When will Kelenic, J-Rod, Gilbert reach bigs?

April 28th, 2021

It’s getting to the time of year when it’s hard to avoid Draft fever. And we here at MLB Pipeline don’t mind at all.

Usually when the calendar turns to May, so does our focus to the amateur game. That’s certainly true this year, with our first mock draft released at the start of the week on the heels of our Draft Top 150 rankings, even if we need to pace ourselves a bit with the Draft not taking place until July.

As a result, most of the questions this week are Draft-related. Not wanting to ignore the very important start of the Minor League season next week, this week’s Pipeline Inbox does begin with a Minor League prospect question.

What is the likelihood that by the end of the year the Mariners have called up Kelenic, J-Rod, and Gilbert? - @mariners_mojo

Jim Callis and Sam Dykstra handled this question on this week’s Pipeline Podcast, so tune in to hear their complete breakdown of this question. But I wanted a chance to weigh in quickly.

On the pod, Jim made Sam put a percentage on the chances that Mariners prospects Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez and Logan Gilbert make it to Seattle in 2021. Sam said 60 percent and Jim took the under.

I agree with them that if the question were just about Kelenic and Gilbert, that percentage might be close to 100, with Rodríguez a bit of a wild card since he hasn’t played above A ball, has just under 550 career at-bats and is only 20-years-old. That said, J-Rod has continued to turn heads with how he’s played and how he carries himself, including in big league camp this year and in Minor League Spring Training. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he defies expectations and forces the Mariners’ hand this season. Yes, it might depend on where the team is in the standings and how the current outfield is performing, but I’ll take the over on that 60 percent, with a September callup a possible outcome.

As a Pirates fan I’m interested in the possibility of the younger Bednar being drafted by the Pirates. Approximately where do you see him being drafted? -- @ballsandgutters

The elder Bednar, David, is currently pitching out of the Pirates' bullpen, and pitching well. He was a 35th-round pick of the Padres in 2016 out of Lafayette College. Suffice it to say, his younger brother Will is going to beat his brother in terms of Draft status.

Will Bednar is currently Mississippi State’s Saturday night starter, more often than not, after missing some time early with neck stiffness. Last week, he beat Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter and has a 3.32 ERA and a 14.2 K/9 rate over his first 38 innings. He looks more and more like a future mid-rotation type of arm. As a result, we put him at No. 34 on our Draft Top 150.

Now, that ranking is not a reflection of where a player is going to go. College arms who perform well often float upwards and if Bednar pitches really well down the stretch, he could come up in the back end of the first round conversations. But the Pirates do pick at No. 37 and it’s not out of the question that he’d be available for them to allow the Bednar brothers to play together.

Is Matt McLain gonna start to rise once again in Draft boards after a sudden power increase in the last few weeks? Seems to be his biggest question mark for his big league prospects. -- @thebenroyer

I actually think the biggest question regarding McLain, the talented UCLA shortstop, is the swing-and-miss he was showing this season, especially early. The power isn’t unexpected, with scouts having mentioned increased physicality and the chance for Major League average power in the future before this season began. He did have a .621 slugging percentage in 13 games before the shutdown last year, so it’s not that much of a surprise. At the very least, there isn’t the concern about his ability to impact the ball like there might have been with, say, Nick Madrigal, a couple of years ago.

At present, McLain only has a 13.6 percent strikeout rate (with an equal walk rate), so you might be wondering what I’m talking about. During his current 14-game hitting streak, he’s struck out just five times in 56 at-bats. That means he whiffed 19 times over his first 90 ABs. That’s not an alarming amount, but he wasn’t barreling up the baseball with the consistency scouts expected, and he entered April hitting just .278. He has gotten a hit in every game since then, raising his overall line to .329/.420/.589. In my first attempt at a mock draft, I had him go No. 20 to the Yankees and we have him at No. 15 on our Top 150. If he keeps his upwards trajectory, I could see him outperforming both in terms of where he goes.

If Gunnar Hoglund misses none of his future starts, is he in play for the Mets at 10th overall? #MLBDraft -- @aninsanemetsfan

The short answer is yes, if he’s still available. There are some teams above the Mets who could very well be looking at college arms and if Hoglund is healthy, he’d be in their mix. I mentioned that possibility at No. 8 with the Rockies in the mock draft, for instance.

Whether Hoglund is healthy remains to be seen. He was scratched from his last start with biceps stiffness. It was a start on shorter rest (a Thursday start after pitching Friday the previous week), and the team maintained it was merely a precaution. If Hoglund comes back throwing the way he did earlier in the year and shows no ill effects down the stretch, then seeing him come off the board as the third college arm taken (after the Vanderbilt duo of Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker) seems very possible. That could be to the Mets at 10 and it could be earlier, with several teams in the 6-10 range potentially interested.