Although it appears unlikely that any University of Arkansas players will hear their names called on the first night of the Major League Baseball Draft, most draft experts are confident at least one college player with Arkansas ties will come off the board.
Kansas State left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks, who played at Conway High School, enters the draft ranked as the No. 6 pitcher and the top lefty by MLB.com. As the No. 16 overall prospect, there's a consensus that Wicks will be selected in the mid-to-late portion of the opening round, which will be held tonight.
In his mock draft, ESPN's Kiley McDaniel predicted Wicks will be taken 15th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers, while The Athletic's Keith Law slotted him 28th to the Tampa Bay Rays. Scouts consistently rate Wicks' changeup as his best pitch but add that all four of his pitches -- fastball, changeup, curveball and slider -- are above average with steady command.
In his Kansas State career, Wicks had a school-record 230 strikeouts in 34 starts. In his final season in 2021, Wicks set the Wildcats' single-season mark with 118 strikeouts.
In 2019, Wicks was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and picked up freshman All-America honors from multiple outlets, going 6-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 15 starts.
At Conway, Wicks set the Wampus Cats' all-time marks for wins (30), ERA (1.54) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.6) while taking Conway to three state runner-up finishes.
In addition to baseball, Wicks served as a kicker for Conway's football team in 2017, earning all-conference honors as the Wampus Cats reached the Class 7A state semifinals.
LSU's Jaden Hill is another possible Arkansan who could be among the early selections. The right-handed pitcher from Ashdown was the state's top prospect in the Class of 2018 -- ahead of Wicks -- and was taken in the 38th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, but elected to play with the Tigers.
The talented pitcher saw limited collegiate action, however. He missed most of his freshman year in 2019 due to a shoulder injury and saw 2020 cut short by covid-19. He then tore his right ulnar collateral ligament in April 2021.
At the time, some rated Hill as a top-10 prospect in this year's class, and MLB.com currently slots him 36th overall. Neither McDaniel nor Law project him to go in the first round, although McDaniel picked Hill to go at No. 46 to the New York Mets.
Hill was a dominant two-way force as a senior at Ashdown. He was named the 2018 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year after posting a 7-0 record with a 0.51 ERA while striking out 85 and walking just 12. He also batted .540 with 11 home runs, 43 RBI, 35 runs and a 1.034 slugging percentage to help the Panthers reach the Class 4A state quarterfinals.