Key takeaways from the 2021 MLB Draft first round: Pirates take on Henry Davis; The Royals surprise among the top 10; Catched Max Muncy
Major League Baseball kicked off its 2021 Amateur Draft on Sunday night. For the first time, the draft was pushed back from its usual June date and moved to Denver, Colorado to coincide with the All-Star Game. The first round, as well as competitive balance round A, took place on Sunday and 36 picks were made. The Pirates took Louisville wide receiver Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick.
You can find all the picks here, and the top five below:
- Henry Davis, C, Louisville
- Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
- Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS (OK)
- Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (CA)
- Colton Cowser, OF, State of Sam Houston
The draft will go through the 10th round on Monday before reaching its completion, with rounds 11 to 20 on Tuesday afternoon.
Below you’ll find five great takeaways from the first night.
1. Pirates go with Davis on Mayer at No. 1
In the home stretch, CBS Sports predicted the Pirates would end up choosing between California prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer and Louisville wide receiver Henry Davis for first place. The determining factor, we thought, would be the financial demand of each player, with the weak man winning.
It is to be seen if the second part turns out to be true; Part 1 did, as the Pirates took Davis with the fifth No.1 pick in franchise history. Here’s what we wrote when we ranked him as the fourth best prospect in the class:
Davis made the jump, hitting 0.370 / 0.482 / .663 this season with 15 home runs and seven more walks than strikeouts. The demand for two-way backstops always exceeds supply, which is why the Davis Advantage is intriguing. He combines a low puff rate with a high average exit speed at the plate, and he’s at least a decent defender (with a strong arm) behind him. Some evaluators are concerned that his strength-based swing doesn’t work as well against an advanced pitcher. Okay, but he’s the most accomplished college bat in a class that doesn’t have a lot of it.
While it seems cheap – or, typical of hackers – to draft based on the financial aspect, there is a defensible strategy at play here. This class was missing an obvious No. 1 pick, a la Bryce Harper, meaning the Pirates probably had three to five players ranked the same. So it makes sense to draft the one that costs the least, that way the Pirates could use those savings later, which could potentially land a player who slipped due to signability issues or injuries.
This wallet approach, if you will, has been used frequently by the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles in recent years. The Astros, notoriously, used the $ 1.2 million they saved by drafting Carlos Correa against Byron Buxton to land Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz. The Pirates can only hope for similar loot.
2. Prepare the sliding of the shortstops
On paper, one of the strengths of this class was its offer of well-regarded prep shortstops. Between Mayer (our No.1 ranked player entering the draft), Jordan Lawlar (3), Kahlil Watson (5) and Brady House (9), it appeared the top 10 would be packed.
Alas, this did not happen. Mayer was still the first shortstop to come off the board, but he slipped to the Boston Red Sox at No.4. Lawlar then went to the Arizona Diamondbacks at No.6, but House (No.11, Washington Nationals) and Watson (No. 16, Miami Marlins) fell from the top 10. Heck, even Matt McLain, the best college shortstop in the class, dived to No. 17.
There’s no obvious explanation why these players have slipped down the board, but the group’s collective downfall has led to the destruction of many simulation projects.
3. Members of the royal family take a leap of faith
By far the biggest surprise in the top 10 was when the Kansas City Royals selected Connecticut high school southpaw Frank Mozzicato with the seventh pick.
Mozzicato, who had been identified by league sources as a likely pick in the late first round, made his way to CBS Sports’ pre-draft list at No.26. Here’s what we wrote at the time :
Mozzicato was an under-the-radar sleeper until he landed four straight hits this spring, including a 17-strikeout performance in the state championship game. (He went 3 for 4 at the plate in this contest as well.) Mozzicato has a tall, slim frame that he should add muscle to in the years to come. (He turned 18 just a month ago, which makes him one of the youngest players in this class.) This should allow him to gain a few speed twitches (he sits at around 90 mph) to his fastball, which makes his forward curve even more efficient. Its straightforward delivery bodes well for its order projection.
The Royals are clearly betting on Mozzicato to make the most of his promise. Still, there’s an element of risk-reward at play, and Kansas City might seem pretty dumb if Mozzicato fails to grow after being picked ahead of Kumar Rocker, Kahlil Watson, Brady House, and other talents who were largely considered to be the best prospects on the evening of the draft.
4. The rocker falls into the hands of the Mets
Speaking of Rocker, his downfall ended when the New York Mets made their selection at No.10. While it might seem like a mistake on the part of several other teams, he was, after all, the most popular player in the class, as well as someone coming out of a dominant college career in one of the best programs in the country – that shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.
On the contrary, the perception of Rocker within the industry has never matched the way he is held publicly, as the unmissable fire-breathing dragon of a right-hander. CBS Sports even named him as one of the most polarizing gamers in the class. Here’s why:
The most famous prospect, and therefore the most scrutinized of the class. Rocker is as physical as he gets (he’s listed at a 6-foot-5, 245-pound Brad Keller or Lance Lynn), and he has one of the best pursuit throws in the draft, in his trademark slider. Unfortunately, several teams have concerns, starting with a drop in speed he experienced earlier this year. Rocker’s change is undercooked and scouts fear his arsenal will play lighter than it should against big league hitters. Its mechanics, particularly a high elbow and an often lagging arm, are worrisome when it comes to its mastery and durability.
Maybe Rocker turns out to be a case where the industry over-analyzed one of the best college pitchers in recent memory. If so, the Mets will have landed one of the best values ââin the draft.
5. Athletics takes Max Muncy (no, not that one)
We’ll end on a fun note. The Athletics chose California prep infielder Maxwell Muncy – or, yes, Max Muncy for short. This is remarkable in part because Athletics was also the team that in 2012 drafted the original Max Muncy. By the way, the Dodgers star shares the exact same date of birth (not the year of birth) with the new model. Muncy was at No.25 on our pre-draft list.