Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
The son of a PGA touring pro (Brandt Jobe) who still competes on the PGA’s senior tour, the younger Jobe is likely to be the first prep arm off the board. The question is just how high will he go? In the past two years, no prep pitcher has been selected higher than 15th (Mick Abel, 2020). Jobe’s elite spin rates, four-pitch package and fresh arm could mean he goes higher than that. Jobe is still relatively new to focusing on pitching—he was a shortstop and quarterback who was still viewed in a similar regard as a shortstop prospect as he was as a pitcher last summer. There are no such debates now. His shortstop play in addition to his pitching helped Heritage Hall to an Oklahoma 4A state title, but everyone sees Jobe moving to the mound full-time as a pro. Jobe’s 3,000-rpm slider is one of the best pitches in the class. It’s a future plus-plus pitch that has excellent depth and bite and he’s shown he can land it for strikes as well. His mid-90s fastball is another plus pitch. It has life up in the zone and he’s demonstrated he can work it in and out. When he throws it down in the zone, it has solid arm-side ride. Unlike many high school stars, Jobe already shows feel for a future plus mid-80s changeup as well. He shows confidence in it and it has late downward dive. He even has a fourth future above-average pitch in a spike curve with 11-to-5 break and depth. Jobe’s delivery includes a clean arm action with minimal effort. There’s reason to believe he will continue to get stronger and eventually throw even harder. Jobe’s spin rates and vertical movement on his fastball are alluring to teams. He’s an excellent athlete who would be a pro prospect as a shortstop if not for his pitching ability. He’s a Mississippi commit, but his draft stock makes it unlikely he will make it to school.
Wherever Encarnacion-Strand has played, he’s hit. He hit .430/.505/.907 in a coronavirus-shortened 2020 season at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC and .402/.473/.828 as a freshman in 2019, with 33 home runs for Yavapai in just 81 games over two seasons. When that wasn’t enough to get him drafted, he headed to Oklahoma State, where he immediately became the team’s best hitter. He was among the top five in the Big 12 Conference in batting average (.362), home runs (15) and slugging percentage (.665). Encarnacion-Strand loves to drive balls low in the zone, with pull power as he uses his impressive strength in his swing. Velocity doesn’t really bother him, as he has enough bat speed to catch up to quality fastballs. He’s reasonably proficient at staying in the strike zone as well and does a solid job of recognizing spin. He has the ability to be an average hitter with above-average power in pro ball, and he’s an average runner. Where he’s going to fit defensively is a little more of a question. Encarnacion-Strand has an above-average and accurate arm. His arm, solid hands and a good ability to come in on the ball make him a playable, fringe-average defender at third, but his side-to-side range is limited and does not fit all that well for teams that like to play their third baseman as a pseudo-shortstop on shifts.
There were Division I programs that could look enviously at Eastern Oklahoma State JC’s rotation, which featured three pro-caliber arms. Walling led the way as a lefty who sat in the mid 90s and touched 97-98 mph while also showing the ability to spot a mid-80s above-average slider that ate up righthanded hitters. He developed a promising, average mid-80s changeup this year as well. Before that he used his 12-to-6 fringe-average curveball to attack lefties. Now the curve is more of an early-count get-over pitch. Walling was a solid draft prospect in high school, but Tommy John surgery early in his senior year meant he made it to Oregon State. His stuff wavered at times there and so did his command. After two years in the Beavers’ bullpen, he transferred to Eastern Oklahoma for the 2021 season. From the fall of 2020, he showed consistently firmer stuff. As importantly, he learned how to stop naturally cutting his fastball. That made the fastball play better but also made it easier for him to locate it. He showed no trouble shouldering a heavier starter’s workload—his 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings ranked among the top 20 in NJCAA Division I. Walling could end up as a power reliever in pro ball, but with three pitches and a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, there’s no reason not to try him as a starter. While his command and control have been issues at times in the past, he repeated his delivery well this season. Walling has signed with Mississippi State.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, McGowan has pitched for Eastern Oklahoma State JC for three seasons. But 2021 was undoubtedly his best season, as the righthander showcased one of the best fastballs in juco ball. His 109 strikeouts (in 74 innings) ranked ninth among NJCAA Division I pitchers. McGowan’s four-seamer was hammered early in his juco career, so he added a two-seamer. The two-seamer provided survival skills when he was sitting 88-90 mph as a freshman in 2019. Now that he can sit 94-96 mph and touch 98, both the two- and four-seamer have become plus offerings. Teams stacked their lineups with lefties to face McGowan, but that just played in his hand. His 86-89 mph above-average changeup has long been a pitch he believes in. It tunnels well with his fastball and he sells it with excellent arm speed. His 82-84 mph above-average slider has real teeth at its best. It’s a power pitch with 1-to-6 movement, as it generally finishes diving rather than sweeping. McGowan is committed to Texas Tech, but he could go high enough in the draft to make that a tough decision.
