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Top 12 MLB Draft Prospects In The College World Series Final

Image credit: Mississippi State righthander Will Bednar (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State)

The College World Series final begins Monday night at 7 p.m. ET featuring two of college baseball’s premier programs, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. 

Below, find every prospect from both teams ranked on Baseball America’s BA 500 draft rankings

You can also see our most updated mock draft here

1. Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 3
Grade: R-Fr. • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Yankees ’19 (20)

Leiter was a first-round talent out of high school and ranked as the No. 21 prospect in the 2019 class, but a high price tag and strong Vanderbilt commitment meant he got to campus in Nashville. Draft-eligible in his second year with the Commodores, Leiter—the son of long-time big league pitcher Al Leiter—dominated in his first full season of collegiate baseball, posting a 2.12 ERA over 76.1 innings and 13 starts, while striking out 127 batters (15 K/9) and walking 34 (4.0). Known for his polish and pitchability out of high school, scouts continue to praise Leiter’s moxie on the mound, with a deep pitch mix that includes five offerings if you count a two-seam and four-seam fastball. Leiter is a shorter righthander, listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he has added strength to his frame since high school, particularly in his lower half. This spring, Leiter has primarily worked with a fastball, curveball, slider combination. His fastball has been up to 98 mph, but averages 93-95 mph, with excellent carry that generates plenty of whiffs in the zone and above it. Teams love the metrics on Leiter’s fastball, and the combination of his size, extension and carry on the pitch allow it to play up, even when he’s sitting in the 90-93 mph range. His curveball is his best secondary offering now, an upper-70s, 12-to-6 downer that he lands consistently in the zone when he wants but can also bury for a put-away pitch. Leiter throws a slider in the low 80s that has less depth but might wind up being a better out-of-the-zone chase offering and he also infrequently throws a mid-80s changeup that scouts loved out of high school and could become an above-average secondary with more reps. Durability was the one concern scouts had with Leiter, and while he did post most weeks throughout the season, he skipped one start to manage fatigue and at times was a bit homer-prone. While Leiter might not project as an ace, scouts see a pitcher who should fit in a No. 2 or No. 3 role and pitch in the big leagues for a long time.

2. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 5
Grade: R-So. • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 245 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rockies ’18 (38)

Rocker was one of the top high school pitching prospects in the loaded 2018 prep pitching class that included lefthanders Matthew Liberatore and Ryan Weathers and righthanders Ethan Hankins and Carter Stewart, among others. Despite ranking as the No. 13 player in the class and a consensus first-round talent, Rocker made it to campus at Vanderbilt where he was the highest-ranked player in Baseball America’s college recruiting rankings history. He delivered on the hype and became the 2019 Freshman of the Year after posting a 3.25 ERA in 16 starts and 99.2 innings with 114 strikeouts to just 21 walks. Because of Rocker’s pedigree and collegiate track record, he entered the tumultuous 2021 draft cycle as the de facto No. 1 player in the 2021 class and remains in the top tier of players despite a lack of consensus on any standout 1-1 player in this year’s group. Rocker has a large, 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame befitting a workhorse big league starter that leaves no doubt about his professional bloodlines. Rocker’s father, Tracy, played football at Auburn and briefly in the NFL. He has power stuff out of that powerful frame, headlined by a fastball up to 99 mph at his best and a devastating slider in the low-to-mid 80s that grades out as a double-plus offering at its best and is one of the better breaking balls in the 2021 class. Rocker has dealt with inconsistent velocity this spring, sitting in the 89-93 mph range at times before getting back to his usual mid-90s stuff. He’s still succeeded and overwhelmed SEC hitters even without his best velocity, but scouts question how that pitch will play at the next level, especially due to the fact that his fastball has played down at times dating back to high school. Rocker experimented with a cutter in the 88-91 mph range this season and has also thrown a firm changeup with slight fading action. Both offerings could give him something to keep lefthanders off his fastball at the next level, and his changeup in particular has shown upside in the past, but both need more refinement and usage before teams will feel confident projecting plus grades. While some teams think Rocker has reliever risk thanks to inconsistent fastball command at times, his pure stuff, pedigree and track record give him significant upside and he should be one of the first arms selected.

3. Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State | BA Rank: 38
Grade: R-Fr. • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 229 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

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.

4. Isaiah Thomas, OF, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 95
Grade: R-So. • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 190 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rockies ’18 (39)

Going back to his high school days at Benjamin High in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., scouts have been excited about Thomas’ tool set and upside. There have always been questions about his ability to get to those tools in games, however, but this spring Thomas turned in a productive season with a .337/.396/.648 slash line, including 13 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 12 tries through his first 51 games. Thomas is a good athlete with above-average running ability, arm strength and raw power out of a 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. The ball jumps off his bat with impressive pop on easy, graceful swings, but Thomas has always been a high-strikeout, low-walk player. This spring he struck out in 26% of his plate appearances and walked in just 4% of his trips to the plate. That puts a lot of pressure on his pure hitting ability, which is fringy at best. Thomas expands the zone and swings and misses at a decent clip, particularly against breaking balls and offspeed offerings. He does have the bat speed to catch up to high-end velocity and posted an OPS over 1.100 against 93 mph or harder pitches this spring, according to Synergy. Defensively, he’s probably a corner outfielder but some scouts want to see how he looks in center field given his running ability and athleticism. He didn’t get a chance to play there this spring given the presence of Enrique Bradfield, but some teams could start him there at the next level.

