MLB Player Comparisons for Top 2021 Draft Prospects
Will the 2021 MLB draft feature the next Mike Trout? The next Jacob deGrom? The next Aaron Judge?
We won't know until several years from now, but that doesn't mean we can't make reasonable comparisons for some of the draft's top prospects based on their skills and upsides.
This year's draft seems to have a consensus top eight, headlined by prep shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer, Louisville catcher Henry Davis and Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.
That doesn't mean those players will be the first to hear their names called July 11. There is more that goes into making draft picks than simply targeting the best talent. Teams will reach for prospects they like in the first round to save money against their bonus pools so they can use it on players who slip into later rounds.
We've highlighted those eight players and selected MLB comparisons in terms of upside. Players are listed alphabetically, and our latest thoughts on where they might land can be found in B/R's MLB Mock Draft 3.0.
Henry Davis, C, Louisville
Pro Comparison: Mike Napoli
At his peak, Mike Napoli was a rare offensive force at catcher.
During the five-year span from 2008 through 2012, he played for the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers and hit .265/.357/.522 while averaging 24 home runs per season. He also threw out a respectable 23.5 percent of base stealers, including a career-high 36.4 percent in 2011.
Louisville star Henry Davis has similar offensive upside after hitting .370/.482/.663 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 50 games this season.
There are not many right-handed hitting, bat-first catchers in the game today, so while Davis has a more well-rounded offensive game and is a bit more athletic than Napoli, it's a reasonable comparison as far as the type of impact he could make.
Despite having a rocket for an arm, Davis is also never going to be more than an average defender, so his bat will need to drive his value.
Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow High School (Georgia)
Pro Comparison: Austin Riley
Of the four top-tier high school shortstops in this draft class, Brady House is the least likely to stick at the position, but with a strong arm and power-hitting profile he should be able to make a smooth transition to third base.
Rising Atlanta Braves star Austin Riley was a similar prospect at the onset of his pro career.
Here's MLB.com's scouting report on Riley leading up to the 2015 MLB draft: "A shortstop at DeSoto Central, Riley profiles very well at the hot corner with his raw power and arm strength. His 6'3" frame gives him strength and bat speed, though some scouts wonder if he has the bat speed to catch up to quality fastballs."
And here's MLB.com's report on House: "At 6'3" and 210 pounds with plenty of strength and bat speed, House looks the part of a power hitter and has well-above-average raw pop to all fields. But after showing the ability to crush good velocity and handle quality breaking balls in past years on the showcase circuit, he got excessively aggressive and his right-handed stroke got longer and slower."
It took Riley time to develop, and House could be a similar project, but his ceiling is a middle-of-the-order run producer with 30-homer power.
Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (Oklahoma)
Pro Comparison: Joe Musgrove
In a thin class of high school pitching, Jackson Jobe is the clear No. 1 talent.
The 6'2", 190-pound right-hander has the potential for four plus pitches, including a fastball that already touches 96 mph and a high-spin wipeout slider that might be the best breaking pitch in the draft.
San Diego Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove is enjoying a breakout season, due in large part to the effectiveness of his own lethal slider.
According to Baseball Savant, opponents are hitting just .107 with four extra-base hits on the 395 sliders he has thrown this season, and the pitch has accounted for 55 of his 103 strikeouts with a 38.4 percent whiff rate.
At 6'5", 230 pounds, Musgrove is larger, but Jobe has similar upside and is likely to attack hitters in a similar fashion.
There is always risk with high school right-handers, but Jobe is one of the best to come along in years, and he could wind up as the best pitcher in this draft class.
Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Dallas (Texas)
Pro Comparison: Carlos Correa
Jordan Lawlar does not have the same power ceiling as Carlos Correa, but he is a more polished offensive player than Correa was and shares a lot of similarities.
Correa was a lanky 6'4", 190 pounds when he was drafted No. 1 by the Houston Astros in 2012, and Lawlar is 6'2", 190 pounds with considerable physical projection remaining.
