This Mock Draft is different, in that there’s no attempting to predict each club’s pick. Instead, this is what I’d do if I were making the selections for each team in the first round.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
I’m shooting for the moon here, which leads me right to the current favorite to go 1-1. My club is at least three years from competing and the best college pitching available comes with risk I don’t want to manage.
Pick: Marcelo Mayer, SS — Eastlake HS (Calif.)
Mayer has as much upside as any player in the class and is a favorable bet to stick at shortstop long-term. As a bonus, he bats left-handed and is developing more power the more he plays.
2. Texas Rangers
I’m thinking upside play here, too, but I get to kill two birds with one stone. Aside from taking the best player on the board, I get one of the best athletes in the class and add a local kid to the organization.
Pick: Jordan Lawler, SS — Jesuit Prep (TX)
Lawler also should stick at shortstop, hit for average and power, and brings plus speed to the field, too.
3. Detroit Tigers
Considering my board this stage, my decision here is difficult. I’d like to take Brady House here, but he’s likely a 3B not a SS and comes with more hit questions than any bat in my Top 20. My organization is stronger and deeper on the mound than anywhere else, but the value at 3 might be one of the top college arms.
Pick: Kumar Rocker, RHP — Vanderbilt
Rocker isn’t the slam dunk he seemed to be four months ago, but he brings mid-90s heat and a true swing-and-miss slider. I get to pair him with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning for the next several years.
4. Boston Red Sox
I’m down to the best college catcher in the class and the best collection of present stuff and athleticism from a college pitcher. I can’t go wrong.
Pick: Jack Leiter, RHP — Vanderbilt
Leiter has more explosive stuff, as a whole, than Rocker, led by a live fastball up to 98 mph and a chance at a double-plus power curveball.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Considering the risk in House and prep right-handers, and the limited upside of the next-best college bat, this one’s easy, despite what I have in the farm system already.
Pick: Henry Davis, C — Louisville
I know Davis has some shortcomings defensively (mostly receiving, framing) but he blocks and throws well, and his bat is first-round worthy by itself.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Considering my club simply is devoid of enough talent to compete, I’m comfortable taking the best player available. But that players also happens to fill one my org’s greatest needs.
Pick: Jackson Jobe, RHP — Heritage Hall HS (Okla.)
High school righties don’t have a good track record, but Jobe is a special athlete with big upside, and possesses big-league competitive stuff at present.
Pick: Sal Frelick, CF — Boston College
Frelick checks the athleticism box, but also projects to hit for average, and we think he’ll find enough power to play regularly as early as 2023.
8. Colorado Rockies
I have an interim GM and likely a full-time replacement coming over the offseason, but my organization needs both stability in its pitching options and upside everywhere on the field.
Pick: Brady House, 3B — Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
House comes with big physical tools, but there are hit questions. He’s a good athlete and handles shortstop now, but we think he’s an athletic glove at the hot corner and we’re willing to wait for the upside.
9. Los Angeles Angels
My big-league club needs pitching, but my job isn’t to tend to the 26-man roster, it’s to add the best talent possible with each pick.
Pick: Matt McLain, SS — UCLA
McLain may not stick at shortstop but has a great shot to stay up the middle, either at second or in center field. Prior to his thumb injury he showed scouts the power they wanted to see.
10. New York Mets
I need to continue to draft and develop pitching, but we have some organizational gaps I can fill without abandoning my board.
11. Washington Nationals
It’s time to think about our future without Max Scherzer, but we’re still a contender with a young core, so I’m going pure BPA here with no big-league agenda.
Pick: Kahlil Watson, SS — Wake Forest HS (NC)
Watson may fit better at second base and will need some guidance with his approach, but there’s an athletic middle-infield bat here who brings a bit of power potential, and his arm gives him a chance at short. I also remember the last time an undersized power-hitting shortstop scared away some folks, and I bet Francisco Lindor does, too.
12. Seattle Mariners
I could go college arm here for the third straight draft, but I’m not sold on the future roles of Ty Madden and Ryan Cusick, leading me to take a different kind of risk this time. I would have leaned McLain here if he were available.
Pick: Harry Ford, C — North Cobb HS (Ga.)
Ford has plus speed and at least average power potential to go with the tools to stick behind the plate for 10-plus seasons. But his agility and athleticism should allow for a move to second, third or the outfield if the bat figures to be special and the club doesn’t want the labor of developing his catching skills to hold him back.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
My org needs pitching and there’s value here in the college ranks, but really like a couple of prep bats in this spot. Hmmm…
Pick: Sam Bachman, RHP — Miami (OH)
While not a prototype ay 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Bachman has three big-league pitches led a put-away slider and a fastball that has been into triple digits, suggesting a floor in a high-leverage relief role and No. 2 upside.
14. San Francisco Giants
We’ve taken college bats each of the last three years in Round 1, but the best value here may not allow us to do it again.
Pick: Bubba Chandler, RHP — North Oconee HS (Ga.)
Chandler is a two-way player and a top 100 prospect as an infielder, but the upside on the mound is tough to ignore. He’s increased velocity with his fastball and lives 92-94 mph and has reached 98. He’s athletic — and is a Clemson recruit at QB — and scouts typically rave about the lack of roadblocks in his projection.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
With our development staff, I know we can maximize the best arm available, so I’ve been leaning that way in this class from the start.
