For the first time in history, MLB attempted to turn the Rule Four Amateur Draft into an event. Unlike the NBA and NFL, MLB’s draft had typically flown under the radar. The draft consisted of dozens of rounds over the course of a week, and with baseball players taking longer to develop, there was generally less excitement for the draft. Since it could be three to five years before a handful of stars actually made it to ‘The Show’, people paid less attention to it than other sports, where players often have an immediate impact on their teams.
This year MLB moved the draft from a random June week to one of the premier events kicking off All Star Week, with Sunday’s first round broadcast on MLB Network, and advertised more than the drafts of previous years.
There was no consensus number one pick heading into this year’s draft. The Pirates were on the clock as soon as they completed their abysmal 19-41 season (.317 winning percentage). Pittsburgh had their choice of top-tier players which included a bit of everything: prep pitchers, college pitchers, hard-hitting shortstops, and bat-first catcher.
Five of the top-ten picks were pre high school players, with pitchers and shortstops dominating the first round. 24 of the 29 first round picks were hurlers or shortstops (14 pitchers and 10 shortstops).
Here’s a review of the top-ten picks:
1) Pirates: Henry Davis: Catcher, Louisville
Pittsburgh had been rumored to be honing-in on one of the prep shortstops, with rumors that Jesuit Prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar spent time in Pittsburgh as recently as last week. Pittsburgh ultimately selected a potential solution to their annual catching problem. Davis is a strong hitting catcher who needs to work on his defense. He hits for power, average, and has an elite arm.
2) Rangers: Jack Leiter: right handed pitcher, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is known for pumping out elite pitchers for the draft: David Price, Walker Buehler, Sonny Gray all are Vandy baseball alums. Jack Leiter is Al Leiter’s son, and coming out of his sophomore year in a strange COVID-adjusted season following a year where he spurned the Yankees, who drafted him in last year’s draft. Leiter probably has the highest upside of any pitcher in this year’s draft.
3) Tigers: Jackson Jobe, right handed pitcher, Heritage Hall High School (Oklahoma)
The first prep player off the board, Jobe is a toolsy righty with a wipeout slider and above average fastball.
4) Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, shortstop, Eastlake HIgh School (California)
MLB.com had Mayer listed as their projected number one coming into the draft so the Red Sox presumably did well despite being linked to both Davis and Leiter, who were no longer on the board when Boston made their selection.
5) Orioles: Colton Cowser, outfield, Sam Houston State
One of the best hitters in college, Cowser hit for average and power this season with a .374 average and 16 home runs. In typical Orioles fashion, this is a value-pick, and they’ll likely get him for less for a signing bonus than if they had taken anyone else selected in the top ten.
6) Diamondbacks: Jordan Lawlar, shortstop, Jesuit Prep (Texas)
Lawlar was the top-rated prep prospect entering the season, and he was at the top of many mock draft boards. Arizona was lucky to have him fall to them at sixth since he’s a clear shortstop defensively, with strong offensive tools.
7) Royals: Frank Mozzicato, left handed pitcher, East Catholic High School (Connecticut)
One of the surprises of the first round, Mozzicato is a rare New England top-ten pick. He’s likely an under-slot player despite dazzling scouts this past spring where he utterly dominated low-level Connecticut high school offenses.
8) Rockies: Benny Montgomery, outfield, Red Land High School (Pennsylvania)
With great speed, power, and excellent defensive skills, Montgomery represents the typical high-risk / high-reward of an unpolished, toolsy high school prep player.
9) Angels: Sam Bachman, right handed pitcher, Miami Ohio
Bachman has one of the most impressive fastballs of any player selected in the draft on the Sunday. He sits mid/high 90s, and can pop a 101 mile per hour fastball on occasion. He’s only 6’1” which can bring durability concerns, but rumor has it that Bachman has the potential to ascend to a big league bullpen quickly.
10) Mets: Kumar Rocker, right handed pitcher, Vanderbilt
The second top-ten pick out of Vandy, he was the number two in a dominant 1-2 punch for the 2019 College World Series winning Commodores. He could have been a projected number one, but inconsistent velocity over 122 innings dropped his draft stock.