It’s 2021 MLB draft day at the Bellco Theatre in Denver.
The Pittsburgh Pirates started the night by selecting Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick, followed by the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, with the first 36 picks of this year’s event scheduled to be made on Sunday. Rounds 2-10 will take place starting at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, and the draft concludes with Rounds 11-20 beginning at noon Wednesday.
Which of this year’s highly regarded foursome of prep shortstops will come off the board first? Where will Vanderbilt co-aces Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker be selected? And which teams will make the picks that surprise everyone?
See below for analysis of all the picks in the first round from ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield and Dan Mullen, along with complete selections for every team in every round.
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Who is Davis? An arm-strength catcher coming out of high school, Davis hit .280 with three home runs as a freshman at Louisville in 2019, was hitting well before COVID-19 struck in 2020, and then exploded offensively this year, hitting .370/.482/.663 with 15 home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 50 games. While McDaniel grades his arm strength at 80, the rest of his defense needs work. He could follow a similar path to the last Louisville catcher taken in the first round, Will Smith of the Dodgers, as an offensive-minded backstop.
Why the Pirates took him here: In a year without a clear No. 1 overall prospect, the Pirates surprised some by opting for the catcher over one of this draft’s four prep shortstops. But check out those numbers and it’s not hard to see why Davis was the pick here as a slugging backstop from a major conference who should get to the majors quicker than any of the high schoolers around him in this class. — Dan Mullen
Check out the highlights that make Jack Leiter a top prospect in this year’s MLB draft.
Who is Leiter? The son of Al Leiter, who won 162 games in the majors, Jack became one of the most famous college players in recent years, even though he played just one full season at Vanderbilt. A draft-eligible sophomore after turning down the Yankees in the 2019 draft, Leiter went 11-4 with a 2.18 ERA for the College World Series runners-up, striking out 179 in 110 innings. He doesn’t have the height scouts prefer in a right-handed pitcher — he’s listed at 6-foot-1 — but he has a strong lower half and a deep arsenal of pitches.
Why the Rangers took him here: If there is going to be a true ace in this draft, it’s going to be Jack Leiter. Leiter, along with Vanderbilt teammate Kumar Rocker, was the talk of college baseball this year and he has the stuff to match the hype for a franchise in need of high-end talent in its minor league system. — Mullen
Who is Jobe? Jackson is the son of Brandt Jobe, who won two PGA Tour titles and still competes on the Champions Tour. No high school pitcher had gone higher than 15th in the past two drafts, but teams fell in love with Jobe’s fastball, high-spin wipeout slider, versatility (he played shortstop when not pitching and led his team to the Oklahoma 4A state championship) and relatively fresh arm (he also played quarterback).
Why the Tigers took him here: For all of the Jack Leiter buzz, Jackson Jobe’s upside might be even greater — but there is also more risk here. The hard-throwing high schooler joins an already impressive stable of young pitchers Detroit has taken with high draft picks in recent years, and you don’t have to squint too hard to imagine Jobe joining Casey Mize and Co. in a very good rotation down the road. — Mullen
Who is Mayer? While Jordan Lawlar might be the top prep player in this draft right now, Mayer has more upside as a 6-foot-3 left-handed-hitting shortstop. From the same San Diego-area high school program that produced former No. 1 overall pick Adrian Gonzalez, Mayer’s only below-average tool is his speed, but he still projects as an above-average defender at shortstop because of his footwork, arm strength and hands.
Why the Red Sox took him here: Jack Leiter and Henry Davis were the two players most often connected to the Red Sox going into draft night, but instead they end up with a player many thought would go No. 1 overall. If Mayer grows into his tools, he has the potential to be a Corey Seager-esque performer who has the glove to stick at a premium position. — Mullen
Check out the highlights that make Colton Cowser a top prospect in this year’s MLB draft.
Who is Cowser? A high school teammate of University of Texas pitcher and likely first-rounder Ty Madden, Cowser emerged as one of the top college bats despite playing for mid-major Sam Houston State. He surpasses former big leaguer Glenn Wilson (18th overall in 1980) as the highest-drafted player in school history. The lefty hitter hit .374 with 16 home runs, walking more than he struck out, and has above-average speed that could allow him to stick in center field if he improves his routes.
Why the Orioles took him here: Cowser is one of the top college bats available, but he’s No. 12 on Kiley’s draft board and could be a bit of an under-slot selection — something Orioles GM Mike Elias did back when he was running the Astros’ draft and selected Carlos Correa first overall, leaving them more money to sign Lance McCullers Jr. with a later first-round pick. Still, Cowser’s tools all ticked up this year. It’s also the third straight year the Orioles have taken a college hitter with a top-five pick, following Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad. — Schoenfield
Who is Lawlar? The No. 1 player on Kiley McDaniel’s draft board, Lawlar has been considered the top prep player in this class since the summer of 2020. A Dallas high school product, he has above-average tools across the board and has drawn comparisons to Carlos Correa and even Derek Jeter for his ability to hit to the opposite field.
Why the Diamondbacks took him here: Anytime you can get a player ranked No. 1 on draft boards with the No. 6 overall pick, you have to be excited. Lawlar has above-average tools across the board, the best glove of this year’s four highly touted prep shortstops and the potential to grow into an All-Star-level player at the position. — Mullen
Who is Mozzicato? First-round picks from New England are rare, and prep pitchers even rarer — in fact, Mozzicato is the first high school pitcher from Connecticut taken in the first five rounds since 2014. Kiley called him one of the wildest late-rising prospects in recent memory. The southpaw dominated low-level Connecticut high school competition, striking out 17 in the Class M state title game. He has a low-90s fastball, but it’s his high-spin curveball and athletic delivery that set him apart.
