2021 MLB Draft Grades: Best and Worst Picks from Sunday Results
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John Peterson/Associated Press
Now, the waiting game begins.
The first 36 selections of the 2021 MLB draft are in the books in Denver as part of the league’s All-Star festivities.
Drawing conclusions about draft picks immediately after they were made is always a bit foolish, and that’s especially true in baseball. The vast majority of the players who hear their names called will spend at least two or three years in the minors before they get called up.
With that said, there’s a reason some players find themselves at the top of draft boards. Here are early grades on the 2021 draft. The full results are available at MLB.com.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Arizona Diamondbacks: A-
Atlanta Braves: B
Baltimore Orioles: B-
Boston Red Sox: A-
Chicago Cubs: B
Chicago White Sox: B
Cincinnati Reds: B+
Detroit Tigers: A
Houston Astros: N/A
Kansas City Royals: C+
Los Angeles Angels: B+
Los Angeles Dodgers: B-
Miami Marlins: A
Milwaukee Brewers: A-
Minnesota Twins: B-
New York Mets: A-
New York Yankees: B-
Oakland Athletics: B+
Philadelphia Phillies: B
Pittsburgh Pirates: B
San Diego Padres: C
San Francisco Giants: B
Seattle Mariners: B+
St. Louis Cardinals: B
Tampa Bay Rays: C+
Texas Rangers: A
Toronto Blue Jays: B+
Washington Nationals: A
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Eric Gay/Associated Press
Ty Madden, RHP, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers did pretty well for themselves by getting Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden. Jobe carries far more risk as a prep prospect, so Madden should balance out that uncertainty after having proven himself at Texas.
The 6’3″ right-hander went 7-5 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 137 strikeouts in 113.2 innings for the Longhorns in 2021.
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranked him as the 19th-best player on the board: “Madden is a big, strong Texas righty who is up to 99 mph with a plus slider, but the third pitch and bat-missing qualities of his fastball make him more of a project than you’d like out of the college ranks.”
The Tigers couldn’t have done much better in the competitive balance round.
Kahlil Watson, SS, Miami Marlins
Peruse any pre-draft ranking and you’d be hard-pressed to find many experts who had Kahlil Watson outside of the top 10.
McDaniel listed him fifth, one spot below his position on MLB.com. The Athletic’s Keith Law put him slightly lower at No. 7, which is where Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter listed him in his final mock draft.
At Wake Forest High School, Watson batted a robust .513 and had six home runs and six doubles in 18 games as a senior.
“Kahlil is one of the more dynamic players in the draft,” said Marlins director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik. “You’re talking about a guy that has a plus arm, plus run, electric bat speed combined with a great swing and athleticism. He plays right up the middle of the field, which is everything we stress in the organization, so he checked all the boxes.”
Watson has a commitment to North Carolina State in his back pocket, so he will likely drive a hard bargain in contract negotiations. Assuming Miami signs him, he could be a massive steal.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Henry Davis, C, Pittsburgh Pirates
This is less an indictment of Henry Davis and more about the opportunity cost of deciding to take him No. 1 overall.
Reuter projected the Louisville catcher to land sixth overall, so this wasn’t a massive reach for the Pirates. But when you have the top pick, sometimes it makes sense to swing big—pun intended. After the Bryan Bullington experience, the fanbase is well aware of the dangers associated with going down the “safe route” at No. 1.
Pittsburgh has apparently had Davis in its radar for some time, as he explained the team inquired about his status when he was preparing to enter college.
And you don’t need much convincing to buy into a catcher who slugged .663 and had a 1.145 OPS during the 2021 season.
Perhaps the Pirates will be proven correct in their assessment of Davis relative to his peers in the 2021 draft class. For now, passing on Marcelo Mayer or Jordan Lawlar looks a bit questionable.
Frank Mozzicato, LHP, Kansas City Royals
If people are drawing a parallel between your selection and that of Hunter Dozier, then it may not be a good sign.
The Kansas City Royals took Frank Mozzicato with the seventh pick, a pick that was almost as much about staying below the bonus slot as it was adding a player who can help the organization going forward. The southpaw was the No. 39 overall player on MLB.com prior to the draft.
The strategy isn’t without merit because it can allow a team to scoop up a player who may have fallen for signability concerns. Kansas City did this in 2013, using its first pick on Dozier before adding Sean Manaea in the competitive balance round.
The Royals flipped Manaea as part of the trade for Ben Zobrist in 2015, and Zobrist helped win them the World Series.
That was the good. The bad is that Dozier is batting .238 and slugging .433 through four-plus seasons in the majors.
Mozzicato is Kansas City’s only pick so far, making it tough to evaluate the gambit now. Madden is somebody who would’ve made a lot of sense if he had still been available.
Much like with the Pirates, you’re still left wondering whether Kumar Rocker or Brady House would’ve been the better choice instead of thinking two or three steps ahead.
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