UEFA Champions League. University College London. Ultra-conservative llamas. What do all three of these have in common? They’re all UCLs that instill less fear in an MLB front office than the ulnar collateral ligament. That is unless one particular ultra-conservative llama wakes up one morning only to realize his cud has been chewed by Steve, his ornery llama friend who seems to always be stirring up trouble. Now that, my friends, would be one fearsome llama. Even so, it’s the ulnar collateral ligament we’re most concerned about this week, as yet another UCL injury has struck the college game — and this one impacts the top-15 picks of the 2021 MLB Draft: Ole Miss RHP Gunnar Hoglund will miss the remainder of the season with a UCL tear and will be sidelined for 12-18 months as he undergoes Tommy John surgery and embarks on a long and tenuous rehab journey. Even with the catastrophic injury, Hoglund is primed to be a first-round pick this July, but just how far he falls remains to be seen. MLB.com’s most recent mock draft had Hoglund going No. 13 overall to the Phillies and he remains MLB Pipeline’s No. 10 prospect for the 2021 MLB Draft. Here at Razzball, I ranked Hoglund as my No. 12 preseason college MLB Draft prospect after tabbing him at No. 11 in my Way-Too-Early Top 25 back in July. The Rebel right-hander was in the midst of a solid third-year campaign, owning a 2.87 ERA with 96 strikeouts across 62 2/3 innings and 11 starts this season while holding opposing hitters to a .178 BAA. He works 92-95 MPH with a riding heater that he pairs with a low-80s changeup, average curveball, and hard slider that sits around 84-86 MPH. Although he appeared to be a fringe top-10 pick, the main story will now become whether the recent UCL injury allows him to best his 2018 draft position as a prepster when he went No. 36 overall to the Pirates.
More around the college game…
Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter – Leiter has scuffled across his last three starts (15.1 IP, 12 ER, 15 H, 22 K, 10 BB), while Rocker has experienced some tempered struggles of his own, getting lit up for six earned runs on six hits and five walks against Alabama in his most recent start. The strikeouts are still there for both arms, with Rocker striking out eight or more in his sixth consecutive outing by fanning 13 against the Crimson Tide. These two will continue to battle with prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar for the No. 1 overall pick, especially since Leiter’s recent rough patch appears to have evened the scales back up and left the door open for Rocker to reclaim the top spot in mock drafts. At present, Leiter is 7-2 with a 2.10 ERA, .128 BAA, 106 strikeouts, and 29 walks across 64 1/3 innings. Rocker owns an 11-1 record with a 2.31 ERA, .160 BAA, 110 strikeouts, and 24 walks over 74 frames. However, the two are not as similar as they may seem — both in stature and in pitching approach. Rocker’s imposing 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame catches eyes immediately, whereas Leiter is more average in size at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. That said, Leiter appears to be ahead of Rocker in terms of strike zone command, especially as it relates to the fastball, while at times it seems as though Rocker is able to overpower college hitters simply by filling up the strike zone as opposed to commanding specific parts of the plate — the latter being something I have observed Leiter accomplish with relative ease throughout the majority of the regular season.
Enrique Bradfield Jr. – The Commodores have this week’s Collegiate Corner on lock, as we’ll continue with one of the most dynamic, toolsy college bats we’ve seen in recent memory. Bradfield Jr. comps closely to former outfielder Juan Pierre, who enjoyed a productive 14-year MLB career from 2000-2013. As a true freshman outfielder, he’s not yet draft-eligible, but he figures to be a hot commodity come 2023 given the value of his hit and speed tools. Across his first 44 games/156 at-bats, Bradfield Jr. is batting .359/.474/.442 with one home run, three triples, four doubles, 43 runs, and 28 RBI. If the hit tool continues to develop, Bradfield Jr. could be a three-category star in fantasy, as he wields elite on-base skills to go with rare run-scoring and stolen base abilities. In those 44 games, Bradfield has swiped a nation-leading 38 bases in 40 attempts. That is not a typo. When you pair that with a 15.1% walk rate and 12.6% strikeout rate, it’s easy to see why the young freshman is quickly on the rise as scouts look ahead to future drafts.
