In previous years, we’d be roughly a month away from the Draft at this point and the picture would be coming into clearer focus. But with the event pushed back to July 11 and teams having less history than ever on college players because of the pandemic, it’s still very fluid.
Vanderbilt right-handers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker are the most famous players in this Draft and in the upper echelon of available talent, but the public perception that they’ll be the first teammates to go Nos. 1 and 2 overall doesn’t match industry opinions. Though the Pirates haven’t made any final decisions with nearly 10 weeks to go, most clubs believe they’ll use the top pick on a high school shortstop, either Jordan Lawlar (Jesuit Prep, Dallas) or Marcelo Mayer (Eastlake HS, Chula Vista, Calif.).
And while those four players are the consensus top tier of prospects, it’s no lock that they’ll be the first four selections. Prep shortstop Brady House (Winder-Barrow HS, Winder, Ga.) and Louisville catcher Henry Davis are pushing their way into that group and could be in the mix for the Tigers at No. 3 and the Red Sox at No. 4. The only certainty at the top right now seems to be that Lawlar won’t get past his hometown Rangers at No. 2.
As of now, here’s our best guess as to how the first round will play out:
1. Pirates: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Dallas)
As a five-tool high school shortstop from the Dallas area, Lawlar draws comparisons to Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 2 to the Royals in 2019), who had louder tools but a less polished bat at the same stage of their careers.
2. Rangers: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
After taking college baseball by storm with a no-hitter in his first Southeastern Conference start and seven no-hit innings in his second, Leiter has surrendered eight homers in the last three weeks as scouts wonder how he’ll hold up under by far the biggest workload he’s ever had.
3. Tigers: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.)
He might be relatively anonymous compared to the other top-tier talents, but Mayer has the upside of a Corey Seager bat with a Brandon Crawford glove.
4. Red Sox: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Rocker’s velocity dipped into the low 90s for three weeks early in the season but the Draft’s most physical pitcher has performed consistently well and outperformed Leiter.
5. Orioles: Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Winder, Ga.)
House has bounced back after struggling on the showcase circuit last summer and offers some of the best power in the Draft and possibly enough athleticism to stay at shortstop.
6. D-backs: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
In a down year for college bats, Davis is perhaps the only preseason projected first-rounder in that group to exceed expectations, batting .403/.520/.683 with more walks (29) and extra-base hits (19) than strikeouts (15) while continuing to display plus-plus arm strength.
7. Royals: Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (N.C.) HS
The North Carolina public school season is just getting going, so Watson hasn’t been seen much in game action yet, though his 20-20 potential as a quality defender at shortstop should land him in the first 10 picks.
8. Rockies: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
A Pirates supplemental first-round pick out of high school in 2018, Hoglund has kicked his stuff up a notch this spring and came back from missing a start with biceps stiffness two weeks ago to one-hit South Carolina for six innings last weekend.
9. Angels: Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS (Bogart, Ga.)
If there’s going to be a wild-card selection in the top 10, most clubs believe it will come from the Angels, who had similar rumors swirling around them last June before making a chalk pick with Reid Detmers at No. 10. They’re repeatedly linked to Chandler, the best two-way prospect in the Draft but more of a consensus late first-rounder.
10. Mets: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Though Madden has been a trifle inconsistent this spring, he’s still a college arm with an impressive combination of stuff, pitchability and track record of success.
11. Nats: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (Oklahoma City)
There’s not a pitcher in this Draft with a better combination of three pitches and control, but the industry’s skittishness about taking prep righties early could knock Jobe down more than his talent dictates. Still, don’t be surprised if he goes in the first half-dozen picks.
12. Mariners: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston
Already one of the best hitters in the college class, Cowser has shown improved power and speed this spring, which should allow him to pass Glenn Wilson (No. 18, 1980) as the highest pick in Bearkats history.
13. Phillies: Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
This might be the floor for Frelick, whom many clubs believe will fit in the top 10 but aren’t sure where. He’s quicker but smaller and less powerful than Cowser.
14. Giants: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Easily the best left-hander available, Wicks also features the best changeup in the Draft and will become Kansas State’s first first-rounder ever.
15. Brewers: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
Ranked No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s preseason Draft Top 100, McLain slumped in March but heated back up in April and could go earlier than this to a club convinced that he’ll stay at shortstop.
16. Marlins: Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (Lewisberry, Pa.)
Montgomery might have the best all-around physical tools in the Draft, including well-above-average raw power and speed, but he has a hitch in his swing that concerns some clubs.
17. Reds: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
Bachman can hit 100 mph with his fastball and flash a top-of-the-scale slider and at least a solid changeup, so he could go higher to a team that fully buys into him as a starter.
18. Cardinals: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Though he hasn’t dominated as much as hoped, Painter is still a projectable 6-foot-6 right-hander with feel for four pitches.
19. Blue Jays: Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (East Amherst, N.Y.)
Mack’s high school season has yet to begin, but he starred on the showcase circuit and is a no-doubt catcher with an advanced approach at the plate.
20. Yankees: Adrian del Castillo, C, Miami
Ranked right behind McLain at No. 4 on our preseason Top 100, del Castillo hasn’t snapped out of his early-season doldrums and will slide further if he doesn’t start living up to his reputation as having one of the best combinations of hitting ability, power and patience in the college class.
21. Cubs: Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
No college pitcher has more helium right now than McGreevy, who endears himself to clubs with his combination of pitch data, polish and performance. He struck out 15 while permitting just two hits and no walks against Cal Poly in his last start.
22. White Sox: Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
This feels too low for Cusick, who has run his fastball up to 102 mph while displaying a much-improved curveball this spring, gaining him plenty of suitors in the 10-15 range.
23. Indians: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (Kennesaw, Ga.)
An incredibly athletic catcher who ran a 6.42-second 60-yard dash on the showcase circuit, Ford makes a lot of loud contact and has the versatility to play almost anywhere on the diamond. There’s talk that he could sneak into the first 10 picks.
24. Braves: Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida
A second-round talent in the 2020 Draft, Mace couldn’t find a deal to his liking and returned to the Gators after going unpicked. He has helped his cause by adding a four-seamer and improving his curveball, and he offers one of the higher floors among college starters.
25. A’s: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian fell from top-five consideration when he posted an alarming 38 percent strikeout rate and hit .240 in the first six weeks. He’s on the rise again after batting .302 with a 17 percent whiff rate in the last month, and his upside as a power-hitting center fielder could carry him back toward the first 10 picks if he keeps this up.
26. Twins: Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama
After a high ankle sprain bothered him in the first month of the season, Wilson is back to being one of the more polished and consistent hitters in the college ranks and could have plus power if he drives more balls in the air.
27. Padres: Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (Linwood, N.J.)
Petty’s profile as a 6-foot right-hander with some effort in his delivery scare some clubs, though it’s hard not to love a fastball that reaches 100 mph with turbo sink and an upper-80s slider.
28. Rays: Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield HS (Brookline, Mass.)
Baez may be raw at the plate, but the Rays excel at player development and his raw power and makeup are among the best in the Draft.
29. Dodgers: Peyton Stovall, 2B, Haughton (La.) HS
No high school position player has boosted his stock this spring more than Stovall, who has one of the best bats available and some natural power.