Preview of Cal Bears in 2021 MLB Draft

RHP Grant Holman is likely the first Cal Bear picked in the next couple of days

Cal Baseball (29-26, 15-15 in Pac-12) fell just short of making the NCAA postseason field of 64 teams this past year. However, one year after being shut out of the drastically shortened 5 round 2020 MLB Draft, Cal should have several players drafted in the 2021 MLB Draft, July 11-13 in Denver, Colorado as a part of the All-Star Festivities for the first time.

The 2021 MLB Draft will have 20 rounds, which is still only half the length of the previous past drafts with 40 rounds. Of course, there have also been some other related changes to the national pastime. All 30 MLB franchises now only have 4 affiliated Minor League Baseball Teams, down from 5.

The short-season rookie leagues are now gone but some of those same franchises are now a part of the new MLB Draft League. The idea here is for MLB Draft prospects to potentially raise their stocks playing in stadiums equipped with the StatCast technology to provide teams with better data (spin rate and movements, etc. for pitchers, batted ball exit velocity and defensive sprint speed, etc. for position players) than what is available from high schools, junior colleges, and even Division 1 team who did not make the postseason. In reality, the quality of the inaugural MLB Draft League has been underwhelming to most in the baseball industry.

The MLB Draft League website had listed two Cal Bears, however - 2B Darren Baker and RHP Ian Villers (incorrectly listed as an outfielder). Yet those guys never suited up for in the league where the main draws are arguably managers such as Coco Crisp and Jedd Gyorko.

But I do expect the MLB Draft to expand back up in the near future, possibly even resolved as a part of the next Collective Bargain Agreement. The attempt to better regulate the international market will likely lead to a return to the 30-40 round drafts if/when young international players will also need to be drafted.

Because most Cal fans do not follow Baseball signees as closely as those for Football and Basketball, P/SS Carson Williams will likely join guys such as 2019 Angels 2nd round pick SS Kyren Paris or the currently injured Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka as eventual MLB players who most fans might not realize were once a Cal commit. The Torrey Pines HS product Williams, one of the best two-way prospects in this draft, is projected to be a late first-round pick. One would think that if he is indeed selected with a top-50 pick, Carson Williams will not be coming to Berkeley. I take his presence in a lot of mock drafts as a sign that he is expected to turn pro if/when drafted early.

Centerfielder Rodney Greene out of El Ceritto HS is anothe Cal commit who may be drafted relatively early enough to turn pro.

Now onto the players with whom Cal fans are more familiar.

RHP Grant Holman

2021 Stats: 1-3, 3.83 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 46 K, 22 BB in 47 IP, 6 HRs allowed, 0.287 Batting Average Allowed (BAA)

Holman’s junior season did not start until Pac-12 play for the Golden Bears as Cal was very careful with him after he suffered an offseason shoulder injury. Projected to be the ace, AKA “Friday starter”, for the Bears, Holman eventually settled in as the Sunday starter. While the onfield results were mixed (arguably, Cal might have made the postseason had Holman domiated and won a couple more games against top Pac-12 competitions), Grant Holman is still projected to be picked within the first 5 rounds in the 2021 MLB Draft.

You can find MLB’s video on Holman here.

He has 4 pitches: fastball, slider, splitter, and curve as well as a projectable size (6’6”, 245 pounds) as a starter. His fastball has been clocked at 97 mph this past summer when he played with the San Diego Jets. His breaking pitches are clocked at 88 mph and 77 mph.

The lack of polish on the breaking pitches probably does not bother scouts and teams as much in 2021 where many baseball “factories” have been able to help pitchers develop breaking pitches, particularly ones that travel the same initial trajectory as their fastball in what is termed “tunneling”, using modern video technology (and possibly with the help of foreign substances if you are cynical).

Grant Holman played in the Little League World Series back in 2013 as a P/SS. He started his Cal career as a two-way player before concentrating on just pitching.

Before coming to Cal, Grant Holman was the 299th ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2018. He is now regularly found in prospect list at around 100. MLB Pipeline has Holman ranked as the 138th best prospect in this draft. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has Holman at 100th, where Grant had slightly edged up the rankings despite some tough collegiate outings.

RHP Sean Sullivan

2021 Stats: 4-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 75 K, 22 BB, 78.1 IP, 5 HR allowed, 0.252 BAA

Another junior RHP starter for the Cal Bears this past season with a four-pitch mix (Fastball, Slider, Curve, and Changeup) is Sean Sullivan. His smaller frame of 6’1” and lower velocity (90-91 mph with the abilitity to go up to 94-95 mph) mean that his ceiling is lower.

Sullivan started his Cal career as a reliever and picked up 4 saves in 2019, but had some control issues 29 K but also 16 BB in 26 IP. He was converted to a starter in the shortened 2020 season.

