The 2021 MLB amateur draft is a little more than two weeks away. In an effort to better market the event, MLB has pushed the draft back to the All-Star break this season, rather than its usual first week of June. The three-day event begins Sunday, July 11.
MLB and the MLBPA resolved several pandemic-related issues last March, including those involving the annual amateur draft. Last year's draft was shortened to five rounds (from 40) to cut costs. This year's draft will be 20 rounds, the minimum allowed under last March's agreement, and bonus pools will remain at 2020 levels, which were the same as 2019.
Thanks to their 19-41 record during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, the Pirates hold the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. MLB does not have a draft lottery. The draft order is set in the reverse order of the previous year's standings. This is the fifth time the Pirates have held the No. 1 pick, joining 1986 (Jeff King), 1996 (Kris Benson), 2002 (Bryan Bullington), and 2011 (Gerrit Cole).
"It's ultimately going to be our choice, but there are still a number of players that we're considering, narrowing down," Pirates GM Ben Cherington recently told reporters, including Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It doesn't really feel that different from that standpoint. We're still trying to learn as much as we can. There's a lot of good players in this draft. We have got to make a good selection. We'd like to make 21 good selections. They're all important."
These days all first-round picks are protected from free-agent compensation. Teams instead give up later draft picks (and international bonus money) to sign qualified free agents. Despite that, the Astros do not have a first- or second-round pick this year. They were stripped of their top two picks this year and last as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal.
Each team is given a set bonus pool for draft spending each summer. The penalties for excessive spending are harsh enough (tax on overage, forfeiting a future first rounder, etc.) that the bonus pool effectively acts as a hard cap. The bonus pools are tied to picks in the top 10 rounds, and if you give one player a below-slot bonus, you can give the savings to another player(s).
The Rangers hold the No. 2 pick but have a smaller bonus pool than the Tigers, who hold the No. 3 pick, because Detroit received the No. 32 pick in the competitive balance lottery. Texas does not receive a competitive balance pick, which are extra picks given to lower revenue teams. The Astros have the smallest bonus pool at $2,940,600 as a result of their forfeited picks.
Here are R.J. Anderson's preseason top 50 draft prospect rankings and his April update of the top 10 prospects. Here is our first 2021 MLB amateur mock draft and below is our second, updated based on the latest chatter, speculation, and rumors.
Pick: SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake HS (California) ($8,415,300 slot value)
There is no clear-cut No. 1 draft prospect like a Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg this year, and as many as five players have a case to go No. 1 overall. Maybe even seven players. Because of that, the Pirates have had to cast a wider net than most teams that hold the No. 1 selection, making them difficult to pin down with the draft two weeks away.
The wide open field means this could come down to money. If you have multiple prospects you consider on equal footing, taking the guy who will sign for the smallest bonus makes sense. You're getting a quality prospect either way, and it would leave you with more bonus pool money to spend on players later in the draft. Even with the No. 1 pick, this is more than a talent decision.
Mayer is perceived to be an easier sign than other players in the mix for the No. 1 selection (that doesn't mean he's going to sign a massively below-slot bonus, of course), so he's the pick here. He's a do-it-all shortstop who makes the game look very easy, and has upside that could put him in the MVP conversation at his peak.
June 11 mock pick: C Henry Davis, Louisville
Pick: SS Jordan Lawlar, Jesuit College Prep (Texas) ($7,789,900 slot value)
The Rangers have gone for college players with track records in the first round the last few years, though they've had all their top decision-makers in to see Lawlar, a local kid from Dallas, this spring. Texas has a very position-player-heavy farm system and adding one of the Vanderbilt arms would be awfully tempting. I think the local kid with big upside will be difficult to pass up. Just take the best prospect at this point and don't worry about organizational need.
June 11 mock pick: Lawlar
Pick: RHP Jackson Jobe, Heritage Hall HS (Oklahoma) ($7,221,200 slot value)
Throughout the spring the Tigers have been connected to Mayer pretty heavily and it's hard to see him falling beyond this pick (which helps his negotiating leverage with Pittsburgh). Detroit has a known affinity for SEC performers, so we can't rule out the Vanderbilt righties here, but Jobe is generally considered to have the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft class. High school righties are a risky demographic and this would be a bit of an off-the-board pick for the Tigers. They have been tied to him in recent weeks though.
