The 2021 MLB amateur draft is here. In an effort to better market the event, MLB 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 with the first round. Here's how to watch.
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), .
"I think I can say that we've gotten it down to single digits," Pirates GM Ben Cherington recently said during an interview with 93.7 The Fan when asked about targets for the No. 1 pick (via MLB.com's Jake Crouse). "...There are a lot of good players at the top of this draft, and they're pretty tightly packed together. We're going to spend the next few weeks seeing if we can separate them."
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 most recent top 50 draft prospect rankings as well as our first (June 11) and second (June 25) mock drafts. Now here is our final mock draft based on the latest rumors, chatter, and outright guesswork.
Pick: SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake HS (California) ($8,415,300 slot value)
Mayer to the Pirates is not a lock but it is the most likely outcome at this point. Pittsburgh is said to be zeroing in on hitters (so not Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker) and our R.J. Anderson ranked Mayer the No. 1 prospect in the draft class. Here's a snippet of his scouting report:
These days the No. 1 pick depends as much on money as talent. Henry Davis and Jordan Lawlar are viable No. 1 pick alternatives, and if either comes in with a very low bonus demand, he could be the pick, allowing the Pirates to use the savings on other players later in the draft. With the draft two days away though, we'll stick with Mayer as the pick.
June 11 mock pick: C Henry Davis, Louisville
Pick: SS Jordan Lawlar, Jesuit College Prep (Texas) ($7,789,900 slot value)
There are rumblings the Rangers could target a player closer to MLB (Leiter would be a logical target in that case) though they have been hot on Lawlar, a local Dallas kid, all spring. He's a potential All-Star shortstop and would be yet another position player in a position-player-heavy farm system (MLB.com ranks only three pitchers among Texas' top 15 prospects). You can't draft for organizational need this early in the draft though. Take the best player and sort it all out later, because it's impossible to know what your needs will be when these players are big-league ready in three-plus years.
June 11 mock pick: Lawlar
Pick: SS Brady House, Winder-Barrow HS (Georgia) ($7,221,200 slot value)
Similar to the Rangers, there are rumblings the Tigers could take a player reasonably close to the big leagues (again, Leiter would be the logical pick in that case), though Detroit has mostly been tied to high-upside high schoolers this spring. They'd love Mayer -- there's basically zero chance Mayer slips beyond this pick, giving him leverage in bonus talks with the Pirates -- but he's off the board already, so we'll go with House, another high school shortstop with exciting tools.
June 11 mock pick: SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake HS (California)
Pick: RHP Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt ($6,664,000 slot value)
Passing up Davis, the draft's top college hitter, would be difficult, but Leiter and the Red Sox have been a steady rumor all spring. He fits their contention window (i.e. right now and in the next few years) and they fit what figure to be his preferences (i.e. high-profile team, not have to sit through a rebuild, ability to pay big). Leiter is the best and most advanced pitcher in the draft class, and getting him at No. 4 would be a major coup for Boston.
June 11 mock pick: Leiter
Pick: C Henry Davis, Louisville ($6,180,700 slot value)
The expectation is the Orioles will again cut a below-slot deal with a position player here, which GM Mike Elias did last year with No. 2 pick Heston Kjerstad, as well as multiple times when he ran drafts for the Astros. Davis falling here is too good to pass up, however, and his athleticism would allow him to move to right field so he and Adley Rutschman (the superior defensive catcher) could co-exist in the lineup long-term.
June 11 mock pick: OF Sal Frelick, Boston College
Pick: SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest HS (North Carolina) ($5,742,900 slot value)
The Diamondbacks are said to be targeting one of the top high school shortstops here, though Rocker remains a possibility. Watson is the best available prep shortstop with House, Lawlar, and Mayer off the board in this mock draft. He's steadily climbed draft boards the last few weeks, partly because he played games (and played well) longer than others, who wrapped up their seasons weeks ago.
June 11 mock pick: OF Colton Cowser, Sam Houston State
Pick: RHP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt ($5,432,400 slot value)
There's a chance, maybe even a very good one, the Royals would pass on Rocker to take one of the high school shortstops should one of them fall to this pick. Since that doesn't happen in our mock draft, we'll give them Rocker, who had a good spring, albeit one with a few red flags (velocity decline, fewer chases on the slider, etc.). Rocker is a high-variance prospect. He could develop into an ace, though more than a few folks within baseball think he could wind up an impact closer.
June 11 mock pick: Rocker
Pick: OF Benny Montgomery, Red Land HS (Pennsylvania) ($5,176,900 slot value)
The Rockies have been tied to hitters all spring. One of the top high school shortstops would be their preference, I think, but they're all off the board in this mock draft, so instead we'll give them Montgomery. He's been mentioned as more of a mid-first round pick the last few weeks, but has the raw tools and athleticism Colorado typically favors. The Rockies also hold the No. 44 and No. 68 picks, and there's a chance they could get Montgomery on a below-slot bonus, allowing them to spend big later.
