McDaniel’s draft rankings are finally out for the 2017 draft, and we’ve been hard at work making predictions for the 2021 draft.
Just like the previous two years I have done this, this is the final edition of my MLB draft rankings 3.0. I have been doing this for the last two years and will continue doing so in the future.
The 2021 MLB Draft is still five weeks away, college regionals begin on Friday and high school seasons end or have already ended, so some consensus has already been reached. In other words, it’s time to update my rankings, which now include 150 prospects. Two of the most popular names in the country are Connecticut left-handed pitcher Frank Mozzicato, who is now a late first-round pick, and Maryland shortstop Jackson Merrill, who has top-50 interest. Two American Athletic Conference players – second baseman Connor Norby (East Carolina) and left-handed pitcher Robert Gasser (Houston) – have also advanced since my last ranking, while right-hander Aaron Zavala (Oregon) has a good chance of being selected in the second round. This is my ranking of the order in which I would pick players, knowing what I know at this point, and the draft’s lineup is the order in which I think teams would actually pick players, and I’ll cover that below. Instead of talking about all the players I evaluated, I’m going to focus on the handful of players at the top of the rankings, how they compare, and how the draft might go. Before we get to the rankings, here’s a quick look at what the teams at the top of the draft are probably thinking right now. The top seven names in these rankings will likely be in the top half dozen, with five other players still in the race to join them: Oklahoma prep right-handed pitcher Jackson Jobe (three-plus pitcher, plus athlete, but still an average prep right-hander), Boston College center fielder Sal Frelick (solid spring, good tooling, but weak and no elite potential), Sam Houston State center fielder Colton Koser (strong base tooling and power, but also lacks elite potential, competes at the highest level), Pennsylvania center fielder Benny Montgomery (great veteran player with a hiccup but getting better), and Georgia catcher Harry Ford (incredible skills, can play anywhere on the field, has improved his swing all spring). The Pirates (1st pick) reportedly chose Jordan Lawlor and Marcelo Meyer, with price being a big factor – Jack Leiter and/or Henry Davis are unlikely options. The Rangers (#2) are leaning towards Leiter and Davis, but they don’t seem to have made a final decision yet, so it’s still early. The Tigers (#3) are known to like Meyer and have always liked SEC power pitchers, so Leiter will likely be second on their list, but the industry is divided on who they will take if these players become 1-2. Sources suggest Lawlor, Kumar Roker, Brady House and, somewhat belatedly, Jobe. Boston (#4) has long been linked to Rocker, but I’m not sure we should believe that; I have much more faith in the Davis connection. 2 Connected Baltimore (#5) will take Meyer if he comes here, and seems more interested in Davis and House, but I wouldn’t rule out Callil Watson either. Arizona (#6) is mentioned most often by Watson, with Jobe and Frelick also mentioned. Kansas City (No. 7) is generally considered the bottom of the line for Roker if he falls that far, but there’s also a scenario where Washington (No. 11) goes all in and offers more than a full slot for the No. 7 pick, or Roker has a chance to go back to school if his price isn’t met given the preseason expectations for the No. 1 pick that some others are setting. The Royals are also considered a possible home for House if he ignores the Orioles. Colorado (#8) will take the remaining shortstop if House or Watson makes the team, and Benny Montgomery is rumored to be selected if neither makes it. Of the 12 players named so far, I expect all of them to be selected in the top 8 and none of them will get beyond the 13-15 zone. After that, everything will be fine. Let’s move on to my ranking. Full design coverage. Design 1.0 Formatting. Design 2.0 Evaluation. 1. Jordan Lawler, SS, Jesuit HS (TX), (hired by Vanderbilt). Lawler has been the top prospect in this prep class since last summer and has probably been the generally recognized top prospect for at least half of last year. It has traditional first-ball properties: Superior speed, superior arm, above average glove for shortstop, above average bat speed and raw power, and a frame designed for the speed and summer offensive characteristics of a wood bat. He started slow in the spring due to a strikeout problem, but then finished strong. So we can say he has five tools (hitting, power, speed, glove, arm) with a score of 55 or higher on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being the major league average. The concerns are about the feints he made in the spring (though I haven’t found any scouts who have radically changed their report on that), and the fact that he turns 19 a week after the draft. Empirically, age is an important factor in predicting high school hitters, but there are many exceptions to this rule. Every team has a draft model that takes this into account, and it will sag based on scouting reports and traits, but to varying degrees. As for comparisons, there’s a bit of Carlos Correa (but with less speed) and an opposite field feel (like Derek Jeter), but there’s no perfect current equivalent. It would have been in the top half of my top 100 list. Summer video compilation. It makes sense to start with my first pick, Jordan Lawler: pic.twitter.com/gzeRHTXbnW – Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 31, 2021 2. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Calif.), (USC commit). Meyer is a scout’s dream because he’s a 6-foot-4 left-handed shortstop with a good physical prognosis, so scouts can use what they love to do: predict big improvements. Meyer is considered a better kicker than Lawler and a comparable defender at the same stage. The problem with such potential is that Meyer is now an average runner with average raw power and just a little more than average bat speed; his hitting tools are not what most top players have right now. That’s not a reason to say no, but it does highlight the fact that Meyer and Lawler are two different types of short hitters, but two with very similar overall value. If it turns out that the guy you drafted second is suddenly a million dollars cheaper than the other guy (and you can spend that money on other draft picks), a lot of heads in the industry will panic, and I think I’m one of them. Dreaming about Meyer’s prediction, the usual optimistic companion is Corey Seager (here’s a video I took of him in high school), but I don’t think Meyer will be that great. There are concerns that Meyer’s lack of speed on defense means he’ll have to move away from shortstop if he gains mass, but the added strength should offset that, and no one knows how an athlete gains mass; some players get faster, mature and gain size, a perfect example being Fernando Tatis Jr. I also saw Marcelo Mayer yesterday at Eastlake HS SS, and he is very good at baseball. 3 BP cuts, direct hit to first baseman, single to CF, then slo-mo as he misses and flies out to right field @Marcelo_Mayer10 pic.twitter.com/4y4ZGGk8KY – Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 19, 2021 3. Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably seen Leiter pitching on TV, and if you thought he was pitching like Walker Buehler, that’s a common comparison. They’re both deep right-handers from Vanderbilt who attack the upper zone with a quartet of hitters who, especially in the lower zone, opt for feints and a plus breaking ball (Leiter has a slider and a curve, while Buehler has both and a slasher). Leiter’s team needs a little (but not a lot) of work, like almost all 21-year-old players, and the main argument against him is that he’s a right-handed college pitcher who, demographically and empirically, hasn’t been the best group to pick at the top of the draft in the past. This group is better than high school right-handers, but there’s a reason why hitters are at the top of most designers’ minds. Leiter has ace potential, but he’s not a Stephen Strasburg/David Price level pitcher and could very well qualify as a solid level 2 or 3 pitcher. 4. Henry Davis, S, Louisville. Davis is a good player with a solid approach and raw 30-strikeout power, and his performance this spring matches those qualities. He’s a good athlete and has a grade 80 arm behind the plate, but defensively he’s not very good. With automatic strikeouts looming, he’s good enough to stay in the back of the lineup in this situation, so he picked the right year to be drafted. The tools and performance are solid. Some think he can play well at third base, but Davis’ type of swing – a powerful, Evan Gattis-like swing – is not the free-swinging, speed-based bat that teams like to project for the future. This means he may struggle with the elite stuff, but will probably do well and just peak early physically. Most players don’t have to predict that they will be very good for 10 years to earn a top pick, so it’s more about hair-splitting than anything else. A good hitter with a little more power, some defensive value and ACC power could very well become the best player in the class, but I still prefer shortstops. This group of top players can be placed in any order, and it is entirely possible that they will be upside down within a year. I expect at least one of the top five options to be similar to what Houston did when they acquired Carlos Correa: declare a group of players essentially equal and just pick the one that offers the most favorable bonus. 5. Brady House, SS, Winder Barrow HS (GA) (Tennessee required). I’ve written a lot about House here, but in a nutshell, it’s safe to say he’s an incredibly skilled and well-rounded shortstop with 30+ home run power and some questions about his contact skills to match that power. 6. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt… I deconstructed ladder and rocker when I looked at both at the beginning of the season, and similar questions arise today for rocker. His start in the SEC tournament showed some good starts, but was largely a mess – in front of many decision makers. Rucker’s team has been up and down all spring, and some scouts wonder if his hitting techniques (flying fastball for weaker hitters, sloppiness in chasing outside the zone) can be applied at the pro level, while Leiter (whose fastball has much better strikeout characteristics and at least as good a breaking ball and command) has no such problems. Add in that Rocker has a max frame, and fluctuating speed this spring, and you can find plenty of reasons to see an arrow down after his excellent first year and take a position player instead, but there’s also plenty to like. 7. Cahill Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC) (North Carolina recruit). Watson has been hot lately, hitting three home runs earlier this week after a strong summer performance. He will be 18.2 years old on draft day and will play shortstop or second base in professional football, which will help him in draft patterns. Like C.J. Abrams a few years ago, Watson had a good summer and showed his strength at practices but not as much in games, and as the draft approached, he showed more and more strength at practices and in games. Watson is not the elite runner that Abrams is, and has a more compact frame. Watson would also be in my top 100 list immediately after signing. and Kahlil Watson: pic.twitter.com/HKmymvYdiz – Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 31, 2021 8. Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (OK) (engaged to Ole Miss). 9. Sal Frelick, CF, Boston College 10. Colton Cowser, CF, Sam Houston State 11. Benny Montgomery, CF, Red Land HS (PA) (Virginia). 12. Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (Georgia) (recruited by Georgia Tech). 13. Matt McLean, 2B, University of California, Los Angeles 14. Will Taylor, CF, Dutch Fork HS (SC) (committed by Clemson). 15. Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss. 16. Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian HS (Florida) (Commissioned in Florida). 17. Colson Montgomery, SS, Southridge HS (IN) (Indiana commit). 18. Tyler Black, 2B, Wright State. 19. Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS, North Oconee HS, Georgia (hired by Clemson). 20. Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi 21. Jude Fabian, CF, Florida 22. Carson Williams, SS/RHP, Torrey Pines HS (Calif.) (serving in California). 23. Ty Madden, RHP, Texas. 24. Jordan Weeks, LPH, Kansas State. 25. Cooper Kinney, 3B, Baylor HS (TN) (committed by South Carolina). 26. Lonnie White, Jr, RF, Malvern Prep HS (PA) (affiliated with Pennsylvania State). 27. Tyler Whitaker, RF, Bishop Gorman HS (NV) (affiliated with Arizona). 28. Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustace Prep (NJ) (hired by UNC). 29. Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami. 30. Michael McGreevey, RHP, University of California, Santa Barbara 31. Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest. 32. Ben Kudrna, RHP, Blue Valley Southwest HS (KS) (hired by LSU). 33. Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois. 34. Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami Ohio. 35. Gage Jump, LHP, JSerra Catholic HS (Calif.) (UCLA required). 36. Connor Norby, 2B, East Carolina 37. Michael Morales, RHP, East Pennsboro Area HS (PA) (Vanderbilt supporter). 38. Frank Mozzicato, LHP, Eastern Catholic HS (CT) (hired by UConn). 39. Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU. 40. Peyton Wilson, 2B, Alabama. With two months to go until draft day, it’s time to see how each player selected in the first round will play. Mock Draft 1.0 by Kiley McDaniel 41. Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (New York) (hired by Clemson). 42. Ethan Wilson, LF, South Alabama 43. Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (New Jersey) (hired in Florida). 44. Dylan Smith, RHP, Alabama. 45. Cody Schrier, SS, JSerra Catholic HS (Calif.) (UCLA required). 46. Max Muncy, SS, Thousand Oaks HS (Calif.) (Arkansas has committed). 47. Daylen Lyle, RF, Trinity HS (KY) (hired by Louisville). 48. Josh Baez, RF, Dexter Southfield HS (MA) (committed to Vanderbilt). 49. Peyton Stovall, 2B, Haughton HS (Los Angeles) (committed to Arkansas). 50. James Wood, RF, IMG Academy HS (FL) (affiliated with Mississippi State). 51. Robert Gasser, LPH, Houston. 52. Tommy Mays, RHP, Florida. 53. Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/RHP, Nebraska 54. Jackson Baumeister, RHP, Bolles HS (FL) (committed to Florida State). 55. Izaak Pacheco, 3B, Friendswood HS (Texas A&M) (Texas A&M commit). 56. Josh Hartle, LHP, Reagan HS (NC) (hired by Wake Forest). 57. Wes Kat, 3B, Desert Mountain HS (AZ) (commitment to Arizona State). 58. Noah Miller, SS, Ozaukee HS (WI) (attached to Alabama). 