Here are the 10 best college pitchers in this year's Draft

June 25th, 2024

Arkansas' Hagen Smith and Wake Forest's Chase Burns headline the 2024 college pitching crop after breaking the NCAA Division I record for strikeout rate. Both project as easy top-10 picks and potential frontline starters.

Yet the college pitching class isn't as deep as once hoped. East Carolina's Trey Yesavage is the clear third-best college arm, but Iowa's Brody Brecht and Mississippi State's Jurrangelo Cijntje are the only other likely first-rounders. Wake Forest's Josh Hartle and Michael Massey, Louisiana State's Thatcher Hurd, Tennessee's Drew Beam and Alabama's Ben Hess entered the year with first-round aspirations but didn't live up to expectations.

You may notice that the rankings below doesn't totally reflect the order on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200. That's because we've listed the pitchers based on how they'll be featured on our upcoming Draft Top 250, which will be unveiled Wednesday night. We've also included Florida two-way star Jac Caglianone as a pitcher, though his pro future almost certainly will be as a slugger.

1. Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas (No. 6 on Top 200)
The Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year, Smith broke Ryan Wagner's 21-year-old D-I record by averaging 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings and also led the nation in average-against (.144). He features a deceptive 94-97 mph fastball that reaches 100 and a mid-80s slider with sweep and depth.

2. Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 5)
After spending his first two college seasons at Tennessee, Burns finished right behind Smith with 17.2 strikeouts per nine while topping D-I with 191 whiffs. The Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher of the year throws harder than Smith (sitting at 97-99 mph, topping out at 102) but his fastball gets hit more than it should. He also has a tight upper-80s slider that batters can't touch and flashes a plus curveball and changeup.

3. Trey Yesavage, RHP, East Carolina (No. 11)
Yesavage overcame a partially collapsed lung (the result of dry needling treatment gone awry) to outduel Burns in the NCAA regionals, capping a season in which he won American Athletic Conference pitcher of the year accolades and finished among the national leaders in ERA (2.02, fourth), strikeouts (145, fifth) and average-against (.154, second). He operates with three plus pitches: a 93-95 mph fastball that hits 98 with carry, a mid-80s slider/cutter and a low-80s splitter.

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4. Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa (No. 21)
Brecht spent two years pulling double duty as an Iowa pitcher and wide receiver before giving up football and should become the Hawkeyes' first baseball first-rounder since Tim Costo in 1990. His explosive 96-99 mph fastball peaks at 101 and his 87-91 mph slider is just as unhittable with plenty of horizontal and vertical action, helping him rank fifth in D-I in strikeout rate (14.7 per nine innings), though he still lacks polish.

5. Jurrangelo Cijntje, RHP/LHP, Mississippi State (No. 31)
A natural left-hander, Cijntje began throwing right-handed as a 6-year-old and became famous for his switch-pitching with Curacao at the 2016 Little League World Series. He draws Marcus Stroman comps as a righty with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider. He exudes more of a reliever vibe as a low-slot lefty with a low-90s fastball and a low-80s sweeper.

6. Jonathan Santucci, LHP, Duke (No. 34)
Santucci battled his control all spring and missed three late-season starts with a rib injury, but he's still an athletic left-hander who struck out 90 in 58 innings and can miss bats with three pitches. He works with a 92-96 mph fastball with carry and armside run, a low-80s slider with two-plane break at its best and a fading mid-80s changeup.

7. Ben Hess, RHP, Alabama (No. 45)
Built like Lance Lynn at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Hess rebounded from a flexor strain a year ago to set an Alabama career record with 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His two best weapons are a 92-96 mph fastball that maxes out at 99 with run and carry and a mid-80s slider with two-plane depth.

8. Luke Holman, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 48)
Holman doesn't have the wow stuff of the other pitchers on this list, but he has advanced feel for his craft and replaced Paul Skenes as LSU's No. 1 starter after serving as Alabama's ace in 2023. His best pitch is a low-80s slider with depth that he also locates well, while his low-90s fastball plays better than its velocity thanks to his command and induced vertical break.

9. Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida (No. 3)
The John Olerud Award winner as college baseball's best two-way player, Caglianone set Florida records for single-season (35) and career (75) home runs while tying an NCAA mark by going deep in nine straight games. While power will be his ticket in pro ball, he's also a physical left-hander with a mid-90s fastball that climbs to 99 mph, a mid-80s slider and a sinking upper-70s changeup.

10. Ryan Johnson, RHP, Dallas Baptist (No. 43)
Johnson has a quirky self-taught delivery that works for him, as evidenced by his Conference USA pitcher of the year award, 2.29 ERA (eighth in D-I), 151 strikeouts (fourth) and 10.8 K/BB ratio (third). He creates deception while pounding the strike zone with a lively low-80s slider and mid-90s fastball highlighting a five-pitch arsenal.