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 University of Michigan lefthanded pitcher Steven Hajjar.
Steven Hajjar is a 6’5”, 215 lb. lefthanded pitcher out of the University of Michigan. Hajjar was drafted out of high school in the 21st round of the 2018 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, when Baseball America had him ranked #201 on their board as a big, projectable, cold weather (he went to high school in Massachusetts) lefthanded pitcher. Hajjar missed all of his freshman year due to tearing his ACL playing basketball, but was off to a good start in the 2020 season in four starts before COVID-19 canceled things.
Hajjar was apparently someone who scouts were excited to see when the 2021 season kicked off, and he has pitched well, but not shown the stuff that folks were hoping for. He struck out 110 in 81.2 IP over 14 starts, walking 29 and putting up a 3.09 ERA as a redshirt sophomore.
Hajjar is a little on the young side for a college draftee — he doesn’t turn 21 until August — and part of the appeal of Hajjar is that there is projectability with him. Reports have him both in the low 90s and at 88-91, though he has thrown harder before and has apparently topped out at 95 mph. BA describes the fastball as having a “low spin profile,” though it still gets decent grades, and if he increases his velocity as a pro it would grade that much better.
Hajjar’s best pitch is his changeup, which BA puts a 55 on and MLB Pipeline gives a 60. He throws both a curveball and a slider, though neither of them is a really strong pitch at this point. He has a delivery MLB Pipeline describes as “deceptive,” and he’s got the athleticism to allow him to repeat the delivery, though there are mixed reports on his command and control.
Baseball America has Hajjar at #61 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Hajjar at #100 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Hajjar at #142 on his current board. Fangraphs has does not have Hajjar on their board. Keith Law has Hajjar at #95 on his board.
Hajjar wouldn’t seem likely to be in the mix at #38 unless the Rangers were selecting him as a well below slot pick. He does seem like a potential option in the third or fourth rounds for Texas, as a lefthanded pitcher with a starter’s profile and a quality changeup.
Hajjar has four years of eligibility remaining, due to his redshirt season in 2019 and getting an extra year due to COVID-19. He also, as noted above, doesn’t turn 21 until August. As a result, he is someone who, like Kyle Cody, ends up returning to school even if he is a relatively high pick, in the belief that he can improve his stock and go higher in 2022.