MLB draft 2021

Seniors Kevin Kopps and Casey Opitz congratulate each other after defeating Nebraska in the Fayetteville Regional. Kopps and Opitz were two of the nine Razorbacks selected in the 2021 MLB Draft, the second-most of all college programs.

The historic 2021 Arkansas baseball season officially drew to a close Tuesday with the completion of the MLB Draft, in which nine Razorbacks were selected. 

The nine new Pro Hogs are the largest crop since 2018, when the national runner-up team had 11 selections. The Razorbacks ranked second only to the UCLA Bruins, who had 10 draft picks this year.

The first round took place Sunday night, and while no one from the 2021 team heard his name called, Arkansas commit Max Muncy, a shortstop from Thousand Oak, California, went 25th overall to the Oakland Athletics.

The next nine rounds unfolded Monday afternoon, and two more high school players who had committed to Arkansas went before any of the former Razorbacks. Outfielders Jordan Viars and Drew Gray were both selected in the third round, 84th by the Philadelphia Phillies and 93rd by the Chicago Cubs, respectively.

Senior right-handed pitcher Kevin Kopps, the 2021 winner of the Dick Howser Trophy for best college baseball player in the nation, was the first Razorback off the board. The San Diego Padres selected him 99th overall, and he became the 18th Arkansas player since 2010 to be selected in the third round or higher.

The Cubs used their fourth-round pick on junior center fielder Christian Franklin at 123rd overall, and they doubled down on Hogs in the eighth round, picking senior catcher Casey Opitz 244th overall.

Teams selected a trio of Arkansas pitchers toward the end of the day, beginning with junior righty Ryan Costeiu going 201st to the Los Angeles Angels in the seventh round. The reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays drafted junior lefty Patrick Wicklander seven picks after Opitz in the eighth round, and the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers tabbed senior lefty Lael Lockhart 282nd overall in round nine.

Day three saw signee outfielder Braylon Bishop from Ashdown selected 403rd overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round. Six picks later, the Kansas City Royals chose junior left-handed pitcher Caden Monke. The Arizona Diamondbacks picked signee shortstop Drake Varnado 498th overall in the 17th round, though both he and Bishop announced they would not sign professional contracts and would attend the UofA.

In the 19th round, juniors Elijah Trest and Charlie Welch became the eighth and ninth Razorbacks to hear their names called. The Colorado Rockies picked Trest, a right-handed pitcher, 560th overall, and Welch, a designated hitter with a knack for late-game heroics in 2021, went 564th to the Seattle Mariners.

The Pirates also selected Brenden Dixon, a junior college shortstop who announced his intent to transfer to Arkansas in March, with the 583rd overall pick in the 20th round.

This season’s MLB Draft was the first to consist of 20 rounds. Prior to the pandemic, drafts lasted 40 rounds, and the nine selections in 2021 are tied for the most in program history through 20 rounds.

While the Razorbacks will miss their players and commits drafted, welcome news came Monday with two announcements in particular. Shortstop Peyton Stovall, a top-50 prospect from Haughton, Louisiana, withdrew his name from the draft in a tweet during the second round, confirming that he will attend the UofA and play for the Razorbacks.

“If he comes to school, he’s turning down over two million (dollars),” head coach Dave Van Horn said in a Hog Pod Twitter video clip posted July 2. “He doesn’t want to regret anything, but I told him ‘The only thing you’re going to have to regret is if you don’t go to college ‘cause you’re going to get a chance to play pro ball again, and you’re going to make your money.’”

Junior first baseman Brady Slavens made it known that he will be returning to Fayetteville for another year. Slavens led the Razorbacks with 63 RBIs, tied for second on the squad with 14 home runs, and boasted the best average among regular starters at .284.

The most notable Arkansas player to be passed on was junior Jalen Battles, the slick-fielding shortstop ranked as the 221st-best prospect by MLB.com. Battles hit .269 with six homers and 43 RBIs in 2021, and racked up seven hits and earned MVP honors during the Razorbacks’ first ever Southeastern Conference Tournament victory.

Senior outfielder Matt Goodheart became the first Arkansas player to sign undrafted, inking a deal with the Phillies on Wednesday morning.

Other draft-eligible players with college eligibility remaining include senior outfielder Braydon Webb, senior right-handed pitcher Zebulon Vermillion and junior righty Connor Noland.

“If they don’t sign a professional contract, (they) will come back, and we’d like to get ‘em back,” Van Horn said in a June 23 press conference.

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