The Pittsburgh Pirates have the number one overall pick in next month’s draft and there’s a strong case to be made that prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer should be the selection
The title of being the top draft prospect for the 2021 MLB Draft has been tossed around like hot potato. Around this time last year, Kumar Rocker was seen as the number one pick. But his major concerns in velocity have pushed him potentially outside the top 5 picks. Then for a while, it was Jack Leiter, but his stock has plateaued. This gave rise to Jordan Lawlar, who has now been dethroned by Marcelo Mayer, and potentially Henry Davis. Regardless, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have plenty of options.
But with the top overall selection in the draft Mayer should be who the Pittsburgh Pirates select. Mayer is an elite hitter with an even better glove. He’s got a 60-future grade hit tool with a 50-future game power grade and 55-future raw power grade. He’s gotten outstanding reviews for his fielding at shortstop. MLB Pipeline draws comparisons to Corey Seager in terms of his offensive profile. Though he isn’t the fastest runner, he’s fast enough to remain at shortstop long term.
It’s very close between Mayer, Davis, Lawlar, and Leiter. FanGraphs projects that Mayer would rank as the 50th best prospect in all of baseball with Davis right behind him at #51. Leiter isn’t far behind him at #54. MLB Pipeline has Mayer, Lawlar, Leiter, and then Davis as their top four draft prospects.
The general consensus is that Mayer would not just be a fine choice as the #1 pick, but also the best choice. However, aside from Mayer ranking as a very highly touted top prospect, he could also go for under slot value. This is something the Pittsburgh Pirates should heavily consider.
The Pittsburgh Pirates usually don’t skimp out on spending when it comes to the MLB draft and I doubt that’s going to change now. After all, they are the reason we have slot values in the first place. However, in my opinion, the Pirates’ selection at #37 is going to be a whole lot more interesting than their first-round selection.
There are a ton of players that will fall to that spot in the draft with plenty of talent. One of the concerns some have with drafting either Mayer or Lawlar is missing out on a pitcher with ace-level potential. But I think the team can get both a position player with MVP potential and a pitcher with Cy Young-potential this draft.
For example, Jaiden Hill may fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hill was actually once seen as a player who could rival both Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker as the best pitcher in the draft. However, with him having to undergo Tommy John surgery, his stock has taken a hit. Sure, TJ surgery isn’t a great way to start a pro career, but it also it’s far from an automatic career-ender either.
Hill has more 60+-future grade pitches than either Leiter or Rocker. The difference between Hill and Leiter is that Leiter’s curveball is just a bit better, and he has a bit of a higher ceiling when it comes to control/command. However other than that, Hill has a better fastball, change-up, and slider.
Another pitcher who could have gone much earlier in the draft had it not been for Tommy John surgery is former Pirate draft pick Gunnar Hoglund. FanGraphs ranks Hoglund as the 15th best prospect but has seen his stock take a hit. The Bucs had previously picked the right-hander back in 2018 with their supplementary pick. While Hoglund isn’t an overpowering pitcher, he still has two above-average offerings in his changeup and curveball and a third average offering in his four-seam fastball. But he is considered to be the best command pitcher in the draft.
Then there’s Pirate reliever David Bednar’s brother Will Bednar. All three of Bednar’s offerings are considered above-average pitches. That includes his four-seam fastball, curveball, and slider. He’s also considered to have above-average control, albeit so-so command.
My personal favorite potential pick at #37 is a pitcher with ace potential is lefty Maddux Bruns. Bruns has a four-pitch mix with his fastball sitting in the mid-to-upper 90’s. This is seen as a 60-grade offering by both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline. His slider is another 60-grade offering, and his curveball comes in at a 55. His change-up is the weakest of his four offerings, but still a pitch with the potential to be average. His control is a bit spotty but has a 45-future command grade.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates do draft Mayer with the number one overall pick in the draft there’s still a good chance they end up with a pitching prospect in the second round who has an extremely high ceiling, even rivaling that of both Leiter and Rocker. Going a bit under slot for a player who is still seen by many sources as the best player available is a wise decision as this could lead to them picking a potential ace at number 37.