April 19, 2024


Exercise makes you strong

2021 MLB Draft tracker: Results, every first-round pick as Henry Davis goes No. 1; Kumar Rocker to Mets

1 Henry Davis, C, Louisville: Davis made the leap by hitting .370/.482/.663 this season with 15 home runs and seven more walks than strikeouts. The demand for two-way backstops always outpaces the supply, which is why Davis’ upside is intriguing. He combines a low whiff rate with a high average exit velocity at the plate, and he’s at least an adequate defender (with a strong arm) behind it. Some evaluators are concerned his strength-based swing won’t work as well against advanced pitching. Fair enough, but he’s the most accomplished collegiate bat in a class that doesn’t have many of them. 2 Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt: Leiter ranked No. 1 on the preseason list, and for good reason. He has a fastball that doesn’t take the stairway to heaven so much : plines in, hopping over bats on the way to the mitt. That effect is achieved by a combination of its innate “rise”; the flat plane his release point and stature create to the top of the zone; and its mid-to-upper-90s velocity. Scouts would like to see him become more consistent with his secondaries, but there is a belief that he’ll be able to turn at least one of his breaking balls, be it his curveball or his slider, into a trusty outpitch before long. Leiter is held as intelligent and hardworking, and perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise given that his father, uncle, and cousin all pitched in the majors. 3 Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (OK): There are scouts who believe Jobe is the best pitching prospect in the class. He’s athletic and projectable, the way most prep arms are, but he’s more polished than his peers. His fastball-slider combination produces some absurd metrics on the Trackman readout, to the degree that some evaluators believe he’ll throw a pair of double-plus pitches at his peak. He’s also gained ground with his changeup, a key factor when projecting younger arms. With all that established, high-school right-handers tend to go later than their talent and upside demand because of their extreme attrition risk. 4 Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (CA): His boosters within the industry believe that he’s the best player in the class: a potential 15-to-20-home-run-hitting shortstop who can deliver a good average and professional at-bats all the while. He isn’t a fast runner, yet the smoothness of his defensive actions enable him to appear as though he’s moving at a higher frames per second than the average prep shortstop. Depending on the extent of his projected power gains, he could finish his development with four plus tools (everything but the run), giving him a lofty ceiling that merits the top selection. 5 Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State: Cowser, who first impressed scouts by holding his own as one of the youngest members of Team USA, solidified himself as the second-best collegiate hitter in this class by batting .374/.490/.680 with 16 home runs, 17 steals (on 20 tries), and 10 more walks than strikeouts. Cowser’s power surge is notable, since it was one of the big questions for him entering the year. (He’d previously launched just eight homers in his first 328 trips to the dish.) Factor in how there are evaluators who believe he’ll begin his career in center thanks to his above-average speed and technique 6 Jordan Lawlar, SS, Dallas Jesuit HS (TX): Lawlar draws comparisons to Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr. because of a few biographical commonalities: both were born in Texas, and both were a little old for a prep prospect entering the draft. (Lawlar is 19.) The two share something else: an All-Star ceiling. Lawlar has a projectable frame and explosive hands that bode well for him developing plus power; on defense, he has a strong arm, above-average speed, and the other requisite traits to remain at the six. He has gone through stretches where he’s swung and missed more frequently than scouts would like to see from a top prep player, and it’s theoretically possible that his hit tool plays lighter than expected against high-grade pitching. 7 Frank Mozzicato, LHP, East Catholic HS (CT): Mozzicato was an under-the-radar sleeper until he reeled off four consecutive no-hitters this spring, including a 17-strikeout performance in the state championship game. (He went 3 for 4 at the plate in that contest as well.) Mozzicato has a tall, thin frame onto which he ought to add muscle over the coming years. (He turned 18 only a month ago, making him one of the younger players in this class.) That should enable him to gain a few ticks of velocity (he sits around 90 mph) to his fastball, in turn making his advanced curveball even more effective. His simple delivery, meanwhile, bodes well for his command projection. 8 Benny Montgomery, OF, Red Land HS (PA): Montgomery has near-elite footspeed and a strong arm that should help him stick in center. He possesses big-time power potential at the plate as well, though evaluators are concerned about his ability to make consistent contact. 9 Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (OH): Bachman has tremendous stuff. His turbo sinker can clear triple digits (though it’s not a huge bat-misser within the zone) and his slider is a legit outpitch. Analysts like his seldom-used changeup, too, suggesting he should have three above-average offerings at his peak. He’s not higher on the list because he has an unusual delivery (his arm goes up early and stays up) and a concerning injury history. Hypothetically, he would make sense as a quick-moving bullpen conversion piece, akin to what the White Sox did last year with Garrett Crochet 10 Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt: The most famous, and therefore the most scrutinized prospect in the class. Rocker is as physical as they come (he’s listed at a Brad Keller- or Lance Lynn-like 6-foot-5, 245 pounds), and he possesses one of the draft’s best chase pitches, in his trademark slider. Alas, there are several reasons he could drop outside of the top five, beginning with a velocity dip he experienced earlier this year. Rocker’s changeup is underbaked, and scouts are concerned that his arsenal will play lighter than it should against big-league hitters. His mechanics, specifically a high elbow and an oft-late arm, are worrisome as it pertains to his command and durability. 