2021 MLB Draft: Updated Top 100 List and Mailbag

08 JUN 2015: 2015 MLB Draft Board after round 1 of the Major league Baseball First Year Player Draft held at Studio 42 of the MLB Network in Secaucus,NJ. The Housto Astros select Alex Bregman shortstop from LSU.

We are now within 24 hours of the 2021 MLB Draft, and it’s looking likely that prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer will be selected first overall. This draft will be the first without our friend “Lil Jimmy” Jim Osborn, who passed away this past October. Lil Jimmy loved the draft and frequently contributed to our coverage at Sox Machine. In this year’s draft class, his favorite prospect was Mayer, who is the ultimate “A good looking kid.” When Mayer’s name is called, it’ll be bittersweet not to have Lil Jimmy around to brag about how right he was regarding the talented shortstop. 

Including the top draft rankings from ESPN, MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, The Athletic, Prep Baseball Report, Prospects Live, and FanGraphs, the 2021 MLB Draft Average Rankings has Mayer #1 overall. The updated Top 100 list is below, and the database of players is available to all here

RankPlayer PositionSchool
1Marcelo MayerSSEastlake (CA)
2Jordan LawlerSSJesuit Prep (TX)
3Jack LeiterRHPVanderbilt
4Henry DavisCLouisville
5Kumar RockerRHPVanderbilt
6Kahlil WatsonSSWake Forest (NC)
7Brady HouseSSWinder-Barrow (GA)
8Jackson JobeRHPHeritage Hall (OK)
9Sal FrelickOFBoston College
10Colton CowserOFSam Houston State
11Matt McLain2BUCLA
12Harry FordCNorth Cobb (GA)
13Ty MaddenRHPTexas
14Jordan WicksLHPKansas State
15Benny MontgomeryOFRed Land (PA)
16Sam BachmanRHPMiami (OH)
17Andrew PainterRHPCalvary Christian (FL)
18Gunnar Hoglund (TJ)RHPOle Miss
19Bubba ChandlerRHPNorth Oconee (GA)
20Will TaylorOFDutch Fork (SC)
21Ryan CusickRHPWake Forest
22Joe MackCWilliamsville East (NY)
23Will BednarRHPMississippi State
24Jud FabianOFFlorida
25Gavin WilliamsRHPEast Carolina
26Anthony SolometoLHPBishop Eustace (NJ)
27Ethan WilsonOFSouth Alabama
28Chase PettyRHPMainland (NJ)
29Adrian Del CastilloCMiami
30Michael McGreevyRHPUC Santa Barbara
31Izaac Pacheco3BFriendswood (TX)
32Joshua BaezOFDexter Southfield (MA)
33Josh Hartle (WD)LHPReagan (NC)
34Jay AllenOFJohn Carroll Catholic (FL)
35Jaden Hill (TJ)RHPLSU
36Colson MontgomerySSSouthridge (IN)
37Lonnie WhiteOFMalvern Prep (PA)
38Peyton Stovall2BHaughton (LA)
39Tommy MaceRHPFlorida
40Ben KudrnaRHPBlue Valley Southwest (KS)
41Frank MozzicatoLHPEast Catholic HS (CT)
42Spencer SchwellenbachRHPNebraska
43Connor Norby2BEast Carolina
44Carson WilliamsSSTorrey Pines (CA)
45James WoodOFIMG Academy (FL)
46Matt MikulskiLHPFordham
47Tyler Black2BWright State
48Alex MooneySSSt. Mary’s Prep (MI)
49Matheu NelsonCFlorida State
50Dylan SmithRHPAlabama
51Wes Kath3BDesert Mountain (AZ)
52Thatcher HurdRHPMira Costa (CA)
53Max MuncySSThousand Oaks (CA)
54Braden MontgomeryRHPMadison Central (MS)
55Trey SweeneySSEastern Illinois
56Maddux BrunsLHPUMS-Wright (AL)
57Daylen LileOFTrinity (KY)
58Peyton Wilson2BAlabama
59Alex Binelas1BLouisville
60Christian FranklinOFArkansas
61Andrew AbbottLHPVirginia
62Chase BurnsRHPBeech (TN)
63Jackson BaumeisterRHPBolles (FL)
64Ryan BlissSSAuburn
65Gage JumpLHPJSerra (CA)
66Cody MorissetteSSBoston College
67Noah MillerSSOzaukee (WI)
68Doug NikhazyLHPOle Miss
69Jonathan CannonRHPGeorgia
70Robert GasserLHPHouston
71Hunter GoodmanCMemphis
72Sean BurkeRHPMaryland
73Peter HeubeckRHPGilman (MD)
74Cooper Kinney3BBaylor HS (TN
75Tyler WhitakerOFBishop Gorman (NY)
76Ky BushLHPSt. Mary’s
77Michael RobertsonOFVenice HS (FL)
78Malakhi KnightOFMarysville-Getchell (WA)
79Luca TreshCNC State
80Jose TorresSSNC State
81Steven HajjarLHPMichigan
82Carter JensenCPark Hill (MO)
83Michael MoralesRHPEast Pennsboro (PA)
84Isaiah ThomasOFVanderbilt
85Joe RockLHPOhio
86McCade BrownRHPIndiana
87Edwin ArroyoSSCentral Pointe Christian (FL)
88Irving CarterRHPCalvary Christian (FL)
89Cody Schrier (WD)SSJSerra (CA)
90Justice ThompsonOFNorth Carolina
91Davis DiazSSAcalanes (CA)
92Nathan HickeyCFlorida
93Landon MarceauxRHPLSU
94Christian MacLeodLHPMississippi State
95Ryan HolgateOFArizona
96Aaron ZavalaOFOregon
97Zack Gelof3BVirginia
98Eric HammondRHPKeller (TX)
99Jac CaglianoneLHPPlant (FL)
100James TriantosSSMadison HS (VA)

