The Farhan Zaidi-led San Francisco Giants had earned a reputation for liking college hitters in the draft in the first two seasons they led the team. After an interesting and unexpected draft, the Giants passed on the hitting for a college pitcher.
The Giants selected Mississippi State pitcher Will Bednar with the #14 overall pick, a pitcher who impressed the nation after a spectacular College World Series that saw him dominate the favorites in Vanderbilt, and win the CWS Most Outstanding Player award.
The right-hander’s fastball sits in the low-mid-90’s, but it plays up with a strong “dragonfly” slider and a changeup that is still developing. He matches it with above-average control, and doesn’t get himself into trouble. At 21, Bednar is a year younger than a lot of the college pitchers, and has flown under the radar due to bicep tendinitis in his high school senior season, and a stiff neck at the start of this season.
Going into the draft, Baseball America ranked Bednar at #18 in their draft prospect rankings, while MLB Pipeline ranked him at #32, but they did not reshuffle their rankings as often as BA did, especially after the College World Series.
The 2021 draft was surprise after surprise from the first pick, when the Pittsburgh Pirates unexpectedly took Louisville Catcher Henry Davis, who was more usually mocked to go around 4-6 in the draft. Several players often talked about in the Top 10 picks fell, and were available when the Giants picked.
Among the players the Giants passed on was Khalil Watson, a Top-10 ranked high school shortstop who slipped to #16, going to the Marlins. Boston College’s OF Sal Frelick also slipped past the Giants to #15, and SS Matt McLain of UCLA went #17. McClain in particular had been connected to the Giants a lot. Injured pitcher Gunnar Hoglund went #19, and top college lefty Jordan Wicks went #21.
Where Bednar was expected to go was all over the place depending on the mock draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline had him at #21, while his colleague Jim Callis put him at #11. The final Baseball America mock draft had him at #19.
In an interview with Mississippi news site The Dispatch, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel rated him with some of college baseball’s best. “I would say those last four or five starts that were all on national television I think probably moved him up about 10 spots or so to where I think he could pretty reasonably be seen as the third best college pitcher in the draft behind Rocker and Leiter,” McDaniel said.
Bednar is the younger brother of Pittsburgh Pirates reliever David Bednar. David, originally drafted by the San Diego Padres, he was traded to the Pirates in the Joe Musgrave trade in January 2021, and has a 3.18 ERA in his third pro season as a regular contributor for the Pirates.
Coming into a system that’s a bit short on pitching, Bednar immediately slips into the top pitching prospect discussion alongside 2020 3rd round pick Kyle Harrison and 2017 3rd round pick Seth Corry. Bednar is the only right hander of the three.
At least immediately, it’s unclear how or when Bednar’s pro career will start, with the many changes to both the draft (being over a month later than usual), and Short-A minor league baseball being eliminated. Many college picks would start in Short-A ball in previous years. The most likely path for Bednar would be to start in Arizona this summer, but there’s a chance he gets pushed all the way to Low-A San Jose, or may not participate in games this summer and officially debut in 2022.