Draft experts make first 20 selections

April 20th, 2021

The MLB Draft is still three months away, but our experts, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, are set to release an updated and expanded Draft Top 150 later this week. While they won’t give the order away in advance, they did offer a sneak preview on the latest Pipeline Podcast.

Guided by host Jason Ratliff, Callis and Mayo alternated making the first 20 picks of the Draft, based on their personal preferences and not trying to project what each club will actually do. They split the first four choices between a pair of Vanderbilt right-handers and a pair of high school shortstops.

All told, four prep shortstops went in the first 11 selections and four total catchers were taken in the top 20. If that sounds like a lot of backstops that early, that’s because it is. The last time a Draft featured four catchers among the first 20 picks was in 1979: Jay Schroeder, John Mizerock, Ricky Seilheimer and Danny Lamar.

1) Pirates (Callis): Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt -- It feels like a four-man race to go No. 1 right now, but give me the guy who’s dominating the Southeastern Conference and can pitch off his fastball like few can.

2) Rangers (Mayo): Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Texas) -- Callis taking Leiter made this easier as I feel Lawlar’s the next best player in the class right now as a five-tool player at a premium position.

3) Tigers (Callis): Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.) -- I almost went back-to-back Vanderbilt pitchers, but Mayer’s sweet left-handed swing and smooth shortstop play were too much to pass up.

4) Red Sox (Mayo): Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt -- No way I was going to let Rocker go further than this, not with that ridiculous fastball-slider combination that comes from his intimidating 6-foot-5 frame.

5) Orioles (Callis): Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Winder, Ga.) -- He has big-time power and arm strength and could be a more athletic/higher contact version of Joey Gallo.

6) D-backs (Mayo): Henry Davis, C, Louisville -- He’s risen to the top of the college bat crop by hitting over .400 with power this spring, combining that with a plus arm behind the plate lands him firmly in top 10 talk.

7) Royals (Callis): Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.) -- High school right-handers come with risk, but this one might have the best combination of pure stuff and command in the entire Draft.

8) Rockies (Mayo): Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College -- He has the chance to be a plus hitter with an advanced approach, with his plus speed helping him on the basepaths and in center field.

9) Angels (Callis): Ty Madden, RHP, Texas -- He offers stuff, strikes and strength, making him a good bet to be a big league starter.

10) Mets (Mayo): Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi -- We’re talking a four-pitch mix from a 6-foot-4 frame here, with all his stuff ticking upward this spring.

11) Nationals (Callis): Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (N.C.) HS -- He plays bigger than his size (5-foot-9, 178 pounds) and could have solid tools across the board.

12) Mariners (Mayo): Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) -- Some might see this as a reach, but I like high school guys with size (he’s 6-foot-6), good stuff and a feel for pitching.

13) Phillies (Callis): Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston -- Already established as one of college baseball’s better hitters, he’s proving he can hit for power and stay in center field.

14) Giants (Mayo): Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio) -- Rolling the dice on the power stuff here and that what he’s done this year is legit, with a fastball-slider combination that have gotten 80 grades from scouts on occasion.

15) Brewers (Callis): Adrian del Castillo, C, Miami -- His numbers may be down a bit, but he still combines power and patience like few players can in this crop and he has a chance to catch.

16) Marlins (Mayo): Matt McLain, SS, UCLA -- Once close to the top of the list, McLain started off the season very slowly, with too many strikeouts, but has righted the ship of late with a 10-game hitting streak.

17) Reds (Callis): Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State -- Clearly the best left-hander in the Draft, he’s an underrated talent with the best changeup in this class.

18) Cardinals (Mayo): Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (Lewisberry, Pa.) -- Huge tools and upside, with incredible raw power, all of which comes with some swing-and-miss risk.

19) Blue Jays (Callis): Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (Kennesaw, Ga.) -- An athletic catcher, he runs a 6.42-second 60 and could play almost anywhere on the diamond, and he also offers plenty of bat speed and power potential.

20) Yankees (Mayo): Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (East Amherst, N.Y.) -- There's a run on prep catchers, which is a tough profile, but Mack can really catch and throw with a chance to hit for average and power.