The Diamondbacks will be making three selections of the first night of the 2021 MLB First Year Player Draft. Their top selection will be 6th overall, where the team will be looking for a player to help turn around a franchise that has been decimated at the MLB level but loaded with a farm full of promising players picked up in the past three drafts. In those drafts they’ve added Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Bryce Jarvis, Slade Cecconi, and Levi Kelly, who are all on my midseason Top 10, which will come out closer to the draft. The team will continue to put together another solid draft if they want to build the core of hopefully the next good D-backs team.
On this list, I’ve excluded Jack Leiter, Jordan Lawlar, and Marcelo Mayer as I have them projected to go Top 3 in some order.
Vanderbilt RHP Kumar Rocker, Availability at 6: 15%
Rocker is probably the top college arm that has a chance to fall to the Diamondbacks. The odds are maybe 5%, though as there is enough upside for teams ahead of Arizona to consider. Rocker is a power pitcher who bullies hitters with upper 90s heat and a wipeout slider and curveball. He doesn’t have a great feel for a change-up which may be what could cause him to develop into a reliever or more of a middle of the rotation starter than top. Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are two pitchers that come to mind with a similar body and pitching style to Rocker, although the latter is right-handed and doesn’t have the command those two pitchers have.
Heritage Hall (OK) RHP Jackson Jobe, Availability at 6: 85%
Jobe is an analytics wet dream on the mound, featuring a mid 90s fastball with an average spin rate that’s already above MLB average, the best slider in the draft, and a curveball that flashes plus at times. The D-backs organization clearly values that trait, which could make Jobe an interesting development project for the franchise despite coming out of the riskiest demographic of the draft, from a historical perspective. There is some physical projection left, as Jobe weighs in at only 190 and probably will need to add 10-15 pounds to fill out his 6’2” frame. That shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. It will be a challenge for the player development staff to be able to get him to an ace level pitcher at the MLB level, but this is one of three players in this draft available to the D-backs that can completely flip their fortunes this works out.
Texas RHP Ty Madden, Availability at 6: 99%
Madden is the 3rd best college arm in the draft, but there is a considerable drop-off from the Vanderbilt pitcher to Madden. Madden has two plus breaking balls, but has an average heater and a limited feel for a change-up. Without that dominant fastball and the change-up clearly his 4th best pitch, there is a limited ceiling for what Madden could be in the rotation. At his current level, he looks more like a #4 starter at best (and worst). I do think there is a bit more physical projection left in the sense he can add five pounds of muscle to help him keep his stuff deeper into starts and maybe 1 MPH to his fastball. Madden wouldn’t be the worst player the team could take with the #6 pick, but there are players with more upside to consider. Madden is a top-10 guy in most years in the draft, however I think the team should only target him in an under-slot deal (i.e. somewhere around $4.75-5M bonus) and use the savings either with their 2nd or 3rd round pick.
Kansas State LHP Jordan Wicks, Availability at 6: 99%
I don’t see the team reaching for the 5th best pitcher in the draft with higher ceiling, even though Wicks is clearly the best LHP in the draft. Wicks does possess arguably the best change-up from the college ranks, if not the entire draft class, and commands 4 pitches exceptionally well. There’s no question that Wicks has very good odds of developing into a capable starter, the problem is the team has a chance to develop a potential ace between Rocker or Jobe. If the pitching debate came down to Wicks or Madden, I think you can make an argument for Wicks being the better value. At the same time if Leiter, Rocker, and Jobe are all taken in the Top 5, the D-backs should try to grab a bat whether it’s Mayer or Lawler dropping out of the Top 5 or Henry Davis, the best college bat in this year’s class by a considerable margin.
