2021 MLB Draft: Day 1 Takeaways


David Seifert | Nathan Rode | Shooter Hunt

Day One of the 2021 MLB draft is in the books, which means 36 picks are down and 19 rounds are left to go on Monday (2-10) and Tuesday (11-20). The first round and Competitive Balance Round A featured a handful of big surprises and some fascinating storylines. The D1Baseball and Prep Baseball Report prospects' team breaks it all down below:

STORYLINES

• With the first overall pick, "the Pirates select Henry Davis” was a bit of a surprise. Not in talent, since Davis is an elite prospect and was No. 3 in our final rankings, but industry whispers had set an expectation of prep talents being taken in the top couple spots. There had also been a season-long murmur regarding the receiving abilities of Davis, judged to be well below average at times. But, in the end, the Pirates had three great options in Davis, Leiter and Rocker and selected the lowest risk of the three. And, likely the one who required the lowest signing bonus.

• After the first seven picks went to collegians in 2020, the 2021 draft shifted to the prep with five of the top eight and eight of the top 13 selections coming from high school. Overall, 15 of the 29 first-round picks were preps, compared to 11 of 29 in 2021 and 10 of 30 in 2019.

• Overall, 14 of the 29 players picked in the first round were Division I college players. And nine of those 14 college players came from Power Five programs. Colton Cowser (Sam Houston), Sam Bachman (Miami of Ohio), Michael McGreevy (UCSB), Trey Sweeney (Eastern Illinois) and Gavin Williams (East Carolina) were the five non Power Five picks.

• With the traditional draft power states of California, Florida, Georgia and Texas not as prominent on Day One this year, nine of the top 27 overall selections have roots in the Northeast U.S. Of the nine, four are preps (Frank Mozzicato- CT, Benny Montgomery- PA, Chase Petty- NJ, Jackson Merrill- MD), four are collegians who prepped in the region (Henry Davis- PA, Jack Leiter- NJ, Will Bednar- PA, Ryan Cusick- CT) and one attended high school and remained in the region as a collegian (Sal Frelick).

• The ACC and SEC tied for most Day One picks with four apiece, but the SEC led with three of the first 14 picks (No. 2 Leiter, No. 10 Rocker, No. 14 Bednar). Vanderbilt was the only team to produce multiple first-rounders in Leiter and Rocker.

SURPRISE RISERS

• LHP Frank Mozzicato (East Catholic HS, CT) at No. 7 overall was the first biggest surprise of the draft. He was already one of the spring's biggest risers when his fastball make a jump in velocity, sitting 90-92, touching 93-94. The UConn recruit has a free and easy arm action and glides down the mound with a super smooth delivery. The breaking ball is his calling card and he's relentless with it. A true curveball at 76-78, it's a plus pitch with depth. He also has feel for a solid changeup with sink and fade at 80-82, giving him to have three average to plus pitches in the future.

• RHP Sam Bachman (Miami of Ohio) certainly has the stuff to go where he did, but few predicted, outside of D1 Baseball's Burke Granger, the ascent to No. 9 overall. His 100+ mph fastball, plus slider and plus change puts him on the fast track to the Angels bullpen as early as this September.

• RHP Will Bednar (Mississippi State) wasn't a huge surprise after his extraordinary performance in the just completed CWS, but rise he did. He was ranked No. 20 in our preseason Top 350, shooting up to No. 14 in our mid-season Top 100 and finishing at No. 9 in our final Top 150.

• RHP Michael McGreevy (UC Santa Barbara) as the No, 18 overall pick to St Louis didn't come as a huge surprise, but the right hander has come a long ways in the past year. He dominated as the Gaucho closer in 2019 and Sunday starter in 2020, using a fairly generic arsenal--a sinker-slider combination with the fastball working mostly in the high 80s. Fast-forward to last fall and McGreevy touched 96, then continued to show the same velo in the spring, holding 94-95 deep into starts. Now he's a right-hander who fills the zone with a plus fastball and throws his breaking stuff for a strike on command. His 84-85 slider has a spin rate that tops 2500 rpm and is unhittable when down in the zone. Ranked No. 24 in our final Top 150, McGreevy is yet another college baseball development success story.

