The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at Mississippi State pitcher Will Bednar.
Will Bednar is a 6’2”, 229 lb. righthanded pitcher at Mississippi State. A draft-eligible sophomore (though technically he’s a draft-eligible redshirt freshman, due to the 2020 season being wiped out due to COVID-19), Bednar was ranked #190 on the Baseball America top 500 draft list in 2019 as a high schooler out of Pennsylvania, but went undrafted, apparently at least in part because of concerns about a shoulder injury.
Bednar got off to a good beginning of his college career in 2020, striking out 23 of 63 batters he faced in 15.1 IP while walking just six and putting up a 1.76 ERA before the season was canceled. He has built on that this year, racking up 113 Ks against just 20 walks in 74 IP over 13 starts and three relief appearances, with a 3.53 ERA.
Bednar appears to be peaking at the right time — just last night, he struck out 15 Texas Longhorn batters in six innings of work in the College World Series, the most Ks by any pitcher in a game in the College World Series in 25 years. Mississippi State plays Virginia on Tuesday, and then will play again either Thursday (if they lose to Virginia) or Friday (if they beat Virginia), so it seems likely that Bednar will be back on the mound at least once more before the draft.
Bednar is primarily a fastball/slider guy right now — BA says he sits 92-94 mph, MLB Pipeline has him at 95-96 mph, and both say he touches 97. He’s a high spin rate guy, so his fastball plays up — the link above has the University of Texas coach talking about his hitters swinging under the fastball all game. His slider is a quality pitch, and his changeup is described as a pitch that can generate swings and misses, but he apparently hasn’t used it much this year.
There are concerns with Bednar in regards his ability to stay healthy, as he had a shoulder issue in high school, and his delivery is considered to be fairly high effort. The combination means there’s more injury risk there than with the average prospect. That also leads to concerns about his ability to consistently command his pitches — that, along with the questions about his changeup, create a fair amount of reliever risk with Bednar.
Unlike Michael Morales, who was our last profile, the rankings with Bednar seem pretty consistent. Baseball America has Bednar at #38 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Bednar at #36 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Bednar at #20 on his current board, while at the Athletic Keith Law has Bednar as the #37 player in his draft rankings. Fangraphs has Bednar at #44 on their board.
Kiley McDaniel’s most recent mock draft has Bednar going off the board to Atlanta at #24, and mentioned as a possibility as early as St. Louis at #18. Keith Law’s mock has Bednar going to the Cardinals at #18. Baseball America doesn’t have Bednar going in the first round in their mock. Fangraphs doesn’t have Bednar on their mock, either, though they only go through Cincinnati at #17. Jim Callis has Bednar going to the Minnesota Twins at #26. Jonathan Mayo doesn’t have Bednar on his most recent mock.
I’m skeptical that Bednar is still around when the Rangers pick at #38, especially after his performance on Sunday on the biggest college baseball stage against a top team. The July draft date means that there should theoretically be less late movement, but for college players whose teams go deep into the playoffs, it means more looks against top competition, and so a strong CWS performance can result in some late helium.
As a draft-eligible sophomore/redshirt freshman, Bednar has a little extra leverage as well, and I suspect he’s going to be asking for mid- to late-first round money to sign. I think he almost certainly would need above slot to sign at #38. I don’t know what the Rangers would do if he’s still on the board at #38 — he’s a high spin rate guy, which the Rangers have gravitated towards, but the reliever risk and potential injury concerns make me think they’d shy away from him there, at his likely asking price.