14 Lower-Profile Draft Picks Who Have Raised Their Stock Significantly In Only A Year

Image credit: Ricky Tiedemann (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

One year ago, a major league debut had to be the furthest thing from Chase Silseth’s mind. The righthander finished his 2021 season at Arizona with a 5.55 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, both reflective of a pitcher who struggled to limit hard contact and was often too hittable.

And yet, there Silseth was on a major league mound on May 13, less than a year after the Angels drafted him in the 11th round as they aggressively targeted college pitching.

Silseth had pitched his way to Double-A Rocket City in his pro debut last summer and came out firing in 2022. He generated at least a dozen swinging strikes in each of his first four Southern League outings, and his ERA stood at 1.73 over 26 innings when the Angels called him up—the first 2021 draftee to make his MLB debut.

Silseth made four MLB starts before being demoted to Double-A, but his quick ascension bodes well for his future. A number of fellow 2021 draft picks also got off to fast starts this season. All have one thing in common.

The shortened five-round 2020 draft pushed several talented college players back to school. This resulted in unusually strong depth of college talent in the 2021 draft, which is reflected in numerous players enjoying breakout seasons in 2022.

In this piece, we highlight a number of the best value picks outside the top two rounds of the 2021 draft. All players received signing bonuses less than $650,000. 

Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays
Golden West JC (third round)

Few players from last year’s class have burst onto the scene like Tiedemann, a 19-year-old who had dominated up to High-A Vancouver this season. He has shown the ability to miss bats, limit hard contact and throw strikes. Most importantly, Tiedemann possesses top-of-the-rotation stuff, with a fastball that sits comfortably in the mid 90s. He pairs his heater with a sweepy low-80s breaking ball and a double-plus changeup, his best pitch. He has a rare combination of stuff, pitchability and starter projection with his strong-bodied, 6-foot-4 frame. 

Bryce Miller, RHP, Mariners
Texas A&M (fourth round)

The Mariners astutely identified the under-the-radar Miller for his strong fastball traits and ability to sweep his slider. After a full offseason with Seattle’s player development program, he is thriving. Miller sits 96-97 mph with tight backspin on his four-seamer. His slider has added sweep, while his changeup is flashing MLB quality more often than in year’s past. With High-A Everett, Miller was showing the ability to miss bats with his fastball, drive ground balls at a high rate and work deep into starts with efficient strike-throwing and sequencing.

Griff McGarry, RHP, Phillies
Virginia (fifth round)

Command woes weighed heavily on McGarry at Virginia, and while he still struggles in that regard, he has shown dramatic improvement in 2022. It’s now a matter of consistency. In one start, McGarry will dominate, while living around the zone and executing his pitches. Other days, he loses feel for his stuff and runs up his pitch counts. What no one can deny is McGarry’s stuff and ability to miss bats. He has punched out batters at one of the highest rates this season up through High-A Jersey Shore. McGarry shows signs of becoming a dominant late-inning reliever, with some starter upside if he harnesses his big stuff.

Gordon Graceffo, RHP, Cardinals
Villanova (fifth round)

One of the few players here who signed for an over-slot bonus—in this case $500,000—Graceffo had a dominant start the season that earned him a promotion to Double-A Springfield by June. Over the last 18 months Graceffo has seen has fastball velocity climb substantially. He was clocked this spring up to 100 mph and sits 94-96 in games, but it’s his trio of average or better secondaries that have driven his success. His bread-and-butter is his low-80s changeup with tumble and fade and his tight mid-80s slider. His ability to pepper the zone with a variety of pitches and added power have significantly raised Graceffo’s stock.  

Tanner Bibee, RHP, Guardians
Cal State Fullerton (fifth round)

The Guardians have a habit of identifying talented college pitchers with characteristics they can build upon. Bibee, like Griff McGarry, Ricky Tiedemann and Bryce Miller, were all eligible for the five-round 2020 draft but went unselected. Bibee returned to Cal State Fullerton, where he had a solid but unspectacular season. But the pitcher who emerged this season at High-A Lake County was different from the 2021 version. Bibee showed increased velocity on his fastball by sitting mid 90s and touching 99 mph. His trio of secondaries, led by a sweepy slider and changeup have been effective bat-missers while landing in the zone at a high rate. Bibee’s combination of stuff and pitchability have allowed him to emerge as one of the breakout players from the 2021 college class.  

