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2021 MLB Draft primer: Notable players, draft order, and more

Looking for info on this summer’s MLB Draft? You’ve come to the right place.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Offseasons are important for constructing MLB teams, but don’t overlook the summertime. As the heat rages on and the season progresses, all 30 clubs are busy preparing for the MLB Draft and trade deadline, both of which can have major impacts on whether or not a team succeeds down the road.

While the deadline isn’t until late July and will certainly get an enormous batch of its own coverage, the draft is quickly approaching.

Here’s everything you need to know about this major event in which young ballplayers get an opportunity to go pro.

Basic Info

What: 2021 MLB Draft

When: July 11-13, 2021

Where: Denver, Colorado

Rounds: 20

Selections: 612

Need To Know: This year’s MLB Draft was originally slated to be held in Atlanta, Ga., as part of the league’s All-Star Break festivities. However, the league relocated the All-Star Break from Atlanta to Denver, Co., in protest of a bill passed by Georgian legislature restricting voting rights. As such, the draft was moved to Colorado, too.

Why So Short: MLB and the MLBPA agreed that this year’s draft will last just 20 rounds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a reduction from most years when the draft can last until teams are done making selections, thought is an increase from the five-round draft in 2020.

Eligibility: Officially called the Rule 4 Draft, the annual event features baseball players from the United States, its territories, or Canada who have graduated high school but not attended college or completed at least one year of junior college. Players attending four-year colleges can be drafted as soon as they complete their junior year or turn 21 years old, whichever comes first.

Draft Order

The draft order is always determined by the reverse of the prior year’s standings. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished with the worst record in baseball, so they will have the first overall selection. The World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers will have the last pick in the first round.

1. Pirates
2. Rangers
3. Tigers
4. Red Sox
5. Orioles
6. Diamondbacks
7. Royals
8. Rockies
9. Angels
10. Mets
11. Nationals
12. Mariners
13. Phillies
14. Giants
15. Brewers
16. Astros
17. Marlins
18. Reds
19. Cardinals
20. Blue Jays
21. Yankees
22. Cubs
23. White Sox
24. Indians
25. Braves
26. Athletics
27. Twins
28. Padres
29. Rays
30. Dodgers

Keep in mind that the Astros were stripped of their first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 as part of the punishment or their sign-stealing scandal. The Dodgers and Blue Jays both forfeited their second-round picks for signing qualified free agents Trevor Bauer and George Springer, respectively.

Compensation Picks

If a team loses a qualifying free agent who signs with a new team for at least $50 million, they are awarded a compensatory pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A.

No. 30: Reds (for losing Trevor Bauer to the Dodgers)

If a team that loses a qualifying free agent exceeded the luxury-tax salary threshold the previous season, they are awarded a compensatory pick after the fourth round.

No. 132: Astros (for losing George Springer to the Blue Jays)

Competitive Balance Picks

All teams that have either a market that ranks in the bottom 10 in baseball or a revenue pool that ranks in the bottom 10, they automatically receive an additional pick at the end of the first or second round. These picks are called Competitive Balance picks A or B, depending on which round they follow. To determine which round a team will be placed in, MLB uses a formula that weighs winning percentage and revenue. These picks are the only selections in the draft that may be traded. Additionally, they cannot be forfeited for any reason (including, but not limited to, compensation for signing a free agent or penalty for a rules violation).

Round A, No. 31: Marlins
Round A, No. 32: Tigers
Round A, No. 33: Brewers
Round A, No. 34: Rays
Round A, No. 35: Reds
Round A, No. 36: Twins

Round B, No. 64: Pirates
Round B, No. 65: Orioles
Round B, No. 66: Royals
Round B, No. 67: Diamondbacks
Round B, No. 68: Rockies
Round B, No. 69: Indians
Round B, No. 70: Cardinals
Round B, No. 71: Padres

Slot Values

Each pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned value by the league, and the sum of the salaries issued to all of a team’s picks in the first 10 rounds cannot exceed the sum of its slot values over the first 10 rounds.

