The 2021 MLB draft is scheduled to take place during the All-Star break in July. Between now and then we will be profiling several players who the Yankees may be considering. Predicting who a team will draft is a crapshoot, so hopefully if we profile enough players we’ll profile the one the Yankees take with their first round pick. You can view the full archive here. Today’s profile: Gunnar Hoglund.
Hoglund is a 6-4, 220 lb RHP at Ole Miss. He was drafted in the supplemental 1st round by the Pirates in 2018, but ultimately decided to go to college. Unfortunately for Hoglund, he had to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery in the midst of a breakout season this year. Originally pegged as the best college pitcher other than the Vandy boys — Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker — Hoglund now finds himself likely to get selected in the mid-late first round.
In his senior year of high school in Florida, Hoglund pitched to a 7-0, 0.27 ERA winning him All-USA Florida 1st team pitcher and a 2nd team All-Area pitcher awards. He decided to forego turning pro and attending Ole Miss for college.
As a freshman, Hoglund made 16 starts and had a 5.29 ERA accruing 53 K over 68 innings with just 14 walks. Hoglund pitched great in the pandemic shortened 2020 season. He was 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA in 23.1 innings across 4 starts and led the team with 37 K compared to just 4 walks.
Before getting hurt and needing Tommy John, Hoglund followed up his strong 2020 by making 11 starts to the tune of a 2.87 ERA and 96 K in 62.2 innings. Command is Hoglund’s calling card, as seen by his low walk totals. In fact, he has never walked more than 2 batters in an appearance.
Baseball America is the highest on Hoglund, still ranking him as the 9th best prospect in the draft class. He is the 4th ranked pitcher according to BA. They describe him as “one of the better command arms in the class” and that he has a “projectable frame, easy delivery, solid fastball…” All of those are great traits in a pitching prospect.
MLB Pipeline recently moved Hoglund down to #23 on their list following his Tommy John surgery. They rate his fastball, slider, and changeup all at 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Here is a snippet of their scouting report:
Hoglund’s stuff plateaued in his first two college seasons, as he showed the same 89-93 mph riding fastball and average breaking ball that he had in high school. His stuff ticked up last fall, however, and he now works at 92-95 for five innings at a time and displays a tighter, harder slider at 84-86. His low-80s changeup serves as a solid third pitch and he can give batters a different look by dusting off a curveball he relied on more as a prepster.
With a durable 6-foot-4 frame, an easy delivery and a history of quality strikes, Hoglund already had a high floor as a back-of-the-rotation starter.MLB Pipeline
Again highlighting the command and the potential for a solid three pitch mix. It is also notable that Hoglund’s velocity increased this year which despite the Tommy John, is a positive sign.
Keith Law of The Athletic ranks Hoglund 30th overall in the draft class highlighting how consistent Hoglund was this year and that although he offers less upside than other pitching prospects, there is a high chance he develops into a back-end starter.
Does He Make Sense?
You can never have too many pitching prospects. Although the Yankees system is pitching heavy, you go for the best player available in the draft no matter what. The big red flag for Hoglund is, of course, the Tommy John surgery. The Yankees have a track record of drafting TJ guys, most notably Andrew Brackman and Clarke Schmidt. Unfortunately, Brackman was a bust, and Schmidt’s career has continued to be derailed by injury.
However, Lucas Giolito and Walker Buehler were also pre-draft TJ guys who have worked out great. So, it is clear the Yankees are comfortable drafting pre-draft TJ pitchers. If not for the TJ, we would not even be profiling Hoglund because there is no way he would make it to the Yankees pick at 20th overall because of how likely it is he develops into a Major League starter. That safety may make teams feel more comfortable drafting Hoglund and waiting a year before he takes the mound.
As a college pitcher with a great delivery and command, Hoglund is likely to rise through the minors quickly once he makes his return. Of course he’ll be eased back into pitching following Tommy John, so I estimate he will need at least two full seasons in the minors before being MLB ready.
What intrigues me about Hoglund is that his stuff improved this year. Combine that with the Yankees track record of increasing velocity in their pitchers, and if Hoglund recovers well from Tommy John, he could become a stud. In this day and age, command is harder to teach than stuff, which makes Hoglund’s existing great command a rarity and a boon.
If the Yankees are okay with the medicals and risk of a pre-draft Tommy John and Hoglund is still on the board at their spot, I would expect them to draft Hoglund because he fits the mold of a pitcher who they likely think they can improve into a star.