Through the first two days of the 2021 MLB Draft, three Texas Longhorns players were selected — right-hander pitcher Ty Madden in the first round, right-handed pitcher Cole Quintanilla in the eighth round, and center fielder Mike Antico in the ninth round.
While the selection of Antico was higher than anticipated here, the biggest news for the Longhorns is that designated hitter Ivan Melendez and right-handed pitcher Joshua Stewart, a high school signee, are both still on the board even though both were ranked among the top-200 prospects by ESPN.
For Melendez, that’s likely due to a combination of a high asking price and a desire by organizations to see how his glove plays at first in 2022 before committing a high draft pick and significant money to sign him. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, Melendez has enough leverage to make some significant monetary demands and clearly doesn’t have a strong desire to leave school — otherwise, he’d already be drafted and making statements like Quintanilla about being ready to move on to the next level.
There are several possibilities with Stewart, whose rapid development last fall put him on the MLB radar, but struggled with some inconsistencies during his high school season. It could be that his asking price was too high, that he’s indicated to organizations that he wants to come to Texas, or that scouts told him he’s better off spending three years on the Forty Acres.
Making it past the 10th round greatly increases the chances of both players landing on Texas head coach David Pierce’s roster next season, though it’s always possible that an organization could draft them on Tuesday and end up meeting or exceeding the asking prices of one or both.
Beyond those two relative surprises, it’s not shocking that the rest of the signees and draft-eligible Longhorns are still available.
The top prospect on the board is arguably right-hander Tristan Stevens, but it’s worth noting that his continued availability doesn’t necessarily increase the odds that he returns. Put first baseman Zach Zubia and third baseman Cam Williams in that same category.
Other names to watch on Thursday include left-hander Pete Hansen, draft eligible following his second season on the Forty Acres, left fielder Eric Kennedy, junior college signee Jace Hutchins, a right-handed pitcher, and high school signee Gavin Kash, a corner infielder.
Of those players, Kennedy is the probably most likely to sign if he’s taken in the final 10 rounds, but, once again, the calculus can always change quickly for anyone if enough money is involved.
Stay tuned to this post for updates on Texas players selected on the draft’s final day.
No slot value given for that pick, but it’s going to take a substantial amount of money for the Marlins to sign Melendez. Put the odds of him returning at 80 percent.
In the 18th round, with the No. 532 overall pick, the New York Mets selected right-handed pitcher Kolby Kubichek, the Sunday starter for Texas early in the season before he completely lost his confidence and his command. Kubichek only lasted 1.0 inning against Oklahoma State in late April and then failed to record an out the next weekend against Texas Tech. He appeared again against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament, allowing four runs in 4.1 innings, but that was his only appearance between early May and the end of the season.
In terms of stuff, there’s not a ton that separates Kubichek from right-hander Tristan Stevens, who went undrafted, as both rely on a sinking fastball in the low 90s. Stevens was just much more effective, but apparently Kubichek is more projectable despite his struggles.
Given that Kubichek doesn’t have a great path towards regaining a weekend role next season, he’ll probably jump on whatever money the Mets want to give him and see if that organization can help him with the issues that plagued him late in the 2021 season.
In the 19th round, with the No. 559 pick, the Kansas City Royals selected Williams. Expect him to sign quickly and put Texas in the market for a replacement, with Skyler Messinger from Kansas the name to watch out of the transfer portal with buzz connecting him to the Longhorns. Messinger doesn’t have the home run power of Williams, but he led the Jayhawks in batting average (.324), games played (56), games started (56), at bats (213), runs (43), hits (69), doubles (19), RBI (39), and slugging percentage (.460).
If Messinger doesn’t land on the Forty Acres, Kash could be the replacement, but it sounds like things could move quickly with Messinger once Williams signs.
In the 20th round, with the No. 599 overall pick, the Miami Marlins selected Zubia. Signing him should not be a particularly difficult negotiation for the Marlins, putting Melendez in line to start at first base in 2022 if Miami doesn’t throw money at him.
The end of the draft means that draft-eligible players like Stewart, Stevens, Kennedy, Hansen, and Hutchins failed to hear their names called. Among those players, Stevens remains the most likely to sign a free agent deal, by far. The rest should either return to school or follow through on their signatures with Texas.
It’s rare that a draft for a school like the Longhorns hits the high end of the most favorable outcomes — though it’s certainly more likely now with it cut in half — but that’s definitely the early takeaway.
Barring any unlikely developments for Melendez or the undrafted free agents, Texas looks like a contender to make the College World Series next season and maybe even make some noise if they get there.