Welcome to the first edition of our MLB Draft rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. We’ll be running with a top 25 for this year. We’ll also include coverage periodically on some guys that could fall to the Royals with later picks (#43, #66, #78, and #108) that we like but just don’t crack our top 50. If you’ve been reading the site, you’ll notice that I’ve already begun posting updates on some guys that I think KC could be in on at #7 and #43.
Due to the nature of the pandemic, missing the 2020 season, and a draft that doesn’t have a very strong top 10 prospect group, this could be a wild draft. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Royals decided to take the 15th best prospect on their board at an underslot deal at #7 to save some money and sign the 25th best prospect on their board at #43. Think Dozier at #8 and Manaea at #34 back in 2013. So, just because someone appears on our board in the teens, doesn’t necessarily make them out of play at #7 for KC in July (Jordan Wicks of K-State would make a ton of sense, for example).
Anyway, here’s a quick look at some other boards around baseball:
|Rank||FanGraphs||Baseball America||MLB Pipeline||Mason McRae|
|1||Jack Leiter||Jack Leiter||Marcelo Mayer||Jack Leiter|
|2||Kumar Rocker||Jordan Lawlar||Jordan Lawlar||Kahlil Watson|
|3||Matt McLain||Kumar Rocker||Jack Leiter||Brady House|
|4||Kahlil Watson||Marcelo Mayer||Henry Davis||Marcelo Mayer|
|5||Jordan Lawler||Henry Davis||Kumar Rocker||Henry Davis|
|6||Jaden Hill||Brady House||Brady House||Jud Fabian|
|7||Marcelo Mayer||Sal Frelick||Jackson Jobe||Jordan Lawlar|
|8||Jud Fabian||Ty Madden||Kahlil Watson||Christian Franklin|
|9||Brady House||Gunnar Hoglund||Ty Madden||Gage Jump|
|10||Ty Madden||Kahlil Watson||Colton Cowser||Matt McLain|
|11||Henry Davis||Jackson Jobe||Sal Frelick||Kumar Rocker|
|12||Sal Frelick||Matt McLain||Matt McLain||Cody Schrier|
|13||Max Ferguson||Colton Cowser||Harry Ford||Harry Ford|
|14||Ian Moller||Adrian Del Castillo||Sam Bachman||Jackson Jobe|
|15||Izaac Pacheco||Jordan Wicks||Jordan Wicks||Sal Frelick|
|16||Cody Morissette||Sam Bachman||Benny Montgomery||Chase Petty|
|17||Adrian Del Castillo||Harry Ford||Jud Fabian||Will Bednar|
|18||Alex Binelas||Bubba Chandler||Andrew Painter||Alex Mooney|
|19||Jordan Wicks||Andrew Painter||Joe Mack||Ryan Cusick|
|20||Andrew Painter||Joshua Baez||Michael McGreevy||Tyree Reed|
|21||Josua Baez||James Wood||Bubba Chandler||Gunnar Hoglund|
|22||Benny Montgomery||Joe Mack||Ryan Cusick||Ryan Holgate|
|23||Harry Ford||Benny Montgomery||Gunnar Hoglund||Sam Bachman|
|24||Ethan Wilson||Luca Tresh||Adrian Del Castillo||Edwin Arroyo|
|25||Thatcher Hurd||Chase Petty||Chase Petty||Joe Mack|
I included Mason’s current list with the other, more national publications because I respect the lens which with Mason views the draft. He’s well connected, has access to important data, and approaches his rankings a bit differently than most. That doesn’t make it right, necessarily, but it’s good to see a different view than the more popular sites just for some additional context. (You can find Mason on Twitter @ mason_mcrae.)
Here is our current list at Royals Farm Report:
|Rank||Royals Farm Report|
Notes and thoughts:
- I’ve been saying for a long time that Kumar Rocker is one of the best pitching prospects I’ve seen, and there’s nothing short of a significant injury that’s gonna change that. You cannot teach the combination of size and athleticism that he possesses. His slider may be the best pitch in the draft and I’m actually not overly concerned about his velo roller coaster that we’ve seen this spring. Last year threw some kinks in the typical evaluation process that I think will have a lot of people over thinking this one. There is still time for Rocker to prove himself to the world that he’s the best prospect in this draft, but I think you’d have to be nuts to have him outside your top 3 right now.