A four-year starter at Oklahoma, Hardman has an advantage over many prospective college draftees in that scouts and front offices have seen that he can hit for power with a wood bat. Hardman’s eight home runs were tied for third most in the Cape Cod League in 2019. Hardman did not show as much power this spring, but he did show a more advanced approach that made him one of the toughest outs in the Big 12. Hardman hit above .400 for most of the year, dipping to .397/.481/.661 by the end of the year. Hardman projects as an average hitter with above-average power. Defensively, he is average at first. He played third base in the Cape, and a team confident in its defensive development could see if he can handle a move to the hot corner, although his range there would likely be below-average.
Wrobleski has been one to watch for quite a while. He ranked No. 215 on the BA 500 coming out of high school in 2018 and was a Mariners’ 38th-round pick that year. He went to Clemson, but transferred to State JC of Florida for 2020. That season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, and he transferred to Oklahoma State for 2021. He was settling in well in Stillwater, showing a 91-93 mph fastball that touched 95 as well as two above-average secondary offerings. His low-80s slider flashes plus potential and his above-average changeup is impressive as well. But Wrobleski left after one inning in an April start against Texas Christian with an elbow injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. A team picking him this year is banking on being patient while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, so teams may simply wait to see him return to health again at Oklahoma State.
The son of MLB reliever Scott Ruffcorn, Jason has spent the past three years as a useful member of Oklahoma’s bullpen after two seasons pitching in Texas A&M’s bullpen. With 80 appearances, Ruffcorn is one of the more experienced relievers in college baseball. He has a shot to be a fast mover in pro ball as well. He is more effective against righthanded hitters as his lower three-quarters slinging arm slot makes it hard for righties to pick up his release point. Ruffcorn’s mid-90s above-average fastball is effective because of his ability to locate it glove side and arm side. His low-80s average sider will sometimes sweep out of the strike zone, but sometimes it barely breaks. Neither is as effective against lefties, who generally get solid swings against him, but he does mix in a below-average changeup to them. Ruffcorn’s above-average control and ability to miss bats (12.3 strikeouts per nine innings) should make him a useful lower-leverage pro reliever.
When Sandlin committed to Eastern Oklahoma State JC, he had yet to throw a pitch for his varsity team in high school. At the time he was a junior varsity pitcher sitting in the mid 80s, but his delivery was good and it seemed apparent that once he got strong enough to take advantage of his long arms and broad shoulders, he’d be intriguing. It took a little while for it all to click. Sandlin still sat only 87-89 mph in his 2020 freshman year, but when he went home due to the coronavirus pandemic, he embraced the school’s personalized throwing program. He showed up for the 2021 season sitting 92–94 mph and touching 98. Now that he’s armed with a plus fastball, his 84-88 mph splitter has turned into an above-average pitch as well. It’s hard and has a late dive toward the dirt. Sandlin’s average slider has some depth and sweep. Sandlin is committed to Oklahoma. Sandlin doesn’t have many innings on his arm and should continue to add strength to his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame.