Note: (TJ) indicates the player has undergone Tommy John surgery. (WD) the player has withdrawn from the 2021 MLB Draft. 

Let’s answer some questions from our Sox Machine Patreon supporters. Which, if you are not a Patreon supporter, consider being one by signing up at patreon.com/soxmachine

Andrew Segall

  1. Do you subscribe to paying over slot on rounds two and three? Can you explain how that would be in the Sox advantage and how likely you think it is that they’ll follow this strategy?
  1. Do you think the Sox draft to exactly replace the talent they’ve committed to trade away after the draft?

In 2019, we saw the White Sox go full slot with Andrew Vaughn in the first round and then spend quite a bit over slot on Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist in Rounds 2 and 3. Last year, the White Sox followed a similar strategy as Jared Kelley fell into their lap. The trio of pitchers are ranked firmly within the White Sox Top 10 prospects and their most attractive trade pieces for other teams as the deadline nears. 

The White Sox farm system needs more impact players. Willing to go over the bonus slot in Rounds 2 and 3 should help land multiple Top-50 draft prospects. With a bonus pool of $6,618,600, if I were in the draft war room with Mike Shirley, I would aim to draft players who would accept the following bonuses:

Pick 22: $3,027,000 (full slot)

Pick 57: $2,000,000 ($756,400 over slot)

Pick 94: $1,500,000 ($881,800 over slot)

A $2 million signing bonus is more than the slot of Pittsburgh’s 37th pick, and $1.5 million is more than the 50th pick to San Francisco. Other teams will be going over slot during this period. Still, when negotiating with a prospect, if the White Sox can promise a higher bonus than Pittsburgh or San Francisco in these examples, then there’s a shot they can get Top 50 talent in Rounds 2 and 3. 

That would leave $91,600 left in the White Sox bonus pool, and with that low amount would come a run of college seniors who have little negotiating leverage in Rounds 4 thru 10. Starting in Round 11, teams can offer six-figure bonuses again, and the White Sox took full advantage of that in 2019. 

With such a strong prep class, I think it’s likely the White Sox go down this path again, trying to maximize their first three picks. This system needs more impact players, and if they can select three of the Top 50 players in this draft class, that’s a good start rebuilding the farm. 

As for trades, I don’t think it’s going to be a one-for-one match. Say the White Sox includes Matthew Thompson in a trade. I don’t think the White Sox will force themselves to take a well-regarded prep pitcher in the first three rounds just to replace Thompson. They still might take a prep pitcher, but it’ll because the draft room believes that player is best available. 

With that said, Andrew, keep an eye on prep RHP Chase Petty from Mainland, New Jersey. A Florida commit, Petty ranks  #28 in the Average Rankings, but there’s chatter that teams are afraid of his throwing mechanics. Could be a target at Pick 57.

Ed Casey

  1. Who are some players that might be available in rounds 3-20 that you would be thrilled to add to the system? (Your personal favorites that are seen as outside the top 2 round talents.)
  1. I know you never draft for need, especially at the top of the draft, yet at what positions do you think it is most important to add players to the system?

I’ll answer the second part first, Ed. I think position need only is a factor when everyone in the draft room is split between two prospects to take. Let’s say the White Sox were down to a power-hitting college first baseman and a prep shortstop using a hypothetical situation. Some may think the power-hitting first baseman is the better prospect, but do the White Sox as currently built need another first baseman-type? I’d assume the White Sox would go prep shortstop with filling an organization need being the tiebreaker in this hypothetical. 

I’m always in favor of staying up the middle with catchers, shortstops, and athletic outfielders who can play in center field for targeted positions. Oh, and don’t forget pitchers. Every team needs more pitching. 