59. Alex Mooney, SS, St. John’s St. Mary’s Prep HS (MI) (commitment to Duke). 60. Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa HS (Calif.) (UCLA required). 61. Andrew Abbott, LPH, Virginia 62. McCade Brown, RHP, Indiana. 63. Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Golden West JC (Calif.) 64. Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina 65. Matt Nelson, C, Florida. 66. Irv Carter, RHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL) (committed to Miami). 67. Ryan Bliss, SS, Auburn. 68. John Rhodes, RF, Kentucky 69. Nathan Hickey, C, Florida. 70. Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia 71. Braden Montgomery, RF, Madison Central HS (MS) (hired by Stanford). 72. Nick McLean, CF, Beckman HS (CA) (affiliated with CA). 73. Jay Allen, CF, John Carroll Catholic HS (Florida) (Commitment to Florida). 74. Mike Vasile, RHP, Virginia 75. Michael Robertson, CF, Venice HS (Florida) (committed to Florida). 76. Dominic Hamel, RHP, Dallas Baptist 77. Lorenzo Carrier, CF, Appoquinimink HS (DE) (pledged to Miami) 78. Doug Nyhazi, LPH, Ole Miss… 79. Edwin Arroyo, SS, Central Pointe HS (Florida) (tenured at Florida State). 80. Cody Morissette, 2B, Boston College 81. Will Coger, RHP, Bardstown HS (KY) (hired by Louisville). 82. Chad Dallas, RHP, Tennessee 83. Aaron Zavala, RF, Oregon 84. Jackson Merrill, SS, Severna Park HS (MD) (committed to Kentucky). 85. Luca Thresh, S, North Carolina 86. Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville. 87. Maddux Bruns, LHP, UMS-Wright Prep (AL) (commitment to Mississippi State). 88. Jake Caglianone, LHP, Plant HS (Florida) (Florida recruitment). 89. Peter Heubeck, RHP, Gilman HS (MD) (hired by Wake Forest). 90. Isaiah Thomas, RF, Vanderbilt 91. Troy Melton, RHP, San Diego State. 92. Grant Holman, RHP, California What’s an ace? Well, it’s complicated. So we determined some criteria and identified pitchers who met them. Kylie McDaniel Ace Ranking 93. Kai Busch, c.l., St. John’s St. Mary’s. 94. Landon Marceau, RHP, LSU. 95. Max Ferguson, 2B, Tennessee. 96. Sean Burke, RHP, Maryland. 97. Carter Jensen, C, Park Hill HS (KS) (hired by LSU). 98. Jacob Walsh, 1B, Desert Oasis HS (NV) (committed by Oregon). 99. Kaedmon Parker, RHP, Woodlands Christian HS (TX) (commitment to TCU). 100. Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon 101. Carter Holton, LHP, Benedictine Military School, Georgia (Vanderbilt hire). 102. Mason Albright, LHP, IMG Academy HS (FL) (Virginia Tech required). 103. Kelvin Ziegler, RHP, TNXL Academy HS (FL) (Auburn commit). 104. Chase Burns, RHP, Beech HS (TN) (commitment to Tennessee). 105. Roman Kimball, RHP, P27 Academy HS (SC) (committed by Notre Dame). 106. Brady Allen, RF, South Carolina 107. Hunter Goodman, S, Memphis. 108. Davis Diaz, C, Acalanes HS (Calif.) (engaged to Vanderbilt). 109. James Triantos, SS, Madison HS (VA) (commitment to North Carolina). 110. Jonathan Vastine, SS, Bartow HS (FL) (hired by Vanderbilt). 111. Rock Reggio, 2B, Thousand Oaks HS (Calif.) (committed to Oklahoma State). 112. Payton Green, SS, Crossroads Flex HS (NC) (North Carolina required). 113. Matt Mikulski, LHP, Fordham. 114. Dustin Saenz, LHP, Texas A&M 115. Christian McLeod, LHP, Mississippi 116. Wes Clark, 1B, South Carolina 117. Luke Albright, RHP, Kent State 118. Ryan Holgate, RF, Arizona. 119. Eric Hammond, RHP, Keller HS (TX) (hired by USC). 120. Christian Franklin, LF, Arkansas 121. Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy HS (FL) (Arkansas commit). 122. Chase Silset, RHP, Arizona. 123. Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Washington State 124. Jose Torres, SS, North Carolina 125. Tyler McDonough, 2B, North Carolina 126. Jacob Young, CF, Florida 127. Russell Smith, LHP, TCU. 128. Bryce Miller, RHP, Texas A&M 129. Justice Thompson, CF, North Carolina 130. Justin Henry-Malloy, 3B, Georgia Tech 131. Ryan Spikes, SS, Parkview HS (GA) (Tennessee commit). 132. Brock Selvidge, LHP, Hamilton HS (AZ) (hired by LSU). 133. Eric Silva, RHP, JSerra Catholic HS (Calif.) (UCLA required). 134. Will Frizzell, 1B, Texas A&M 135. Pierce Coppola, LHP, Verona HS (New Jersey) (committed to Florida). 136. Jan Moller, C, Wahlert HS (IA) (LSU supporter). 137. Chace McDermott, RHP, Ball State. 138. Cameron Cowley, SS, Barbers Hill HS (TX) (hired by Texas Tech). 139. James Tibbs III, RF, Pope HS (Georgia) (commitment to Florida State). 140. Coleman Willis, RHP, Houston County HS, Georgia (Georgia wants to commit) ,141. Ivan Melendez, 3B, Texas 142. Steven Hajjar, LHP, Michigan 143. Ryan Webb, LHP, Georgia 144. Malachi Knight, CF, Marysville Getchell HS (WA) (committed by UCLA). 145. Tommy DiLandri, CF, Palo Verde HS (NV) (commitment to TCU). 146. Alec Willis, RHP, Regis Jesuit HS (CO) (Minnesota recruits). 147. Caleb Roberts, S, North Carolina 148. Mason Miller, RHP, Gardner-Webb 149. Vincent Trapani, RHP, Memorial HS (WI) (hired by Arkansas). 150. Hagen Smith, LHP, Bullard HS (TX) (hired by Arkansas).