A reliever as a freshman and a swingman for the Sooners in 2020, Olds was expected to be Oklahoma’s Friday starter in 2021. But he couldn’t hold onto that job. He gave up six runs or more in three of his first seven starts and didn’t lower his ERA under 7.00 until mid April. He eventually moved back to the bullpen. Olds’ lower arm slot can make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, and he misses bats, but he also misses the strike zone. He has a long arm action that he has struggled to repeat consistently, especially in longer stints. His fastball picked up a tick after his move to the bullpen, as he went from sitting 91-94 mph to sitting 93-96 and touching 97. Evaluators already saw Olds as a likely reliever in pro ball and his 2021 season only further confirmed that suspicion. As a reliever, Olds can rely on his fastball/slider pairing, both of which play as above-average offerings in shorter stints. His slider is a power pitch (85-88 mph) with some tilt. As a reliever, he doesn’t have to use his well below-average changeup that he threw as a starter.
Davis was one of the most effective prep pitchers in the 2019 draft class, but his high-80s fastball velocity meant he made it to campus at Oklahoma State. His fastball has gotten better since—he sat 91-93 mph this year and touched 95, and he showed some ability to elevate for swings and misses up in the zone to earn above-average grades. He gets in trouble when he tries to drive the ball down in the zone. His slider is an average pitch that he commands well, but it doesn’t miss many bats. Davis was durable—he led Oklahoma State with 26 appearances this season. But as a second-year freshman with three years of remaining eligibility, Davis has the option of seeing if he can continue to improve and raise his draft stock.
Thomas is the second-best pitcher on his high school team. But when you are teammates with the best prep pitcher in the class (Jackson Jobe) you can be the second best on your team and the second best in the state of Oklahoma. Nowadays, MLB teams look for pitchers who are unique, and Thomas’ funky delivery and high-velocity stuff (90-95 mph fastball) from a sidearm slot are relatively unique. It’s an effortful delivery that does make it harder to throw strikes, and he has struggled with that at times. His low-80s slider is pretty inconsistent right now. He’s a Texas Christian signee.
12. Dalton Fowler, LHP, Oklahoma
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 205 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Mets ’19 (27)
A 27th-round pick of the Mets in 2019, Fowler is a promising 6-foot-6 lefty who has room to continue to fill out and get stronger, but his control issues mean he likely will get back to Oklahoma for another year. The lefty can touch 96 mph, but his above-average fastball more often sits 92-93. From his high three-quarters release point he generates downhill plane. His 11-to-5 curveball flashes plus and is his go-to secondary. That’s a nice starting point for a lefty reliever, but the consistency is just not there and his control is a 20 on the 20-to-80 scale. He generates plenty of strikeouts (14.9 K/9 in 2021) but also walks nearly as many (14.2 BB/9). His arm struggles to catch up to his lower half in his delivery and a long arm action in the back adds to his inconsistency.
13. Carson Benge, 3B, Yukon (Okla.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 170 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Oklahoma State
14. Drew Blake, LHP, Stillwater (Okla.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 190 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Oklahoma State
15. Payton Tolle, LHP, Bethany (Okla.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 230 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Wichita State
16. Ian Daugherty, C, Kingfisher (Okla.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 210 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Oklahoma State
17. Adam Oviedo, SS, Oral Roberts
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Twins ’17 (35)
18. Parker Scott, LHP, Oklahoma State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 174 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
19. Adam Scoggins, RHP, Oral Roberts
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 220 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
20. Ben Abram, RHP, Oklahoma
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-7 • Wt: 243 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Padres ’18 (37)
21. Isaac Coffey, INF/RHP, Oral Roberts
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
22. Conor McKenna, 2B, Oklahoma
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 226 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
23. Cade Cabiness, OF, Oklahoma State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 232 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Cardinals ’16 (21)
24. Carson McCusker, OF, Oklahoma State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-8 • Wt: 250 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
25. Jake Thompson, 3B, Oklahoma State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 210 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
26. Luke Taggart, RHP, Oklahoma
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 228 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted