Draft Prospect Watch: Rough Weekend for Top Pitching Prospects in 2021 Draft

There was some big news over the weekend as far as the potential top overall pick in the 2021 draft for the Pittsburgh Pirates. First, we start with a timeline. Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter was getting his first mentions from some sources as a potential first overall pick in mock drafts (other sources actually had him there a little earlier). He was there despite his first rough start of the season. It was his tenth start this year, so it’s understandable that one game wouldn’t change everything. However, his 11th start was even worse, giving him two poor outings in a row. Then we heard that the Pirates could be leaning towards going for a prep shortstop in this draft, with Jordan Lawlar being the front runner.

Leiter still had time to regain that first overall spot in the minds of draft experts, but chances of that happening took a hit this weekend when he sat out on Saturday against Alabama. Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said after the game that fatigue was the reason for him to rest. There was no injury or illness according to Corbin. Vanderbilt still has two regular season weekend series prior to the start of the College World Series, so there’s still time for Leiter.

Speaking of Vanderbilt, fellow pitcher Kumar Rocker was considered to be the top overall pick coming into the year. Now he’s usually ranked third or fourth in this class. He made his start against Alabama this weekend and he went five innings, allowing six runs on six hits and five walks. The highlight in that tough outing was 13 strikeouts. In 12 starts this season, he has a 2.31 ERA in 74 innings, with a .160 BAA and a 110:24 SO/BB ratio.

There was also an interesting development near the top that doesn’t affect the Pirates, but it’s still noteworthy. Back in 2018, the Pirates drafted pitcher Gunnar Hoglund out of high school with the 36th overall pick and couldn’t come to an agreement with him, so he attended Ole Miss. He’s draft-eligible this year and considered a possible top ten pick, though that has probably taken a hit. He was skipped in a start two weeks ago due to arm/bicep stiffness, then on Friday he left his start with forearm stiffness in the first inning and he’s reportedly getting an MRI today.

The aforementioned Jordan Lawlar saw his regular season end two weeks ago, but his team is in the playoffs and he played on Friday. He went 1-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base and a run scored, while handling two of three plays at shortstop (one fielding error). His team won 14-1. On Saturday they won 14-0 in a game called after five innings.  His team didn’t bat in the bottom of the fifth, so all of the damage was done in four innings. He didn’t get an official AB, with two walks and a sacrifice fly. He also picked up another steal and he handled five of six plays in the field, committing a throwing error. The date/time of the next round of the playoffs hasn’t been determined yet.