June 11 mock pick: SS Brady House, Winder-Barrow HS (Georgia)
Pick: OF Colton Cowser, Sam Houston State ($4,949,100 slot value)
The board really starts to open up with the No. 9 pick -- any of the players taken in the top eight picks would be good to great value here -- and the Angels probably wish there was a mechanism in place that allows them to trade up. Since that's not possible, we'll give them Cowser, the best college hitter still available. Top college hitters typically don't last long on draft day and Cowser could reach Anaheim quick enough to contribute while Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon are in their primes.
June 11 mock pick: SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest HS (North Carolina)
Pick: 3B Colson Montgomery, Southridge HS (Indiana) ($4,739,900 slot value)
For weeks now there have been rumblings the Mets could cut an below-slot deal with Montgomery (Colson, not Benny), and use the savings on later picks. Montgomery will be 19 on draft day and Brett Baty, New York's first rounder in 2019, has mashed since being an older high school pick, so they're not afraid to go back to the well. If the Mets pass on Montgomery, they'll likely go with a college hitter, and Montgomery could fall into the Nos. 20-30 range, cutting into his earning potential.
June 11 mock pick: SS Matt McLain, UCLA
Pick: RHP Jackson Jobe, Heritage Hall HS (Oklahoma) ($4,547,500 slot value)
Jobe could come off the board within the top five picks, and I have a hard time seeing him falling behind the Nationals. He is the best high school pitcher in the draft class (by a good margin) and his slider might be the single best pitch in the draft. The Nationals are all about upside and power stuff, and Jobe fits. Jobe is likely the only high school player Washington would take (barring something crazy like Lawlar or Mayer falling here), so it's college guys otherwise.
June 11 mock pick: Jobe
Pick: SS Matt McLain, UCLA ($4,366,400 slot value)
The Mariners have not selected a high school player in the first round since Alex Jackson in 2014 and there's no reason to expect that to change this year. McLain is the best college middle infielder in the draft class (by a wide margin), so while some of the outfield bats (Cowser and Sal Frelick, most notably) could tempt Seattle, positional value wins out. McLain it is.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Sam Bachman, Miami (Ohio)
Pick: RHP Sam Bachman, Miami (Ohio) ($4,197,300 slot value)
The Phillies have been connected to Montgomery (Benny, not Colson) all spring, though I suspect part of that is the fact he's a semi-local kid from Harrisburg. Bachman is among the draft's hardest throwers and he should reach the big leagues in fairly short order, which would appeal to a Phillies team desperate to get back to October while Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, JT Realmuto, and Zack Wheeler are in their prime.
June 11 mock pick: OF Benny Montgomery, Red Land HS (Pennsylvania)
Pick: OF Sal Frelick, Boston College ($4,036,800 slot value)
Like many teams in this range, the Giants have been connected to Montgomery (Benny, not Colson) the last few weeks, though it's unlikely he gets to them. Frelick is the prototypical modern position player prospect as an undersized (listed at 5-foot-9) hitter with a high-contact swing and tremendous athleticism. He seems tailor-made for spacious Oracle Park.
June 11 mock pick: LHP Jordan Wicks, Kansas State
Pick: LHP Jordan Wicks, Kansas State ($3,885,800 slot value)
Over the last few weeks the Brewers have been tied to college pitchers more than anything, and Wicks fits their preferred profile as a command-over-stuff guy who could improve under pro instruction. There have been rumblings Milwaukee will pivot and take a high school hitter should their preferred college arms all come off the board before this pick.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Ryan Cusick, Wake Forest
Pick: C Harry Ford, North Cobb HS (Georgia) ($3,745,500 slot value)
The Marlins hold the first competitive balance lottery pick (No. 31), so there's an opportunity to do something creative here to save bonus pool money for that pick. In that case, one of the second- or third-tier college pitchers would make sense. Miami has been connected to high-upside high school hitters all spring though, so we'll stick with Ford, an exceptional athlete behind the plate with big upside. Just to be clear, having Ford go to the Marlins in all three mock drafts does not mean this is a lock. He's just the type of player they've been connected to this spring.
June 11 mock pick: Ford
Pick: LHP Matt Mikulski, Fordham ($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 thus have a very large bonus pool. Mikulski is a college senior with little leverage because he can't simply return to school and re-enter the draft next year. The play would be taking Mikulski, a very good prospect likely to go in the top two rounds somewhere, sign him to a well-below-slot bonus, and use the savings to go huge with the two extra picks.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Gunnar Hoglund, Mississippi
Pick: RHP Gunnar Hoglund, Mississippi ($3,481,300 slot value)
Hoglund was a projected top-10 pick before Cardinals hold a competitive balance lottery pick (No. 70) and have extra bonus pool space, thus allowing them to pay Hoglund like a top-10 pick with the No. 18 selection. St. Louis is always difficult to pin down and I mean that in a good way. The Cards are willing to go wherever the talent takes them rather than lock in on a preferred profile.. The
June 11 mock pick: SS/RHP Bubba Chandler, North Oconee HS (Georgia)
Pick: OF Jay Allen, John Carroll Catholic HS (Florida) ($3,359,000 slot value)
The Blue Jays have been connected to Allen since last summer and he fits their recent draft tendencies as a high-upside player with loud tools. In this case, it's his power and athleticism. Allen plays three sports and may need more time to develop than the typical mid-first-round pick, but Toronto has a dynamic young core at the MLB level, and can afford to be patient with a talented prospect.