June 11 mock pick: SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake HS (California)
Pick: RHP Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt ($6,664,000 slot value)
There are still many people within baseball who view Leiter as the No. 1 prospect in the draft class. He has enormous leverage though -- Leiter is a draft-eligible sophomore who can return to school and re-enter the draft next spring, plus the money is not life-changing to him and his family (Jack's father Al pitched 19 years in the big leagues) -- and can essentially price himself to any team. All he has to do is float a huge bonus demand and scare away everyone else, and it's not a bluff teams will call because if you don't sign a player, you lose the bonus pool money associated with that pick. No team will risk that this high in the draft. If I had to choose between Leiter or the field here, I would pick the field, but Leiter to the Red Sox just fits too well.
June 11 mock pick: Leiter
Pick: C Henry Davis, Louisville ($6,180,700 slot value)
GM Mike Elias pioneered the practice of cutting below-slot deals early in the draft and using the savings on later round picks when he ran drafts for the Astros, and he's continued it with the Orioles. After years of zigging, I'm going guess Elias zags here to get the best hitter in the draft, and a player who could easily go No. 1 overall. How do Davis and top prospect (and 2019 No. 1 pick) Adley Rutschman coexist long-term? Don't worry about it. Just get the best player and figure it out later. (Also, Davis has the athleticism and arm to fit in right field.)
June 11 mock pick: OF Sal Frelick, Boston College
Pick: SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest HS (North Carolina) ($5,742,900 slot value)
Watson has risen up draft boards in recent weeks, though I think at least part of that is recency bias -- he's still playing games while others like Lawler finished their seasons weeks ago. The Diamondbacks typically go for big-time athletes with compact swings geared for contact, though there's also been a lot of buzz connecting them to the various high school shortstops. Mayer and Lawler won't get here, but Watson is still on the board in our mock draft, and he's the best available.
June 11 mock pick: OF Colton Cowser, Sam Houston State
Pick: RHP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt ($5,432,400 slot value)
Rocker's slide is real. There are questions about his fastball command and inconsistent velocity this spring, and whether his slider will generate enough chases at the next level. That said, Rocker is very good, and the Royals would have to consider this the best-case scenario. They've really leaned into top college pitchers in recent years and Rocker certainly fits the mold. Davis falling here would likely make Kansas City think twice.
June 11 mock pick: Rocker
Pick: SS Brady House, Winder-Barrow HS (Georgia) ($5,176,900 slot value)
The only consistent intel on the Rockies the last few weeks is that they're leaning toward a hitter. They've been connected to House (and all the high school shortstops, really) all spring, and while the length in his swing is a potential red flag, it's a very exciting power/speed combination.
June 11 mock pick: House
Pick: OF Benny Montgomery, Red Land HS (Pennsylvania) ($4,949,100 slot value)
Give the Angels a truth serum and I think they'd tell you they wish they could trade up to nab Rocker rather than hold the No. 9 pick, which is where things start to open up. Draft pick trades are not a thing in baseball yet though (competitive balance lottery picks can be traded and that's it), so the Angels are out of luck. Montgomery has been a hot rumor here for a few weeks and he might have the most power of anyone in the draft class.
June 11 mock pick: SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest HS (North Carolina)
Pick: 3B Colson Montgomery, Southridge HS (Indiana) ($4,739,900 slot value)
There are rumblings the Mets could reach for a high school hitter here and the success of Brett Baty, their 2019 first rounder, suggests they won't be scared away by an older high schooler. Montgomery (no relation to Benny) will be 19 on draft day (like Baty) and has the innate bat-to-ball skills teams crave in this high strikeout era.
June 11 mock pick: SS Matt McLain, UCLA
Pick: RHP Sam Bachman, Miami (Ohio) ($4,547,500 slot value)
I am certain the Nationals would love Jobe or Rocker to get here, but it is increasingly unlikely, even with Rocker sliding. Bachman has huge velocity and has been connected to Washington consistently this spring. Washington could also be the first team to take a chance on Ole Miss righty Gunnar Hoglund, . The Nationals have not been shy about taking pitchers with elbow problems in the first round in the past (Lucas Giolito, most notably).
