Rocker or Leiter: Only 1 can be 2021 No. 1

July 29th, 2020

I can't reveal exactly when MLB Pipeline will unveil its updated Top 100 Prospects and organization Top 30 lists, but I can tell you to look for them early next week. And I can share that 13 players from the 2020 Draft will crack the Top 100.

Now let's get to your questions ...

When Jonathan Mayo ranked the top 20 prospects for the 2021 Draft shortly after the 2020 Draft ended, he listed Vanderbilt right-handers Rocker and Leiter in the top two spots, in that order. I look at Rocker as having the higher ceiling and Leiter as having the higher floor, and I'd take Rocker right now because he has more track record. Leiter has pitched just 15 2/3 innings at the college level, and I could see changing my mind after a (hopefully) full college season next year.

Rocker's advantages are a stronger build (6-foot-4, 255 pounds versus 6 feet, 195 pounds), a bigger fastball (capable of sitting in the mid-90s and climbing to 99 mph) and a more overpowering breaking ball (a wipeout slider at its best). Leiter has a deeper repertoire (90-95 mph fastball, quality curveball and slider, solid changeup that he barely used this spring), better delivery and more feel for pitching.

I ran this question by seven scouting officials: one director, one assistant director, two crosscheckers and three area guys. Five of them went with Rocker, though several of them admitted they hadn't had much of a chance to see Leiter in college.

I'm not a big fan of comparisons but I like this one. Brantley didn't have Trammell's Draft pedigree (seventh round versus supplemental first round) and didn't receive as much hype while moving through the Minors, but their tools and builds were very similar at the same stage of their careers. Brantley hit .311/.399/.372 in his first four pro seasons, compared to .270/.363/.406 for Trammell.

Both were lefty hit-over-power guys, though Brantley made more consistent contact than Trammell. Both had plus speed that played better on the bases than in center field, where they received mixed reviews. Both had below-average arms that contributed to them seeing the majority of their time in left field.

Brantley made some mid-career adjustments to drive the ball more regularly in the big leagues, which helped him become a four-time All-Star. Trammell, whom the Padres acquired from the Reds last July as part of the three-team Trevor Bauer/Yasiel Puig trade, has the same kind of upside.

That's Oklahoma high school left-hander Dax Fulton, Mississippi State right-hander J.T. Ginn and Georgia righty Cole Wilcox, three first-round talents who slid a bit in the 2020 Draft. Fulton and Ginn dropped following Tommy John surgery while Wilcox's signability was a concern, but all three got paid. Fulton landed a $2.4 million bonus in the second round from the Marlins, Ginn got $2.9 million in the same round from the Mets and Wilcox set a third-round record when he received $3.3 million from the Padres.

Ginn has the most upside among this group. He features quality life on his 91-97 mph fastball and mid-80s slider, has a potential third plus pitch in his changeup and provides plenty of strikes.

Wilcox's pure stuff may be a little better but he lacks Ginn's control and command, and Fulton has less track record than either. All three of these guys are potential frontline starters if they put everything together.