Pick: Ryan Cusick, RHP — Wake Forest
Cusick is mostly a two-pitch arm right now, but it’s a 70-grade fastball scraping triple digits and a curveball that flashes average or better. His changeup isn’t without legitimate projection, however, and there is a second breaking ball in his pocket.
16. Miami Marlins
We’ve gone the way of college players in the first round three straight seasons and all things being equal we’re likely to do it again.
Pick: Ty Madden, RHP — Texas
Madden profiles as a high-leverage reliever due to a shallow arsenal and a deliver that’s both high-effort and not conducive to developing a changeup. But the velocity is elite, and the slider is an out pitch.
17. Cincinnati Reds
We haven’t gone the prep route in the first round since Jeter Downs in 2017, and not with our top pick since Tyler Stephenson in 2015, but the value here is in the high school ranks.
Pick: Anthony Solometo, LHP — Bishop Eustace HS (NJ)
Solometo is a projectable southpaw with a borderline-low three-quarter slot and is up to 95 mph. His ability to attack the entire strike zone with his four-seamer helps it play up and sets up a slurve and promising changeup. There’s quirk in the mechanics, but he repeats well.
Pick: Jordan Wicks, LHP — Kansas State
Wicks’s changeup can be devastating, and it plays well off the fastball into the 92-95 mph range. He throws strikes and has an average cutter-slider and below-average curveball to complete the arsenal.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
With the team starting a competitive window, I’m enticed by a lot of the college talent still on the board. I would have considered Wicks, Madden, and Cusick, but the BPA demographic is wide open.
Pick: Gavin Williams, RHP — East Carolina
Williams gets to the mid-90s with relative ease and has flashed average or better secondaries, including a slider-changeup combo that has chance to be plus.
20. New York Yankees
The way this has worked out for us is exciting. Best player available matches our greatest weakness and need.
Pick: Dylan Smith, RHP — Alabama
Smith pitches in the low-90s, but with command, and sets up one of the better sliders int he class. He also has an average curveball that projects up to plus. He’s very athletic with a clean arm path.
21. Chicago Cubs
We’re rebuilding now, but we want to do it quickly and were hoping a college arm we liked here would fall to us. And it did.
Pick: Will Bednar, RHP — Mississippi State
Bednar owns one of the more polished and complete arsenals in the draft, including two big-league breaking balls and a four-seamer up to 97 mph. He throws strikes and profiles as a strong mid-rotation arm that moves quickly through the minors.
22. Chicago White Sox
Stability on the mound would be nice, but we’re in a good spot with this pick to simply take the best player available and completely disregard the present needs of the big club.
Pick: Andrew Painter, RHP — Calvary Christian HS (Fla.)
He’s up to 96 mph with the four-seam variety and gets some run on the two-seamer, setting up three projectable secondaries. His calling card is fastball command on top of a projectable 6-foot-6 frame.
23. Cleveland (Spiders, c’mon)
We know we can max out the value of pitchers and our org is shy on bats, so we’re looking for position players.
Pick: Joe Mack, C — Williamsville East HS (NY)
Mack is strong, sturdy, and projects to stick behind the plate thanks to a strong arm and baseball IQ. He makes regular hard contact and projects to at least average power.
24. Atlanta Braves
This is purely BPA, but if I had my druthers, I’d love to add an up-the-middle talent with all-star upside.
Pick: Jud Fabian, CF — Florida
Fabian has plus power and projects as an above average defender in center, but has struggled making consistent contact. If he can eliminate some swing and miss he could get to 30 homers. Comps include Adam Jones, Vernon Wells, and Preston Wilson.
25. Oakland Athletics
We’ve always danced to our own beat in Oakland, but this pick shouldn’t look odd to anyone.
Pick: Will Taylor, OF — Dutch Fork HS (SC)
He’s a multi-sport star, including wrestling, and offers 70-grade raw speed and a chance to hit and get to average power production.
26. Minnesota Twins
We’re jumping for joy right now because the player we wanted to get to us is there and we’re going to take him. Woo hoo!!
Pick: Benny Montgomery, OF — Red Land HS (PA)
Montgomery is a projectable athlete with big-time speed and projectable power. If he sticks in center, and he should, at least for a while, he has a great chance to be an everyday option with lineup versatility.
27. San Diego Padres
I could throw a dart at our board and feel OK no matter where it lands. So let’s try it. Boom!
Pick: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP — Ole Miss
Hoglund had a shot to go in the top 10 before being sidelined and undergoing UCL surgery. He’s unlikely to pitch until late 2022 at the soonest but should move quickly through the minors thanks to command and a full assortment of secondaries led by an above-average slider.
28. Tampa Bay Rays
Thinking about drafting only shortstops this year to anger the other 29 teams, but we already have 93 of them, so we’ll go in another direction.
Pick: Josh Hartle, LHP — Regan HS (NC)
Hartle is one of the more projectable arms in the class, bringing a 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame to pro ball. He’s up to 94 mph with the fastball and has a promising slider and changeup. There’s no deception in the delivery, but he commands the fastball well all over the zone.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers
We’re always looking for impact pitching and have an excellent choice of upside plays here, both on the mound and in the box.
Pick: Joshua Baez, OF — Dexter Southfield HS (Mass.)
Baez has plus raw power, but comes with hit tool questions and a very shallow track record versus strong competition.
Jason A. Churchill
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