With just seven weeks to go until MLB’s First Year Player Draft on July 11, we are officially in mock draft season! And CBN has you all covered as we proudly present the first of three mocks we’ll deliver to you between now and the big day.
Unlike last year when ASU’s Spencer Torkelson was essentially the wire-to-wire choice to go 1-01, things are a little murkier this time around. Vanderbilt’s gigantic righthander, Kumar Rocker, was the pre-season consensus choice to ride the pole position, but he was overtaken during the season’s first half by rotation mate and fellow righty Jack Leiter. While both hurlers’ names have still been bandied about as serious candidates for first overall, they’ve received plenty of competition from high school shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer, as well as Louisville catcher Henry Davis.
It’s important to know that this is the first year the draft will be held in mid-July. As a result, there’s still ample time for many of the top college prospects to make their case.
The most challenging aspect of this mock draft is an annual rite of passage with this exercise-- determining where injured pitchers fit. This is especially true for Tommy John patients Gunnar Hoglund of Ole Miss and Jaden Hill of LSU, the former having been ticketed for the top 10 until his elbow ligament gave out. In conversations with scouts, it’s become evident Hoglund won’t make it out of the first 20 picks. Hill will have to wait a little longer to hear his name called.
Alas, in the words of the immortal Mills Lane, “Let’s get it on!”
1) Pittsburgh Pirates—Jordan Lawlar, SS, HS (Irving, Texas): Rocker and Leiter were the two obvious choices here early on, but recently it’s become more apparent that the Bucs are zeroing in on a bat with Lawlar as the current favorite. Pittsburgh has had a heavy presence at Lawlar’s games, and his well-rounded skill set is in sync with what they’re looking for with the first overall pick. The Pirates recently had a big contingent at one of Mayer’s games and have also kicked the tires on Davis.
2) Texas Rangers—Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt: On draft night, it’s not uncommon for Texas to zig when others zag, but this one is cut-and-dry. While local boy Lawlar is at the top of the Rangers’ wish list, they’re nearly as fixated on Leiter, whose show of force last Saturday against Ole Miss reaffirmed his lofty status after several disappointing starts. Leiter’s elite fastball and deluxe secondary stuff all but assure a rapid rise through the minor leagues.
3) Detroit Tigers—Marcelo Mayer, SS, HS (Chula Vista, CA): Detroit’s intense pursuit of Mayer has been well-chronicled this spring with numerous high-ranking Tigers evaluators and decision makers having already made pitstops to scenic Chula Vista. Mayer checks two important boxes for Detroit. First, he boasts a polished bat that should move with lightning speed through a system still largely devoid of high-end offensive talent. Second, the addition of Mayer would add a bona fide SS to an organization sorely lacking at the position. The Tigers’ heavy hitters have also been in to see Leiter, Brady House, and Jackson Jobe.
4) Boston Red Sox—Henry Davis, C, Louisville: Though Rocker is still on the board, he won’t land in the City with the Dirty Water, where Chaim Bloom has always had an affinity for hitters. Davis is the ideal pick for this offensive-minded franchise—his ability to make contact combined with impressive batted-ball metrics make him a unicorn behind the plate.
5) Baltimore Orioles—Brady House, SS/3B, HS (Winder, GA): Mike Elias was in Houston for the Mark Appel and Brady Aiken Draft Night Massacres of 2013-14 and has acted accordingly as O’s GM, popping C Adley Rutschman at 1-01 in 2019 and OF Heston Kjerstad second overall last year. In other words, Rocker will have to wait a little longer as Elias plucks the Georgia prep sensation House. Though there’s some swing-and-miss to House’s game, he offers an enticing combination of high-end athleticism, projected 70-grade power and arm, and youth (he’s still 17). In addition to rolling deep at several of House’s games, the Orioles’ brass has exhibited strong interest in Kahlil Watson.
