this year–Lawlar and Oklahoma pitcher Jackson Jobe. I have them taking Lawlar, who has the talent to go #1 in this class. While he doesn’t hit for power, he’s been really productive with runners in scoring position. Lawlar joins Casey Mize, Riley Greene, and Spencer Torkelson to create a very deep farm system in Detroit.
Boston – Jack Leiter, P, Vanderbilt
If you’ve watched any of Leiter’s starts this year for the Commodores, you know why he’s a top five pick. He’s had his ups and downs, but Leiter has proven himself as the ace of Vanderbilt’s pitching staff this season. Leiter and his teammate Rocker made the Commodores incredibly fun to watch this year, and although the The Red Sox will be beyond themselves to have the chance to take Leiter, who has the stuff to be an ace down the line.
Baltimore – Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
The Orioles get lucky here, and are able to select the highly touted House here. He’s a power hitting infielder with a huge physical frame, and while he has the skill to be a star player, it might be a while–with a summer 2003 birthday, House is the closest draftee in age to Matt’s Bats in baseball history. The Orioles will take whoever of Lawlar, Watson, Mayer, Leiter, House, or Henry Davis (more on him later) are available with this pick. In this mock, House and Davis are available. Both have similar offensive upside; as the O’s have their catcher of the future in Adley Rutschman and have been rumored to want to make a deal with their pick below slot value, House is the pick here.
Arizona – Henry Davis, C, Louisville
The D-Backs are in the middle of a team reset, and Henry Davis is the best player available here to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball. Who better to pick here than Davis, who was the best hitter in college baseball this season. The Cardinals’ sophomore hit .370 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs this season, establishing himself as the cornerstone of a Louisville team that otherwise struggled this year. Arizona will be glad to take their power hitting catcher of the future here.
Kansas City – Jackson Jobe, P, Heritage Hall (OK)
My hot take–Jobe is the best pitcher available in this draft class. Scouts call his slider among the best they’ve ever seen and his fastball reaches 96 as a high schooler. Kansas City gets the opportunity to take Jobe here, and they won’t miss their chance. The Royals have had their struggles with drafting high school pitching talent in the past, but Jobe seems like the type of talent you need to take if available.
Colorado – Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
Frelick could either go in the top 10 or fall back to the middle of the first round. His talent is undeniable, and the 8th pick is probably Frelick’s ceiling. The Rockies get him here in this mock, adding a potential five tool player to Colorado’s farm system. Which tool is he missing? His power. Of course, the thin air at Coors Field will lessen this problem for the Rockies. They could be drawn to a pitcher, as the Rockies have struck out on pitching talent in recent years, but it seems like Frelick is a good fit for the organization at this point in their rebuild.
Los Angeles (AL) – Kumar Rocker, P, Vanderbilt
And finally, the most highly touted college pitching prospect in years is off the board. Kumar Rocker is not just a pitcher, his starts for the Commodores are baseball showcases. He’s been rumored to fall to the later portions of the top 10 after a poor showing in the SEC tournament and in the College World Series final, but has more than made up for it with strong performances in the NCAA tournament. Joining Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Jared Walsh, and Jo Adell in the Angels system, Rocker will be able to make an impact in Anaheim in a few short years.
New York (NL) – Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
Cowser does not get a lot of press coverage as a small conference talent rather than a SEC prospect or a highly touted high schooler, which is why he falls to the Mets here. He could be a big addition to the Mets’ system, as Cowser is a prolific hitter who could easily go earlier in the draft. As New York already has a strong pitching core, they should go offense with #10, and Cowser is the best hitter here.
Washington – Ty Madden, P, Texas
In a shocking development, the Nats pick a college arm with their first round draft pick. Mike Rizzo loves players like Madden, and would jump at the chance to add him alongside the ranks of Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, and Cole Henry in the Nats’ farm system. While some Nats fans (like myself) would prefer to diversify the prospect pool with some position players, Madden seems like the obvious choice here for Rizzo and Co. He solidified himself as the third-best college pitcher this year behind Leiter and Rocker, and had a solid performance in the College World Series semifinals for the Longhorns.
