Top 200 Draft Prospects list: A new No. 1

May 19th, 2021

Normally by now, the Draft class would be taking some definite shape, about three weeks shy of the event. But this year, the combination of an additional month to wait for the July start date of the Draft and a lack of history on players from last year or over the summer has given the Draft more uncertainty than usual.

That’s reflected in our new Draft Top 200 prospects list, where we have a new No. 1 overall prospect, and it’s certainly true at the very top of the Draft. As it stands, seven-plus weeks before they make the first pick in the first round, the Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have seven players in the mix. Some might be more serious candidates than others, though it’s still a touch early to truly handicap them. Instead, let’s put them into different buckets: Two college pitchers, two college hitters, two high school hitters and one high school pitcher.

The Top 10:
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (CA)
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (TX)
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow (GA)
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (OK)
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (NC)
Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston
Complete list »

The college pitchers

Yes, they’re exactly who you think they are: Vanderbilt right-handers Jack Leiter (now No. 3 on the Top 200) and Kumar Rocker (No. 5). Both have had some question marks of late, perhaps keeping them from being the slam dunks at the very top that some expected them to be.

After coming out of the gate in SEC play as dominant as one can be, Leiter had a few starts in which he was much more hittable -- and prone to the long ball -- than he had been, giving up 12 runs in 15 1/3 innings over three starts. Then he was scratched from his May 8 start, somewhat abruptly, with the rationale that Vanderbilt was just monitoring his workload. Given that Leiter has never pitched a full college season and durability is one of the things scouts have wondered about him, this did set off alarms. They were silenced when he returned against Ole Miss last weekend and gave up just one run on two hits while striking out 13. His fastball averaged 95 mph and he was touching 98, missing bats with that pitch and his plus curveball.

As for Rocker, the power repertoire is still really good, though a fastball that was touching 99 mph in the past has now been topping out at 95 and was averaging around 93 mph in his last start. He also didn’t miss bats with his heater and was leaning heavily on his breaking stuff, which still baffles hitters. It may seem like nitpicking, but that’s what you do with players at the top of the Draft. And given that this was the guy who threw a no-hitter in postseason play as a freshman, it will be interesting to see if he ramps it back up down the stretch.

The college hitters

Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 4) has hit his way into this conversation. College hitters who produce often move up because they are the safest bet, and Davis has done that and then some. He’s hitting .379/.498/.658 on the year with 12 homers and more walks than strikeouts. He’s slugged .654 in conference play, so it’s not like he’s slowed down. The fact that he’s improved behind the plate, showing a plus-plus arm that controls the running game, and has a good chance to stick there only improves his value, though truth be told, it looks like he’s going to hit enough to profile well at another position should a move become necessary.

Boston College outfielder Sal Frelick (No. 11) might seem like a bit of a stretch for the No. 1 pick, but he checks off a lot of boxes as a college player. Riding a 15-game hitting streak, he’s a plus hitter with a feel for the barrel with a .359/.439/.560 slash line for the season and a .354/.432/.535 line in ACC play. He’s a plus runner who has 11 steals and has proven this year he could be a plus defender in center field, helping his profile. If the Pirates think there’s enough power coming, he could belong up here.

The high school hitters

It’s the two high school shortstops now at the top of our Top 200, Marcelo Mayer of California at No. 1 and Jordan Lawlar of Texas at No. 2, and many feel one of them should be the top pick in the Draft. Scouts seem to feel more confident in Mayer’s bat, while Lawlar is more athletic and might have a higher ceiling.

Both have scouts claiming they are the superior defender, so suffice it to say that they both have a chance to play shortstop for a very long time. Lawlar’s superior speed and athleticism might give him a better shot, but Mayer has very good instincts and both have a plus arm. While comps are not our favorite thing, they can sometimes be informative in terms of what scouts dream on when they see a player. For Mayer, scouts see Corey Seager’s offensive profile and Brandon Crawford’s defense. Lawlar draws comparisons to Derek Jeter, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts.

The high school pitcher

Let’s start by pointing out that a high school right-hander has never gone No. 1 overall in the history of the Draft. So that should tell you the likelihood that Jackson Jobe of Oklahoma (No. 7) actually goes in that spot. He has definitely separated himself from other prep arms in the class, and some scouts think he could very well be the best arm in this class when all is said and done.

He’s a talented two-way player who is a solid shortstop prospect and who could be a two-way college player at Mississippi, but his future is on the mound. His athleticism plays very well on the hill, and he has four pitches that are at least above average at his disposal. He’s going to go very high in the Draft, but it’s likely the Pirates will go in this direction only if everything else has blown up.