- One of the only two prospects I’ll listen to arguments for as an alternative to Rocker at #1 is his teammate Jack Leiter. Leiter’s fastball is ridiculous. He moves so well on the mound and he’s got an array of pitches that should carry him all the way to the big leagues. My only real concern with Leiter is that he’s got a little Casey Mize/Carson Fulmer to him. Leiter has dominated college baseball that not even Fulmer and Mize could do, so I do think he’s easily as good and maybe a better prospect than those two, but professional hitters don’t chase the way college hitters will. I said it back in 2018, but Mize was not my top draft prospect at the time. I may be overthinking this one similar to the way I think folks are overthinking Rocker, but even as a guy that I think has an argument as the best prospect in the draft, I have some reservations.
- Jordan Lawlar has been compared to Bobby Witt Jr. for good reason. He may have the most upside of any hitter in this draft, he’s a little old for the class, and he’s a Dallas-area SS. Good enough? 0% chance he’s there at #7 but if he is he’s an absolute no-brainer.
- The top three guys in this class pretty well set themselves apart from the rest, in my opinion. After Rocker, Leiter, and Lawlar, there are three more guys that I think are pretty well on a 2nd tier of their own. Those three guys are Louisville catcher Henry Davis and prep shortstops Marcelo Mayer and Kahlil Watson. Kahlil Watson an absolutely fantastic talent. He sort of reminds me of like a Francisco Lindor type up the middle. Outstanding athlete with a great hit tool and will hit way more HR than you’d expect for a guy his size due to his strength and natural loft on his swing. My favorite comp for Watson may be CJ Abrams, the Padres first pick back in 2019 who is currently tearing up AA. Marcelo Mayer is a bigger kid where you can pretty easily see 30 HR in his future. Still has some crazy tools. Henry Davis is not only one of the best throwing catchers you’ll see but he is tearing it up at the plate this season as well.
- If you’re keeping track at home, that’s six total players that I think are on tiers above the rest for this draft class. The Royals’ first pick is at #7, meaning they’ll need someone to pass on a guy like Kahlil Watson to have a shot at one of my favorite players in this class. Assuming my six favorite guys are gone, the guy I’m taking with the 7th overall pick is…UCLA SS Matt McLain. Yes, the guy I said I didn’t want coming into this spring. McLain got off to a slow start and has simply been fantastic as the spring has gone on. McLain is currently slashing .325/.432/.578/1.010 with 9 HR, 19 total XBH, 9 SB, and 29 BB (15.5%) to just 26 K (13.9%) in 187 PA for the Bruins. He plays a fantastic SS defensively and would give Kansas City a much-needed high floor, low-risk kind of impact prospect in their system. I was wrong about McLain. I didn’t see the bat being this good. He’s been every bit as good as some scouts thought he would be and then some. If for some reason one of those first six guys doesn’t fall to KC in July, I’d be happy to have McLain in this system.
- Let’s talk through the college arms real quick. Ty Madden has an elite fastball/slider combo but I’m not sure what his third pitch is. Gunnar Hoglund and Jaden Hill are fantastic but are having Tommy John Surgery. Sam Bachman is great but he’s dealt with injuries. I’m of the opinion that folks are sleeping on Matt Mikulski but his delivery is very odd. Jordan Wicks’ changeup is elite but he throws 91.
- The depth of this class is in talented prep bats. Izaac Pacheco is a lot of fun. Brady House might be the most famous name on the list. Harry Ford is a lot of fun. Plus the three guys at the top of the list.
- The two big prep arms, Jackson Jobe and Chase Petty, are absolutely electric but…you know…the Royals and prep arms haven’t always gotten along.
- Colton Cowser, Ethan Wilson, Jud Fabian, and Christian Franklin give the college bats some depth, but I’m not sure how to feel about them towards the top of the draft. Fabian and Franklin both have a ton of swing and miss, but they’re also fantastic in CF defensively. Cowser and Wilson figure to hit a ton but aren’t the defensive stalwarts that Fabian and Franklin provide.
- We’ll have more draft coverage coming later on, and this board is likely to change. Stay tuned!