Should the Nats pass on Madden or if another team takes him before the Nats can, the next most likely choice would be Miami (OH) pitcher Sam Bachman, a hard throwing righty who might turn out to be an elite bullpen arm (and one who could make an impact this year). If by a miracle either are still available when the Nats are picking, Jobe and Rocker stand out as Rizzo draft picks. Rocker is more likely to fall to Washington, considering his performance down the stretch for Vandy. The Rockies and Mets have been linked to hitters all season, so it seems that the Nats’ main competition for either Jobe or Rocker are the Royals and Angels. Another interesting name to watch out for here is Gunnar Hoglund, a top-10 talent who recently elected to undergo Tommy John surgery. Rizzo has gone for players with injury concerns in the past (see Lucas Giolito), and the upside on the Ole Miss pitcher might be enough for the Nats to pull the trigger. The Nats have also been linked to Mississippi State’s ace Will Bednar following a very strong performance in the College World Series, but he is more likely to go later in the first round.
While this mock draft is only of the first 29 picks, the Nats should go after Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps in the second or third round, if he makes it that far. Kopps came out of nowhere this year, but was virtually unhittable out of the pen, and a valuable bullpen arm can be hard to come by. Is he risky? Yes. Not many teams like to take 24 year old relievers early in the draft. The Nats could break the mold and potentially get themselves a generational closer in Kopps later on in the draft.
Seattle – Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
With Jarred Kelenic, Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Julio Rodriguez waiting in the wings for the Mariners, McLain would be an excellent addition to Seattle’s farm system for the future. Once the D-Backs’ first round pick out of high school, McLain hits for a high average and could be a Trea Turner-type player for a future team. The Mariners are linked to Bachman as well, but after taking an arm last year, they’ll go the infielder route in 2021.
Philadelphia – Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (PA)
The Phillies and Montgomery have been linked together since the earliest mock drafts. Maybe it’s because Montgomery is from nearby Harrisburg, but he surely has the talent to be an excellent player for the Phils. He’s rumored to have risen up draft boards in recent weeks, so teams like Colorado are probably giving him a second look, but chances are that he’ll fall to #13. He also grew up a Phillies fan, and it would be a nice story to see him get to play for his childhood team.
San Francisco – Sam Bachman, P, Miami (OH)
Bachman makes it to San Francisco here, and they could definitely use his talent in their system. The Giants have shocked the world by outpacing the Dodgers and Padres so far this year, and might be on track to make the playoffs. Bachman might be able to be this season’s Garrett Crochet and pitch in the majors down the stretch. He has an electric fastball and good off-speed pitches to complement, and as long as he isn’t taken earlier, Bachman is a good match.
Milwaukee – Jordan Wicks, P, Kansas State
The Brewers have the best pitching staff in the league this year, and they’ll fortify that reputation for the future by taking Wicks, the top lefty this year. He’s not a power pitcher like Bachman or Rocker, rather someone who pitches with finesse and makes heavy use of his offspeed stuff.
Miami – Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (GA)
Catchers aren’t typically known for their athleticism, but Ford breaks the mold. He hits for power, runs really well, and plays a good defensive catcher. Most importantly for the Marlins, who have been tied to high school position players all year, Ford is one of the best all-around athletes available in the draft.
Cincinnati – Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork HS (SC)
Taylor is considered by some to be a top 10 talent; I’ve seen him mocked as high as 9 in recent weeks. There’s one big problem–Taylor is committed to Clemson to play both baseball and football. All of the high schoolers picked in the first round are committed to play in college, but as a two sport athlete, Taylor would have to commit to baseball, raising signability concerns. Cincinnati takes the risk here at #17 and goes with Taylor, arguably the best hitter left on the board.
St. Louis – Gunnar Hoglund, P, Mississippi
What was I just saying about risky picks with high upside? Hoglund established himself as one of the best college pitchers this season, until the Ole Miss righty elected to undergo Tommy John surgery. He was considered to be a top-10 pick before he got hurt, and if the Cardinals take the flyer on Hoglund, the move could pay huge dividends.