June 11 mock pick: RHP Jackson Jobe, Heritage Hall HS (Oklahoma)
Pick: SS Matt McLain, UCLA ($4,366,400 slot value)
In this mock draft the Mariners have their pick of the three best college hitters not named Davis. McLain is the best college middle infielder in the draft class by a significant margin, giving him an edge over outfielders Colton Cowser and Sam Frelick. There was a point earlier this year where McLain looked like a potential top-five pick. Getting him at No. 12 would be strong value.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Sam Bachman, Miami (Ohio)
Pick: OF Colton Cowser, Sam Houston State ($4,197,300 slot value)
The Phillies have been connected to (Benny) Montgomery all throughout the spring and part of me wonders whether their interest is overstated because of the geography (he's from Harrisburg). Cowser is one of the best pure hitters in the draft class and those players usually don't stay on the board much longer than the middle of the first round.
June 11 mock pick: OF Benny Montgomery, Red Land HS (Pennsylvania)
Pick: OF Sal Frelick, Boston College ($4,036,800 slot value)
The run of college hitters is on. Frelick is the prototypical modern prospect as an undersized (listed at 5-foot-9) hitter with a short and quick swing geared for contact, and tremendous athleticism. San Francisco has not taken a pitcher in the first round since Phil Bickford in 2015 and I don't see that changing now, at least not based on how the board lines up in this mock draft.
June 11 mock pick: LHP Jordan Wicks, Kansas State
Pick: LHP Jordan Wicks, Kansas State ($3,885,800 slot value)
The Brewers have a history of taking command over stuff college pitchers (they've done quite well developing that profile) and Wicks fits. There has been some buzz about Milwaukee pursuing a high school hitter with significant upside, though I'll go with Wicks, who belongs in this range on talent and fits the organizational mold.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Ryan Cusick, Wake Forest
Pick: C Harry Ford, North Cobb HS (Georgia) ($3,745,500 slot value)
The Marlins have been all about upside since their latest rebuild started and Ford has a do-it-all skill set with significant offensive upside and athleticism behind the plate. Miami has been connected to pretty much every high school position player projected to go in the first round these last few weeks.
June 11 mock pick: Ford
Pick: RHP Gunnar Hoglund, Mississippi ($3,609,700 slot value)
The Reds also hold the No. 30 (compensation for losing Trevor Bauer) and No. 35 (competitive balance lottery) picks and that gives them a lot of bonus pool money and a lot of flexibility. They've been connected to all sorts of players and I really like the Hoglund fit, even though he just had Tommy John surgery. He was a potential top-10 pick before going under the knife, and the injury means he should come at a discount, giving Cincinnati the ability to do something real big with those extra selections.
June 11 mock pick: Hoglund
Pick: SS/RHP Bubba Chandler, North Oconee HS (Georgia) ($3,481,300 slot value)
Chandler has been mentioned a potential top-10 pick at various points this spring and him getting to the Cardinals is hardly a lock. The general consensus seems to be that he has more upside on the mound, though Chandler is a first-round talent as a shortstop too, and my guess is whichever team drafts him will sent him out as a two-way player and see what happens.
June 11 mock pick: Chandler
Pick: RHP Ryan Cusick, Wake Forest ($3,359,000 slot value)
Cusick is one of the hardest throwers in the draft class and the Blue Jays have a recently history of jumping on big college arms. At this point in the mock high school players offer the most upside, but Cusick has as much ability as any college arm outside the two Vanderbilt righties.
June 11 mock pick: C Adrian Del Castillo, Miami
Pick: RHP Andrew Painter, Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) ($3,242,900 slot value)
The Yankees have gone very position player heavy early in the last few drafts, and they've been connected to pretty much every high school hitter with a chance to be on the board for this pick. That said, the Yankees have invested heavily in their pitcher development infrastructure in recent years and Painter is the perfect little ball of clay for their staff given his command, four-pitch mix, and athleticism.
