15. Gunnar Hoglund – RHP Ole Miss
Hoglund was selected 36th overall by the Pirates back in the 2018 draft, but a failed physical left the two sides far apart financially. Hoglund realized he wasn’t going to get the kind of signing bonus he was looking for, so the right-hander decided to honor his commitment to Ole Miss and headed to Oxford to begin his collegiate career.
After a rough freshman campaign and a sophomore year that was cut short due to Covid-19, Hoglund finally showcased why he was selected in the supplement round out of high school this past season. The right-hander posted a 2.87 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 5.65 in 62 ⅔ innings for the Rebels. The improvement Hoglund displayed from his freshman to junior season was due to an uptick in fastball velocity, going from the upper 80’s to sit in the low 90’s, while still maintaining his plus command.
Unfortunately, the Florida products season was cut short due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, which will sideline him for the next 12-18 months. Prior to the injury, Hoglund was seen as a safe, high floor pick due to his command and advanced repertoire. Hoglund was viewed as someone who at the bare minimum, projected as a back end of the rotation starter, but the injury has made the right-hander more of a risky selection for the Blue Jays and because of this, there’s a big question mark as to where he might be selected tonight
14. Jordan Wicks – LHP Kansas State
Kansas State has never had a player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft in school history. Jordan Wicks is about to change that.
Wicks is your typical crafty lefty. He isn’t overpowering, with a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, but has great command and excels in mixing pitches and keeping hitters off-balance. Wicks is able to keep opposing hitters on their toes thanks to his superb change-up, which grades out as one of the best in the class. The left-hander’s change-up is effective due to Wicks’ deceptive arm action and the “tumbling depth he gets on the pitch”, where it receives plenty of swings and misses against both righties and lefties. The Arkansas native also features a slider that has received plus grades from scouts that gives the left-hander a legitimate three pitch mix, which is crucial considering he doesn’t have an overpowering arsenal.
You don’t have to throw hard to get hitters out and Jordan Wicks is living proof of that. Despite this, I typically like to see a little more velocity when taking a college arm in the first round which is why the Kansas State product is ranked a little lower on this list, with other college arms that have more strikeout potential ahead of him.
13. Sal Frelick – OF Boston College
Sal Frelick is an on-base machine. The Massachusetts native has hit from the time he stepped on BC’s campus, posting a career .345 average while also walking more than he struck out in his 102 games with the Eagles. Defensively, Frelick got most of his reps in right field early on in his collegiate career, before becoming the Eagles everyday center fielder this past season, where he “showed good instincts at the position”.
Combining his instincts with his 70-grade speed has left evaluators with the impression that the Boston College product can stick in center field once he turns pro. The one drawback in Frelick’s game is his lack of power. The Boston native only accumulated 25 extra-base last season for the Eagles. Frelick is also undersized, listed at 5’9” 175 pounds so there isn’t a belief that there is more power to be untapped down the road. Because of this, Frelick is going to have to continue to get on base at a high clip if he is going to bring value to a ball club. I believe that Frelick has the ability to do this thanks to his clean swing that has a great bat path and would be totally comfortable with the Blue Jays betting on his hit tool at pick 19.
12. Will Bednar – RHP Mississippi State
Mississippi State’s Will Bednar may have been the best player during this year’s College World Series and is a huge reason why the Bulldogs were crowned champions. The Pennsylvania native won all three of his starts while posting a 1.47 ERA and striking out 23 batters in 18 ⅓ innings. Bednar did this against premium competition, beating the number two ranked Texas Longhorns twice and the powerhouse Vanderbilt Commodores in the National Championship winning game.
The right-hander has flown up draft boards after his dominant playoff run and has established himself as a legitimate first-round pick, thanks to his recent outings. Bednar is at a very similar spot in his development as former first-round pick Alek Manoah was when he was drafted. The Mississippi State product currently has a two-pitch mix, with a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90’s and a great slider that has fantastic movement and spin that the right-hander is able to locate constantly.
Like Manoah, Bednar will have to add a third pitch if he wants to remain a starter, but at the bare minimum, the Pennsylvania native already has the arsenal to be an effective reliever at the big league level.
11. Matheu Nelson – C Florida State
Matheu Nelson was quietly one of the better draft-eligible players in all of college baseball this season. The Florida State product had an incredible year, slashing .330, .436, and .773 while leading the nation with 23 long balls in only 53 games. Behind the dish, Nelson’s best tool is undoubtedly his arm, which received a 60 grade on MLB Pipeline and is seen as one of the best in the class. Nelson is said to be inconsistent when receiving the ball and will need to clean up his footwork if he is going to stick as a catcher at the next level. Because of these issues, most evaluators believe that the former Seminole is better suited as a third baseman long-term, a position that should allow his bat to shine more as well.
Nelson is one of the rare players in this class that is able to hit for power without sacrificing average. The ability to stick behind the dish will immensely increase his value, but even if he fails to do so, I think that the Florida native has the tools to become a plus power corner third baseman, due to his bat and arm strength.