MLB Draft could affect Ole Miss’ roster, recruiting class
Every member of Ole Miss’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class last year made it to school.
One Major League Baseball draft analyst doesn’t think the Rebels will be as fortunate this time around.
This year’s draft begins tonight with the first and second rounds (6 p.m., MLB Network). The three-day draft continues with eight more rounds Tuesday before the final 30 rounds are held Wednesday.
A pair of Ole Miss signees, Steven Jennings and Caden Lemons, could have their names called before the first night is over, MLB.com senior writer Jim Callis said.
“I’ve just heard too much good stuff about Jennings,” Callis said. “I think he’s going to go pretty high. Lemons I think is not going to go quite as high but is still going to go high enough that he’d be in jeopardy that teams might be able to sign him away.”
Jennings and Lemons are both right-handers, joining Dyer County High (Tennessee) lefty Jordan Fowler as three high school arms Ole Miss could lose in the draft. Ranked a top-50 draft prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, the 6-foot-2 Jennings, Tennessee’s top prep prospect from Dekalb County, is the Rebels’ highest-rated signee while Lemons, a standout at Vestavia Hills High near Birmingham, isn’t far behind at No. 57 (Baseball America) and No. 77 (MLB.com).
Jennings, who also played football in high school, suffered an ACL injury in the fall, but he put to rest any concerns about his health this spring to the point that Callis said there’s buzz about Jennings sneaking into the back end of the first round.
“He had the type of spring that guys were raving about when he was throwing 92, 94 with a plus slider,” said Callis, who scouts the Southeast, including Mississippi, for the draft. “Real athletic. He shows four pitches and shows that he can control them. … It’s a good delivery that repeats well and throws strikes.”
Lemons’ draft stock soared this spring after an uptick in velocity that saw the 6-6, 175-pounder sit in the low 90s with his fastball topping out at 97 miles an hour. It adds more appeal for teams who already like his projectable frame and three-quarters delivery that makes life tough on right-handed hitters, said Callis, who projected Lemons as a third-round pick.
Callis said Fowler, ranked the No. 209 prospect by Baseball America, could be taken as high as the fourth round. Hillsbourgh High (Florida) first baseman Tim Elko, who’s No. 248 on Baseball America’s list, is another signee who could come off the board on the second or third day.
Of course, signability will play a factor in exactly how early some players get drafted. Players projected to be early-round picks usually have an asking price when it comes to their signing bonus while each team has a set amount it can spend on bonuses for each of its picks in the top 10 rounds without incurring a penalty.
Players could slide in the draft if teams don’t want to risk wasting an early pick knowing they can’t meet a player’s financial demands. The Minnesota Twins, who own the draft’s first overall pick, have the highest bonus pool at $14,156,800, according to MLB.com.
But Callis doesn’t expect Jennings or Lemons to be playing at Ole Miss next spring.
“I would think they almost certainly lose Jennings and they’re probably going to lose Lemons,” Callis said.
As for the Rebels’ current roster, Callis said David Parkinson will likely be the first Ole Miss player taken, predicting the polished junior left-hander to go as high as the fourth round.
“And you never know because it only takes one team, so maybe someone likes him a little bit better than that,” Callis said of Parkinson, who posted a 3.39 earned run average this season and is 11-6 in his two seasons as a weekend starter. “He’s not overwhelming, but he’s got a good slider and an average fastball, average curve and average change. He’s a four-pitch lefty who throws strikes. He’s been their most consistent starter the last year and a half.”
Second baseman Tate Blackman and pitchers Brady Feigl and Will Stokes are other underclassmen who could be drafted, though Callis said Parkinson is the only one likely to be picked before the third day. He said Blackman and senior third baseman Colby Bortles will likely go between rounds 11-20, adding that a couple of teams may look at moving Blackman to catcher.
Blackman hit .302 with nine homers and 30 RBIs. Bortles led the Rebels in home runs (10) and RBIs (42) but hit just .269 and had the second-most strikeouts (50).
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