Louisville C Henry Davis, B/T: R/R, Availability at 6: 30%
Davis has burst onto the scene as a junior and has put up ridiculous numbers at the dish this year. Davis is a solid receiver behind the plate that can improve with more repetition, but also has corner infield/outfield viability if the team wants to get his bat in for 600 PA instead of 450-500 per season as a catcher. Even as a catcher, I could see him hitting for a very high average with 20+ HR power and a double digit walk rate. Those are rare and perhaps a player the D-backs need to lock in at with 6 if there is a run on pitchers early. However, I think Davis has a 5% chance of making it to 6 with the Red Sox an obvious fit at 4.
Winder-Barrow HS (GA) SS Brady House, B/T: R/R, Availability at 6: 40%
House entered the 2021 draft year as the top high school bat, but struggled a bit against some of the top prep pitchers in his draft class in the summer showcase. Although he’s listed as a shortstop, I believe he’ll be moved to 3B to help him focus on the bat. He has 30+ HR potential who may have the ability to hit a decent average down the road. House has significant bust potential if the hit took doesn’t develop. His plus raw power to all fields should allow him to keep a short and compact hitting stroke at the plate and be more selective. If he can draw walks at a league average rate, then I could see him being a big middle of the order bat with quality 3B defense. The D-backs as a team lack the two things that House is noted for: quality 3B defense and a right-handed power bat.
Wake Forest HS (NC) SS Kahlil Watson, B/T: L/R, Availability at 6: 99%
Watson is another potential upside play on the infield that the team could take a chance on. Despite only being 5’9” and 178 pounds, Watson has broad shoulders and strong wrists that could lend itself to above-average home run power in the future. His hit tool is probably the most questionable, as the team that drafts him will have to watch his strikeouts. Otherwise you’re looking at a guy who could potentially produce 20 HR/25 SB with good up-the-middle infield defense. I think he’s more likely to end up as a 2B than SS, but the bat plays anywhere on the field if his development goes well. The team doesn’t have high upside infielders in their system after trading Jazz Chisholm for Zac Gallen two years ago (a trade no one with a vested interest with the D-backs regrets), so Watson could make sense. However there are higher upside bats and arms on the board or the team could take an arm at 6 that provides a bit more value.
Sam Houston State OF Colton Cowser, B/T: L/R, Availability at 6: 99%
The team has taken a left-handed hitting outfielder on the first night of the 2018 and 2019 draft, so they may opt for a different position. However Cowser does represent a potential under slot player who projects to play a corner outfield role with a bit more raw power than Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas. At 6’3” 195, there is some future physical projection left in his body. If he adds 15-20 pounds of muscle, he’s probably a lock to end up in right instead of center and be a 20-25 HR threat in the middle of the lineup.
Boston College OF Sal Frelick, Availability at 6: 99%
Frelick is a guy who would make a lot more sense a year from now in a situation where Alek Thomas is playing for an everyday opportunity in center field and Carroll banging on the door. Frelick fits the type of bat the D-backs have taken under Hazen, an athletic up the middle type with an innate feel for hitting with better in-game power than their size belies. If he were a right-handed hitter, he’d be near the top of my list of guys to consider at 6th overall. He has some positional versatility with the ability to play all three outfield positions and possibly 2B as well. Unless the team gets significant savings from Frelick as an under-slot signing, I prefer they chase a TOR talent or a power bat in the draft.
Players to Stay Away From
UCLA SS Matt McLain
While the D-backs may have a second opportunity to take Matt McLain 3 years after watching him go to UCLA. However comparing the type of players that should be available the 6th overall pick vs. the 25th overall pick in 2018, the value isn’t the same. McLain has a bit more certainty in his future projection, with a better chance to stick at SS and a bit more raw power from both sides of the plate. Given how badly things went 3 years ago, I think the team stays away although McLain will be a lot easier to sign this time around. I don’t see McLain falling farther than the 15th overall pick with teams in that range looking for a bat that’s almost certain to play in the big leagues.
I’d much rather see the team chase upside over floor at the MLB level. McLain’s only viable fallback position is still 2B whereas Watson has a better chance of sticking at SS with more power upside in the future.
