Longhorn fan guide to next week’s MLB Draft

Nathan Han, Sports Reporter

The 2021 MLB Draft will feature several key pieces to Texas’ College World Series squad coming off the board, and many of them will likely opt to enter the professional ranks and end their Longhorn career.

Texas’ best prospect is redshirt sophomore pitcher Ty Madden, who led the Longhorns in their deep postseason run as the team’s ace and is almost certain to be taken in the first round. Six other players are likely to turn professional, although there’s always a chance that a few could elect to come back for another year even after they are drafted. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Cole Quintanilla and redshirt sophomore hitter Ivan Melendez are the other two Longhorns most likely to hear their name called in this year’s MLB Draft.

In the previous 40-round draft from seasons past, redshirt senior outfielder Mike Antico, redshirt junior pitcher Tristan Stevens, redshirt junior infielder Cam Williams and redshirt junior infielder Zach Zubia would all likely be late round picks. But in this year’s 20-round format, all four have a slimmer chance to come off the board at all. Nevertheless, they will definitely get opportunities in professional baseball whether they get drafted or not.

Two other Longhorns, redshirt freshman pitcher Pete Hansen and redshirt sophomore infielder Eric Kennedy, are definitely on teams’ radars, but both are likely to come back for another year in college unless they get higher-than-expected money from their slot’s signing bonus. The same goes for redshirt sophomore pitcher Kolby Kubicheck, who isn’t projected to be a draft pick but has potential professional opportunities after a strong performance this summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Of the 10 signees in the 2021 recruiting class, lefty hitter and infielder Gavin Kash and right-handed pitchers Joshua Stewart and Jace Hutchins are the three most likely to be picked in the draft. The Longhorns don’t have a true first-round talent signed, however, so don’t be surprised if the Class of 2021 all makes it to campus in the fall.

Here’s a breakdown of the top Texas players who could hear their name called in this year’s MLB Draft:

Ty Madden

Ty_Madden_2019-04-29_Texas_Baseball_v_W_Virginia_2_JP
JP Hite

2021 Season Stats: 7–5 win-loss record, 2.45 ERA, 113.2 IP, 137 SO, 44 BB, .188 opponent batting average.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound right hander is listed as high as ninth in some mock drafts. With a four-pitch arsenal, Madden features a mid-90s fastball that touches 99 mph at times, a plus slider as well as a changeup and curveball.

Madden certainly showed his ceiling as a potential top rotation starter with his performance in big games, including two solid starts against national champion Mississippi State in Omaha. His frame and ceiling as an ace means he’s unlikely to fall beyond the 20th overall selection: expect his range to be anywhere from 9-20.

Ivan Melendez

Andrew Zamora

2021 Season Stats: .319/.438/.603, 13 HRS, 51 RBI, 34 BB, 65 SO, 1 SB, 204 ABs

The best hitter on the 2021 squad, also known as the “Hispanic Titanic” is a 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound power hitter that lives up to his nickname. The No. 200-ranked prospect by Baseball America, his bat certainly has big league potential.

But finding a spot for him on defense could deter some teams from pulling the trigger on selecting Melendez. He played both corner infield spots at Odessa Junior College before mainly manning the designated hitter role as a Longhorn.

Cole Quintanilla

Cole_Quintanilla_2019-03-20_Texas_v_Arkansas_Angela
Angela Wang

2021 Season Stats: 5–1 win-loss record, 1.35 ERA, 40.0 IP, 42 SO, 11 BB, .165 opponent batting average

The redshirt sophomore reliever put himself on MLB draft boards with a breakout 2021 season. The No. 302-ranked prospect by Baseball America, Quintanilla hits as high as 98 mph on his fastball and could be a solid bullpen piece if he continues on his upward trajectory.

His biggest challenge to reach that ceiling is finding a plus second pitch, whether it’s his changeup or his breaking ball.