Who Will Go Number One in the 2021 MLB Draft?

By Nick Sterling in MLB
| June 12, 2021 5:43 am PDT

We are just over a month away from the 2021 MLB Draft. The College World Series is in full swing, so we get to see some of the top prospects on the biggest stage.

Unlike other years, there is no clear-cut favorite to go number one in this year’s draft. The uncertainty surrounding this class gives analysts and fans a chance to have a wide range of speculation on who will go number one.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be the first team on the clock when the MLB Draft begins. There are a few different directions they can go in. Let’s take a look at the most likely contenders.

Jordan Lawler – Jesuit Prep (TX)

Jordan Lawler is one of two shortstops (SS) projected to go number one overall.

Lawler drew comparison to Bobby Witt Jr., the number two overall pick in the 2019 draft by the Kansas City Royals. Both players are from the same area in Texas and play the same position

Jordan stood out during his sophomore season when he hit .409 and five home runs. The 2020 season is when scouts noticed Lawler’s skill set. He hit .485 and led the team with one home run, five doubles, and 12 RBIs.

The COVID-19 pandemic cut the season short after just 12 games, but Lawler made his mark.

Lawler continued that strong play in his senior season. He hit .412 with six home runs and 37 RBIs. Probably the most impressive part of his season was that he was successful in all 32 of his stolen base attempts.

His speed on the base paths, along with his swing speed is something that scouts are excited about. His 6’ 2” frame is ideal for a SS. Once he gains more muscle, experts expect his power numbers to go up.

If there’s anything going against Lawler, it’s his age. He turns 19 just a week before the MLB Draft. Some teams prefer a college athlete that is more advanced in their progression. Basically, someone who can get to the majors faster.

Lawler committed to Vanderbilt University. There’s some risk with selecting someone that could go to college, but that rarely happens with top picks.

Marcelo Mayer – Eastlake (CA)

Marcelo Mayer is the second SS projected to go at the top of the draft. Mayer plays at Eastlake High School in California. The school produced five-time all-star Adrian González.

Mayer only played in three games his freshman year before upping that total to eight his sophomore season.

He was off to a great start in his junior season. Mayer hit .294, three home runs and six RBIs in 21 plate appearances. He only played in six games before the pandemic cut the season short.

Like Lawler, Mayer took his game to another level during his senior season. He hit .410, 13 home runs, and 40 RBIs over 28 games. He also stole 17 bases.

Mayer grades very similarly to Lawler. His grades all rate in the 55-60 range. He stands an inch taller than Lawler at 6’ 3”.

Scouts love his ability to hit from the left side of the plate.

According to MLB.com, his offensive game compares well to Los Angeles Dodgers SS, Corey Seager. His defensive game is similar to that of San Francisco Giants SS Brandon Crawford.

Something that stood out to me with Mayer’s game is his awareness of the strike zone. In his senior season, he struck out just five times. He walked 27 times. That’s a really good eye for someone still in high school.

Like Lawler, he is still 18 years old and doesn’t turn 19 until December. He committed to USC but he also likely won’t attend as a projected top-five draft pick.

Henry Davis – Louisville (KY)

Catcher Henry Davis of Louisville University is quickly working his way up draft boards. I saw him in the back half of the top 10 earlier this season, but with his fantastic season, along with the drop of some other players, has David squarely in the mix to go number one.

He didn’t do much in 2019, but he improved his game in the COVID shortened 2020 season. Davis hit .372, three home runs, and 13 RBIs.

Davis made it known those numbers weren’t just a product of a shortened season. He hit .372, 15 home runs, and 48 RBIs in 2021. He even stole 10 bases despite having average speed.

Davis did a great job managing the strike zone as a hitter. For the first time in his three seasons at Louisville, Davis walked more than he struck out. His offensive game is something scouts have taken a liking to.

The combination of a good batter’s eye, as well as power, is something you don’t see in a lot of players.

One of the best things about Davis’ game is his skills behind the plate. He threw out 34 percent of runners during his first two seasons at Louisville. That number has a lot of people excited about his defensive skills.

Another potential reason Davis could be high on the Pirates radar is their lack of catching options. They have just one catcher in their top 30 prospect pool.

That prospect is Endy Rodriguez, who is not expected to arrive in the MLB until 2024.

Jack Leiter – Vanderbilt (TN)

Jack Leiter is the first and only pitcher on this list. The right-hander from Vanderbilt University comes from a baseball family. His father, uncle, and cousin all pitched in the MLB.

Leiter attended Delbarton High School in New Jersey. He won the Gatorade New Jersey Baseball Player of the Year in 2018-2019.

That season, Leiter went 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA and struck out 69 batters. Just to top things off, he hit .364 and had 13 RBIs.

Many people believed Leiter could be a first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. However, Leiter was keen on attending college and ultimately went to Vanderbilt University.

Leiter began his college career with a five-inning, 12 strikeout performance against the University of South Alabama. He also did not allow a hit in the outing. He finished the shortened season 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA.

Leiter came back in 2021 and was even more impressive. He pitched a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts in his first SEC game. While he ran into some trouble in late April, Leiter stayed strong and is currently 9-3 with a 2.22 ERA. He also struck out 146 batters while walking just 38.

Vanderbilt’s season isn’t over as they are the four seed in the College World Series. Leiter still has a chance to improve his draft stock even more.

Leiter’s best pitch is his fastball. It typically sits in the 90-95 MPH range but it can climb as high as 97. He also uses his curveball really well to strike out batters.

Leiter will look to carry on his family legacy as a pitcher in the MLB.

Who Will the Pirates Pick?

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen an MLB Draft without a consensus number one player. We’re already starting to see a few players separate themselves from the pack.

Lawler and Mayer seem to be the two the Pirates are highest on right now. However, they could opt for Davis or Leiter. They are more of a positional need in their prospect pool.

It will be fun to see who emerges over the next month as the top pick, and where they’ll slot in the MLB top 100 prospects.

Here are some more recent MLB posts on our blog that you might be interested in.

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