• SS/3B Trey Sweeney (Eastern Illinois) consistently rose up draft boards all spring, culminating in the No. 20 overall selection to the Yankees. A bat first prospect, Sweeney has hit everywhere he's played, including all three seasons at Eastern Illinois and summers in the Coastal Plain League.

• SS Jackson Merrill (Severna Park HS, MD) was seen as more of an early Day Two talent going into yesterday. However, similar to Hudson Potts (Carroll HS, TX) who they selected at No. 24 overall in 2016, the Padres snagged a prep bat with their first pick at No. 27. A Kentucky recruit, Merrill has been one of the faster risers in the class. He's always been known for smooth glove work and fluid actions in the field, but added strength to his frame that helped him make tremendous gains in his arm and raw power. Currently standing at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, the left-handed hitter continues to effortlessly use the whole field, but now with more authority. Of his 13 home runs this spring, 10 were to center or left. He has an advanced approach, feel for the barrel and the ability to stick in the infield.

SURPRISE FALLERS

• RHP Ty Madden (Texas) fell to Detroit at No. 32 overall after ranking No. 5 in the final D1 Baseball college rankings and No. 11 on the Prep Baseball Report Draft Board.

• SS Izaac Pacheco (Friendswood HS, TX) was not selected during Day 1. A Texas A&M commit, he is ranked No. 20 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. A monster among boys, Pacheco’s 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame is unmistakable, and as close to pro-ready as you find in the class. He is relaxed in his approach with an innate ability to slow the game down and a threat to leave the yard at any point. He played shortstop for his high school team and handled it well, but a shift to third base is in his immediate future where his soft, confident hands and above average arm should make him a strong defender at the hot corner.

• RHP/SS Spencer Schwellenbach (Nebraska) continually jumped up both the D1 Baseball Top 150 and the PBR Draft Board all season long, but was not selected during Day 1. He is the highest ranked college prospect on our Draft Board heading into Day Two.

STEALS

• RHP Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt) selected by the Mets at No. 10 was the first steal of many on Day One. What more can be written? Rocker has everything you want in a pitching prospect with size, stuff, athleticism, pitch ability and makeup. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and armed with plus command of a 93-96 mph fastball, a plus-plus 83-85 slider and a plus-plus 87-90 cutter, Rocker is loaded with weapons. His fastball can overwhelm hitters at times. His gyrospin slider is always a factor, but his cutter is his best off speed pitch. On top of his elite arsenal Rocker, is confident and aggressive, taking ownership of the mound and batter’s box. He's a bona fide ace and should zoom to the big leagues in a hurry.

• SS Kahlil Watson (Wake Forest HS, NC) No. 16 overall to Miami. The Marlins snagged a big Fish with this pick. A North Carolina State recruit, Watson has an athletic build at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds. He took the summer circuit by storm in 2020, showing electricity and superior confidence in his game. That carried over to the spring season and he has continued to climb boards. Hitting from the left side, he has premium bat speed and consistently finds the barrel. The hands can manipulate the barrel with snap through the zone and he has the ability to drive the ball to both gaps. He has an aggressive approach, showing that he wants to hit, but also has feel for the zone. He's also aggressive and instinctive on the base paths. Defensively, he's athletic with confidence in his soft hands and plays under control, showing an easy arm that produces carry across the diamond. 

• LHP Jordan Wicks (Kansas State) to the Cubs at No. 21 overall. The Cubbies draft room must've been ecstatic to pick up college baseball's best left handed pitcher who commands three pitches and has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter in the Major Leagues. Go Cubs Go!

• RHP Ty Madden (Texas) to the Tigers at No. 32 overall. In what was likely a pre-arranged deal, Ty Madden falling to Detroit in the CB-A Round was a talent steal. The Tigers were likely to save significant dollars with the selection of prep Jackson Jobe at No. 3 overall, enabling them to pass the savings onto Madden. They will also likely select a few "money saver" picks in the early rounds of Day Two for more bonus pool flexibility. Kevin Kopps at No. 39 for a huge discount or No. 74 overall for the same today? It will be interesting to see Madden's signing bonus, as it's likely to be one of the top ten overall in this year's draft.

• The Fish hooked another steal in C Joe Mack (Williamsville East HS, NY) with their second Day One pick at No. 31 overall. Mack ranked No. 15 on the PBR Draft Board is a Clemson recruit who works counts to his favor and doesn’t get cheated when he sees his pitch, consistently putting the barrel on the baseball. His present strength translates to in game power and he can use it to go the other way. He’s no slouch defensively either, showing a strong arm and easy transfer behind the plate. The only reason he would move off the position would be not to stunt his bat's development.

