Mock Draft: HS prospects surging up boards

May 26th, 2021

Usually at the time of college tournament play, teams have narrowed their focus in the first round of the Draft. But with the event moved to July for the first time this year, the number of players in the top tier of talent is still expanding.

Both North Carolina high school shortstop Kahlil Watson and Oklahoma prep right-hander Jackson Jobe are surging toward the top of the Draft and could fit in the first five selections -- and perhaps higher. Watson has played well since his season began in late April and might be the second high school shortstop taken among four who figure to go in the top 10. While Jobe comes with risk as a prep righty, multiple scouts believe he's the best pitching prospect available, ahead of the vaunted Vanderbilt duo of Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.

With six-plus weeks to go, who will go where in the first round remains quite fluid. There aren't 29 consensus first-round talents for 29 first-round picks.

The only team without a first-round pick is the Astros, who lost their top two selections in both 2020 and 2021 as a punishment for sign stealing. They would have selected 16th overall if they hadn't been penalized.

Below is our projection with 46 days to go before the Pirates exercise the No. 1 overall pick. Detailed scouting reports and grades can be found for all of these players on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200.

1. Pirates: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.)
The Pirates appear to be targeting bats over arms at No. 1, with Mayer the frontrunner, fellow high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar also in the mix and Louisville catcher Henry Davis the only realistic college option.

2. Rangers: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
After giving up eight homers in a three-start stretch and then taking a week off, Leiter has returned to his dominant ways. If the Rangers go high school shortstop here, don't be shocked if it's Watson over local product Lawlar.

3.Tigers: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Dallas)
The Tigers likely would take Mayer or Leiter, though their third choice is less clear. It could be Lawlar, No. 1 in my last first-round projection from three weeks ago, but Detroit may prefer Brady House among the other prep shortstops and could look elsewhere.

4. Red Sox: Henry Davis, C, Louisville
The Red Sox feel like the absolute floor for Leiter, who probably won't get to them. Davis is the best college position player available, the high school shortstops also would be attractive and there are rumblings Boston could cut a deal with a lesser college bat to save money to spend big later.

5. Orioles: Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Winder, Ga.)
Just because the Orioles took catcher Adley Rutschman with the No. 1 overall pick two years ago, don't rule out Davis, who could easily shift to right field to get the most out of his potent bat. Baltimore has heavily scouted the prep shortstops as well and also could follow a similar path to what it did at No. 2 last June, taking a college position player at a discount to shift bonus-pool money to later selections.

6. D-backs: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Rocker was MLB Pipeline's preseason No. 1-rated prospect and has performed well for much of the season, though there's also some thought that the D-backs may want a hitter here. Of the players who could realistically get to No. 6, Davis might be the preferred choice, and Arizona also has scouted House and Watson extensively.

7. Royals: Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (N.C.) HS
Many clubs don't believe Watson actually will last this long. If he doesn't, the Royals could turn to Rocker or whichever high school shortstop is left on the board.

8. Rockies: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (Oklahoma City)
Jobe might have the best slider in the Draft, his fastball and changeup can flash as plus-plus pitches and he pounds the strike zone, so he might overcome the bias against prep righties and go significantly higher than this. If they look beyond the consensus top tier, the Rockies could go for a college bat, such as outfielders Colton Cowser (Sam Houston) or Sal Frelick (Boston College) or shortstop Matt McLain (UCLA).

9. Angels: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
The Angels likely would scoop up any of the top eight players if they make it to No. 9. There are differing schools of thought that they otherwise would prefer a college product (McLain, Frelick, Texas right-hander Ty Madden) or a Georgia prepster (right-hander shortstop Bubba Chandler, catcher Harry Ford).

10. Mets: Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College
The Mets may be zeroing in on college bats such as Frelick, Cowser and McLain, with Madden the best bet if they opt for a college arm.

11. Nats: Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)
The Nationals covet Jobe, and while the pitchers they adored fell to them in 2019 (Jackson Rutledge at No. 17) and 2020 (Cade Cavalli at No. 22), it would take a miracle for that to happen again. Like Garrett Crochet, who went to the White Sox in this spot last June, Bachman has a pair of wipeout pitches and could help in the big leagues very soon, though this is his ceiling because he comes with more reliever risk than the other first-round college arms.