Hayden Juenger, RHP, Blue Jays
Missouri State (sixth round)

A reliever for Missouri State last season, Juenger has improbably been in the Double-A New Hampshire rotation since Opening Day this year. He has defied those odds on the strength of outlier fastball traits and ability to dominate lefthanded hitters with his changeup. Over his first dozen games in 2022, he had limited lefthanded batters to a .189 average with four extra-base hits. Juenger’s rise to prospect status has been as unexpected as any player this side of Chase Silseth

Will Warren, RHP, Yankees
Southeastern Louisiana (eighth round)

Another player eligible but unselected in the shortened 2020 draft, Warren made his Double-A Somerset debut on June 2 after impressing with High-A Hudson Valley. His ability to generate ground balls on his fastball is elite with rates north of 65%. His secondaries have shown well, led by a sweepy slider typical of the “whirly” shape the Yankees now favor. Warren has the control and pitch mix of a starter and features a quality changeup and curveball in addition to his slider. 

Jose Torres, SS, Reds
North Carolina State (third round)

Torres was a standout in the early part of 2020 season prior to the shutdown, hitting .333/.369/.533 as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he maintained a high level of production with improvements to his bat-to-ball skills. A strong defensive shortstop, Torres slid to the Reds in the third round despite up-the-middle abilities, youth and solid offensive numbers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Torres got off to a fast start for High-A Dayton, playing a strong shortstop and second base, while hitting for average power.

Cooper Bowman, 2B, Yankees
Louisville (fourth round)

Bowman had been unlucky on balls in play early this season with High-A Hudson Valley but had shown advanced plate discipline and the ability to get on base at an elite rate. He rarely chases pitches outside the zone and makes contact at a high rate, with his average game power beginning to flash. A premium athlete, Bowman is blazing fast and instinctual on the basepaths and a steady and rangy defender in the middle infield.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Twins
Oklahoma State (fourth round)

After two years at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, Encarnacion-Strand transferred to Oklahoma State in 2021 and raked. He continued to hit with authority in his pro debut last summer, putting up a 1.022 OPS in 22 games for Low-A Fort Myers. Encarnacion-Strand ranked among the High-A Midwest League leaders this season in batting average, home runs and wRC+ this season, all while taking on the challenge of playing third base every day after being drafted as a first baseman. He could see Double-A this season if he keeps raking.

Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B, Braves
Georgia Tech (sixth round)

One of the best pure hitters in the South Atlantic League to begin the season, Malloy has shown bat-to-ball skills, plate discipline and on-base ability. While his game power is still just average, he’s shown a knack the barrel making hard flyball and line-drive contact with consistency. A bat-first prospect, Malloy still has a ways to go as a defender at third. Much of his defensive struggles have boiled down to consistency and timing on routine plays. 

Vaun Brown, OF, Giants
Florida Southern (10th round)

Signed for just $7,500, Brown has given the Giants Lamborghini performance at the cost of a used Ford Focus. The Division II product had a May for the record books, hitting .448/.539/.885 with nine home runs and 13 stolen bases in 23 games for Low-A San Jose. Brown has cemented himself as one of the notable position players drafted outside the top five rounds in 2021. 

Will Wagner, 3B, Astros
Liberty (18th round)

The son of Astros great Billy Wagner, Will was a senior sign out of Liberty who has shown advanced bat-to-ball skills and elite plate discipline. An afterthought last July, Wagner has been a revelation this season. He climbed quickly to Double-A Corpus Christi—and into the organization’s Top 30 Prospects. Wagner still faces questions about impact potential, but his barrel control and understanding of the strike zone give him a high baseline of skills that will allow him time to develop game power. 

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone