2021 Mississippi Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Bednar was trending in the right direction with both his fastball velocity and the efficiency with his delivery during his senior year of high school, but he suffered a shoulder injury and wound up making it to campus at Mississippi State. He impressed in a limited look during the shortened 2020 season, posting a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings with a fastball up into the mid 90s and three solid secondaries. His draft-eligible second season was delayed thanks to a neck injury, but since ramping up in late March, he’s been reliable, posting a 3.17 ERA through 12 starts and 71 innings, while striking out 109 batters (13.8 K/9) and walking 18 (2.3 BB/9). Bednar throws a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range and touches 97, but the pitch plays up and gets an impressive amount of whiffs, especially up in the zone. Both his slider and changeup have been swing-and-miss offerings for him this spring, though he’s relied much more heavily on the breaking ball. His slider is a mid-80s pitch with hard and tight bite that has good vertical action when he’s on top of the pitch and keeping it down, but it has flattened out at times when he leaves it up in the zone. Bednar’s changeup is a similar velocity, with arm-side running action and while it’s been effective in generating whiffs and limiting hard contact, he uses it less than 10% of the time. Bednar is physical with some effort in his delivery, but he’s filled up the strike zone this spring. His brother, David, is a reliever for the Pirates.
A supplemental first-round pick of the Pirates in 2018 after he went 7-0, 0.27 at Fivay High in Hudson, Fla., Hoglund’s command has long stood out. It made him an immediate contributor at Ole Miss, and it has helped him be one of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference in 2020 and 2021. Hoglund’s 2021 season came to a premature end when he blew out his pitching elbow in his May 7 start against Texas A&M. His rehab from Tommy John surgery means he’ll be sidelined until midway through 2022, and it likely ended any chance he had of being a top-10 pick. But Hoglund’s body of work (154 innings in three years at Ole Miss) gives teams a lot of comfort with who Hoglund is—a relatively safe starting pitcher with plus command who has the ability to throw three pitches for strikes no matter what the count. Hoglund came into 2021 viewed as a starter likely to be taken in the back of the first round, but he quickly showed improved stuff. Hoglund had touched 95 mph going back to high school, but he generally sat 90-92. This year, he sat 92-94 mph. His slider got a little harder and sharper as well. Hoglund has shown he can spot his above-average fastball to the arm side or glove side, but he generally aims to keep his fastball away—he’ll work glove side to righthanders and arm side to lefties. He consistently wins at 0-0 in the count, getting ahead which means he can then attack righties with his above-average, 80-84 mph slider, again generally staying away. Lefties have to worry about his low-80s, above-average changeup, but he’s also shown he’s comfortable working in on their hands with his slider. It’s that ability to spot all three pitches and avoid the heart of the plate that is key to his success. Even after his elbow injury, he’s seen as a low-risk surefire starter with a consistent, easy delivery.
In a draft class where many players simply lack history or extensive track record, Nikhazy is a polished pitcher with plenty of it. He was a freshman All-American in 2019 after he set the Mississippi freshman record with 86 strikeouts in 89.2 innings, and he also pitched with the Collegiate National Team in 2019. Over three years in the SEC he’s never posted an ERA higher than 3.31 and he’s always walked between 3.0 and 3.5 batters per nine. However, he is a smaller lefthander with a 6-foot, 205-pound frame and a fastball that has peaked in the 94-95 mph range this spring, averaging just 88-90 mph. That velocity will turn some scouts off considering the big league pitching environment—even with a lower velocity bar for southpaws—but Nikhazy does pitch well up in the zone thanks to a very high, over-the-top slot from a smaller frame that creates deception and riding life on his fastball. He pairs that heater nicely with a mid-70s, top-to-bottom curveball that he shows great feel to land, but his better breaking ball could be a low-to-mid-80s slider that has later biting action and has gotten some plus grades this spring. Nikhazy has also flashed a slow changeup to his glove side that could be a real weapon, but he uses it only sparingly. There’s limited upside with Nikhazy, but he has been a consistent performer in the best conference in the country for years and has a solid north-south attacking approach that teams might covet in the second or third round.
