After initially having some issues with pitch selection early in his career, LSU’s Landon Marceaux took his game to the next level over the last two seasons. Part of it was increased attention to detail, as his added proficiency on secondary pitches resulted in 116 strikeouts in 102 innings this past season. The 2021 second-team All-SEC selection developed into one of the conference’s best pitchers with the increased command. We go inside Marceaux’s diverse skill-set in our video breakdown.
Nikhazy plays the game with a unique combination of emotion and savvy. With a four-pitch repertoire that includes a 94 mile-per-hour fastball, the Ole Miss left-hander was one of the SEC’s leaders in strikeouts in 2021. The junior from West Orange High School (Fla.) posted eight games with double-digit Ks this past season, including an eye-opening 16 versus Florida State in the Oxford regional nearly a month ago.
Over the course of his All-American campaign, Nikhazy ranked in the top five in the SEC in a number of categories, including strikeouts and ERA. His mix of pitches has been well-documented, as has his ability to bounce back after giving up home runs.
In terms of his draft stock, look for the left-hander to come off the board somewhere in the draft’s first 60 picks. In the last three drafts (2018-20), the Rebels have had 18 players selected, including five in the first four rounds. We spotlighted former Ole Miss shortstop and Houston Astros 2019 second round pick Grae Kessinger just a few years back.
In 2021, former Troup County HS (Ga.) star Ryan Bliss became just the fourth two-time All-American in Auburn’s baseball history. He did so one year after ranking second in the SEC with 29 hits in just 18 games. Bliss started every game of his true freshman season at Auburn, with a large majority of those starts coming at second base, the position he may eventually land at in the pros.
While the SEC’s coaches selected Bliss as a second-team All-SEC selection in 2021, he has a legitimate chance to become the third Auburn infielder to be drafted in the last three seasons, as Will Holland and Edouard Julien were selected in the fifth and 18th rounds, respectively, of the 2019 MLB Draft. Auburn also had a pitcher, Bailey Horn, taken in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft.
Over the last two seasons, Bliss has developed into a dependable shortstop, posting a career .972 fielding percentage. Bliss’ quick hands, solid reactions and overall bat speed, however, contributed to a robust career .514 slugging percentage for the Tigers. Those totals included a career .328 batting average with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs.
Leiter, the 2021 SEC Newcomer of the Year, blends a competitive nature with outstanding command to frequently dominate hitters in the SEC. The former 20th round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2019 MLB Draft now projects as a Top Five selection in the 2021 MLB Draft. The former New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year comes from a baseball lineage that includes his father, Al, a 19-year pitcher in the major leagues and uncle, Mark, who played 11 seasons as well.
In a conference loaded with high-end pitching talent, including teammate and future first-rounder Kumar Rocker, Leiter frequently topped the SEC’s pitching ranks during conference play. The Commodores continue to flood major league baseball with quality arms and Leiter’s right arm ranks as one of the best to come out of Nashville. Former teammate Austin Martin went fifth overall to the Toronto Blue Jays in last year’s draft and, in 2019, star outfielder JJ Bleday went fourth overall to the Miami Marlins.
Not since 2017, however, has a pitcher from Vanderbilt gone in the first round. That streak will end when either Leiter or Rocker’s names are called this summer.
Bradfield, Jr., the 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year, leads the nation in stolen bases (46 through 6-7-21), and has consistently gotten on base (.476 on-base percentage). His discipline at the plate has resulted in 40 walks through 58 games for the Commodores.
In addition, the All-SEC defender sports a .991 fielding percentage and has just one error on the year. Bradfield, Jr.’s foot speed routinely changes the approach for pitchers on a nightly basis. The American Heritage High School (Fla.) product is one of the most exciting players in the nation.
Peyton Wilson’s quick hands are a big reason he began his career as a catcher at Alabama while also seeing time in center field. In 2021, he made the move to second base and earned second-team All-SEC honors. The academic standout also was named to the SEC’s All-Newcomer Team. In SEC action, the switch-hitter produced 11 multi-hit games and finished with a .980 fielding percentage. In 2021, Wilson had a hand in turning 32 double plays.
Before going all-in on baseball, Wilson was a star football player with the athleticism to remind many Crimson Tide fans of his older brother, John Parker, who starred as a quarterback for Alabama in the 2000s (2005-08). The Hoover High School (Ala.) product comes from an athletic family. Another brother, Ross, also played baseball for the ‘Tide and was a 10th-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in the 2010 MLB Draft. Although only a sophomore, Peyton is draft-eligible in 2021.
Despite cooling off somewhat down the stretch of the 2021 campaign, Fabian earned All-SEC defensive honors and still found time to finish in the nation’s Top 10 in home runs (20). For his career, he banged out 32 homers and finished with a career .512 slugging percentage. The biggest knock on Fabian has been in the strikeout department, but he is currently tinkering with his approach at the plate and did draw 40 walks as a junior. The Ocala, Florida native has a solid chance to be a Top 30 selection in this summer’s draft proceedings.
2021 was an up-and-down year for Rhodes after breaking out in a truncated 2020 campaign. As a Freshman All-American, Rhodes hit .426 with an SEC-leading 10 doubles. The versatile outfielder has the ability to play multiple positions and worked to increase his power as a sophomore.
Yet another sophomore who meets the 2021 MLB Draft’s eligibility standards, the former three-sport prep athlete stood out for the Du Lac Dock Spiders of the Northwoods League in the summer of 2020. Major league scouts are intrigued with the 200-pounder’s bat speed and versatility. Rhodes began to regain his form late in 2021 with many of the same characteristics that littered his first year on campus.
While Mace took over the Friday night starting role for the Gators in 2019 en route to eight wins, it wasn’t until 2020 that he really began to take off as the team’s ace. In four starts that season, he posted a 1.67 ERA with three victories. The 6-foot-6-inch right-handed pitcher has a repertoire that includes an 87 MPH slider and deft curve ball. The former Cincinnati Reds 2017 12th-round pick increased his draft stock while at Florida and has a chance to hear his name called in the first two rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft.
In 2021, Mace has pitched over 75 innings and allowed about a hit per inning with his ERA hovering around the 4.4 mark. Thus far, he has posted one save in relief. Most importantly, he has failed to lose a game (5-0) in 13 appearances. The Gators head into this weekend’s series against the top-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on a roll, having notched 15 victories in their last 20 games. Mace opens up the weekend series in his Friday night role versus Arkansas left-hander Patrick Wicklander on Thursday night.
We go inside the games of five players taken on Day 2 of the 2020 MLB Draft who could one day make an impact on major league rosters.