NEW YORK (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates will lead off the Major League Baseball draft for the fifth time, and first since they took pitcher Gerrit Cole in 2011.
Here’s a capsule look at some of the top players expected to go early when the draft begins Sunday night in Denver:
RHP, Mississippi St., 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, 21 years old.
The ace of the national champions’ pitching staff and the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series saw his draft stock rise through this season. Bednar, the younger brother of Pirates reliever David Bednar, flashed his mid-90s fastball and solid slider while allowing no hits over six innings in the title-clinching win over Vanderbilt. He finished the season 9-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 139 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 92 1/3 innings.
OF, Sam Houston St., 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, 21. Bats: L, Throws: R
Outstanding all-around hitter with a smooth lefty stroke and quick hands was selected the Southland Conference player of the year after batting .374 with 16 home runs, 52 RBIs and 61 runs scored. Cowser is likely to become the highest-drafted player in Sam Houston State history after Glenn Wilson went 18th overall in 1980. He has the defensive instincts and speed to potentially remain in center field in the pros.
C, Louisville, 6-2, 210, 21. Bats: R, Throws: R
Arguably the best bat among college hitters in this draft, Davis led Louisville by hitting .370 and set career bests with 15 HRs and 48 RBIs. He also led the ACC with a .482 on-base percentage. Davis established himself behind the plate, too, throwing out 46% of would-be base stealers and was a finalist for the Buster Posey Award as college baseball’s top catcher.
OF, Boston College, 5-9, 175, 21. Bats: L, Throws: R
Frelick was one of the most exciting all-around players in college baseball. He played center field regularly for the first time for Boston College and excelled, winning the ACC defensive player of the year award. Frelick was the fastest player in school history to 100 career hits, doing so in just 72 games. He finished this season hitting .359 with six HRs, 27 RBIs, a 1.002 OPS, 50 runs scored and 13 stolen bases.
SS, Winder-Barrow H.S. (Georgia), 6-4, 215, 18. Bats: R, Throws: R
House has raw power that projects at the next level, making him an intriguing talent for teams picking at the top. His overall athletic ability and strong arm could keep him at shortstop, but he could move to third base. Either way, House should be a legitimate slugger who can pop baseballs to all fields. He also pitches and has a mid-90s fastball, but it’s his bat that will make him successful in the pros.
RHP, Heritage Hall H.S. (Oklahoma), 6-2, 190, 18.
Jobe is the favorite to be the first high school pitcher drafted. He also was an outstanding shortstop with good hitting abilities, but his future in the pros is on the mound. Jobe tossed two no-hitters — yes, two — as a senior, cementing his spot near the top of teams’ draft boards. His wicked slider is his best pitch, but a mid-90s fastball, tough changeup and knee-buckling curve give him an impressive repertoire.
SS, Jesuit Prep (Texas), 6-2, 190, 18. Bats: R, Throws: R.
Lawlar has hit throughout high school and is a possible top-3 selection. He hit .412 with six HRs and 37 RBIs this season, and also stole 32 bases. Lawlar has excellent range with a combination of a strong arm and quick hands, making it likely he’ll stick at shortstop in the pros.
RHP, Vanderbilt, 6-1, 205.
The son of former big league All-Star pitcher Al Leiter certainly made a name for himself in his short time at Vanderbilt. He’s a righty, unlike his lefty father, but has a similar makeup and approach. He has a mid-90s fastball with lots of life, an outstanding curveball and a solid slider that could make him a future ace. Leiter went 11-4 with a 2.13 ERA, including a no-hitter against South Carolina, and struck out 179 in 110 innings. He’s a candidate to go No. 1 overall to Pittsburgh.
RHP, Texas, 6-3, 215.
The ace of the Longhorns staff helped lead Texas to the College World Series, where he struck out 18 in 13 innings to cap an impressive season. Madden was 7-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 137 strikeouts, the most by a Texas pitcher since J.P. Howell had 166 in 2004. Madden’s mid-90s fastball has plenty of life and he mixes in a biting slider and very effective changeup to give him a potentially dominant repertoire.
SS, Eastlake H.S. (California), 6-3, 188, Bats: L, Throws: R.
The slick-fielding shortstop has been pegged a likely top-3 pick for the last several weeks leading up to the draft, with a possibility to go first. Mayer could join Adrian Gonzalez (2000) as No. 1 overall picks to come from Eastlake High School. Mayer finished his senior season with 14 homers, one shy of Gonzalez’s school record, and batted .392 with 45 RBIs and 46 runs scored. Because of his skillset, left-handed swing and physical build, Mayer has drawn comparisons to Dodgers star shortstop Corey Seager.
RHP, Vanderbilt, 6-5, 245.
Rocker pitched himself into contention to go No. 1 overall when he tossed a no-hitter as a freshman against Duke in the 2019 super regionals and then leading Vanderbilt to a College World Series title and being selected the Most Outstanding Player. The son of former Washington defensive lineman (and current Philadelphia Eagles D-line coach) Tracy Rocker is a physical presence on the mound with a mid- to upper-90s fastball, terrific slider and solid curveball. He was 14-4 with a 2.73 ERA and 179 strikeouts and just 39 walks in 122 innings this season.
SS, Wake Forest H.S. (North Carolina), 5-9, 178. Bats: L, Throws: R.
A speedy all-around athlete, Watson is one of four high school shortstops likely to be drafted in the top 10. His bat is outstanding with his quick hands and ability to make consistent contact, along with a patient eye at the plate. His baserunning and stealing instincts are a bonus. Watson is also a solid defensive player who should stick at shortstop.