11 Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (GA): House is a polarizing prospect. His size (he’s listed around 6-foot-3) and proneness to swinging and missing force evaluators to pick sides. Not everyone believes he’s long for the shortstop opposition, or that his contact chops will enable him to maximize his near-elite raw power. 12 Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS (GA): The history of prep catchers is as fraught as that of prep right-handers. The last high-school catcher drafted in the first round to tally more than 10 Wins Above Replacement in their career was Neil Walker (2004); the last one to do it while (mostly) catching was Joe Mauer (2001). Ford is, nevertheless, an appealing target for teams picking in the mid-to-late portion of round one. He has plus power potential and athleticism, with some scouts foreseeing him as a Daulton Varsho type who can catch and play center field. He’s going to require a low-and-slow development path to smooth out the rough edges. 13 Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL): Painter has a charming combination of predictability and present ability. His large frame (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) can hold additional muscle, yet he’s already able to dial his fastball into the upper-90s. His secondary pitches are also promising, including an advanced changeup for a prep arm. One area of concern his employer might ask him to focus on is his extension. Painter doesn’t have to match Tyler Glasnow or Logan Gilbert’s long stride in order to get more out of his large frame. He would lose some steepness on his release point as a result, but it would make his pitches play quicker. 14 Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State: Bednar finished the season with a 3.26 ERA and a 6.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a number buoyed by him punching out 39 percent of the batters he faced. Bednar has a riding fastball that’s capable of touching into the upper-90s; a slider with plus spin that he’s able to manipulate the shape of; and a curveball with solid depth. He needs to improve his seldom-used changeup, as it doesn’t offer much separation from his fastball. Should he do that, he has middle-of-the-rotation potential. 15 Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College: Frelick was a highly productive hitter for the Eagles, batting .345/.435/.521 with 12 home runs, 38 stolen bases (on 46 attempts), and 10 more walks than strikeouts over three seasons. He’s a near-elite runner who plays as fast and furious as Yanni Gourde, which is a happy coincidence since he’s listed at a Gourdesque 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. The recent successes of Mookie Betts and Corbin Carroll (among other undersized outfielders) should prevent Frelick from suffering height-related slippage. There are other, more pressing matters for teams to be anxious about with him. For one, his average launch angle cratered this season, to the extent that he would’ve had one of the lowest marks in the majors. For another, he’s dealt with repeated knee woes over the years, a worrisome development for someone whose game hinges on their speed. 16 Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC): He has a beautiful modern swing, explosive actions, and a chance to develop into a well-rounded hitter who can remain at shortstop for the time being. There is a chance Watson outgrows short as he packs on muscle over the coming years; in that case, he could find a home in the outfield. Either way, he shouldn’t be docked for being the third prep shortstop on this list: he’s a tantalizing prospect with star upside. 17 Matt McLain, SS, UCLA: McLain, who hit .333/.434/.579 with nine home runs and nine steals (on 10 tries) for the Bruins this season, is all but guaranteed to be the first collegiate middle infielder to come off the board. When that happens, it’ll mark the second time he’s been drafted in the first round, as he elected to not sign in 2018 after being selected 25th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. McLain is an above-average runner with enough arm to stick at short (though some evaluators believe he’ll slide back to center field, the position he played for the Bruins as a freshman). Offensively, he has a below-average power projection, which in turn could suppress his average and on-base abilities. 18 Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara: McGreevy has received comparisons to Cleveland’s ace (and the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner) Shane Bieber that stem from them both pitching for the Gauchos. Even though those comps are overzealous, and a wee bit lazy, there’s a lot to like about his game. He’s a big, athletic right-hander who has demonstrated excellent control, as evidenced by his career four percent walk rate. His arsenal could well feature four average or better pitches at maturation, including a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a curveball that might be his best offering. Who knows, maybe in the right player development system McGreevy takes a Bieber-like leap forward; for now, he’ll have to settle for edging the Biebs in a different respect: being selected before the fourth round. 19 Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss: Hoglund, who could’ve been named after a one-off “King of the Hill” character voiced by Jeff Bridges, was in the top 10 prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. The operation seems certain to wipe out most of his 2022 season, putting him on track to make his professional debut around August of next year, give or take a few weeks. Hoglund should prove to be worth the wait. He possesses good command over a deep arsenal that’s rich with spin, including a slider that has cutter-like qualities. The upside here is a mid-rotation starter, possibly a tick more in the hands of the right player development system. 