Toronto – Bubba Chandler, SS/P, North Oconee HS (GA)
Not only does Chandler play two positions, but he plays two sports; like Taylor, Chandler has committed to play quarterback at Clemson. This is another risky pick, but again, the upside is there. If he signs, he will be a solid future middle infielder for the Jays. If I had to bet, Chandler is less likely to sign, and instead he will honor his commitment to Clemson to play football. At this point, though, there isn’t much to lose for Toronto, as the worst scenario is a Competitive Balance pick next year.
New York (AL) – Will Bednar, P, Mississippi State
The hero of the College World Series goes to the Yankees here, and I’m sure Yankees fans will be ecstatic. His performance in the winner-take-all game against Vanderbilt was the reason why the Bulldogs won the national championship this year, and his name has recently been flying up draft rankings. While he’s been rumored as high as the Mets and Nats, the 2021 season was his first full college campaign, leading to concerns about his long-term success. The Yankees could use a big-name pitching prospect, and I have no doubt that Bednar would fit in just fine in the Bronx.
Chicago (NL) – Ryan Cusick, P, Wake Forest
Another power pitcher goes in the first round; this time, it’s the Wake Forest prospect to the Cubs. He’s worked on a nice repertoire of offspeed pitches to complement his killer fastball, and would be a solid addition to replenish a weakened farm system on the North Side.
Chicago (AL) – Gavin Williams, P, East Carolina
Meanwhile, on the South Side, I have the White Sox taking Williams, who really impressed me in the NCAA tournament. Pitching against Kumar Rocker in a win-or-go-home game against Vandy, one of the best teams in the country, Williams pitched as good or even better than Rocker and shut down the Commodore lineup. ECU lost the game, but Williams caught my eye as an excellent value pick late in the first round. The White Sox would love to have him.
Cleveland – Anthony Solometo, P, Bishop Eustace (NJ)
Keeping with the pitcher theme, the Indians get Solometo here. He’s probably the best player on the board here, as a solid lefty pitcher who has an excellent fastball but needs to work on his offspeed pitches. He’ll fall somewhere in the 20s, and Cleveland adds a pitcher to a farm system without much pitching talent.
Atlanta – Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/P, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska might be a tad less exotic than Shohei Ohtani’s Japan, but the Braves might find the next two-way player here at #24. He mainly played a solid infield for the Cornhuskers, and showed signs of excellence out of relief in limited appearances last season. The Braves have a pick at #58, so taking a slight risk on Schwellenbach is not too ambitious to the point where it’s a poor decision on the Braves’ behalf.
Oakland – Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois
He’s not nearly as highly touted as some of the other middle infielders in the draft, but hey, a lot of teams have liked what they’ve seen from Sweeney recently, and Oakland is never afraid to think outside of the box. Some say that Sweeney might not be a shortstop for his entire career, but that’s not a problem for the A’s, as they have many shortstop prospects in their organization right now.
Minnesota – Michael McGreevy, P, UC Santa Barbara
McGreevy is a solid pitcher who is the best on the board in this situation, and he comes from UCSB, which recently developed Shane Bieber into one of the league’s finest pitchers. It’s a safe pick for the Twins, who really need a solid pick here amidst a disappointing 2021 season.
San Diego – Frank Mozzicato, P, East Catholic HS (CT)
Apparently Padres GM AJ Preller has been frequenting Mozzicato’s games, making his selection by San Diego a pretty safe bet if he’s still on the board at #27. High school pitchers can be risky to take later on in the first round and deeper into the draft, but given the connections here, it seems like an obvious match.
Tampa Bay – Colson Montgomery, 3B, Southridge HS (IN)
Montgomery is an interesting prospect, as he has been linked all across the board and especially to the Mets, who might appreciate spending less with their top pick. It’s more likely he goes later on in the draft, and Tampa seems like a good fit. If they’re able to pick Montgomery, he would join an infield with Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan–not too shabby for the Rays.
Los Angeles (NL) – Max Muncy, SS, Thousand Oaks HS (CA)
The Dodgers already lead the league in players named Max Muncy, and by doubling their Max Muncy pool with this pick, it might be hard for other teams to catch L.A. in this critical statistic. Would it be hilarious if the Dodgers took someone with the same name as one of their best hitters? Yes, and that’s partially why I have him going here. On the other hand, he is a local prospect and is ranked to go somewhere close to #29, so why not.