Lawlar's upright stance in the right-handed batter's box and plus bat speed are also reminiscent of Correa at the same age. Correa had more raw pop as a prospect, but the advanced approach Lawlar has shown should help him maximize his own 55-grade power.
Defensively, both feature smooth action and strong arms, and despite lapses of concentration on routine plays, there is no question Lawlar has the tools to stick at shortstop.
Remember, Correa was not the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2012 draft, and Lawlar could make a similar climb to the top of this class with opinions split on the best player.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Pro Comparison: Roy Oswalt
As a slightly undersized Vanderbilt right-hander with a plus curveball, Jack Leiter is inevitably compared to Sonny Gray, who was the ace of the Commodores staff a decade ago before he was picked 18th in the 2011 draft.
However, there is a bit more electricity in Leiter's stuff.
That makes former Astros ace Roy Oswalt a better comparison in terms of stuff and upside, as there is little question Leiter has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm.
Oswalt spent most of the 2000s blowing hitters away with a mid-90s fastball and one of the best curveballs in baseball, finishing in the top five in National League Cy Young Award voting five different times with a pair of 20-win seasons and the 2006 NL ERA title also on his resume.
He was just 6'0", 190 pounds but had no trouble handling 200-plus innings, and the 6'1", 205-pound Leiter could be a similar workhorse.
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake High School (California)
Pro Comparison: Corey Seager
Marcelo Mayer has drawn comparisons to Corey Seager, and it's hard to find a better example of his upside.
With a 6'3", 188-pound frame, Mayer is big for a shortstop, just like the 6'4", 215-pound Seager, whom many assumed would wind up at third base. With smooth actions, soft hands and a strong arm, Mayer should have no problem sticking up the middle even as his frame continues to fill out.
Offensively, Mayer has a hit-over-power profile, and Seager was the same way in the minors and when he first broke into the big leagues.
"[Mayer] has an advanced approach and knowledge of the strike zone to go with elite bat-to-ball skills and a pure stroke," according to MLB.com.
It will likely take Mayer time to tap in to his power potential; Seager raised his slugging percentage more than 100 points last year in his age-26 season. The former will be well worth the wait if everything comes together.
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Pro Comparison: Noah Syndergaard
A 6'5", 245-pound right-hander with prototypical power stuff, Kumar Rocker lights it up with a fastball that touches 99 mph, a wicked 70-grade slider and a plus curveball that keeps hitters from sitting on velocity.
He was not as dominant as expected this season, and it's going to take patience for him to reach his potential. His mechanics need to be cleaned up, and his command in the zone is still a work in progress.
His stuff is off the charts, though.
Noah Syndergaard is a similarly imposing 6'6", 242-pound right-hander with a fastball that brushes triple digits, a power slider and a slower curveball, and he didn't exactly dominate in the minors before finding MLB success.
Plucked from high school with the No. 38 pick in the 2010 draft, Syndergaard was far from a finished product at the start of his pro career.
The boom-or-bust potential of Rocker makes him one of the most compelling players in this class.
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest High School (North Carolina)
Pro Comparison: Jazz Chisholm Jr.
The best comparison for Kahlil Watson might be San Diego Padres prospect CJ Abrams. Both are uber-athletic up-the-middle prospects with plus speed and the tools to develop into dynamic offensive players with top-of-the-order potential.
However, we're focusing on MLB players, so let's go with Miami Marlins rookie Jazz Chisholm Jr.
The 23-year-old flashed tantalizing raw tools in the minors, and an aggressive approach at the plate helped him make the most of his power with 46 home runs in 2018 and 2019. However, he also struck out a ton, and he need to make adjustments as he climbed the organizational ladder.
That tracks with the scouting report on Watson.
"He has an aggressive power-over-hit approach that may need toning down against more advanced pitchers," according to MLB.com.
Chisholm played shortstop and second base in the minors, and there is no question he is athletic enough to handle center field, giving the two players a similar defensive profile.
As long as he's able to make the necessary adjustments, Watson can be an impact player.