Inbox: Where will Leiter and Rocker land?

June 2nd, 2021

June may be my favorite month of the baseball season. The NCAA Division I baseball tournament kicks off this weekend, the Minor League season is in full swing and the Draft -- well, that's moved to July now but there's still plenty of Draft intrigue and suspense. Let's tackle some Draft and prospect questions . . .

What's the highest and lowest potential spots you see Leiter & Rocker going in the Draft? Feels like I keep seeing them projected lower and lower. -- @puk32ellers

Though Vanderbilt right-handers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker are the best college pitchers and the most famous players available, they're not going to become the first teammates to go 1-2 in the Draft. The closest that ever has come to happening was in 1978, when Arizona State infielders Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks went 1-3, and in 2011, when UCLA righties Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer did the same.

When I did my last first-round projection a week ago, I had Leiter going No. 2 to the Rangers and Rocker going No. 6 to the Diamondbacks. I continue to believe that the Pirates are targeting bats over arms (not necessarily high schoolers over collegians) at No. 1, so Texas feels like the ceiling for Leiter. As of now, Rocker wouldn't go higher than No. 4 to the Red Sox and that doesn't feel extremely likely.

Leiter won't get out of the top five picks, as he could be the best talent available in the minds of the Tigers (No. 3), Red Sox and Orioles (No. 5). Let's call Boston his realistic floor. The top tier of talent consists of eight players, so Rocker conceivably could last until the Rockies at No. 8, perhaps a bit longer if signability becomes a concern. The Reds don't pick until No. 17 but have two supplemental first-rounders and the fourth-largest bonus pool at $11,905,700.

Where will CJ Abrams and RH3 play with Tatis and Grisham in San Diego? -- @k3v_v_v

As talented as the Padres are, they'll be able to fit shortstop Abrams (the No. 6 overall pick in 2020) and outfielder Robert Hassell (the No. 8 choice last year) in their lineup when they're ready. That might be sooner rather than later because both are advanced hitters, with Abrams performing well in Double-A at age 20 and Hassell off to a fine start in Low-A at age 19.

Both Abrams and Fernando Tatis Jr. are capable of playing second base or any of the three outfield positions, and moving the latter to the outfield could help baseball's most electrifying young talent stay healthy. I'm thinking Abrams stays at shortstop and Tatis shifts to a less challenging position.

As for Hassell, he's currently playing center field but he projects better as a right fielder with his solid (not plus) speed and strong arm. Trent Grisham won a Gold Glove in center in 2020, so he stays put and Hassell shifts to a corner.

What are your thoughts on Rome outfielder Michael Harris? Many Atlanta insiders think he’s already a top prospect but he hasn’t gotten a ton of national attention. -- @loganbarber77

Harris' situation is similar to that of Orioles shortstop prospect Gunnar Henderson, a talented high school player from the 2019 Draft (albeit not a first-round pick) who didn't get a chance to play in Minor League games or make a name for himself last year. Henderson, the first choice in the second round, has played his way onto MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list already this season and Harris, a third-rounder, isn't far behind.

Most clubs preferred Harris as a left-handed pitcher early in the Draft process but he emerged as a better prospect as a hitter as a senior at Stockbridge (Ga.) High. He has a chance to have solid tools across the board, though he could slow a bit and wind up on an outfield corner once he matures physically. His potentially special bat is the main attraction and he's hitting .355/.371/.484 with eight extra-base hits and seven steals in 23 games at High-A at age 20.

How bad did the Nationals hurt themselves by winning their last game of 2020. What does the drop from 7 to 11 mean for this year’s Draft? -- Joshua J., Washington D.C.

Entering their final series last year, the Nationals had the fifth-worst record in baseball and were on track to earn the No. 5 choice in the 2021 Draft. But Washington won it final three games against the Mets, with a 15-5 victory on the last day making the difference between picking seventh and 11th this July.

That's a significant drop. As I noted above, there's a top tier of eight prospects in this year's crop: four high school shortstops (Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar, Brady House, Kahlil Watson), the two Vanderbilt right-handers, Louisville catcher Henry Davis and Oklahoma prep righty Jackson Jobe. Obviously, the Nationals would be guaranteed a shot at two or more of those players at No. 7 but may not get the opportunity to take any of them at No. 11.

Washington covets Jobe, and because some clubs are skittish about the risk involved with high school right-handers, it's possible that he could get to No. 11. More likely, they'll be looking at second-tier options such as college righties Ty Madden (Texas) and Sam Bachman (Miami, Ohio) and college outfielders Colton Cowser (Sam Houston) and Sal Frelick (Boston College).