Enrique Bradfield is making it look easy. pic.twitter.com/AUWiuun1MC
— The Dore Report (@dore_report) March 24, 2021
Carter Young – Wrapping up our mini-Vandy trip is sophomore Commodore shortstop Carter Young. After slashing .328/.373/.377 and showing very little pop as a freshman in 2020, Young is batting .278/.353/.622 in his second year. That line comes accompanied with a team-leading 13 home runs as well as five triples, 13 doubles, 42 RBI, 39 runs, and eight stolen bases in eight attempts. With the newfound power, Young has walked at a 10.1% clip but has struck out at a 27.9% mark. Seeing as he’ll be draft-eligible in 2022, Young has time to sift through the swing-and-miss tendencies, but it’s one component to keep an eye on as he develops during his time in Nashville.
Will Frizzell – The son of America’s favorite red-headed school bus driver/teacher popped off last weekend, belting five home runs and driving in 11 against Ole Miss. With the big series, the Texas A&M senior first baseman is now slashing .349/.438/.699 with 18 home runs, 11 doubles, 48 RBI, 41 runs, two stolen bases, a 16.9 K%, and 13.4 K%. Although you likely won’t find Frizzell on too many top prospects lists seeing as he’s a first baseman-only with limited athleticism, he has made it difficult for scouts to ignore the bat this spring. Frizzell only slashed .238/.423/.512 across the previous two college seasons combined, so it’s understandable why some may be hesitant, but expect this to be a bat that rises significantly in most rankings prior to July’s draft. Frizzell has done a lot of legitimate damage against SEC pitching this year — the kind of damage a miniaturized school bus can do to the human body when left flying around the inner walls of someone’s digestive system.
Some @Will_Frizzell stats from the weekend:
— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) May 9, 2021
Jud Fabian – With just about two weeks remaining in the regular season, Fabian is tied with Frizzell for second in the SEC with 18 home runs, as the pair trails only Wes Clarke of South Carolina. I wrote about Fabian in my April 15 Collegiate Corner installment earlier this spring, discussing that I continue to view him as a top 10-15 player in the 2021 class despite growing concerns about his strikeout tendencies. At the time, Fabian owned a 33% strikeout rate through 148 plate appearances. As it stands today, that number has dropped to 27.6% and Fabian has struck out just 11 times in the last 15 games while walking 16 times during that span. All told, Fabian is slashing .365/.507/.885 with seven homers over those 15 games to raise his season batting resume to .268/.387/.626 with 18 homers, 10 doubles, 46 runs, 44 RBI, and five steals in six attempts. With his level of range as a defender to go with an average-to-slightly plus arm in the outfield, Fabian will undoubtedly get drafted at least 10 spots higher–if not more–than where he’s currently being projected. It doesn’t hurt that he just might have the quickest hands in the last two collegiate draft classes.
Colton Cowser – It’s been a bit too long since we last caught up with Cowser in our prospect coverage at Razzball. He was No. 8 in my Way-Too-Early College Top 25, eventually moving back just one spot to No. 9 in my preseason list to make room for RHP Jaden Hill of LSU in the top five. I’m by no means comping Cowser to Christian Yelich, but he possesses a similar blend of average athleticism in the outfield, his hit tool is by far his best trait as a left-handed hitter, and scouts project him to have roughly 20-homer power in the big leagues — similar to what we heard about Yelich while he was climbing the Minor League ladder in the Marlins system. Brandon Nimmo and Bradley Zimmer have been listed as comps for Cowser, which is a more reasonable starting point, but it’s my belief that he’ll likely fall somewhere in between the two benchmarks. That being said, Cowser has done nothing but confirm he has one of the best pure hit tools in the entire college class this past spring while sprinkling in enhanced power to enhance his prospect status. Across 187 plate appearances in 2021, Cowser is slashing .347/.476/.667 with a career-high 13 home runs, one triple, seven doubles, 43 runs, 39 RBI, 12 steals, a sexy 14.4 K% and 17.1 BB%. Yes, he has five more walks this season than strikeouts (27-32 K-BB) as a hitter with emerging power. Like Yelich, Cowser possesses the type of batter profile that allows him to consistently find the barrel often enough to have more in-game pop than he does raw power. The only reason Cowser isn’t being viewed as a consensus top-10 pick is because of where he plays: Sam Houston State of the Southland Conference. And to be fair, it’s valid to take his numbers with a grain of salt, as this isn’t 2020 (no conference play) and pitching in the Southland is blatantly inferior to that of the SEC and ACC. Still, if given the options between cows ‘er poultry, I’ll take cows, errrrrr.
— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) March 19, 2021
That’s all for this week! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.