With the 2021 MLB Draft kicking off shortly, baseball media has continued refining their draft boards based on the latest results and information available. Over the last week or so, a fresh round of mock drafts have come out that all have the Yankees looking in a similar direction. The Yankees will enter this years draft with the 20th overall pick, their highest since 2017, when they selected Clarke Schmidt 16th overall. Let’s take a look at some of the players that could be available and enticing to the Yankees when they make their first-round selection.
In earlier mock drafts, both MLB.com and Baseball America had the Yankees selecting right-handed pitcher Andrew Painter from Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Coming into the season he was considered the best high school pitching prospect by most observers but a slow start (for him) to the season tempered those expectations in the eyes of some.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound pitcher has the large frame and has been a top performer against his prep peers on the summer showcase circuits. He throws regularly in the mid-90’s and will sit 90-94 mph with his fastball during his starts. Painter is considered a big-time starting pitcher candidate because he already features three other solid pitches in his arsenal.
The tall righty complements his fastball with both a slider and a curveball that are considered quality pitches. Rounding out his pitch mix is a low-80s changeup that has potential, and will just need to be refined rather than added or changed as he moves up the ranks. What really sets Painter apart from his fellow high school pitchers is his outstanding command, as he consistently locates his pitches right on target and in the strike zone.
Painter is committed to the University of Florida, but it is unlikely that he makes it to campus if he is drafted in the first round. In several other recent mock drafts, the 18-year-old is off the board by the time the 20th overall pick comes around and I have yet to see a mock draft where he is not selected in the first round.
In Prospects Live’s Mock Draft 5.0, they had the Yankees selecting University of Texas right-hander Ty Madden in the first round. This came as a bit of a surprise, as Madden is currently rated as the 12th-best draft prospect by Baseball America. He is coming off a college career where he amassed a 2.68 ERA in 161.1 innings pitched over three seasons with the Longhorns. He especially stood out this year — logging 94 innings with 110 strikeouts and a 2.59 ERA.
Madden may fall in the draft due the perception of reliever risk. While he has a plus fastball that touches 99 mph and an slider with plus potential, he has not show a consistent changeup yet. The ability to develop a third or forth pitch will determine if he can reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
In Baseball America’s most recent mock draft, they had the Yankees taking University of Mississippi right-hander Gunnar Hoglund, who has also appeared in a couple past editions of MLB.com’s mock. The 21-year-old is very much in the same position as current Yankees prospect Clarke Schmidt was entering the 2017 draft. Hoglund went down with an elbow injury in mid-May that resulted in Tommy John surgery and will not be back on the mound until likely around this time next year. Prior to the injury, Hoglund was a near certain top-10 pick and was considered not that far below the Vanderbilt duo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter in terms of potential.
Despite his recent surgery, Hoglund is still off the board by the time the Yankees pick at 20th overall in many of the mock drafts. He has a long track record of success and was drafted out of high-school in the supplemental first round but could not reach an agreement with the Pirates in 2018. He recorded a 1.8 BB/9 rate this past season and is known for both his outstanding command and control of the strike zone.
The 6-foot-4 righty generally sits 88-92 with his fastball, but he has the spin metrics that help it play up. He has shown more velocity at times this season, touching 95-96 which was a factor in his climb up the draft boards. Hoglund’s slider and changeup both are quality pitches that he can throw consistently for strikes while generating outs. If he is available to the Yankees at the 20th pick, they will be hard-pressed to pass on this proven college performer.
However, the most recent mock drafts at ESPN and FanGraphs have the Yankees selecting Will Bednar, the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. The Mississippi State University pitcher was a player on the rise throughout the spring and just turned 21 but took his stock to a whole new level on college baseball’s biggest stage. In three outings, Bednar struck out 26 batters over 18.1 innings while allowing just a 1.47 ERA.
Bednar currently has a plus fastball and slider mix that he complements with very good but much less used curveball and changeup that will have to become more prominent at the professional level. When it comes to spring. Over the course of his full season, he recorded a 13.5 K/9 rate while also filling up the strike zone and walking batters at just a 2.5 BB/9 clip.
As recently as a week ago, the 20th overall pick was considered Bednar’s ceiling in the draft, but in recent days, several mocks drafts have him going as high as 11th and 15th overall. The Yankees could be all over this strong college performer if he is still available at 20th overall.
In its previous mock on July 4th, Baseball America floated another possible option for the Yankees: Sam Bachman, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Miami (Ohio). Armed with a fastball that sits 94-97 mph, topping out at 101 mph, it is an elite pitch that scouts love. He pairs it with a slider that is also rated as an elite pitch by some scouts.
Bachman will be an enticing option if he is still available when the Yankees pick. He did miss two starts early in the season due to a tired arm but this was not uncommon during the 2021 season as even elite prospects like Leiter were passed over during a turn in the rotation as they adjusted back to a full baseball schedule following the pandemic shortened season.
Between Bednar, Hoglund, Bachman, and more, all the latest mock drafts have the Yankees taking pitching and that should come as no surprise. The team’s top pitching prospects have largely graduated to the High-A and above levels. A focus on pitching in the upcoming draft would re-stock the system at the lower levels and create a bridge to the existing depths of pitching talent in the system.
Editor’s note: This story has been adapted from its original version on June 14th.