Mock Draft: Leiter leads first round

Detroit Tigers

The 2021 MLB Draft is still 11 weeks away, and there’s a tremendous amount still unknown and to be decided in terms of who goes where in the first round. But that won’t stop us from trying to guess.

“Guess” might be the operative word in this first mock draft of the season. Jim Callis and I will alternate in trying to bring you the best projections we can, with the hope that the ones we post right before the July 11 Draft come as close to getting it right as we can.

For this first go-round, I tried to run names by as many teams and scouting director types as possible. The main objective: to have names in each spot that make some sense and are feasible, so I kept permutations for each team to a minimum (There are simply too many at this point.). Consider this a snapshot of names that could land in the first round, with the plan to bring that picture into greater focus as we get closer to the Draft.

1) Pirates: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
This long before the Draft, teams picking in the top spot will always do due diligence and evaluate a fairly large group of players. For the Pirates, that might mean more than six. Leiter is certainly in that mix, though he picked up his first loss of the season on Saturday.

2) Rangers: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Texas)
Lawlar remains the top prep player on most boards and is still definitely in the mix to go No. 1 overall. Texas has gone college bat in the first round the last two Drafts, but there isn’t one who fits here.

3) Tigers: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
After scuffling very briefly, Rocker has gone back to dominating the SEC, and it’s fun imagining him joining Mize, Skubal, Manning et al.

4) Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Calif.)
The Red Sox would love one of those top three to be here, particularly Leiter or Lawlar, which could easily happen if Mayer goes above.

5) Orioles: Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
House had entered last summer as the front-runner top pick, had an up-and-down showing, but righted the ship this spring, with his name starting to pop up at least as high as right above this pick.

6) D-backs: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Davis has separated himself a bit as the top college bat, hitting over or close to .400 with power all year, while showing he should be fine behind the plate. This is also the first spot I’m hearing Oklahoma high school right-hander Jackson Jobe’s name.

7) Royals: Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
Some worry about Frelick’s size (he’s 5-foot-9), but he’s hit consistently and shown he can play center field longterm.

8) Rockies: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
If the Rockies go college arm here, it could also be Gunnar Hoglund, but I moved him down because he was scratched from his start this weekend.

9) Angels: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
The Angels have gone the college route in the first round for the last two years, and while Sam Houston State isn’t a huge program, Cowser’s hit for average and power all spring.

10) Mets: Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
Another Hoglund potential spot should he come back fully healthy, but Cusick shows premium velocity and an improved breaking ball.

11) Nationals: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (Okla.)
A lot of people think Jobe goes in the top 10, as he’s separated himself as clearly the best prep arm in this class.

12) Mariners: Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
Thought to perhaps be the best pure hitter in the Draft class, Del Castillo has scuffled a bit, but there’s enough track record with him to believe he can figure it out at the next level, even if you’re not sure he can stick behind the plate.

13) Phillies: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
Hoglund is the wild card of the week because of the missed start. If he bounces back fine, he likely doesn’t make it this far.

14) Giants: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
It’s been three straight college bats in the first round for the Giants, so keep an eye out there. For now, this will be where Wicks, the best college lefty in the class, lands.

15) Brewers: Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC)
Watson’s name starts popping up as high as the middle of the top 10, but I’m starting cautiously because he’s barely gotten his spring season going.

16) Marlins: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy (Fla.)
Painter hasn’t dominated as much as some would have liked to see, but he’s still 6-foot-6 with good stuff and feel for pitching. Plus, who doesn’t love the hometown-team-drafting-you storyline?

17) Reds: Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (Pa.)
He has as loud tools as anyone, especially raw power-wise, though not everyone loves his swing and the strikeout risk.

18) Cardinals: Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (NJ)
Yes, he’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s touching triple digits and has a better feel for pitching than you’d expect for an undersized guy with power stuff.

19) Blue Jays: Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS (Ga.)
Chandler’s become one of the most fascinating players in this Draft. Most feel he belongs on the mound, but maybe there’s a team willing to let him hit to feel things out.

20) Yankees: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
Let’s make it two college bats in a row for the Yankees, who took Austin Wells in 2020. McLain started the season incredibly slowly, otherwise he’d be in the conversation much higher than this.

21) Cubs: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (Ga.)
Ford has an intriguing set of all-around tools, with the ability to really hit and the skills to stick behind the plate, though he’s quick and athletic enough to move elsewhere if needed.

22) White Sox: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
At times this spring, Bachman has shown off 80-grade fastballs and sliders (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale). The White Sox certainly haven’t shied away from power college arms (Garrett Crochet, Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Carlos Rodón) in the past.

23) Indians: Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (NY)
The Indians aren’t afraid of taking high school players they think can hit, and Mack has shown he can do that, with power to come, all with having the tools to stick behind the plate.

24) Braves: Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield HS (Mass.)
Yes, there are some swing-and-miss concerns, but the tools are very loud, from his raw power to his arm and teams absolutely love his makeup.

25) A’s: Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork HS (SC)
He plays football (and will keep doing so if he goes to Clemson), he wrestles, he can really run and he can hit. What’s not to like?

26) Twins: Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
He can hit, with power, and draws a ton of walks. The Twins have shown they like college performers, with picks like Aaron Sabato and Trevor Larnach in their recent first-round history.

27) Padres: James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Wood had an overall great summer against good competition on the showcase circuit, which moved him up higher than this, but he scuffled at the plate at the start of the spring. Still, a team could bet on his very loud tools before this slot.

28) Rays: Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
This is the area of the Draft where the “safer” college arms come in and tend to creep up as the Draft gets closer. McGreevy has an intriguing combination of feel for pitching and some upside.

29) Dodgers: Peyton Stovall, 2B, Haughton HS (La.)
The Dodgers have definitely been scouting Stovall, and while he might be limited defensively, he could go higher as one of the best pure prep bats in the class.

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