June 11 mock pick: OF Will Taylor, Dutch Fork HS (South Carolina)
Pick: OF Jud Fabian, Florida ($3,132,300 slot value)
Fabian has had a very up-and-down spring. There were times he looked like a potential top-10 pick and times he looked like he'd fall out of the first round entirely. He finished strong though, and his brand of power is hard to find. The Cubs have not been afraid to take risks and shoot for the moon the last few years, and Fabian fits.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Michael McGreevy, UC Santa Barbara
Pick: C Joe Mack, Williamsville East HS (New York) ($3,027,000 slot value)
Within the last few weeks the most common rumor has the White Sox targeting high school bats, and Mack is the best available in this mock draft. He's a potential impact player on both sides of the ball, and while high school catchers have a terrible track record in pro ball, the ChiSox march to the beat of their own drum on draft day. They'll take a guy with an ugly delivery or an unusual profile, no questions asked.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Chase Petty, Mainland HS (New Jersey)
Pick: OF Joshua Baez, Dexter Southland HS (Massachusetts) ($2,926,800 slot value)
Cleveland has a type and that type is high schoolers with upside who are young for the draft class. Baez turns 18 just before the draft and he is an exit velocity monster with enormous power. There's risk here given his propensity to swing and miss, but every player at this point in the draft has a flaw, and few have Baez's power potential.
June 11 mock pick: Baez
Pick: RHP Michael McGreevy, UC Santa Barbara ($2,831,300 slot value)
McGreevy draws a lot of Shane Bieber comps because they share an alma mater and were both command over stuff pitchers going into the draft, but that's unfair to McGreevy. Bieber made enormous gains in pro ball to become a Cy Young winner and expecting anyone to do that is unrealistic. McGreevy is a legitimate first round arm though, and the Braves should be thrilled to get him here.
June 11 mock pick: SS/RHP Spencer Schwellenbach, Nebraska
Pick: SS Alex Mooney, St. Mary's Prep (Michigan) ($2,740,300 slot value)
The Athletics have been connected to hitters more than pitchers this spring, both college and high school, and Mooney is said to have a lot of fans in the organization. There's sneaky power in his bat and he's considered a slam dunk shortstop at the next level.
June 11 mock pick: Mooney
Pick: C Adrian Del Castillo, Miami ($2,653,400 slot value)
It is no secret the Twins lean on exit velocity as an evaluation tool and Del Castillo has it in spades. There were times earlier this year where he was considered a potential top-10 pick, though an up-and-down spring (and college career, really) has pushed him down draft boards. Catchers who can bang are hot commodities on draft day.
June 11 mock pick: C Joe Mack, Williamsville East HS (New York)
Pick: LHP Frank Mozzicato, East Catholic HS (Connecticut) ($2,570,100 slot value)
This is as consistent a connection as you'll find near the end of the first round. Padres GM A.J. Preller personally scouted Mozzicato a few weeks ago, reports Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, and that's telling. Teams picking late in the first round necessarily cast a wide net and the GM can't see everyone. Preller going all the way to Connecticut to see Mozzicato, who threw four consecutive no-hitters earlier this year, indicates San Diego's interest in serious.
June 11 mock pick: Mozzicato
Pick: 2B Tyler Black, Wright State ($2,493,900 slot value)
As much as any other team, the Rays have leaned into the "bat control/plate discipline" profile, even if the player comes with questions about his power potential and long-term position. Wright can really hit, and whichever team drafts him will hope he can learn to elevate the ball at the next level, and settle in at second base to avoid a move to the outfield.
June 11 mock pick: 2B Peyton Stovall, Haughton HS (Louisiana)
Pick: 2B Peyton Stovall, Haughton HS (Louisiana) ($2,424,600 slot value)
At this point in the mock draft, we're making educated guesses based on each team's draft history, and the Dodgers have done well with the "bat control/plate discipline" profile. Stovall has one of the sweetest swings in the draft class and his bat comes with significant upside. Where he plays and how much he contributes outside the batter's box are a little more uncertain.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Jaden Hill, LSU