June 11 mock pick: C Adrian Del Castillo, Miami
Pick: LHP Anthony Solometo, Bishop Eustace Prep (New Jersey) ($3,242,900 slot value)
Despite going very position player heavy early in the last few drafts, the Yankees have been linked to pitchers more often than not the last few weeks. Solometo is not in their backyard -- he goes to high school across the Delaware River from Philadelphia -- but they've been connected to him this spring, and he fits their mold as a southpaw with command and analytics friendly pitch profiles. He'd also be their third Anthony in the last four first rounds (Anthony Seigler in 2018 and Anthony Volpe in 2019). Might as well continue cornering the market on Tonys.
June 11 mock pick: OF Will Taylor, Dutch Fork HS (South Carolina)
Pick: RHP Michael McGreevy, UC Santa Barbara ($3,132,300 slot value)
As is often the case with teams picking in the back half of the first round, the Cubs have been connected to many different players this year, and McGreevy has been mentioned more than anyone else. The Shane Bieber comps are unfair -- they share an alma mater and were similar command over stuff pitchers coming out of school, but Bieber made huge improvements with his stuff in pro ball -- though McGreevy appears to be the rare college arm with untapped potential.
June 11 mock pick: McGreevy
Pick: RHP Chase Petty, Mainland HS (New Jersey) ($3,027,000 slot value)
If Montgomery (Colson, not Benny) does not go to the Mets with the No. 10 pick, he very well could fall here. The White Sox have been connected to him a bunch in recent weeks. They've also been connected to Petty, the hardest throwing high school pitcher in the draft, throughout the spring. Chicago is not afraid of unconventional deliveries (Chris Sale, Garrett Crochet, etc.) and Petty fits in that regard.
June 11 mock pick: Petty
Pick: OF Joshua Baez, Dexter Southland HS (Massachusetts) ($2,926,800 slot value)
Moreso than other teams, Cleveland leans heavily on analytical models come draft day, hence the tendency to favor high school players who graduate at age 17 (Daniel Espino, Triston McKenzie, etc.). Young high schoolers tend to perform well in pro ball. Baez turned 18 last week and has a carrying tool in his enormous power. This is a "he fits their profile" mock pick more than a "they've been connected to him" mock pick.
June 11 mock pick: Baez
Pick: SS Trey Sweeney, Eastern Illinois ($2,831,300 slot value)
Sweeney didn't climb draft boards with his performance as much as teams didn't realize how he good he is until they got more looks at him this spring. He's a pure hitting machine who probably isn't a shortstop long-term, though the Braves are all about up-the-middle college players, and Sweeney is arguably the best college middle infielder on the board here.
June 11 mock pick: SS/RHP Spencer Schwellenbach, Nebraska
Pick: OF Will Taylor, Dutch Fork HS (South Carolina) ($2,740,300 slot value)
The old Moneyball approach of taking the best college performers went away a long time ago, and the Athletics have gone after big-time athletes with loud tools the last few years. Taylor is committed to play baseball and football at Clemson, though I don't think the Kyler Murray situation will scare Oakland away from two-sport players. He has as much upside as anyone still on the board in this mock draft.
June 11 mock pick: SS Alex Mooney, St. Mary's Prep (Michigan)
Pick: 2B Tyler Black, Wright State ($2,653,400 slot value)
The Twins are all about exit velocity and performance, and Black offers both. He's a tremendous pure hitter who may not stick on the middle infield long-term, but defensive concerns didn't cause Minnesota to shy away from recent high draft picks like Brent Rooker and Aaron Sabato.
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)
Connections late in the first round don't get any more firm than this. Padres GM A.J. Preller saw Mozzicato in person multiple times this spring -- the GM doesn't fly across the country to see just anyone when he's picking late in the first round -- and they've had him in for private workouts as well. Should Mozzicato come off the board before this pick, San Diego is likely to pivot to another high school player.
June 11 mock pick: Mozzicato
Pick: SS Max Muncy, Thousand Oaks HS (California) ($2,493,900 slot value)
No, this Max Muncy is not related to that Max Muncy. The Rays have been connected to hitters more than pitchers this spring, and Muncy fits their usual mold as a high energy player with a diverse skill set and a standout tool (power).
June 11 mock pick: 2B Peyton Stovall, Haughton HS (Louisiana)
Pick: OF Jud Fabian, Florida ($2,424,600 slot value)
The Dodgers have been burned by the "high strikeout hitter at a premium college program" profile in the recent past (Jeren Kendall), though Fabian has an unteachable tool in his massive raw power, and Los Angeles had has success helping prospects cut their strikeout rates. There were times this spring when Fabian looked like a potential top-five pick and times he looked like a second rounder. Rolling the dice on his upside this late in the first round isn't a bad move.
June 11 mock pick: RHP Jaden Hill, LSU