One of the best two-way players in the high school class, Montgomery impressed scouts with a smooth and easy fluidity to his game on both sides of the ball last summer. He’s not the most explosive or twitchy athlete, but he does everything on the field well, with an effortless approach to the game. Teams are split on whether they prefer him as a hitter or pitcher, but he has solid tools across the board at either spot. His loudest tool is his arm strength from the outfield. He showed one of the best outfield arms in the class last summer and it grades out as a 70, which could fit in right field if he has to move to a corner due to being a solid or fringe-average runner. A switch-hitter at the plate, Montgomery has shown solid bat-to-ball skills at times, but some scouts believe his swing needs work and think it’s too mechanical from both sides at the moment. He has solid power potential now and could grow into a bit more in the future as he fills out a still-projectable frame. His arm strength hasn’t yet fully translated to the mound, and perhaps that’s because he’s relatively new to pitching, but Montgomery sits in the low 90s with very little effort and has shown great shape to a mid-70s curveball, with advanced ability to land the pitch. He’s also shown good feel for a low-80s changeup. Montgomery is a Stanford commit, and Stanford has typically done a good job getting its prospects to campus, so he might be a tough sign.
Trimble came into 2021 as a second-year freshman who had played just 11 games in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. He turns 21 before the draft, so he is draft-eligible and he forced his way into solid draft consideration by authoring an excellent second freshman season. Trimble hit .345/.414/.618 with 17 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 14 tries, doing a little bit of everything. At the NCAA regional, he went 14-for-25 with two doubles, three home runs and a stolen base. It’s hard to find a lot of clear weaknesses in Trimble’s game. He’s a switch-hitter who swings the bat well from both sides. He has above-average bat speed and he showed the ability to catch up to premium velocity. In pro ball, his power may end up being more gap power, but he did show the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. His plus-plus speed is an asset at the plate and even more so in center field, where he runs down balls that seem destined to find a gap. Trimble could be a little more selective at the plate, but experience may help that—he’s had only 300 collegiate plate appearances. He also played a little second base for Southern Miss, but he fits best as a rangy center fielder. Trimble has a short track record, but his well-rounded skill set makes him a name to watch.
MacLeod redshirted during the 2019 season, but impressed in 2020, when he led Mississippi State in strikeouts (35) and innings pitched (21) while posting a 0.86 ERA. He wasn’t quite as dominant over a full season this spring, but he still managed to post a 2.81 ERA over 16 starts and 75.2 innings, while striking out 106 batters (12.6 K/9) and walking 27 (3.2 BB/9). The 6-foot-4, 227-pound lefthander works with a three-pitch mix that features a fastball, curveball and changeup. His velocity is mostly in the 88-91 mph range and he touches 92-94 at his best at the moment, but the pitch does have solid riding life and gets more whiffs than the velocity would suggest—especially when he elevates up in the zone. He pairs that fastball nicely with an upper-70s downer curveball that has solid depth and 1-to-7 shape. It was his most consistent swing-and-miss pitch this spring, but MacLeod also showed good feel for a low-80s changeup that he works to his arm side away from righthanded hitters. The pitch has solid separation from his fastball and is effective when he keeps it down in the zone—though when he leaves it middle-up he has been punished. MacLeod has been a bit home run prone this spring, and he likely doesn’t have a single true plus pitch to rely on, instead having to mix, match, change speeds and eye levels to be effective. While there are questions about his overall upside, he is a good bet to start at the next level in some capacity.
Allen has been drafted twice before in his career—in the 36th round by the Cubs in 2017 and the 34th round by the Rockies in 2019—and should make it a third time this spring after an impressive season with Mississippi State. Through 57 games, Allen posted a .395/.467/.614 slash line, which was good for the highest batting average of any SEC hitter and among the best for all Division I hitters. That performance alone could get him drafted among the top-five rounds by an analytically-inclined team in a down year for college bats, but Allen has a solid-average toolset behind that performance as well. He’s a bit of a tweener outfield profile who improved his speed and arm strength this season and might warrant a try in center field as an above-average runner, but more than likely fits best in a corner. Coaches have praised his work ethic and the progress he’s made as a defender, and he should have enough arm strength for right field—where he’s logged most of his time with Mississippi State this spring. Allen has a solid approach at the plate with an ability to hit to all fields, and he’s performed well against high-end velocity and offspeed offerings. With a 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame, there’s not a ton of physical projection left for Allen and he’s probably more of a hit-over-power bat who will need to rely more on gap power and a high batting average to profile in a corner instead of big-time over-the-fence juice. Allen just turned 23, but his offensive performance in the SEC should be rewarded on draft day.
