As the dust continues to settle from the 2021 MLB draft, the outlook of the Mississippi State baseball team’s 2022 roster is getting clearer and clearer.
Will Bednar, Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan and other important Bulldogs from this year’s national championship season are off to pursue their professional futures. But Mississippi State returns several major contributors, will bring in a talented freshman class and is poised to improve its roster through the transfer portal.
Here’s a look at who the Bulldogs lost, who they’ll gain and who is back to make an impact next spring.
Key departures: OF Tanner Allen, RHP Will Bednar, OF Rowdey Jordan, LHP Christian MacLeod
The Bulldogs lost two-thirds of their outfield and two-thirds of their weekend rotation in the first five rounds of the 2021 draft.
SEC player of the year Tanner Allen was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the fourth round Monday, while Rowdey Jordan went to the New York Mets in the 11th round Tuesday.
Breakout star pitcher Will Bednar was drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the No. 14 overall pick Sunday. Left-hander Christian MacLeod went to the Minnesota Twins in the fifth round Monday, giving Mississippi State two rotation spots to fill.
Additionally, Mississippi State will likely lose signees Maddux Bruns, James Wood and Jordan McCants to the professional ranks. Bruns went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round, Wood was drafted by the San Diego Padres in Round 2, and McCants was taken by the Marlins in Round 3.
Right-hander Eric Cerantola was also drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Royals, but Cerantola struggled for the Bulldogs in 2021 and entered the NCAA transfer portal at the end of the season. First baseman Josh Hatcher and pitchers Xavier Lovett (Texas A&M) and Davis Rokose (Georgia) are among the other Bulldogs who have chosen to transfer.
Key newcomers: LHP Andrew Walling, RHP Jack Walker, LHP Pico Kohn, IF Slate Alford, IF/OF Aaron Downs, OF Jess Davis
After three incoming Mississippi State players went early in the draft, Eastern Oklahoma State left-hander Andrew Walling offered some solace to the Bulldogs. The hard-throwing JUCO pitcher tweeted “Go Dawgs” after going undrafted in Rounds 2-10 on Monday, seemingly affirming he’ll be enrolling at MSU and joining the team.
Right-hander Jack Walker of Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana, went undrafted and is poised to come to campus as well. Alabama high school products Pico Kohn and Slate Alford are part of a strong signing class that also includes Heritage Academy hitter Aaron Downs.
UAB outfielder Jess Davis announced his transfer to Mississippi State on July 2, and more transfers could come with a record number of college players in the transfer portal.
Key returners: 3B Kamren James, RHP Landon Sims, C Logan Tanner, RHP Jackson Fristoe, OF Brad Cumbest, DH Kellum Clark
At age 21, second-year third baseman Kamren James was eligible for the 2021 draft but was not selected, likely hinting that his intention was always to return to school.
The DeSoto Central product will again anchor Mississippi State’s lineup after hitting .264/.354/.456 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs. He was also named the Starkville Regional MVP.
Catcher Logan Tanner, who slugged a team-leading 15 homers in 2021, will be back for his third year in Starkville. Tanner has a chance of being a high first-round draft pick next summer, ESPN Baseball Insider Kiley McDaniel told The Dispatch.
So does Landon Sims, particularly if the Bulldogs convert him to a starting pitcher. Sims was lights out in Mississippi State’s bullpen in 2021, striking out an even 100 batters in 56.1 innings and saving 13 games, but the Bulldogs could get plenty of value out of the right-hander if he slots into the weekend rotation.
Jackson Fristoe is almost a lock for that rotation despite a tough end to his freshman season. The Kentucky native, who decided to come to Mississippi State rather than enter the 2020 draft, showed a strong arsenal in his first year with the Bulldogs. He’ll be 21 by the time of next year’s draft and thus eligible to be selected.
Cade Smith, Brandon Smith, Preston Johnson and Stone Simmons — all parts of this year’s bullpen — should come back, though whether left-hander Houston Harding chooses to return is still unknown.
The “Twin Towers” at the bottom of the Bulldogs’ lineup will also play a big role. Left fielder Brad Cumbest and designated hitter Kellum Clark provided balance to the batting order, and both are set to return in 2021.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.