12. Mariners: Ty Madden, RHP, Texas
After scoring with three straight college pitchers (Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock) in the first round, the Mariners could stick with what works and target Madden, Bachman or Kansas State left-hander Jordan Wicks.

13. Phillies: Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (Lewisberry, Pa.)
The Phillies aren't tied to any specific demographic and have been linked to college position players (Cowser, Frelick) and pitchers (Madden, Wicks, Wake Forest right-hander Ryan Cusick) as well as high school bats such as homestate product Montgomery. They also may be the ceiling for fast-rising New Jersey prep left-hander Anthony Solometo.

14. Giants: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Montgomery, who might have the best all-around tools in the Draft, and Wicks, clearly the top lefty available, are the two names most often mentioned with the Giants.

15. Brewers: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston
The most likely scenario for the Brewers is to take whichever of the college bats remains among Cowser, Frelick and McLain. Cowser could go ahead of both depending on how the Draft plays out and this feels like his floor.

16. Marlins: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (Kennesaw, Ga.)
The Marlins are associated with a lot of the best high school athletes, such as Ford (who can run a 6.42-second 60-yard dash and play anywhere on the diamond), Montgomery and outfielder Will Taylor.

17. Reds: Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS (Bogart, Ga.)
Also a Clemson football recruit as a quarterback, Chandler is the Draft's best two-way prospect and teams are split on whether he offers more upside as a right-hander or a shortstop.

18. Cardinals: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
An almost-certain top-10 pick before blowing out his elbow earlier this month and requiring Tommy John surgery, Hoglund is still a lock first-rounder as an advanced college starter.

19. Blue Jays: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian has overcome severe swing-and-miss issues earlier in the season to challenge for the NCAA Division I home run lead while remaining one of the best college athletes available, so he has played his way back into the first round.

20. Yankees: Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (East Amherst, N.Y.)
For whatever reason, the Yankees seem to be linked to more different players than any club, including the same high school athletes as the Marlins as well as Mack, who would be their third first-round catcher in the last four Drafts. They could be the first team to take Nebraska two-way star Spencer Schwellenbach, whom they prefer as a shortstop.

21. Cubs: Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
No college prospect in this projection has climbed boards more than McGreevy, who ranked second in NCAA D-I with a 104/10 K/BB ratio and also endears himself to teams with his pitch metrics. His polish could appeal to the Cubs, who have struggled to develop arms.

22. White Sox: Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The White Sox invested $7.1 million in premium high school right-handers (Jared Kelley, Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist) in the last two Drafts, though they didn't take any of them in the first round. It's unlikely they could push Painter all the way to their next pick at No. 57, however. Chicago could be the peak for Indiana prep third baseman Colson Montgomery, who's generating a lot of recent first-round buzz.

23. Indians: Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield HS (Brookline, Mass.)
After spending their last six first-round selections on high schoolers, the Indians appear headed down that road again. Baez provides one of the best combinations of power and arm strength available, and other prep candidates include Ford, Mack, Taylor, Solometo, right-hander Chase Petty and second baseman Peyton Stovall.

24. Braves: Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
Cusick has run his fastball up to 102 mph this spring, but his stock dipped somewhat when he posted a 6.46 ERA in his final four starts. The Braves also like McGreevy and Schwellenbach more than most teams.

25. Athletics: Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork HS (Irmo, S.C.)
Most teams believe Taylor will opt for baseball over playing two sports at Clemson, where he'd double as a wide receiver. The Athletics could be the earliest option for two other prep position players, shortstop Alex Mooney and third baseman Izaac Pacheco.

26. Twins: Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
If the Twins can help MLB Pipeline's preseason No. 4-rated prospect rediscover his power, Del Castillo could be a late first-round steal. Another polished college bat, South Alabama outfielder Ethan Wilson, also could factor in here.

27. Padres: Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustace Prep (Pennsauken Township, N.J.)
Solometo is gaining traction as the second-best left-hander and second-best high school pitcher in the 2021 crop, and the Padres have scouted him heavily in recent weeks.

28. Rays: Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State
The younger brother of Pirates reliever David Bednar, he has boosted his stock by displaying a plus fastball and slider and improved control all spring.

29. Dodgers: Peyton Stovall, 2B, Haughton (La.) HS
Stovall might be the best pure hitter in the Draft -- college or high school -- but position questions could allow the Dodgers to grab him at the bottom of the first round.