Mississippi RHP Gunnar Hoglund
Even without the Tommy John surgery, I would still be very concerned about the team taking Hoglund at 6, as the 5th best SP in the draft in terms of talent. With the surgery, there’s a good chance he won’t throw his first pitch with the team that drafts him until the 2023 season. Hoglund should settle into a #3 or #4 starter role in a rotation, as I have little doubt about his ability to develop into a starting pitcher. The problem I see though is teh team needs to chase ceiling more than floor and Ty Madden makes more sense at 6 anyway. If Hoglund makes it out of the first round, he is a candidate to be selected with the 42nd pick.
It’s the same case of the team needing to chase a Top of the Rotation arm vs. a surefire #4 starter with the 6th overall pick and plenty of arms in Hoglund’s tier to find at 42nd overall.
Top 10 Draft Mock
This is how I see the Top 10 playing out. It’s not based on any information I know or don’t know about the draft, just my gut feeling. After the top talent tier is selected off the board we will see some under-slot deals for college performers.
- PIT - Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt - Pirates should be able to secure the best pitcher in the draft without having to use the full slot value for the 1st overall pick.
- TEX - Jordan Lawlar, SS, Dallas Jesuit Prep (TX) - Lawlar will either go to Pittsburgh or Texas in this draft. Gives the Rangers a local star to get excited over and potentially their next shortstop.
- DET - Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake High School (CA) - Detroit could take Davis as an under-slot option at 3, although I think they should take a player who should give them more everyday value than Davis. Mayer does have some 3B risk due to size, but the bat is good enough to profile there so no reason to pass on him.
- BOS - Henry Davis, C, Louisville - Davis could give the Red Sox an under-slot option at 4, although not by much. The only thing that isn’t close to MLB quality is his receiving skills behind the plate, but his bat will profile for an AL club with the DH on days he doesn’t catch.
- BAL - Brady House, 3B, Winder Barrow High School (GA) - If the reports on Baltimore liking bats are true, then they’re choosing between House and Watson. I think House will end up playing 3B at the MLB level since he’s already big for the position, but has a classic corner infield bat with about 3 other fallback positions.
- ARI - Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt - At this point, I went BPA even though the team certainly isn’t lacking for RH arms in the system. Rocker has a bit more volatility than Jarvis (who I project somewhere between a #2 and a #4 starter) due to being unable to find consistency with a 3rd pitch yet, but his fastball and slider I project to be plus-plus (70) and just needs either his curve or change to be a useful 3rd pitch to be a starter or both to be an ace on a contending club.
- KC - Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest High School (NC) - While Watson has the highest bust potential in the draft, an athletic up-the-middle defender who could end up at SS, 2B, or even CF with 20 HR, 25 SB potential at the MLB level. Watson has more projectable power than his 5’9” 180 frame would otherwise suggest and needs a lot of work to get enough from his hit tool to be an everyday player.
- COL - Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College - While pitching would be an obvious need, the Rockies probably should look in another direction to improve their club. Frelick is a guy who will be a solid defender in CF but has the range to be an elite defender in RF. Outfield defense has been an issue for Colorado for years, so getting rangy athletes with a bat should be a priority if they’re rebuilding. Frelick should give the Rockies some savings in the draft to spend later.
- LAA - Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall High School (OK) - The Angels are ecstatic that a high ceiling arm slipped to them at 9 and waste no time to take Jobe. Jobe is the type of player who could easily flip their fortunes around and should be pan out help give Trout a chance to compete for a title late in his career.
- NYM - Matt McLain, SS, UCLA - Now that the top players are off the board, it’s time to make deals. The Mets end up taking McLain as an under-slot pick at 10 and plan to use the savings with their 2nd or 3rd round selection.
Which player do you prefer with the 6th overall pick?
This poll is closed
GA HS 3B Brady House
Vanderbilt RHP Kumar Rocker
Louisville C Henry Davis
NC HS SS Kahlil Watson
OK HS RHP Jackson Jobe
Texas RHP Ty Madden
Other (State in Comments)