1 intriguing Draft pick for each team

July 14th, 2021

The biggest and flashiest names in this year's Draft class heard their names called early on Sunday, but teams keep drafting past Round 1 for a reason. Every club is looking for value and "diamonds in the rough" in the subsequent rounds, and oftentimes that's where many of the best stories emerge, too.

MLB.com's beat writers identified the most interesting picks their clubs made after Round 1 of the 2021 Draft. Here are their choices below:


Blue Jays: RHP Luke Holman -- Wilson (Pa.) HS
Round 20 (603rd overall)
Holman reportedly turned down multiple offers to be selected much earlier in the 2021 Draft, looking for a higher bonus to sign him away from his commitment to play NCAA ball at Alabama, but the Blue Jays still used their final pick on the No. 172 player in the class, as ranked by MLB Pipeline. The 18-year-old right-hander has plenty of projection at 6-foot-4 and is one of the more inspiring stories in this Draft class, having beaten large cell lymphoma when he was younger after undergoing chemotherapy for a year. More >

Orioles: RHP Dylan Heid -- University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown
Round 11 (317th overall)
The Orioles have made a habit of combing the Division II and Division III ranks for sleepers in recent Drafts, targeting mainly high-strikeout, low-walk pitchers who might be undersized or overlooked. Heid fits that build, having whiffed 115 and walked just 15 this spring in what was, statistically, one of the best seasons by a pitcher in all of Division III. But his most interesting resume point is the March 6 no-hitter he threw against West Liberty, when Heid struck out 13 over seven near-perfect innings. More >

Rays: LHP Patrick Wicklander -- University of Arkansas
Round 8 (251st overall)
It’d be a mistake to overlook any of the Rays’ later-round picks, given their knack for finding diamonds in the rough and bringing the best out of their prospects. And it would be especially foolish to bet against Wicklander, the left-hander who emerged this season as the Arkansas Razorbacks’ ace and led all Southeastern Conference starters with a 2.09 ERA in 18 outings. His fastball can touch 96 mph but sits between 90-92 and plays well up in the zone, and he also throws a slider and a changeup.

What really stands out about Wicklander, though, is what he’s overcome off the field. Last May, he was hospitalized for about a week after being diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. His blood sugar levels nearly reached the point of sending him into a diabetic coma, he said, and doctors called him a “walking miracle.” But he made it back to the mound this spring, better than ever, and now he’s ready to start his professional career. More >

Red Sox: UTIL Daniel McElveny -- Bonita Vista (Calif.) HS
Round 6 (166th overall)
Of the 612 players taken in this year’s Draft, McElveny is the only one who was designated by the team who drafted him as “utility”. That’s because the Red Sox loved what they saw when McElveny worked out for them at Fenway Park earlier this spring. They put him everywhere from catcher to the outfield to the infield and he looked at home anywhere he had a glove on his hand. More >

Yankees: 1B Tyler Hardman -- University of Oklahoma
Round 5 (153rd overall)
Hardman showcases "a power vibe reminiscent of Luke Voit," according to Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' senior vice president of player development. And like the current Yankees first baseman, the 22-year-old Hardman utilized last season's shutdown to revamp his physique, dropping 20 pounds during quarantine. He showcased a more powerful, agile frame when play resumed, leading the Big 12 with a .397 batting average with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 55 games for the Sooners. More >


Indians: RHP Tommy Mace -- University of Florida
Competitive Balance Round B (69th overall)
Mace didn’t have the flashiest year on paper last season, pitching to a 4.38 ERA, but he has the potential to be a match made in heaven for the Indians. Scouts raved about his spin rate and Cleveland has proven what it can do with hurlers who have intriguing metrics. Mace said it was imperative for him to end up with a team that he trusted to develop him and couldn’t have been more pleased to wind up with the Indians. But that’s not the only reason he’s excited to be in the organization. Just a few picks later, Cleveland selected another hurler from the Florida Gators’ roster, who turned out to be his roommate, Jack Leftwich. The two going to the same organization now continues a streak that’s extended three years for the Gators. More >

Royals: C Carter Jensen -- Park Hill Senior (Mo.) HS
Round 3 (78th overall)
Jensen was one of three local Kansas City-area products the Royals took in the Draft this year, and that means as much to the organization as it does to the players. Jensen grew up going to Royals games at Kauffman Stadium and modeled his game against their veteran All-Star catcher, Salvador Perez. When Jensen participated in a pre-Draft workout at the stadium, he was very close to hitting a ball into the fountains like Perez has done so many times before. More >