6) Arizona Diamondbacks—Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College: Arizona has a type, and, unfortunately for Rocker, it’s smaller, contact-oriented outfielders like Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and, now, Frelick. It’s important to note that Diamandbacks owner Ken Kendrick is not known as one of the more “generous” owners and it’s doubtful he’d be willing to play ball with a client of Scott Boras looking to recoup some of the slot money he lost during his draft night descent.
7) Kansas City Royals—Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt: If the 2018 draft is any indication, Royals GM Dayton Moore & Co. will roll out the red carpet for Rocker. On that fateful night, KC scooped up premium arms Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic after they all became available far later than everyone expected. We think history will repeat itself should Rocker fall on July 11th. The Royals have also demonstrated heavy interest in Davis and House and sent a large group in to see Hoglund before he got injured.
8) Colorado Rockies—Kahlil Watson, SS/2B, HS (Wake Forest, NC): The Rockies have looked closely at Watson, a line drive machine whose game would translate very well to Coors. They also like House, who almost certainly won’t make it this far.
9) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State: It seems like the Angels have been forever seeking polished arms to bolster the parent club’s beleaguered starting pitching and this year will be no different. The Halos have also been in to see Hoglund, and Ryan Cusick, among others, and will settle on Wicks, who made great strides during his time in Manhattan.
10) New York Mets—Ty Madden, RHP, Texas: Though Madden’s operation and offerings are considered unconventional in the high-spin rate, low-release point world we live in, he’s still high voltage with plenty of success under his belt. Not to mention he’s big and durable with command of three pitches. The Metropolitans have also put the full court press on Hoglund, Matt McLain, and Colton Cowser.
11) Washington Nationals—Jackson Jobe, RHP: HS (Oklahoma City, OK): Nats GM Mike Rizzo is never afraid to roll the dice on prep arms, and in Jobe he’d be getting one of the best in years. Jobe’s pitch metrics are off the charts, and his top-of-the-line athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery with ease.
12) Seattle Mariners—Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State: In his rush to come down the mountain, Moses lost the 11th Commandment, which read, “Thou shalt not draft for need.” GM Jerry DiPoto and friends are following this edict to a T when they select Cowser, despite the crop of high end outfielders in the Mariners’ system. Though the Southland Conference is a far cry from the SEC, ACC, and other powerhouses, Cowser’s refined swing mechanics, burgeoning power, ability to stick in CF, and history of success with Team USA might make him somewhat of a value play at 12. In addition to Cowser, the Mariners have honed in on a bunch of college players, including Cusick and McLain.
13) Philadelphia Phillies—Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest: During his nearly 15 years in Detroit, Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski earned his reputation as a guy who coveted big, power arms because of their ability to miss bats in October as well as the ease at which they can be converted to valuable currency at the trade deadline. Cusick certainly qualifies as a big, power arm—the 6-06/235 righty’s fastball sits in the upper 90’s and he boasts a wipeout curveball.
14) San Francisco Giants—Matt McLain, SS/2B, UCLA: The Giants in recent years have taken the developed college hitter route—Joey Bart, Hunter Bishop, and Patrick Bailey—and will continue this trend with McLain, who earlier this month suffered a broken thumb. McLain’s unique in that he’s viable anywhere in the middle of the diamond and offers 15 HR/30 SB upside.
15) Milwaukee Brewers—Jud Fabian, OF, Florida: Last year, the Brewers took a tooled up college hitter with swing/approach questions in Garrett Mitchell and we feel they’ll be a repeat offender in 2021. Fabian began the spring as a legitimate 1-01 candidate, but a miserable February and March prompted a freefall down draft boards. But a change in his two-strike approach has sparked a revival (in his last 18 games Fabian is slashing .344/.476/.859 with 9 HR, 17 RBI, and a 15/17 K ratio).