FAVORITE PICKS

• Aaron Fitt: Kumar Rocker to the Mets at No. 10. It's easy to nitpick a guy who has been in the spotlight since early in his prep career, and I can't say I was shocked to see Rocker slip to No. 10 because his fastball simply isn't as overpowering as that of his Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter. But I still believe he's got a chance to pitch with a plus fastball as he develops in pro ball, because he's got an enormous workhorse frame and his arm works; I still believe he has top-of-the-rotation upside with some adjustments. And his feel to spin the breaking ball is superhuman. I could see him becoming a righthanded version of CC Sabathia, or maybe the baseball equivalent of Zion Williamson — you don't see a lot of guys built like Zion, and maybe the more conventional pick is to take the rangy wingman (or the 6-foot-2 righty with the electric heater). But like Zion, Rocker is a physical freak with upside through the roof, along with an incredible amateur track record. The Mets landed a top-of-the-draft talent at pick No. 10.

• Kendall Rogers: Ty Madden, 32nd overall, Detroit Tigers — Madden was expected to be a Top 10-15 pick in the draft, and dropped all the way to 32. I spoke with several sources late Sunday night who said the medical was relatively clean for a college pitcher with some wear and tear, so it wasn’t medical related. The Tigers have a history of making some excellent picks when it comes to college pitchers, and this year was no different with the addition of Madden. Madden has an explosive fastball and I’ve seen the slider flash plus at times. It does need to be more consistent, however. Either way, I think he’s a guy who should advance through the system relatively fast. To get him at 32 is an absolute steal.

Gavin Williams, 23rd overall, Cleveland Indians — This is probably where everyone expected Williams to go in the first round, but I just love this pick for the Indians. He was incredibly impressive throughout the spring, and he was at his absolute best in the Super Regional against Kumar Rocker and Vanderbilt. The fastball just explodes on hitter, and he showed four legitimate pitches against the Commodores. I’m also intrigued to see how the curveball, which was terrific against the ‘Dores, develops at the next level as well. 

• Mike Rooney: This was a fascinating first round and there seems to be an under-slot bonus theme in play that makes sense. This would allow teams to take advantage of this draft's impressive depth. That said, a first round pick carries cache that cannot be replicated.

On that note, the Cardinals selection of Michael McGreevy at No. 18 stands out. McGreevy is an elite strike thrower with plus velocity and he generates ground balls at an extraordinary rate. That combination of arm strength and pitchability also leads me to believe that he will be able to add tools to his tool box in professional baseball. Shane Beiber is the obvious comp because of the UCSB connection and the aforementioned projection. That is an aggressive comp of course, but McGreevy's best days do seem to be ahead of him.

Outside of McGreevy, the picks I liked the most reveal my obvious bias towards the college players. I believe the Rangers got the best pitcher in this draft in Jack Leiter at No. 2 overall. Kumar Rocker is perfect for New York and the Mets must have been thrilled to get him at No. 10. Finally, and I'm sure several of my peers will express similar thoughts, the Tigers selection of Ty Madden at No. 32 is the steal of the draft. I'm not sure what caused Madden to slip, but there is too much to like here for Madden to have fallen so far. Good on you Detroit.

• Burke Granger: It probably surprises no one that I’m going to let my #MidwestBaseball bias show with my answer.

Sam Bachman, ninth overall, Anaheim Angels
Trey Sweeney, 20th overall, New York Yankees
Tyler Black, 33rd overall, Milwaukee Brewers

I’m obviously a big proponent of Big Ten Baseball and believe it’s the best conference in the Midwest. That said, it’s noteworthy that the particular power-five conference in question didn’t produce a day one selection while the MAC, Ohio Valley and Horizon Leagues were represented. With a triple digit fastball, a wipeout slider and a changeup that flashes plus, Bachman had the loudest stuff I saw this spring outside of Vanderbilt’s dueling aces, so I was pleased to see him come off the board in the top 10. Additionally, as some of the more high-profile college bats stumbled out of the gate this spring, Sweeney and Black impressed evaluators, showing an ability to hit for average and power, pairing it with plate discipline that allowed them to walk significantly more than they struck out.

