2021 MLB Draft Preview: Braves mocked by ESPN to pick lefty Jordan Wicks

Vaughn Grissom

We’re within a couple of months of the 2021 MLB Draft, and it’s usually around this time of the year that mocks begin coming out in droves. Here at SportsTalkATL, I plan to look at as many as those mocks as I can and share the ones I believe are from knowledgeable folks within the industry. 

Today we’ll look at Kiley McDaniel’s 2021 MLB Draft Mock 1.0, which was released Tuesday morning. McDaniel — a prospect expert at ESPN — has the Braves taking Kansas State lefty Jordan Wicks with the team’s 24th pick…

 

Jordan Wicks, LHP

  • 21-years-old / 6-2, 215 lbs.

  • Kansas State

If you haven’t been following this year’s crop of potential draftees, don’t worry; Wicks is a stud. In fact, Eric Logenhagen of FanGraphs has even said that Wicks “has arguably the best changeup in the 2021 draft,” which, to go along with a decent fastball too… makes this kid a slam dunk of a pick for the Braves.

So far this season, his sophomore year at Kansas St., Wicks has produced a solid line, featuring a 5-2 record, 3.48 ERA, 11.9 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9 in 72 1/3 innings (12 starts). And you could say the lefty hasn’t even fully gotten going yet, given last season, he managed a 0.35 ERA through 26 innings. Consistently posting those types of dominant numbers while pitching in a reputable Power 5 conference like the Big 12 is the reason why many in the industry are already guaranteeing Wicks will be the first southpaw pitcher off the board this July.

And if you’re scared of the stigma surrounding MLB teams taking advanced college lefties early in the draft, I say that particular narrative is a bit is overblown. SB Nation’s Lookout Landing — in a scouting report of their own on Wicks — presented a table of the last 20 lefty-pitchers to be taken first — among all pitchers — in the draft. And though the site was attempting to make a point about the risk involved with such picks… to me, the included table actually provides some optimism. Of the last 20 southpaws to be the first pitchers taken off the board, 12 have logged big league innings… and 10 of those 12 have been worth at least 5 fWAR, most notably David Price (2007 draft / 41.7 WAR), Paul Maholm (2003 / 16.5 WAR), Mike Minor (2009 / 15.8 WAR) and Andrew Miller (2006 / 12.9 WAR). I mean, since when is a 60% success rate for a pitcher to make the big leagues and a 50% success rate to make a meaningful contribution a bad thing?

But like all pitchers, there’s always risk involved, and Wicks is no different. In the same paragraph that Logenhagen praises Wicks’ offspeed as best-in-the-class, the prospect guru also goes on to state that his breaking stuff is “mediocre but workable so long as those pitches are located well.” Like even the top pitching prospect on the draft board this year, these kids will have flaws. However, if the opportunity is presented for the Braves and Wicks falls this far back in the first round of the upcoming draft, you won’t see a single complaint from me if the team decides to add to its pitching surplus.

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