The 2022 MLB draft begins Sunday, and its 20 rounds are certain to include plenty of prospective Mississippi State players.
The Dispatch spoke with ESPN draft analyst Kiley McDaniel about six Bulldogs signees and whether they might sign with a Major League club and turn pro or end up playing at Dudy Noble Field.
The below rankings come from McDaniel’s latest MLB draft top 300, published Friday.
No. 14 Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath (Texas)
At 5-foot-8, Jett Williams isn’t the most imposing figure on the baseball field.
And that might be the only knock on him.
“That’s pretty much the end of the negatives,” McDaniel said.
Williams, a standout at Rockwall-Heath High School, can play a capable shortstop, second base or center field. He holds 15-homer potential, is a plus runner, makes contact and is polished at the plate
“It’s very easy to get on board with him because there’s not a lot of ways to poke holes in his overall game,” McDaniel said. “It’s hard to imagine this guy not making the big leagues.”
Consequently, Williams — projected in the middle of the first round — is likely in for a signing bonus of somewhere in the $3 million-$5 million range.
If he were taller, that number could perhaps increase. But McDaniel noted shorter players can make contact more easily due to their shorter swings, and they can get rid of the ball faster, allowing their arm strength to play up.
“There’s a scenario where if he’s bigger and stronger than he is or he can project to get stronger that he’s a top 10 pick,” McDaniel said. “I almost have him as a top-10 pick even as is. You can’t really get much higher than that.”
No. 139 Bradley Loftin, LHP, DeSoto Central
Mississippi State will hope to lure in-state left-hander Bradley Loftin to campus, but that might be easier said than done.
McDaniel said Loftin’s name has come up in the second to fourth rounds but that he could go later while commanding second-to-fourth round money.
“If teams have the money left, and they have the attitude to go after some high school players, I think it’s what a lot of teams are looking for,” McDaniel said. “I could definitely see him either going to school or signing.”
McDaniel put Loftin’s chances of coming to Starkville at “probably 50/50 — maybe a little less than 50/50.” Ultimately, he stressed, it depends on how much money Loftin is willing to take.
“I think he’s in that area where it’s kind of up to him,” McDaniel said. “If his number is $1.5 million, then he’ll get to school. If his number is $500,000, then he turns pro. It’s kind of up to him.”
No. 184 Jurrangelo Cijntje, BHP, Champagnat Catholic (Fla.)
Ambidextrous pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje offers major league clubs a tantalizing proposition, McDaniel said.
“Let’s say you’re making your big-league roster and you only have one spot left,” he explained. “You definitely take him over a comparable right-handed pitcher because he can do both. The closer he gets to the big leagues, the more interesting that talent becomes because of the elements of building a roster.”
But for a guy Cijntje’s age — 19, making him draft eligible as a 21-year-old college sophomore — being able to realize that potential at the college level first is important.
“What he does will be looked at even more kindly by teams if he does it in the SEC for two years,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said Cijntje’s right arm is ahead of his left at the moment, but the better he does with both arms, the more intriguing he will be.
“The closer he gets, the more value he’ll accrue above the typical prospect, where it’s just like, ‘throw a tick harder, you become more interesting, you go higher, you get more money,’” McDaniel said.
Mississippi State will just have to hope that doesn’t happen just yet.
No. 224 Colby Holcombe, RHP, Northeast Mississippi Community College
McDaniel said Mississippi State’s best junior college prospect, Northeast Mississippi Community College pitcher Colby Holcombe, is in a similar boat as Loftin: His future depends on his desired bonus range.
“If he thinks he could triple what he’s getting offered this year with a year at Mississippi State, then I could totally see him going to school and making the most of it,” McDaniel said.
Thanks to slightly below-average command, Holcombe likely profiles as a reliever, but his athleticism could help turn him into a starter — significantly increasing his value.
Of course, he might still get enough money to keep him away from Starkville altogether.
“If he can pitch a year or two at Mississippi State as a starter, he stands to make a lot more money than he would be lined up to get this year,” McDaniel said. “But I think he’ll also get a pretty significant six-figure offer where it’s enough that I could totally see him taking that as well.”
No. 273 Ross Highfill, C, Madison Central
Fear not, Mississippi State fans: McDaniel said Madison Central catcher Ross Highfill has “a good shot to go to campus.”
McDaniel said he hasn’t heard Highfill’s name much in the top three or four rounds, generally the ideal range for a Southeastern Conference commit hoping to sign out of high school.
“I haven’t heard him a lot in those discussions, so I’d say he’s probably likely to come to school, but I don’t have a lot of inside information on that one,” McDaniel said.
NR Dakota Jordan, OF, Jackson Academy
McDaniel said he watched Jackson Academy outfielder Dakota Jordan play in summer 2021 and came away impressed by his plus bat speed and speed on the bases.
But a slight lack of experience at the plate could send the dual-sport athlete to Starkville.
“I think he’s the kind of guy who will be able to get to school, and the question is, ‘Can he get polished enough at the plate to get on the field early?’” McDaniel said.
Jordan possesses the upside to be a high-round selection — but it might not be this year.
“From what I’ve heard this year, it sounds like he’s probably a guy who gets to school, but he has the upside that he could be a really exciting early-round pick if everything comes together,” McDaniel said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.