16) Miami Marlins—Will Taylor, OF, HS (Irmo, SC): The Marlins are an organization that never shies away from premier athletes, and Taylor, a highly touted slot receiver in football and accomplished wrestler, certainly fits that description. Miami has also showed interest in a bunch of college arms.
17) Cincinnati Reds—Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (OH): Reds country is now known as Spincinnati, and Bachman’s vicious slider (and 100 MPH heater) would be a great fit. If there wasn’t concern about Bachman’s long arm stroke and durability questions, he might go as many as 10 picks higher.
18) St. Louis Cardinals—Andrew Painter, RHP, HS (Pompano Beach, FL): St. Louis has been all over the map in recent years with its 1st Round demographics, and this late in the 1st round Painter represents an intriguing value play. He offers an interesting mix of size, stuff, and pitchability and should move relatively quickly for a high school arm.
19) Toronto Blue Jays—Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi: As we indicated above, Hoglund was well on his way to landing in the top 10; however, a trip to Dr. Andrews changed that plan. Still, given the success rate of Tommy John surgery and Hoglund’s strong performance before he got hurt, he’d be a steal for Toronto at 19.
20) New York Yankees—Benny Montgomery, OF, HS (Lewisberry, PA): A number of teams in the teens are in on Montgomery, who has the loudest tools in the HS class and over the off-season reworked his swing to allow for more contact. The Yankees in the past have targeted high upside guys, so this pick makes a lot of sense.
21) Chicago Cubs—Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State: Bednar has shot up draft boards this spring after seeing both his fastball and slider tick up and now profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse, something the Cubs urgently need.
22) Chicago White Sox—Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami (FL): Sometimes history does repeat itself. In 2016, Chicago took Miami backstop Zack Collins, who was best known for his lethal lefty bat, and this year the ChiSox go catcher shopping in the same aisle. Though Del Castillo has not had the type of season many expected, he still offers a keen eye and plenty of thump from the left side. Much like Collins, there are some questions regarding his defense and ability to stay behind the plate long-term.
23) Cleveland Indians—Joshua Baez, OF, HS (Boston, MA): The Indians are a very model-friendly organization, and Baez’ relative youth and loud tools are a perfect fit for the Tribe.
24) Atlanta Braves—Bubba Chandler, RHP, HS (Bogart, GA): A match made in heaven. The Braves aren’t afraid of high school arms and love kids from their own backyard. Chandler, a star on the gridiron and an excellent SS, oozes athleticism and projects as a frontline starter once he accumulates more reps on the mound.
25) Oakland A’s—Chase Petty, RHP, HS (Somers Point, NJ): For decades, it’s been all about extracting value for the A’s, and in Petty they see the best heater in the HS class to go along with a freakish slider. An MLB free agent with Petty’s toolset would be out of Oakland’s price range.
26) Minnesota Twins—Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama: The Twins have a “thing” for polished lefthanded OF bats (see Kirilloff, Alex and Larnach, Trevor) and Wilson, his dip in power notwithstanding, has displayed a penchant for making contact (K-rate of just 8 percent this season) and an ability to drive the ball to all fields.
27) San Diego Padres—Thatcher Hurd, RHP, HS (Manhattan Beach, CA): The Padres are known for their affinity for high school arms—a rarity these days—and Hurd fits their model. He has size, moxie, and stuff, though may be tough to lure away from UCLA.
28) Tampa Bay Rays—Michael McGreevey, RHP, UC Santa Barbara: The Rays’ scouting and player development system are the envy of all of baseball, and McGreevey is an ideal candidate for Tampa Bay’s finishing school. McGreevey has seen a substantial uptick in his fastball to the mid-90’s while sharpening command of all his pitches.
29) Los Angeles Dodgers—Alex Mooney, SS, HS (Rochester Hills, MI): The Dodgers have flown the northern prep SS route before, taking Gavin Lux in the 1st round in 2016 and that seems to be working out. There’s a lot of chatter that L.A. may take Fabian if he falls this far, but that’s doubtful.