While Sean Sullivan did not show up on the lists of top-200 prospects, his solid collegiate track recod makes him a good and safe bet to be selected on day 2 or 3.

You can find MLB’s video on Sullivan here.

Graduating seniors:

Because the graduated seniors do not have leverage in negotiating and each team is capped in the total amount of bonus that they can give out in the first 10 rounds, teams will generally use some of their picks on the cheap seniors in order to save on bonnus money to “buy” another player who dropped in the draft due to college commitment. Consequently, the seniors often may be artificially inflated in their draft spot due to “signability”.

2B Darren Baker

2021 Stats: 0.327 Batting Average, 0.402 On-Base Percentage, 0.354 Slugging Percentage, 40 Runs scored, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 28 for 34 in Steal Attempts, 0.988 fielding percentage with only 3 errors

Beyond “signability”, MLB Draft is notorious for its nepotism. Darren Baker does deserve to be drafted based on his collegiate stats, but will definitely be drafted because he is the son of Dusty.

Baker had a strong senior season that saw him get on base in almost everyone of Cal’s 55 games. Even with virtually no power, Baker is a solid middle infielder with a high OBP. Baker is good at using his speed and bat control to get on base from the left-hander’s batting box. He should be a solid organization depth for a team, with the chance to be more.

3B/1B Quentin Selma

2021 Stats: 0.291/0.368/0.544 with 43 Runs, 15 homers, 47 RBI

A consistent left-handed slugger for the Bears, Quentin Selma should also get the opportunity to play professional baseball to see if he can hit enough to be a legit baseball prospect.

Selma slugged 10 homers in 2019 and improved on that number with 15 long balls in 2021. “Q” had a strong finish in trying to will the Bears into the postseason when the games mattered the most. He should hear his name called on the last day of the draft.

Underclassmen who may be drafted:

The following Cal Bears are listed in the likelihood of them being drafted in the 2021 MLB Draft.

RHP Ian Villers

2021 Stats: 4-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 36 K, 11 BB, 38 IP, 0.259 BAA

Ian Villers brought solid velocity out of the pen for Cal head coach Mike Neu all season long, and he posted stronger results as the season progressed. With the 6’6”, 245 lb frame loved by scouts, Villers had always been a MLB prospect. He was drafted in the 19th round out of high school in 2018 by the San Diego Padres and should beat that draft spot in 2021.

RHP Sam Stoutenborough

2021 Stats: 1-2, 3.73 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 32 K, 14 BB, 41 IP, 0.268 BAA

Used as the “bulk pitcher” after an opener throughout his collegiate career, Stoutenborough does have a good arm even if his struggles against lefties (sorry, I can’t find college baseball split stats) would limit his upside. Nonetheless, a team may take him late in the draft.

C Cole Elvis

2021 Stats: 0.233/0.289/0.459, 22 Run, 9 HR, 34 RBI

A catcher with some pop, Cole Elvis may hear his name called in this draft because teams are always looking for catching prospects. A strong finish to the year may allow teams to overlook his mediocre season totals.

Elvis might not be leaving the building that soon, but he is the latest in the long line of Cal catching prospects in recent years from Pac-12 Player of the Year Brett Cumberland, Mitchell Kranson, and the surprise 1st-round pick Korey Lee.

LHP Jack Wolger

2021 Stats: 1-0, 2.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 18 K, 5 BB, 26.1 IP

Wolger’s lack of velocity (low 90s) caps his upside as a pro, but he has put up decent collegiate results to possibly be on a team’s radar.

Looking ahead to the 2022 Draft:

The MLB Draft rule says that all juniors and players who are already 21 by the draft date are eligible to be drafted if they are attending a four-year college (Junior College players are draft-eligible every offseason).

Setting himself up to be a high draft pick in 2022 is Dylan Beavers, who slugged 18 homers to lead the Pac-12.

OF Dylan Beavers

2021 Stats: 0.303/0.401/0.630, 44 Runs, 18 HR, 49 RBI, 10 for 12 on steal attempts

If not for the insane numbers posted by Andrew Vaughn recently at Cal, Dylan Beavers’ 2021 season would have earned more attention.

While Beavers earned Baseball America’s “Freshman” accolade, he has been at Cal for two years and should be draft eligible in 2022. He is spending the summer playing with USA Baseball along with Cal teammate RHP Josh White. Beavers’ strong year has earned him a spot on many prospect lists for the next draft.

SS Keshawn Ogans

2021 Stats: 0.222/0.304/0.305, 24 Runs, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 5 for 5 in Steals

The offensive numbers were obviously not there for the Cal starting shortstop Ogans. Nonetheless, IF he figures that out this offseason, Ogans and his slick fielding has the potential to balloon up draft prospect list next year.