Why the Royals took him here? This certainly qualifies as the most surprising pick so far, as the Royals pass on Kumar Rocker to take the high school lefty from Connecticut. Few pitchers have seen their stock rise more this spring than Mozzicato, but Jeff Passan did report that the Royals will sign Mozzicato to an under-slot bonus to free up more cash later on. The seventh pick holds a slot value of $5.432 million, so look for Mozzicato (No. 21 on Kiley’s draft board) to come in below that. — Schoenfield
Check out the highlights that make Benny Montgomery a top prospect in this year’s MLB draft.
Who is Montgomery? For the second straight year, a Pennsylvania high school outfielder goes in the first round, as Montgomery follows Austin Hendrick, who went 12th overall last year to the Reds. While Hendrick was a pure power bet as a corner outfielder, Montgomery projects as a center fielder, with 70- or 80-grade speed and above-average raw power from his 6-foot-4 frame. He has a hand hitch of sorts in his swing, so his hit tool is the big question mark.
Why the Rockies took him here: For the second straight year, the Rockies go prep outfielder with their first pick after taking Zac Veen at No. 9 overall last year. If Montgomery can adjust the hand hitch in his swing and grow into his raw power, the Rockies just added a center fielder with 25-30 home run potential — but there is a lot of risk in a toolsy prep player with an unorthodox swing. — Mullen
Who is Bachman? Owner of one of the best fastballs in the draft, Bachman sat 95-97 and hit 101 for Miami. He missed some time early in the spring with a tired arm and pitched just 59.2 innings, finishing with a 1.81 ERA and 93 K’s with just one home run allowed. There is some reliever potential here with concerns about his durability and size (6-foot-1) and how the fastball/slider combo could play up coming out of the bullpen.
Why the Angels took him here: After taking two high-floor, low-ceiling college players in their past two drafts in infielder Will Wilson (already traded to the Giants) and pitcher Reid Detmers, the Angels’ new front-office regime goes with another college player, but this time a high-ceiling flamethrower in Bachman. Sure, the size and tired arm earlier in the spring are issues, but Bachman could move quickly (and could pitch in the majors now as a reliever). — Schoenfield
Kumar Rocker says he’s excited and blessed to be picked tenth overall by the Mets.
Who is Rocker? After leading Vanderbilt to the College World Series title as a freshman in 2019, Rocker teamed with Jack Leiter to form a dominant 1-2 punch in 2021, although Rocker had a poor outing in the decisive Game 3 loss to Mississippi State. That start was symbolic of his up-and-down junior season, when he arguably entered the year as the favorite to go No. 1. His velocity was inconsistent, although he still struck out 179 in 122 innings.
Why the Mets took him here: As a freshman in 2019, Rocker seemed like a surefire No. 1 overall pick in the making, but his stock has dropped a bit after some struggles with velocity and command throughout 2021. If he can get swings and misses with the fastball, his breaking ball is one of the best in this draft and the Mets have to love having him fall to them here – even if they’ll likely have to pay overslot money for a pitcher who is more No. 3 starter than ace in the long run. — Mullen
Check out the highlights that make Brady House a top prospect in this year’s MLB draft.
Who is House? The Georgia prepster entered last summer as the top-rated high school player, then struggled against good competition on the showcase circuit, but has climbed back up draft boards this spring and ranks as McDaniel’s No. 5 prospect. He has a grade 80 arm that hit 95 when he pitched, plus 30-homer potential and the skills to play shortstop, although some scouts think he eventually ends up at third base or right field. The biggest question is the contact ability in getting to his power.
Why the Nationals took him here: With their highest pick since taking Anthony Rendon sixth in 2011, Mike Rizzo changes his usual course and goes for a position player as seven of the Nationals’ eight first-round picks since Rendon had been pitchers. But House follows Rizzo’s preference for high-upside talent and Kiley has described House as the prep player with the most upside in the draft. The power is as impressive as any player in the draft if he can make enough contact to get to it. — Schoenfield
Who is Ford? High school catchers are notoriously a risky demographic, but Ford’s across-the-board skills all grade as average or better — including his plus running speed. That means he could move to another position if necessary, but scouts like his chances to stick behind the plate and he’s a powerfully built 5-foot-10, 200 pounds with plus raw power.
Why the Mariners took him here: Kiley McDaniel describes Ford as being built like a power lifter who is also a yoga instructor. Defensively, that translates to a catcher who could also handle other places on the diamond including center field from a player whose bat has big-time power potential. On the other hand, high school catchers are one of the riskiest position groups to draft early, so this is a classic risk-reward pick. — Mullen
Check out the highlights that make Andrew Painter a top prospect in this year’s MLB draft.
Who is Painter? The Gatorade state player of the year in Florida, Painter began the season as the top prep arm, and while Jackson Jobe passed him in that regard, Painter brings size (6-foot-6), velocity (sits 93-95), a smooth delivery, a slider that can already grade out as plus at times and feel for a changeup. The usual caveats about prep pitchers apply, but he’s viewed as an advanced high school arm.
30. Cincinnati Reds
Competitive balance round A
31. Miami Marlins
32. Detroit Tigers
33. Milwaukee Brewers
34. Tampa Bay Rays
35. Cincinnati Reds
36. Minnesota Twins