MLB Draft 2021: Four teams, including Rangers and Red Sox, who picked their new No. 1 prospect

Last week, Major League Baseball held its 2021 amateur draft. This year’s edition was shorter than the pre-pandemic version (20 rounds instead of 40) and was held alongside the All-Star Game festivities in Denver, Colorado. 

Changes to the event’s structure and logistics aside, it was still … well, a draft. That means the same questions that arise after every draft are being asked, such as, which teams selected their new top prospect? 

With an acknowledgement that these evaluations are always subjective, we’ve identified four teams below that we believe can answer in the affirmative. 

The odds are in favor of the team with the No. 1 pick selecting their new top prospect. That certainly appears to be the case with the Pirates. Prior to the draft, their top youngster was right-hander Quinn Priester. Priester is promising, and there’s an argument to be made that he should remain No. 1. Davis, though, feels like a more certain quantity thanks to an offensive profile that saw him seldom whiff and frequently make loud contact. There are evaluators who question his ability to stick behind the plate, but for now he projects to become Pittsburgh’s catcher of the future, even if he’s unlikely to develop into the next Buster Posey (or, perhaps, the next Adley Rutschman).

Leiter became the first pitcher selected thanks to an intriguing combination of polish and upside. He has a high-grade fastball that fits the modern preferences: it has good velocity and vertical break, and it arrives on a flat plane. Leiter still needs to find greater consistency with his secondary offerings, but scouts are high on his chances because of his work ethic. Without Leiter in tow, the Rangers’ system would’ve likely been topped by third baseman Josh Jung, the No. 8 pick in 2019 who is holding his own in Double-A. 

Mayer entered the draft ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 1 prospect in the class. His inclusion here, then, should come as no surprise. The Red Sox have a few other quality prospects, including Jeter Downs and Triston Casas, but neither offers the upside that Mayer does. He’s a smooth-fielding shortstop with the potential to hit for average while launching 15-plus home runs a season. There’s a real chance Mayer boasts four above-average or better tools at maturation, making him a potential All-Star as well as possibly the class’ ace.

Whereas Davis, Leiter, and Mayer were top-five picks, Montgomery went No. 22. Nevertheless, he’s in position to top the White Sox’s list because they’ve graduated a number of talented players to the Show this season, including Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn, and Michael Kopech. An individual might prefer Jonathan Stiever, Jared Kelley, or someone else in the system, but Montgomery’s sheer upside (a power-hitting shortstop) is tough to overlook.

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