The first day of the 2021 MLB draft is in the books, and as usually there were no shortage of surprise picks. The Tigers walked away with one of the best hauls of the night, after selecting Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden in the first and Competitive Balance rounds, respectively. Detroit will once again be on the clock shortly after the second round begins, and therefore will have the opportunity to draft one of the talented players who, for one reason or another, was passed over during the first batch of selections.
There’s plenty of dissonance between various scouting services regarding how to rank the players left available for teams to pick over as the second day of the draft commences. However, the same basic group took shape looking at each. For the sake of easy reference, let’s look at the best players available according to FanGraphs’ and MLB Pipeline’s rankings, along with two wild cards who are talented but with an unknown draft range.
FanGraphs’ Best Available Players
RHP Bubba Chandler, North Oconee (GA) — FanGraphs’ report describes two way player with a great frame and exceptional athleticism. Perfect Game’s profile includes descriptions of a simple, clean, and repeatable delivery, which are excellent precursors of durability and command. Add in his unusually good feel for a changeup and burgeoning velocity, and you’ve got the building blocks for an enviable developmental project. He tops out in the low 90s, but the fastball movement profile is sound and the velocity should come naturally as he adds muscle. Likely a long-term project, Chandler is a pitching coach’s dream.
OF Ethan Wilson, South Alabama — There is virtually nothing in common between the scouting reports of Wilson available on FanGraphs and Pipeline, so as this is the FanGraphs section, we’ll defer to their opinion. Wilson is a power/speed athlete whose production at South Alabama has been a strange roller coaster that causes teams pause when considering him. However, where we need to depart from their writeup is in matters of fact. They describe him as having severe strikeout issues, but that hasn’t been the case outside of the 2020 season. In 2021, he’s walked nearly twice as often as he’s struck out, albeit facing poor competition.
MLB Pipeline’s Best Available Players
LHP Anthony Solometo, Bishop Eustace (NJ) — One of the most entertaining players in this class to watch on tape, Solometo thrives on a two-pitch diet of tailing fastballs and sweeping sliders that he unleashes from an unusual sidewinder delivery. His pitching motion makes hitters uneasy, as the ball is difficult to track through the flurry of knees and elbows involved in his pitching motion. Nevertheless, he does a good job repeating his delivery and enjoys good control over his pitches. The trouble will come in pro ball as sequencing becomes more difficult without much depth in his arsenal or present velocity to keep hitters off his fastball.
SS Will Taylor, Dutch Fork (SC) — Taylor comes attached to a high price tag, which is understandable in light of his commitment to play baseball and football for the Clemson Tigers. He’s a developmental prospect, but the component parts are in place for him to be an exceptional ballplayer down the road. He’s remarkably fast and despite a smaller build, he’s also able to hit for some sneaky power. A team could feasibly mold him into a shortstop or a center fielder and add muscle to unlock his full offensive potential. There’s also some belief that he’ll get a boost by focusing on baseball alone instead of splitting his attention between multiple sports.
RHP Jaden Hill, LSU — Due to injury, Hill has been able to pitch very little during his time with the LSU Tigers. When he was on the mound, though, he demonstrated that he has the best pitch mix in the 2021 draft. His fastball reaches 99 miles per hour with sink. His changeup routinely flashes plus or better. As far as FanGraphs is concerned, his slider is already a plus pitch. Hill isn’t no artist, but he has a general feel for the strike zone. no one can match him in terms of pure talent. However, evaluators just can’t shake uneasiness over his extensive injury history. Questions about how sustainable he is in a starting role, or whether he can even stay on the field, could even drive him too low in this draft to be signable.
OF Jud Fabian, Florida — An athletic center fielder who hits for power and has a good track record against tough competition is a natural fit for the first round. Fabian brings all those ingredients to the table, yet he went unselected on the first day of the draft. That’s because his performance was poisoned by an unsightly number of strikeouts and players who strike out as much in college as he did last season rarely, if ever, pan out. He’s reportedly more than happy to return to Florida if no team is willing to meet his signing bonus demands and pro teams may afford him that opportunity to rebuild his value as a first round pick next season.