• David Seifert: After two years of a more conservative route by selecting college talents OF JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt) and OF Kam Meisner (Missouri) in 2019 and RHP Max Meyer (Minnesota) in 2020 with their Day One picks, the Marlins shifted gears and went upside in 2021 with the selection of high ceiling preps Kahlil Watson (Wake Forest HS, NC) at No. 16 overall, then followed it up C Joe Mack (Williamsville East HS, NY) with their second Day One pick at No. 31 overall. Go Fish!

I also enjoyed the Athletics selection of prep SS Max Muncy (Thousand Oaks HS, CA). In 2012, Oakland selected Max Muncy (Baylor) in the fifth round, then released him after five years in their system. He was signed by the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in 2017 and the rest is history. The namesake reminds me of Cleveland's selection last June of LHP Logan Allen (FIU) when they already had a LHP Logan Allen pitching for them in the major leagues at the time.

• Nathan Rode: There were multiple instances where I liked a pick because a team jumped on a player that had at least a decent chance of not being there--Marcelo Mayer to Boston, Jordan Lawlar to Arizona and Kahlil Watson to Miami--but my favorite pick was Tampa Bay taking SS Carson Williams (Torrey Pines HS, CA). At the Area Code Games last summer, I was enamored with his athleticism in the field and whippy bat at the plate. Then he hopped on the mound and was an easy 90-93. The only thing that didn't make sense was why he only got three at-bats and an inning on the bump. Fast-forward to this spring and he was a little more rotational with his upper half in his swing, bringing on questions about his hit tool. But that athleticism remains and it shows up in the field, so I love the idea of betting on it helping him bounce back at the plate. If it doesn't work out, well, I saw him sit an easy 92-95 and show a plus slider--without even warming up in the bullpen.

• Shooter Hunt: Heading into the season, it would have been crazy to anticipate that RHP Kumar Rocker would have a chance to drop to No. 10. 

But he did. 

And, for that, the Mets reap the reward. A pitcher with that type of present stuff and makeup getting paired with a Mets system that has churned out some of the top power-arms in the game is both exciting and scary for the rest of the league. Rocker’s fastball may have dipped, some, as he racked up considerable innings en route to a runner-up finish at the CWS, but he will likely be 96-99 when fresh with the best feel for spin in the class. His slider is a plus-offering, and he has shown the ability to manipulate spin with both a downer curveball and short cutter, that plays better off the fastball. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, he has a durable frame and I think there is still more upside for what’s to come.

What makes this pick even better than the Mets getting 1-1 talent at No. 10 is that they are getting a competitive player who will almost assuredly carry a chip on his shoulder throughout the rest of his career for not going higher. 

SIMUL-DRAFT SELECTIONS

During the draft, PBR made their own pick in real time after the Red Sox made the fourth overall selection. PBR's Rode and Hunt along with Seifert selected Kumar Rocker at 4B. For their past draft selections from 2018-2020, please see the 2021 Simul-Draft Preview.

WHAT TO WATCH ON DAY TWO

• The top prep bats on the Draft Board include No. 20 3B Izaac Pacheco (Friendswood HS, TX), No. 28 OF Will Taylor (Dutch Fork HS, SC) and No. 33 OF Daylen Lile (Trinity HS, KY).

• Just five prep pitchers went on Day One of the draft which is only scratching the surface. A night to regroup and a day to make calls on signability will give scouts plenty of time to figure out which arms they want to attack on day two. Picks 37-60 have routinely been a sweet spot for organizations to take chances on “upside” pitching, especially preps RHPs like Bubba Chandler (North Oconoee HS, GA), Ben Kudrna (Blue Valley Southwest HS, KS) and Thatcher Hurd (Mira Costa HS, CA). LHP Anthony Solometo (Bishop Eustace Prep, NJ) will also likely receive consideration during these picks.

• The top college arms remaining on the Draft Board are No. 22 Spencer Schwellenbach, No. 26 Jonathan Cannon (Georgia), No. 30 Tommy Mace (Florida) and No. 31 Andrew Abbott (Virginia), while the top college bats on the Board are No. 24 Jud Fabian (Florida), No. 35 Tanner Allen (Mississippi State), No. 38 Christian Franklin (Arkansas) and No. 42 Connor Norby (East Carolina).

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