Today is the day. The future is now. After much speculation and continuous changes to mock drafts, the Pittsburgh Pirates will write down the one that counts and look to find a franchise cornerstone for the next decade.
We still don’t know who the Pirates are going to pick with no slam-dunk option, especially after an expected draft cycle to encapsulate Vanderbuilt right-hander Kumar Rocker as the top pick during the entire 2020 MLB season, with Rocker falling out of consideration to be selected in the top three.
After crossing off Rocker from likely names in consideration, Jack Leiter, Jordan Lawler, Henry Davis, or Marcelo Mayer will become the next Pirates top prospect and first number one overall pick since Gerrit Cole in 2011. Here’s a look into the potential careers of these four players.
RHP Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt Right-Handed Pitcher
The consensus best pitcher in the draft, Leiter helped lead Vanderbilt to the championship game of the College World Series with a 15-strikeout complete game against NC State. Despite losing that game 1-0, the Vandy Boys moved on and faced Mississippi State where Leiter gave up two runs over six innings with eight strikeouts in a 8-2 victory and his last in a Commodores uniform.
The son of World Series Champion Al Leiter, Jack threw a no-hitter in his first SEC start against South Carolina and finished with a 2.13 ERA in 18 starts, punching out 179 batters in 110 innings. That’s a dominant season worthy of going No. 1 overall. The 21-year-old is graded by MLB Pipeline on a 20-80 grading scale with a 70 fastball, his best pitch, 60 curveball, 55 slider, and 55 changeup, with an average 50 control.
Reports out of Boston say that Leiter would prefer to play for the Red Sox and could dampen the Bucs ability to sign him under-slot if selected. Leiter would shoot up the minor-system in a hurry, providing the organization a potential ace in 2023.
Jack Leiter, 13th and 14th Ks (both 96mph Fastballs). pic.twitter.com/rqNFwuT83O— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 22, 2021
SS Jordan Lawler, Jesuit Prep (TX)
Once considered the top high-school shortstop available in the class, Lawler is a highly regarded defender with great speed and should stick at the position long term. The 18-year-old, who turns 19 on July 17, also possesses quick hands and bat speed, providing a near 20 home-run potential from the right side of the plate.
The 6’2,’’ 190-pound Vanderbilt commit is regarded with a 55 hit tool, 55 power, 60 run, 60 arm, and 55 field, with a 60 grade overall potential once he reaches the big leagues. He won Gatorade’s Texas high school Player of the Year award and draws comparisons to 2019 second-overall pick Bobby Witt Jr. of the Royals.
Lawler should be a nice overall talent to fit an organization with plus tools. There has not been much buzz on Lawler being picked by the Bucs, but if the consensus of a high-school shortstop going 1-1 is right, him and Marcelo Mayer are the only two left standing.
2021 Jordan Lawler (TX) with the no doubt . His second of the day as he is making a strong case for top prospect in the 2021 class so far at #WWBA17u National Championship following up a standout showing at #PGNational— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) July 18, 2020
#1 @Texas_PG pic.twitter.com/4wGDomv4DK
C Henry Davis, Louisville
Louisville catcher Henry Davis hit 15 home runs and drove in 48 runs in 50 games this season, good for a .370 average, .482 on base, 663 slugging, and 1.145 OPS. The guy can flat out hit. Scouts worry about his ability to stick behind the plate, but the bat plays well enough for him to be considered in the top five. 6’2’’ and 210 pounds, the 21-year-old bats and throws righty, with his arm rating as an impressive 70 behind the dish. He filled out as a 55 hit, 55 power, lackluster 40 run, and 45 field, with 60 overall potential.
The Pirates do not have any catching prospects in their top 30 and will need to address that issue in the near future. Davis has a very high ceiling with the bat and draws a high number of walks to complement his high average. His receiving from behind the plate is what has teams concerned for his defensive future, but has improved throughout his college career. The Bucs could probably sign him under-slot at a number they’re comfortable at and potentially produce an impact bat in the middle of the lineup at one of the most important positions on the field.
Henry Davis.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 10, 2021
Cannon of an arm.
Davis has one of the best arms of any player -- and any position -- in the draft.
See the latest on the @LouisvilleBSB star:
Scouting report: https://t.co/XnuY8n0RO6 pic.twitter.com/keu7GUaekv
Top #MLB #catching prospect Henry Davis sling shot throw. Eyes stay directly at tag zone. Both feet are off the ground for short second, really shows the lower half conviction.@henrydavis32 pic.twitter.com/sbJRExcRoB— Goodro Catching (@goodrocatching) July 7, 2021
SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake High School (CA)
Here’s your favorite. Mayer originally was thought of as a nice number two to Lawler in the high-school shortstop rankings, but after an impressive showing this spring, he has continued to gain traction as the projected number one overall pick. Mayer, 18, throws right but bats left, with Harold Reynolds comparing his offensive potential to Chipper Jones.
The 6’3” 188-pound shortstop is a slick defender and will stick at the position long term, unless a team wants to utilize his athleticism elsewhere. The Southern California commit possesses a 60 hit tool, 55 power, 50 run, 60 arm, 60 field, and 60 overall upside. He has strong power from the left side of the plate and can run well, with many in the game advocating for Mayer being the best available player on the board.
Marcelo Mayer: An effortless and extremely smooth left-handed swing. Great bat-to-ball skills. You can easily see why so many (including the Pirates) are so high on this kid. pic.twitter.com/B6lmlaQsT1— Pirates Talk (@PITPiratesChat) June 3, 2021
The Pirates should take a strong look at Leiter, but it’s more likely they go under-slot with Mayer or Davis and load up with their next pick.
I think Mayer will be the answer to all the pre-draft questions about who will be selected first overall, but then the real test begins. How will Cherington play out the remainder of the draft? Will he select a catcher early? Or load up on pitching again? It all begins at 1-1, and the Pirates remain on the clock, with all eyes on 7:00 pm.