A few names from the college ranks I like that could be available in the third round or later:

  • Aaron Zavala, OF, Oregon: Outstanding 2021 season, Zavala hit .392/.525/.628 with 26 extra-base hits (14 doubles, three triples, nine home runs). I think long-term, he’ll stick in right field but has experience at third base.
  • Niko Kavadas, 1B, Notre Dame: One of the best power bats in this draft class, Niko Kavadas crushed 22 homers in 2021 with a .302/.473/.767 slash line. He is a college senior, but interest is high in Kavadas and may require a six-figure bonus.
  • Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon State: You may remember Kevin Abel from the 2018 College World Series as he was outstanding. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Abel made 16 starts in 2021 with a 3.62 ERA, pitching 82 innings with a 109/61 K-to-BB ratio.
  • Thomas Farr, RHP, South Carolina: Started for South Carolina in 2021; Thomas Farr struck out 90 batters in 83.2 innings pitched. Farr had a shoulder injury in 2019 that’s a red flag, and ultimately I think he moves to the bullpen as he can reach 97 mph with the four-seamer.
  • Kevin Kopps, RHP, Arkansas: The Dick Howser award winner, Kevin Kopps is also a Golden Spikes finalist as Arkansas leaned on him in 2021. Using primarily fastball/slider combo, Kopps pitched 89.2 innings for the Razorbacks striking out 131 and walked 18. Kopps is a senior and has limited leverage, but interest will be high.

Elliott Burrell

How would you rate the White Sox draft strategy of taking proven college bats in recent drafts? What should be their strategy moving forward?

I think the White Sox have two everyday starters in Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal. Vaughn is improving against right-handed pitchers, and now his slash line is .249/.316/.429 with a 105 OPS+ for his rookie campaign. Before his season-ending injury, Madrigal was on a tear (pun unintended) as his season slash continued to climb .305/.349/.425, and he had a 114 OPS+. Both hitters are above average major league hitters now, and I foresee them in a White Sox lineup for the next five years. 

Jake Burger is a great story, and I’m interested in what the future holds for him. With a strong showcase in July, I wonder if Burger is this season’s Dane Dunning. Someone who helps for a brief period and draws the attention of other teams. Dunning helped Rick Hahn trade for Lance Lynn, which has worked wonders for the White Sox this season. Maybe Burger could be moved for another high-impact player before the trade deadline or next offseason. 

After making adjustments to his swing last summer, Gavin Sheets is feasting on right-handed pitching. It’s a small sample size, but Sheets is hitting .346/.455/.808 in 33 plate appearances against righties. Sheets has been a big shot in the arm offensively and fills a need being a left-handed power bat. We’ve seen hot starts turn into duds quickly for the White Sox, but fingers crossed Sheets stays successful. 

I’m still undecided about Zack Collins. I don’t think he’s a good defensive catcher. I do believe he has a good working relationship with White Sox pitchers, especially Lucas Giolito. Because of that relationship, I think Collins will remain a catcher. In 2021, Collins is hitting .267/.376/.442 against righties over 101 plate appearances. That plays, although I’d like to see more home runs from Collins, who just has three on the season. 

I have two everyday starters, a backup catcher, a potential designated hitter, and a valuable trade piece for the White Sox picks from 2016 to 2019. That certainly helps with roster construction. 

Now, if you are thinking why the White Sox don’t go back to selecting the best college bat at Pick 22, it’s because the college hitters in this class are underwhelming. An impact bat will come from the prep ranks, and I think for the next three years is an area the White Sox should invest in more. A contention core is in place until 2024, and I think it’s time for someone within the White Sox front office to start building that wave of talent. No, it shouldn’t be Rick Hahn, but Mike Shirley and Chris Getz can work together to develop future replacements. 

Kevin Shannon

I’m fascinated by OF James Wood. He’s 6’7″ 230 but still has shown above-average run times along with the power potential of such a frame. Is it feasible to get him at 57, and would you have any hesitations about taking a 6’7″ kid who still might grow?

When watching film of James Wood, I share the same fascination as you do, Kevin. Wood has a monster body frame he can add to, which should only grow his power potential. We know the White Sox could use more left-handed power bats in their system, so I think Wood is a good target. 

I’m not hearing Wood going in the first 36 picks. While Wood has great potential, he did have an issue with strikeouts. Any team that selects Wood will have to be patient with him as he develops a better batters eye and consistency with his swing. Maybe a team doesn’t feel it’s worth signing Wood to a $2 million bonus to buy out his commitment to Mississippi State. If that sentiment holds, then I do think Wood could be a target for the White Sox at Pick 57. 


Does the ACE program have any players worth looking at in this draft?

After watching Ed Howard taken by the Chicago Cubs last year, there isn’t anyone from the White Sox ACE program with first-round buzz. There are three players from the 2020 class worth tracking as they make their way to college. 

Noah Smith, SS, Louisville commit

Tyler Fullman, RHP/3B, Michigan commit

Eddie King Jr., OF, Louisville commit

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Trooper Galactus

Jeez, that Wood guy is a beast. Too much to hope for to get the next Aaron Judge?