With the 2021 MLB Draft just a few days away, the 30 teams across Major League Baseball surely have already prepared their draft boards. This year’s edition of MLB’s draft is set to be as intriguing as ever, with no locked-down early selections for the time being. This will mean teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Texas Rangers, and the Detroit Tigers are going to have to make difficult decisions, despite the avid needs within their respective farm systems.
FAs usual, the MLB Draft is bound to provide a litmus test in the eternal experiment as regards whether collegiate or high school baseball supplies the league with more successful players. Although the NCAA/NAIA/JUCO trifecta has been an uncontested winner in that regard, there are younger stars, especially in the first round, who have the prerequisites of future productive assets on the professional level.
Here are the five highest-ranked high school prospects in the 2021 MLB Draft, per MLB Pipeline:
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake High School (CA)
Projection: Round 1, Pick 1 (Pittsburgh Pirates)
In the eyes of many scouts across MLB, Marcelo Mayer is thought to be an elite shortstop free of almost any imperfections. MLB-dot-com notes that all the tools of his game are “either average or above-average”, giving him a grade of 60 on every component except for baserunning and power. Moreover, Perfect Game considers him a 10-out-of-10 prospect. Lastly, Mayer was selected to play in the prestigious Perfect Game All-American Classic.
Mayer’s high school career wasn’t short of on-field accomplishments either. After a historic season for Eastlake, he led the Titans to the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship, the second over his four-year tenure, before suffering a season-ending defeat to the Ayala Bulldogs in the CIF Playoffs.
In reality, however, this incredible campaign is alone in serving as food for conclusions. This doesn’t mean to take away from his impressive performance, though. In 137 plate appearances, Marcelo Mayer had a staggering on-base percentage of .555, accompanied by an .886 slugging and an OPS north of 1.400. Mayer also hit 14 homers, amongst the best marks in school history. Yet, this was the only season that saw him at the plate for more than 29 plate appearances – that includes a 2020 season as a starter that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whatever the risk that his high-school status and lack of continuous success carries, Marcelo Mayer is very likely to wind up as the first player to hear his name on Sunday. He previously committed to playing for the USC Trojans but serving these duties looks less possible by the day.
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (TX)
Projection: Round 1, Pick 3 (Detroit Tigers)
According to MLB-dot-com and MLB Pipeline, Mayer was one of two shortstops that immensely impressed MLB club scouts throughout the spring and early summer. The other one was Dallas-area “five-tool player” Jordan Lawlar, one of three high school assets estimated to land within the first five selections of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Lawlar, as a player, very closely resembles Mayer and is said to have been drawing comparisons to another high draft pick of the near past – 2019 No.2 overall pick Bobby Witt Jr., now raising eyebrows for the Kansas City Royals. Jordan Lawlar has a grade of 60 in two of four departments in MLB’s assessment model – baserunning and arm – as well as an overall figure that ties Mayer’s. He is also thought to be better than Witt, another high school draftee out of the Big D, at the same point of his career.
As for the numbers that come out of the early part of his career, Lawlar has the upper hand against Mayer. Firstly, despite his 2019 campaign being delayed, he still turned in an OBP over .500 and an OPS higher than 1.200 in 87 PA across 23 games. Over the following year, Jordan Lawler played just a single game for the Rangers. However, in 2021, he proved his consistency and raised his draft stock in the process. The Barbara Bush Middle School alum and Vanderbilt recruit built upon the values he posted in 2019 by putting an on-base figure of .556 with 37 RBI and 6 home runs across 97 at-bats.
Jordan Lawlar’s high school profile certainly looks more upside-ridden than Mayer’s so the possibility of his draft position undergoing yet another upward move shouldn’t be ruled out. Regardless, he is estimated to have a nearly guaranteed top-3 spot.
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (NC)
Projection: Round 1, Pick 4 (Boston Red Sox)
The third straight shortstop amongst the high-schoolers with the highest profiles, this time out of North Carolina, Watson was an avid power-hitter for the better part of his career.
The NC State recruit had more playing time than both Lawlar and Mayer, which means a bigger sample for his numbers and more credibility. The averages themselves aren’t of smaller proportions either – an OBP north of .600 in two campaigns, SLUG over .1000 twice, and an OPS better than 1.000 on three occasions. To say that Watson’s track record is tremendous would be quite an understatement.
Less importantly, MLB Pipeline has given Watson a better rating in the baserunning department than both Lawlar and Mayer received – 65. The league-owned outlet is also quick to note Kahlil Watson’s consistency at the plate despite his emphasis on “power over hit”.
According to the Pipeline, this and his “spectacular spring” have given him “the chance to become the third North Carolina prepster selected No. 1 overall” in the history of the draft. With the leverage that Mayer and Lawler are rumored to have on the draft boards of the thirty major-league scouting departments, the odds are stacked against the 18-year-old. Nonetheless, this doesn’t translate into a slower minor-league or MLB stint as his objective prerequisites might be better than the two higher-ranked high school prospects in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (OK)
Projection: Round 1, Pick 7 (Kansas City Royals)
Jackson Jobe might only be the third highest-rated pitcher on the draft board. However, the turnout during his only campaign as a member of the Chargers’ rotation resulted in skyrocketing expectations ahead of Jobe’s entrance into the pro game.
The Oklahoma City native is graded at 10, per Perfect Game, and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Oklahoma. This occurred after a spectacular 2021 campaign, over which Heritage Hill’s ace posted an ERA of 0.14, a record of 9-0, and just one allowed earned run. Furthermore, Jobe struck out the opposing batter 122 times or an average K/7 figure of 16.5. Moreover, Jackson Jobe played an essential role for a Chargers team that won the Oklahoma 4A State Championship for the fourth time in its 52-year history.
With an overall grade of 60, Jobe is amongst MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospects in this year’s MLB Draft. His effectiveness as regards the slider is estimated at a whopping 70 out of 80. However, his control and curveball abilities are under the 60-point mark. Yet, that doesn’t detach the dominant numbers he posted last year from the picture. Despite the risk from the lack of control and big-ball data and other seasons with regular playing time, the outlook before Jackson Jobe is as bright as it can be for a pitching prospect out of high school.
Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow (GA)
Projection: Round 1, Pick 8 (Colorado Rockies)
The impressive numbers Brady House has posted for the Bulldoggs have come amidst an all-around heavy workload. House played at least 15 games in each of his three seasons on Winder-Barrow’s varsity baseball team, taking a part in more than 30 games twice.
That has not prevented the Winder native from dominating opposing pitchers at the plate. Brady House had an OPS figure above 1.000 in each of his three campaigns on the high school level whereas his OBP was over .500 during both of his more active seasons. In his latest effort on the field for the Double G, House posted an on-base value of .675 and a slugging figure of .967 across a sample of 126 plate appearances. Both numbers represent substantial increases as opposed to his 133-PA 2019 campaign when he put up an OPS in the 1.200 range as a sophomore.
Just like the previous four prospects in this article, House is rated at 60 by MLB Pipeline and at 10 by Perfect Game. Interestingly enough, House continues the trend of players lower on MLB’s board being more credible, as was the case with Watson. That, of course, isn’t going to be the case for much longer but the apparently not-as-well-seen potential possessed by Watson and House needs to be noted.
Therefore, even for teams closer to the middle of the 2021 MLB Draft order, Brady House could more than a consolation after missing out on top assets such as Mayer and Lawlar.
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