5. Christian Macleod, LHP, Mississippi State | BA Rank: 129
Grade: 2R-Fr. • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 227 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

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.

6. Tanner Allen, OF, Mississippi State | BA Rank: 167
Grade: R-Jr. • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 184 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Rockies 2019 (34)

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.

7. Eric Cerantola, RHP, Mississippi State | BA Rank: 200
Grade: R-So. • 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.

8. Dominic Keegan, C/1B, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 223
Grade: R-So. • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 210 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

Keegan had a loud summer in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and was one of the better performing hitters in the country early this spring. Through 53 games, Keegan hit .361/.441/.673 with 14 home runs to power the middle of Vanderbilt’s lineup. Listed at 6 feet, 210 pounds, Keegan is a bit undersized as a first baseman and he’s just fringy defensively at the position, but he has caught in the past—although this spring CJ Rodriguez has been the team’s primary catcher. Scouts are worried about his defensive profile at the next level because if he can’t catch he’s likely limited to first base as a below-average runner with a fringy arm, but they haven’t been able to see him catch much at all recently. He’s shown all-fields power this spring, though it has come with some swing-and-miss tendencies (27 K%), and he has struggled to catch up to 93-plus mph fastball velocity. Because of that there are scouts who think he’ll be a better college hitter than pro hitter, but in a class light on college bats, Keegan’s performance could be loud enough to go at some point in the fourth-to-10th-round range—especially if a team thinks he has a chance to catch.

9. CJ Rodriguez, C, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 300
Grade: R-Fr. • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

Rodriguez has been an advanced defensive catcher dating back to his days in high school, when he was part of the Canes Prospects team that won the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Jupiter in 2017. He impressed Vanderbilt’s coaching staff from the moment he stepped on campus for his skills on both sides of the ball. A 5-foot-10, 200-pound backstop, Rodriguez’s professional prospects are solidly built on his defensive ability behind the plate and his ability to control the zone as a hitter. He’s been the starting catcher since day one for a Vanderbilt program that has big-time pitching talent, and scouts like his catch-and-throw ability, as well as his advanced receiving and blocking. Through his first 63 games with Vanderbilt, Rodriguez threw out 34% of basestealers. Rodriguez doesn’t have massive arm strength—some scouts grade it as average, and some put it as above-average—but his exchange and release are quick and help his natural strength play up. He has very limited power at the plate and creates most of his offensive value by simply working the count and getting on base. This spring he walked at a 16% rate and struck out just 8.5% of the time—one of the lowest rates in the SEC among players with 100 plate appearances. Rodriguez might not have the offensive tool set to profile as an everyday big leaguer, but he could do enough to be a backup. For analytical teams that like how he’s handled Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and appreciate his on-base ability, he could go in the middle of the top-10 rounds.

10. Hugh Fisher, LHP, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 334
Grade: R-Jr. • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

Fisher is likely to be an enigma for teams this spring. The big, physical lefthander was draft-eligible last year but didn’t pitch at all in the shortened 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. This spring he did get back on the mound, but he didn’t pitch much for a loaded Vanderbilt team, throwing just 11 innings over 14 appearances. He struck out 13 batters (10.9 K/9) but also walked 10 (8.2 BB/9) and now has an extensive track record of below-average control going back to 2018 with the Commodores. Scouts are still drawn to the standout pure stuff, and this spring he threw his fastball in the 93-95 mph range and got up to 97 from the left side. He shows a power slider in the mid 80s as well, which looks like a real plus offering when he lands it—problem is, he rarely does. Fisher has also thrown a firm, upper-80s changeup. With a 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame and a sidearm slot from the left side he creates a tough angle for hitters and has real back-of-the-bullpen pure stuff. He’ll need to take massive steps forward with his control and consistency before a big league team will trust him in a high-leverage role, though.

11. Rowdey Jordan, OF, Mississippi State | BA Rank: 387
Grade: Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 185 • B-T: B-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

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.

12. Ethan Smith, RHP, Vanderbilt | BA Rank: 419
Grade: R-So. • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted

Smith didn’t get a ton of usage in Vanderbilt’s pitching staff this spring, but he showed impressive strike-throwing ability out of the bullpen over 12.2 innings and nine appearances, while posting a 3.55 ERA. Smith struck out 18 batters (12.8 K/9) and walked just three (12.8 BB/9) while showcasing a four-pitch mix. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, and he can get it up a few ticks higher than that at best, and he also mixed in a low-80s slider and upper-70s curveball and infrequently used a mid-80s changeup. Smith has pitched in a starting role for Vanderbilt in the past and might have the pitch mix and strike-throwing ability to get a chance to do it again at the next level, but his stuff seems to play better in a bullpen role.



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