College Baseball's Winners And Losers Of The 2021 MLB Draft
Every year, the draft has significant implications not only for Major League Baseball but also for college baseball teams around the country. How teams navigated the draft both in terms of current college players and incoming recruits will shape the game for the next few seasons.
This year’s signing deadline isn’t until Aug. 1 and some of the fallout from the draft won’t be known until then. But we can make reasonable assumptions about which players are and aren’t likely to sign. The draft rules make it imperative that teams select players in the top 10 rounds that they know they can sign because otherwise they lose the pick value from their bonus pools. While that isn’t true in rounds 11-20, players selected in the 11th and 12th rounds also all universally sign. In the last five drafts with that many rounds, 18 players drafted in the 11th and 12th rounds did not sign.
Surprises are still possible, but as it stands, here are some of college baseball’s winners and losers from the draft.
Louisiana prep shortstop Peyton Stovall, an Arkansas commit, ranked No. 33 on the BA 500 and was the highest-ranked player to go undrafted. That alone is a pretty good starting point for the Razorbacks. But they had a pretty good week beyond getting Stovall to campus. Arkansas prep outfielder Braylon Bishop (No. 88) was drafted in the 14th round by the Pirates but is not expected to sign. If Bishop arrives in Fayetteville, Arkansas would have two top-100 newcomers from the BA 500, a number that would likely only be matched by Florida and UCLA. In addition, shortstop Jalen Battles (No. 358) and first baseman Brady Slavens went undrafted. An infield of Battles, Robert Moore, Slavens and Stovall should be one of the best in the nation in 2022.
A year after landing among the losers after losing a couple key recruits in the five-round draft, the Blue Devils are this year among the winners. They this season kept together their entire recruiting class, which ranked No. 24 on Signing Day. Duke had an old lineup in 2021 and expectedly many of those players were drafted. But with Michigan prep shortstop Alex Mooney (No. 66) leading an exciting class of newcomers, the Blue Devils are positioned to retool.
Righthander Jonathan Cannon went undrafted after an up-and-down season that was affected by his bout with mononucleosis. He ranked No. 67 on the BA 500 and was the highest-ranked collegian to go undrafted. His return gives the Bulldogs a big piece to build their pitching staff around. Georgia’s recruiting class made it through the draft unscathed, including junior college righthander Dylan Ross (No. 114) and Georgia prep righthander Coleman Willis (No. 120). Cannon, Ross and Willis give Georgia three of the 17 highest-ranked players to go undrafted.
It was a good week all around for the Beavers. Righthanders Will Frisch (No. 153) and Jake Pfennigs went undrafted, as did catcher Troy Claunch (No. 397). With that group back in the fold, Oregon State will have a strong veteran core for 2022. It also saw just one of its recruits drafted—Canadian prep righthander Dominic Hambley—and he went in the 18th round, making him no sure thing to sign. That means the Beavers bring in two top-200 players in New Mexico prep righthander Jacob Kmatz and Oregon prep shortstop Mason Guerra to headline a class that ranked No. 22 after Signing Day. That class will also include Australian prep shortstop Travis Bazzana, who was not subject to the draft.
The good news for the Bruins started rolling in before the draft even started. California prep outfielder Nick McLain, shortstop Cody Schrier and righthander Alonzo Tredwell formally removed themselves from draft consideration on the eve of the draft and California prep righthander Thatcher Hurd and Washington prep outfielder Malakhi Knight both made it clear they would not sign. In the end, the Bruins lost just one player from their recruiting class—California prep righthander Eric Silva. UCLA’s recruiting class ranked No. 3 after Signing Day. It now looks like it will land the most top 100 players in the country and the Bruins could end up with the No. 1 recruiting class in the final rankings for the first time in the 20-year history of the rankings. UCLA did see 10 players drafted off its current roster, the most in the nation, but those picks were to be expected.
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It’s always tough to navigate the draft after a coaching change, as Arizona State went through last month when Tracy Smith was fired and Willie Bloomquist was hired. The Sun Devils had four recruits drafted, most notably Arizona prep third baseman Wes Kath, who went 57th overall to the White Sox. Minnesota prep catcher Will Rogers was selected in the 17th round by the Brewers and losing him would be a tough blow. ASU also saw five players drafted off its current roster. Shortstop Drew Swift going in the eighth round was to be expected, but if the Sun Devils lose even a couple of the pitchers who were drafted in the final 10 rounds—Erik Tolman, Justin Fall, Cooper Benson and Tyler Thornton—they will have a significant hole to replace on the mound.
The Huskies have become quite adept at developing pitching—they have had four pitchers drafted in the top five rounds in the last six years—and it would have been fun to see what they could have done with Connecticut prep lefthander Frank Mozzicato and Vermont prep righthander Owen Kellington. Instead, the Royals drafted Mozzicato seventh overall and Kellington went to the Pirates with the first pick of the fourth round. Losing Mozzicato was to be expected after his impressive spring (he ranked No. 42 on the BA 500) but Kellington becoming the third prep player from Vermont to be drafted in the 21st century will sting more.
The Cowboys in November signed 11 recruits. This week, five of them were drafted. Most significantly, California prep outfielder Roc Riggio (No. 175), the class’ headliner, was taken in the 11th round by the Brewers. After making it through two days of the draft with Riggio undrafted, seeing him selected at that stage stings even more. Oklahoma State’s other two BA 500 recruits—Florida prep shortstop Alex Ulloa and Texas prep outfielder Tyler Collins—were both drafted in the first 10 rounds and Florida prep shortstop Zach Ehrhard and Colorado prep lefthander Ryan Ure followed Riggio off the board Tuesday. That leaves prep infielders Aidan Meola and Carson Benge to lead the freshman class, although Oklahoma State has also gone heavy into the transfer portal this summer to bolster its roster.
The Red Raiders’ top three recruits—Texas prep shortstop Cameron Cauley, junior college righthander Christian McGowan and Texas prep righthander AJ Smith-Shawver—were all drafted in the top 10 rounds. That’s a big hit for their recruiting class, which went on to see two more players drafted in the final 10 rounds. Texas Tech also had nine players drafted off its current roster, trailing only UCLA’s 10 draftees. None of them, except righthander Hunter Dobbins—who missed the spring due to injury, was surprising to see but it's still a lot of talent that must now be replaced.