Tigers: RHP RJ Petit -- Charleston Southern University
Round 14 (405th overall)
Don't let the last name fool you. Petit is 6-foot-8 and 280-285 pounds, down from 300 last year, and has thrown as hard as 99 miles per hour, though his fastball usually sits closer to the mid-90s. He was the Big South Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year the last two seasons and finished second in the conference in ERA and fourth in strikeouts. With some work on his delivery and refinement on his mid to upper 80s slider, the Tigers could have an imposing power arm from a young man who had one Division I scholarship offer out of high school. More >

Twins: SS Mikey Perez -- UCLA
Round 15 (459th overall)
Some players are known to be well-coached, but few can claim the type of coaching roots present in Perez’s household. His father, Gerardo, coached him at the high school level while his mom, Kelly, is a five-time national champion coach with UCLA softball (after winning three titles as a player). Perez has been around the sport quite literally his whole life: At nine months, he took his first steps on a field at the Women’s College World Series. More >

White Sox: RHP Theo Denlinger -- Bradley University
Round 7 (215th overall)
Denlinger is a 25-year old who is close to getting his master’s in business administration from Bradley. He’s an accomplished blacksmith, selling his wares through his personal Instagram account, and has been adopted by the Lakota Sioux as Buffalo Boy (Tatanka Hok Shi-La). His teammates on the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League call him “Grandpa,” but age is not an issue to Denlinger. He has a fastball known to hit the high 90s, even getting to 100 with Madison, although Denlinger isn’t sure of the accuracy of those speed gun readings. More >


Angels: LHP Mason Albright -- IMG Academy (Fla.)
Round 12 (351st overall)
The Angels made history by going 20-for-20 in selecting pitchers in the 2021 Draft but Albright was the lone prep arm, as the other 19 picks were college pitchers. Albright is committed to Virginia Tech but the Angels are hopeful he'll sign, as they drafted eight seniors in an effort to save money to allocate on other players. More >

Astros: IF Will Wagner -- Liberty University
Round 18 (538th overall)
Wagner, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting infielder, was taken 526 picks lower than where his father, former MLB All-Star closer Billy Wagner, went in the 1993 Draft – No. 12 overall to the Astros out of Ferrum College. Will was born in the summer of 1998 (a year before his dad made his first All-Star Game), and he was five years old when his dad was traded from the Astros to the Phillies. As a senior this year, Will Wagner slashed .333/.417/.538 with seven homers and 52 RBIs in 43 games for Liberty, which was the only school to offer him a scholarship. More >

Athletics: RHP Mason Miller -- Gardner-Webb University
Round 3 (97th overall)
To even declare Miller a longshot to reach professional baseball in 2018 would have been an understatement. Diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes that year, he struggled to gain weight and ended the season a 150-pound pitcher with a fastball that sat around 87-88 mph who went 1-5 with a 7.16 ERA while playing Division III baseball at Waynesburg University. But after a change in his diet and some serious strength training, Miller gained 65 pounds. By the end of his transformation, he transferred to a Division I program in Gardner-Webb and flashed a fastball that clocked as fast as 99 mph on his way to a 8-1 record with a 3.30 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings. More >

Mariners: RHP Michael Morales -- East Pennsboro (Pa.) HS
Round 3 (83rd overall)
Morales might be the Mariners’ most intriguing selection of their 20 in this year’s MLB Draft, at least in the context of where he was taken, what he brings and how he fits. The 18-year-old right-hander joins a Seattle farm system loaded with pitching. But much of that group was assembled via college talent, a premium that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has had since taking over ahead of 2016. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder was on his way to the elite college-pitching ranks, committed to Vanderbilt, but it’s almost certain that he will sign with Seattle after being taken in the third round with the No. 83 overall pick, saying he is “extremely confident” on the negotiations. Morales was the No. 109 Draft prospect, per MLB Pipeline. More >

Rangers: RHP Chase Lee -- University of Alabama
Round 6 (164th overall)
Lee didn’t originally intend to play baseball when he arrived at Alabama, choosing to attend the school for its aerospace engineering program. After failing to initially crack the team as a walk-on, Lee converted to a sidearm pitcher and played for the school’s club team, where he had a 0.21 ERA and was named a Rawlings National Club Baseball Association First Team All-American. Lee would soon make the varsity club, being dubbed “The Viper” for his sidearm delivery. In three years with Alabama, Lee had a 1.87 ERA, the lowest career ERA in program history. More >


Braves: LHP Adam Shoemaker -- St. Benedict Catholic (Ont.) HS
Round 11 (337th overall)
Shoemaker began pitching just two years ago and he was sitting in the upper 80s and touching 90 mph before last year’s pandemic. But once this Canadian athlete began playing again, he caught the eyes of scouts who found his fastball sitting in the low 90s and touching 95. The Braves love the tremendous upside of this young, fresh-armed hurler, who admits he began pitching because he was no longer a capable hitter. More >

Marlins: OF Noah Williamson -- Everett (Wash.) Community College
Round 19 (569th overall)
Not much is known about Williamson, who spent time at two junior colleges over the past year only for the COVID-19 pandemic to cancel games. Credit is due to Marlins northwest/northern California area scout Scott Fairbanks, who called director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik three weeks ago about a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder tearing up the West Coast League. The 20-year-old outfielder showcases the best power, speed and arm on his club -- tools that also drew the attention of the Oregon Ducks. More >

Mets: RHP Levi David -- Northwestern State University
Round 9 (262nd overall)
Before becoming a Mets draftee with big-league aspirations, Levi David could have been an Olympic swimmer. A Texas state champion in the 50-yard freestyle event, David’s personal best time was 20.4 seconds -- mere tenths off the minimum needed to qualify for the Olympic trials. Given a chance to train full-time for that event, David believes he could have made a run at an Olympic team. Instead, David chose baseball, where he used one of the best curveballs in the country to strike out 15.34 batters per nine innings -- the third-highest mark in the country. More >

Nationals: 2B Darren Baker -- University of California-Berkeley
Round 10 (293rd overall)
The Nationals have selected Darren Baker for the second time, the first being in the 27th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of high school. Sure, it’s a common last name, but in this case, you would be correct to assume a relation to former Nationals manager, Dusty Baker. The University of California - Berkeley second baseman is also known for an almost collision at home plate during the 2002 World Series -- where he served as the Giants batboy -- when J.T. Snow scooped him up while the then-toddler ran into the field of play to grab a bat. More >

Phillies: OF Jordan Viars -- Rick Reedy (Texas) HS
Round 3 (84th overall)
Phillies amateur scouting director Brian Barber said whenever a team selects a player that others liked, it often receives text messages from those teams. Barber said they got plenty about Viars. “‘You just stole our guy,’” Barber said. “We got multiple of them on that pick. ‘This was our favorite high school hitter,’ different things like that. Jordan Viars jumps out to us as that type of guy.” More >


Brewers: RHP Samuel Mendez -- Cisco (Texas) JC
Round 20 (597th overall)
The Brewers ended the MLB Draft with a half-court heave at the buzzer. The thing about Milwaukee’s 21st and final selection is not just that 6-foot-7 Samuel Mendez spent most of his sporting life playing basketball in the Dominican Republic, but that he’s 28 years old, making Mendez, a right-handed pitcher out of Cisco (Tex.) Junior College, the oldest player on record ever to have his name called in the MLB Draft.

There’s a chance, MLB said, that some team, some time, has drafted an older player. The league doesn’t have a birth date on record for every player since the start of the Draft in 1965, particularly players in the very late rounds in the 1960s and 70s. But the league does have a lot of birthdates listed, including one for every player who has eventually made it to the Majors, and never has a team taken a player as long in the tooth as Mendez. More >

Cardinals: OF Elijah Cabell -- Florida State University
Round 17 (511th overall)
If you like the long ball, Cabell is the perfect prospect for you. The 511th overall pick out of Florida State is a slugger that evaluators consider to have some of the best raw power in his class, though a high swing-and-miss tendency is likely the reason he dropped to the late rounds of the Draft. Cabell’s 15 home runs on the year ranked in the top 50 in the country this past season, and his first homer of the season brought him national attention after it traveled 489 feet at 114 mph off the bat. More >

Cubs: C Casey Opitz -- University of Arkansas
Round 8 (244th overall)
Devastating pitches and the feeble swings that follow have become popular in GIF form on social media -- thanks in part to @PitchingNinja. This year, Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz also popped up frequently in that space due to his high-energy fist pumps and receiving ability for the Razorbacks' stacked staff that had six pitchers drafted this year. The Cubs had Opitz pegged as the best defensive catcher in the country and believe his impact can translate to the pitching development side of things, too. Said Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz: "We want our pitchers throwing to him." More >

Pirates: RHP Owen Kellington -- U-32 (Vt.) HS
Round 4 (102nd overall)
There was only one player selected in the 2021 Draft out of Vermont, and he’s set to make a good bit of money. At No. 102 overall Kellington became the highest-drafted player out of Vermont preps in Draft history, according to research done by the Vermont Baseball Coaches Association. In an area where few scouts ever go, Kellington made dozens show up to watch his electric start. Batters congratulated themselves for simply putting the ball in play against Kellington; he ended his senior year with a 0.22 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 49 innings. That equates to 91% of his outs coming by way of the K. More >

Reds: C Mat Nelson -- Florida State University
Competitive Balance Round A (35th overall)
Nelson went from undrafted to first rounder in one year after being passed over in 2020. The 22-year-old led the nation this year with 23 home runs and was the ACC player of the year. He also has already formed a connection with one of the greatest catchers of all time and Reds royalty in Johnny Bench. Nelson is this year’s Johnny Bench Award winner as the top college catcher and has already received text messages from him. Bench likes Nelson’s defensive skills even more than the hitting. More >


D-backs: RHP Jacob Steinmetz -- ELEV8 Baseball Academy (Fla.)
Round 3 (77th overall)
There will be plenty of attention paid to Steinmetz because of the fact that he is the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player taken in the MLB Draft, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that he’s an extremely talented pitcher that the D-backs were thrilled was there when their pick in the third round came up. Steinmetz velocity ticked up following the COVID-19 shutdown thanks to a workout and throwing program he followed from Tread Athletics. Steinmetz keeps Kosher and observes the Sabbath so he won’t ride in a car, bus or airplane from sundown Friday to sunset Saturday. D-backs scouting director, Deric Ladnier, said the organization will make adjustments to meet those needs. More >

Dodgers: SS Michael Sirota -- The Gunnery School (Conn.)
Round 16 (492nd overall)
The Dodgers selected only two position players amongst their 20 Draft picks, and one of them has personal ties to one of the sport’s greatest legends. Shortstop Michael Sirota was selected by the Dodgers in the 16th round as the 492nd overall pick in the Draft, who is also the great nephew of Yankees Hall-of-Fame pitcher Whitey Ford. Sirota, like his great uncle, has a strong and accurate arm as he can fire the ball at 96 mph across the diamond as a 6-foot-2 shortstop. More >

Giants: LHP Rohan Handa -- Yale University
Round 5 (146th overall)
Handa is an intriguing pick, as he made only four appearances for Yale last year before the season was canceled due to the pandemic. The Ivy League didn’t hold a 2021 season due to ongoing health concerns, prompting Handa to join the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League for additional reps. The 21-year-old revamped his mechanics over the past year and is now hitting 97 mph with a plus slider. More >

Padres: RHP Kevin Kopps -- University of Arkansas
Round 3 (99th overall)
Kopps was the SEC Pitcher of the Year, and he led Division I pitchers with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP en route to winning the Dick Houser Trophy as the college player of the year. He put forth one of the most impressive college baseball seasons in recent memory.

So why did he drop to the third round? Well, Kopps is already 24, having redshirted a season, then sitting for a season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Still, the Padres are extremely bullish on his potential as a weapon in their bullpen, perhaps as soon as next season. He’s clearly one of the most advanced pitchers in the Draft -- and believe it or not, he’s convinced that a driving factor behind his 2021 success was a game of fetch with his dog. More >

Rockies: LHP Evan Shawver -- University of Cincinnati
Round 7 (200th overall)
Like many college baseball players in 2020, Evan Shawver saw his season get cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he did not waste that time in between the surprising end to the 2020 season and the slow build up to the 2021 return of college baseball. Shawver developed a power changeup once he left campus at the University of Cincinnati and went back home to Amherst, Ohio. The 6-foot lefty was effective in just a short time in ‘21 despite injury setbacks. He posted a 2.72 ERA in 46 1/3 innings. Even though he was limited to eight outings due to minor injuries while with the Bearcats, Shawver boosted his Draft profile in this summer’s Cape Cod League. More >