Who Should the Pittsburgh Pirates Take With the #1 Overall Pick?

Who Should the Pittsburgh Pirates Take With the #1 Overall Pick?


Who Should the Pittsburgh Pirates Take With the #1 Overall Pick?


Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 Major League Baseball first-year player draft begins Sunday at 7 p.m. in Denver, Colorado. The Pittsburgh Pirates will be selecting first overall in a draft where there is no consensus #1 overall prospect. Instead, Pittsburgh will have its choice of five high-end prospects. 

This is a brief breakdown of who the Pirates could add to its already improved farm system. 

  1. Marcelo Mayer – Shortstop – Eastlake High School (CA)

Mayer stands at 6’3 and weighs in at around 190 pounds. The 18-year-old shortstop has been scouted with above average tools in all five categories. Mayer has been praised for his “elite bat-to-ball skills,” and for his “raw power” from the left side of the plate. Even though Mayer does not have “elite speed,” scouts still consider him a five-tool player.

While Mayer could be a future franchise shortstop, I do not think selecting him is the right move for the Pirates at this time. Ben Cherington, Pittsburgh’s general manager, has already made the middle infield its strongest aspect of its farm system. Prospects like Oneil Cruz, Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzales lead a strong group of Pittsburgh middle-infield prospects. 

Only time will tell if Mayer will be the pick, but belief is trending towards the first overall selection being straight out of high school.

  1. Jack Leiter – Starting Pitcher – Vanderbilt 

Leiter pitched his way to an 11-4 record and 2.13 earned run average this season (ERA) with Vanderbilt. The 21-year-old has shown lights-out stuff by striking out 179 hitters in 110 innings. Leiter features a fastball that sits around 92-94 miles per hour and can top out around 97. 

In addition to a plus fastball, Leiter’s 12-to-6 curveball is arguably his best pitch. The young righty has the ability to both throw the curve for strikes and make hitters chase. Leiter also throws an above-average changeup and a slider to boot. 

This is the way I believe the Pirates should go with the first selection. Not only do the Pirates desperately need starting pitching, but Leiter’s timeline fits perfectly with what Cherington is doing with the rebuild. Leiter should be ready for MLB action around 2024 which would fit with many of Pittsburgh’s other top prospects.

  1. Jordan Lawlar – Shortstop – Jesuit Prep (TX)

Lawlar stands at 6’2 and has been described as a “five-tool shortstop.” He began 2021 as the top-ranked high school player but is now slotted just behind Mayer. Lawlar has plus speed and a strong arm in the field, but his strikeout rate rose this season. If he keeps growing, then he could also develop above-average power.

Like Mayer, I do not think the Pirates should go with him at #1, but he would not be the worst selection if in fact Pittsburgh goes with the Dallas-area native.

  1. Henry Davis – Catcher – Louisville 

Davis crushed college hitting this season, slashing .370/.482/.663 with 15 homers. Scouts described Davis’ swing “not pretty but gets the job done” and has a high offensive ceiling for a catcher. Defensively, the 21-year-old has plus speed and a cannon of an arm. Teams who do not want to use him as a catcher, could move him to either a corner infield or corner outfield position. 

For the Pirates sake, Davis provides a tempting opportunity. Without a top-tier catching prospect already in the system, Cherington could roll the dice and take Davis. While extremely unlikely in my opinion, he is a name that Pirates fans should know heading into the draft.

  1. Kumar Rocker – Pitcher – Vanderbilt 

Last season, the buzz around social media was all about tanking for Rocker, but after the 2021 season, the 21-year-old has dropped a few spots on most draft boards. The 6’5, 245-pound righty’s fastball sits around 95 miles per hour but can hit upwards of 99 at times. Rocker also has shown up on the big stage throwing a no-hitter and earning Most Outstanding Player in the 2019 College World Series. 

The big righthander has also shown the ability to be human in 2021. After a strong start, Rocker had a few rough starts towards the end of the season. His ERA finished at 2.73 and his stuff has occasionally flattened out. Even with some “struggles,” Rocker finished tied (with Leiter) for the NCAA lead in strikeouts with 179.

So, who is the right pick for the Pirates?

If I was in Ben Cherington’s position right now, I would show very little hesitation in taking Jack Leiter. Unfortunately for me, that is not the way the Pirates have hinted at going with the first pick. 

Fortunately for the Pirates, the top five to seven prospects in this draft are all talented enough to go number one overall.

My guess to who will be the newest Pittsburgh Pirate is Marcelo Mayer. Even though this is not who I think fits best, Mayer is still a fantastic talent who could play an excellent shortstop for many years in the Steel City.

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