If a team exceeds this threshold by zero to five percent, they are hit with a 75 percent tax on the overage. If they go over by five to 10 percent, they lose a first-round pick and have to pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. If they go over by 10 to 15 percent, they lose a first-round and second-round pick while being forced to pay a 100 percent tax on the overage. Finally, any team that exceeds the threshold by 15 percent or more loses two first-rounders and has to pay a 100 percent tax on the overage.

2021 MLB Draft Bonus Pools and Slot Values

Notable Players

This year’s draft features a very intriguing top tier of prospects with a balanced blend of both prep and collegiate prospects.

Marcelo Mayer is a Californian prep shortstop with a beautiful swing and approach at the plate. He also has the potential for raw power and an above-average run tool. Meanwhile, defensively, Mayer has good hands and footwork in addition to a stellar arm.

Jordan Lawlar is another high school shortstop who is neck-and-neck with Mayer for the top draft prospect title. It remains to be seen who goes No. 1, but no matter where he is drafted, it is clear that Lawlar has what it takes to perform. He has a patient approach at the plate and a valuable knack for finding gaps in the outfield. He also has great speed, range, glovework, and arm strength.

Jack Leiter is a dominant right-hander from Vanderbilt and potentially the top collegiate prospect in the draft. Once regarded as a top-two pick, his recent struggles at Vandy will likely lead to a slight fall. He should still go top-five, though. His fastball has great movement and maxes out at 97 mph. He also has a beautiful 12-6 curveball and nasty slider, both of which have the potential to be elite pitches in the pros.

Kumar Rocker, much like Leiter, was seen as a lock to be drafted with the first or second pick before a tough stretch at Vanderbilt. He’ll still go top-10, but the prospect of him being drafted earlier than No. 5 is nowhere near a guarantee. The hard-throwing right-hander has a fastball that tops out at 99 mph in addition to a curveball with good vertical break. Perhaps his best pitch, though, is a slider that has good movement and can be used to strike batters out.

Henry Davis is a catcher from Louisville who will likely be selected within the first five picks. He has really good vision at the plate and produces offense more than most catchers. He also has the potential for above-average power. Defensively, he has good footwork and accuracy, but his best trait is arm strength. The backstop has thrown out 13 of 15 base-stealers this season.

Sal Frelick, an outfielder from Boston College, possesses elite athleticism and speed. A three-sport athlete in high school, Frelick has a knack for getting on base. He walks more than usual, strikes out less than usual, and could even have above-average power in the pros. While undersized at 5-foot-9, Frelick has proven himself in center field and projects as a talented outfielder.

Jackson Jobe is the top prep pitching prospect in the draft. He has been praised for his surprisingly advanced repertoire, which is headlined a lethal slider. He also thrown a mid-90s fastball with good riding action, a very impressive changeup that is effective against both righties and lefties, and an upper-70s curveball that serves as a dominant fourth pitch that presents a good change of pace.

Draft Combine

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball are partnering up to hold their first-ever Draft Combine this summer. The inaugural event will take place from June 21 to 28 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C, and the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Together, USA Baseball and MLB clubs selected over 100 top prospects from both the high school and collegiate ranks. These players will convene for on-field workouts as well as strength and conditioning drills. They will be joined by several top baseball personnel, including executives and former players.

Torii Hunter, Fred McGriff, Brad Penny, Billy Butler, Royce Clayton, Rickie Weeks, Roger McDowell, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Gregor Blanco, Michael Barrett, Erik Kratz, Ray Searage, and Rajai Davis are among the list of decorated former players who will attend. Former managers Jeff Banister and Bo Porter, who both have baseball development backgrounds, will be in attendance, as will executives Omar Minaya, Raul Ibañez, and Michael Hill.

The experience will not only allow draft prospects to put their talents on display in a showcase-style setting but also prepare for careers in baseball. In addition to medical and performance assessments, they will undergo educational programming “designed to prepare them for a career in professional baseball,” according to the league. There will also be a unique showcase tournament designed specifically for the prep prospects in attendance.

This inaugural MLB Draft Combine will be open to the media. There are also plans in place for MLB and its clubs to provide content via their social channels. Further, MLB Network will provide frequent coverage, including five consecutive hours of footage, interviews, and analysis on June 25.