20 Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois: Sweeney bullied his Ohio Valley Conference competition this season, hitting .382/.522/.712 with 14 home runs and 22 more walks than strikeouts in 226 trips to the plate. Sweeney’s underlying data is, predictably, quite good and it confirms that 1) he impacts the ball, and 2) he commands the strike zone. (You know, in case the .522 OBP and the .330 ISO didn’t give it away.) He’s not further up this list because there are concerns about his long-term defensive home (though he’ll probably stick at shortstop for a bit longer), and about the viability of his swing. Sweeney has the tendency to tip his barrel during his load, a no-no as it pertains to hit-tool projection and a tic that could cost him against better pitching 21 Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State: One scout described Wicks as a “less-athletic Marco Gonzales” during the preseason. It fits. Wicks is a command-and-changeup left-hander who is held as a safe, no-frills selection. His low-90s fastball has good carry and his cambio is one of the best in the class. Factor in above-average control, and you have the makings of at least a back-end starter. Teams would like to see more from his breaking balls, with his slider showing greater promise than a curve that gets caught in-between too often to be an effective offering. Turning into the new Joe Saunders doesn’t sound exciting, but Saunders pitched 10 seasons in the majors and made more than $20 million. There are worse fates.   22 Colson Montgomery, SS, Southridge HS (IN): Colson Montgomery is on the older side for a high school draftee, as he’ll celebrate his 20th birthday before beginning his first full professional season. Not every team will hold his (relative) seniority against him, however, and there have been rumors he could go within the top 10 as part of an underslot agreement. Should that prove to be another puff of smoke, he’s likely to go in the early 20s, at latest. Expect Montgomery to engender countless Corey Seager comparisons whenever he’s selected because of his size (he’s listed at 6-foot-4), position, and powerful left-handed swing. 23 Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina: Williams was selected by the Rays out of high school and didn’t sign. He then went undrafted in last year’s five-round sprint and reportedly asked for more money as a free agent than teams were willing to commit. Williams is going to get paid this summer after using his extra time as an amateur to improve his control: he walked 6.3 percent of the batters he faced, versus a walk rate that previously exceeded 11 percent. Whereas his command (and medical history) have casted doubt on his future role in the past, his stuff has rarely fallen under scrutiny. His mid-90s fastball features above-average carry; his curveball has good depth; and he also throws a gyro slider and a changeup. If Williams can stay healthy and within the zone (no guarantees), he could develop into a mid-rotation starter. 24 Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest: Cusick is a 6-foot-6 right-hander with a very good fastball, in terms of both velocity (he can hit triple digits) and carry. Cusick does need to find more consistency with his secondary pitches — contrary to the scouting consensus, some analysts preferred his seldom-used changeup to his curveball — and his command, as he walked a batter every other inning. You don’t need any razzamatazz to sell the owner or the fan base on the mammoth pitcher with the top-shelf heater; those nuanced elements will, however, dictate if he’s a starter or a late-inning reliever in a few years’ time. 25 Max Muncy, SS, Thousand Oaks HS (CA): Although he’s not to be confused with the Dodgers’ slugger of the same name, this Muncy also has a chance to become an everyday infielder at the big-league level. He’s a lean, twitchy athlete with a fast bat and the makings of an above-average hitter. Defensively, his boosters believe he might just stick at shortstop; others, however, could foresee him shifting to either second or third base with time. 26 Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (NJ): Few player types are more likely to kindle a draft-room argument than a hard-throwing prep righty. Petty’s expected landing range has fluctuated as a result; some envision him going in the crown-end of the first round, while others believe those individuals should be removed from their positions (and, perhaps, polite society). He has big-time arm strength, of course, with which he’s broken the 100-mph mark in the past. His slider has also shown promise as a putaway pitch. The drawbacks begin with Petty’s fastball shape (it doesn’t fit the modern parameters) and extend to his delivery and the risk (of both, the bullpen and attrition variety) that comes with the type.  27 Jackson Merrill, SS, Severna Park HS (MD): Merrill is a risk-reward play. His boosters see him as an above-average hitter, complete with good pop from the left side, whereas his detractors would like to see him go to Kentucky and prove that he isn’t the product of facing Maryland high schoolers. However Merrill’s career plays out, he’s likely to be one of the most second-guessed selections in this class. 28 Carson Williams, SS, Torrey Pines HS (CA): Williams is another two-way player who has a promising fastball-slider pairing; alas, his future appears to be as a hitter, and only as a hitter. Even before he slugged more this spring, his boosters believed he possessed all the physical traits necessary for an above-average future power output: a projectable 6-foot-2 frame; good bat speed; and the ability to add loft to his swing. Williams has a strong arm (obviously) and there’s no present reason to think he’ll have to move off short. 29 Maddux Bruns, LHP, UMS-Wright HS (AL): Bruns is a well-built left-hander with a promising fastball-breaking ball combination and a commitment to Mississippi State University. He needs to improve his command if he’s going to stick in a rotation for the long haul.