8. Eric Cerantola, RHP, Mississippi State (BA RANK: 201)
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 222 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rays '18 (30)
Cerantola was a super-projectable arm out of high school in Canada and was actually a more advanced hockey player at the time—he was selected in the eighth round of the Ontario Hockey League draft in 2016. Scouts figured that he would grow into his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, improve on a fastball that touched 93 mph and further refine a big-time breaking ball that was already getting plus grades. Well, those scouts were right—in part. Cerantola has added strength to his frame and is now listed at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds, and his pure stuff is some of the best in the class. Area scouts this spring thought he had the best pure arm talent of anyone outside of Louisiana State righthander Jaden Hill and prep lefthander Maddux Bruns. Cerantola’s fastball now sits around 95 mph and he has touched 99-100. His curveball has an argument as the best curve in the draft class, a low-80s power hammer with extremely hard and sharp downward biting action. The pitch gets plenty of 70-grade reports and he’s also gotten plus grades on a low-80s changeup, though he has little feel to consistently land the pitch. In terms of pure stuff, Cerantola stacks up with anyone, but his control is well below-average, to the point that Mississippi State quickly moved him from the starting rotation to the bullpen and only had him throw 17.1 innings. He struck out 24 batters (12.5 K/9) but also walked 11 (5.7 BB/9) and allowed 11 earned runs, good for a 5.71 ERA. Cerantola is a solid athlete (as evidenced by his hockey background), but his mechanics are all over the place and his release point wanders significantly.
Teams liked Stanley a year ago as a potential money-saving senior signee thanks to excellent strikeout and walk rates for his career, so they should still be interested in 2021 despite the fact that he’ll be 23 on draft day. Stanley is just 6 feet, 190 pounds, but he’s run his fastball up to 97 mph this spring—which was eye-opening for someone with his command—and sits in the 90-93 mph range. Stanley throws an average slider around 80 mph that he regularly spots to his glove side and works a low-80s changeup to the arm side. This spring, Stanley posted a 2.56 ERA over 102 innings and 15 starts, with 127 strikeouts (11.2 K/9) and just 19 walks (1.7 BB/9). His 6.68 strikeout-to-walk rate was one of the best in the nation among pitchers with more than 50 innings and his career rate at Southern Mississippi (6.17) is not too far off that mark.
Arguably the best athlete in the 2019 draft class, Ealy was a five-star running back with a baseball and football commitment to Mississippi. The No. 62 prospect in the class, Ealy struggled with the bat during the spring of his senior season against below-average Mississippi pitching, but he has exceptional tools in his plus raw power, plus speed, plus arm strength and explosive athleticism. Ealy earned second team All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC honors for his work on the gridiron, and he rushed for 722 yards on 104 attempts (6.9 yards per attempt) while scoring six touchdowns, and added 172 yards and another touchdown through the air. Given the shortened 2020 baseball season, Ealy has certainly been more impactful for the Rebels’ football program. He started six games in center field for the baseball team, hitting just .182/.321/.273 with nine strikeouts and four walks in 28 plate appearances. There are real questions about the quality of Ealy’s hit tool despite his impressive bat speed. He’s struggled with timing and pitch recognition in the past, but the fact that he’s been a high-level football player for his entire life means scouts will give him the benefit of the doubt and expect gains in those areas if he ever exclusively focuses on baseball. The draft being pushed back made Ealy eligible in 2021—he turns 21 eight days before the Aug. 27 cutoff—but he underwent shoulder surgery on Jan. 7 and missed the season. He is unlikely to be a factor for teams this year considering his track record, health and ability on the football field despite his obvious tool set on the diamond.
11. Brennon McNair, SS, Magee (Miss.) High (BA RANK: 350)
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: South Alabama
An undersized, 5-foot-11, 205-pound righthander, Broadway has been an effective closer for Mississippi this spring, posting a 3.44 ERA over 49.2 innings with 66 strikeouts (12 K/9) and just nine walks (1.6 BB/9). Broadway throws a fastball in the 91-95 mph range that has been up to 97 with good riding life and mixes in two distinct breaking balls. His slider is a hard pitch in the upper 80s with impressive vertical bite and his curveball is a bit slower but still in the lower 80s with a bit of a bigger shape. Broadway is old for the class after turning 24 in April, but he has the stuff and strike-throwing ability to potentially be a quick mover through the minor leagues.
Jordan entered this spring having hit above .300 in two of his first three seasons with Mississippi State, and in his fourth year he broke out for the best offensive campaign of his career. Jordan hit .326/.428/.572 in 61 games up until the College World Series, with 10 home runs, 20 doubles and solid strikeout (13%) and walk (10%) rates as a switch-hitter. He was one of the most productive bats in the SEC and analytical teams should take notice of that for the draft. He’s not the toolsiest player and with a 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame doesn’t have big raw power, but he worked hard over the offseason to improve his foot speed and started every game for the Bulldogs in center field, after playing left field in the past. He probably will be a tweener profile for teams at the next level. Jordan has always been an efficient baserunner and over his career has gone 25-for-29 (86%) in stolen base attempts.
Elliott is a solidly built, 6-foot, 210-pound lefthander committed to Mississippi who’s shown an interesting, but mostly average, three-pitch mix. He sits with a fastball in the upper 80s for the most part, touching 91-92 mph here and there, with a curveball in the mid 70s that’s average and a changeup that has flashed plus for some evaluators, but needs more consistency to be at that level with any regularity. Some scouts have seen Elliott walk a number of batters, while others think he has feel to pitch, so the industry’s evaluations of his control likely vary. Most admit that Elliott is fairly maxed out physically, with a lower arm slot that features some effort and adds to his reliever risk.
Tygart is a lean, 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthander with athleticism and a quick arm. Last summer he showed an exciting two-pitch mix with a fastball that got into the 94-95 mph range with lots of arm-side life on the pitch and a hard, late-breaking slider that has above-average potential. Scouts thought he did a nice job tunneling the pitches off of each other well, but he has also struggled to throw strikes at times, which creates some reliever risk. With his athleticism, there’s a chance he makes strides forward in that department, but scouts will also want to see if he’s able to develop a reliable third pitch and can maintain consistency with an arm action that is lengthy and inverted in the back. Tygart is committed to Arkansas and given his arm speed and the stuff he’s flashed it wouldn’t be surprising to see him rank significantly higher in a few years if he doesn’t get drafted out of high school.
Downs is a physically mature, 5-foot-11, 205-pound outfielder with a lot of present strength that should translate to above-average power in the future. The question will be how much of that power he is able to get to, as scouts question his pure bat-to-ball skills and the stiffness of his swing. He has also gotten a bit too pull-happy at times. There are some defensive questions as well. Downs used to play shortstop but looks like a third baseman or corner outfield profile at the next level. Downs is also a talented high school football player, but he’s dealt with a few leg injuries from the sport. He’s older for the class and will be 19 on draft day, and if he makes it to campus at Mississippi State, he will be draft-eligible in two years.
Shepard was a draft-eligible sophomore in 2020 who scouts were interested in thanks to a fast arm and fastball that can get up into the 97 mph range, but he’s battled significant control issues and injuries going back to his days in high school. He missed the end of his senior season with Tommy John surgery and this spring he pitched in just three games before getting hurt again and missing the season. Because of that there’s significant risk with Shepard, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds. Shepard has also thrown a hard, mid-80s slider that could give him the two-pitch combination to find success in a bullpen role but there are plenty of questions.
McDaniel was a prominent high school prospect out of Louisiana in 2019, ranking as the No. 147 prospect in the 2019 draft class. He dealt with elbow soreness during his senior season and made it to campus at Mississippi. After throwing just three innings in 2020, McDaniel made 13 starts and seven relief appearances this spring, totaling 63.2 innings and posting a 6.08 ERA, with 72 strikeouts (10.2 K/9) and 22 walks (3.1 BB/9). He’s been hit around a decent bit but has a fastball that gets up to 95 mph and a slider in the low 80s. He doesn’t have electric stuff, but some scouts think he has solid starting traits.
19. Kelly Crumpton, SS, Jackson (Miss.) Prep
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi
20. Matt Corder, OF/RHP, Hinds (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 170 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi State
21. Brandon Smith, RHP, Mississippi State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 213 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
22. Nikolas Mazza, RHP, Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Madison, Miss.
Source: HS • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 175 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Southern Miss
23. Jackson Conn, RHP, Jackson Academy
Source: HS • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 196 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi State
24. Antoine Harris, RHP, Mississippi Gulf Coast JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R •
25. Bo Gatlin, SS, Meridian (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R •
26. Bryce Brock, LHP, Hinds (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 190 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Charleston Southern
27. Luke Hancock, C/1B, Mississippi State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 190 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
28. Caleb Hobson, OF, Northwest (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 170 • B-T: R-R •
29. Tate Parker, OF/2B, Pearl River (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R •
30. Sam Hill, RHP, Pearl River (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 210 • B-T: R-R •
31. Kyte McDonald, OF, Mississippi State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
32. K.C. Hunt, RHP, Mississippi State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 201 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
33. Landon Harper, INF/RHP, Pearl River (Miss.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 195 • B-T: R-R •