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MLB Draft 2023: Magnolia State Talent...

MLB Draft 2023: Magnolia State Talent Heading to the Show

By: James Bryan Harrell - July 11, 2023

Mississippi's Jacob Gonzalez (7) during an NCAA baseball game against Central Florida on Friday, March 4, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Highlighting Mississippi’s Major League Baseball draftees through two days of the 2023 Draft.

After two days and ten rounds of the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, over three hundred hopefuls have been selected. Of these, eleven of Mississippi’s finest prospects had their dreams of being drafted realized.

Ole Miss and Southern Mississippi each had four players drafted, while Mississippi State had two. A high schooler out of Senatobia also heard his name called.

Let’s take a look at all of the Mississippi MLB draftees so far.

Round 1, Pick 15: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss

The first Mississippian off the board was Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, who was drafted to the Chicago White Sox. In three years at Ole Miss, Gonzalez carried a batting average of .319 to go alongside an on-base percentage of .427. Along with this, Gonzalez blasted 40 HRs and tallied 158 RBIs in his collegiate career. To complement his strong hitting tools, Gonzalez also has great fielding instincts and a strong arm, which should translate well to the major league level. 

Round 2, Pick 47: Kemp Alderman, OF, Ole Miss

Next off the board to the Miami Marlins was Gonzalez’s Ole Miss teammate Kemp Alderman. The slugging outfielder crushed 19 HRs last season alone and carried a .324 batting average through three years of collegiate play. Mainly known for his power at the plate, Alderman managed a .607 slugging percentage, and actually tracked the hardest hit ball by exit velocity at the MLB draft combine this year

Round 2, Pick 55: Colton Ledbetter, OF, Mississippi State

After just one year at Mississippi State, Colton Ledbetter was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in round two. Formerly, Ledbetter was the Southern Conference freshman of the year at Samford. In Starkville, he hit .320 with 12 HRs and 52 RBIs in his only season as a Bulldog. The speedy outfielder also made a difference on the basepaths, racking up 17 steals in 2023. His contact, speed, and ability to get on base should help him work his way to the MLB. 

Round 4, Pick 114: Tanner Hall, P, Southern Mississippi

The first player to be selected from Southern Miss was pitcher Tanner Hall. Selected by the Minnesota Twins, Hall was dominant in 2023 for the Golden Eagles, posting a 2.48 ERA in 18 starts. While his stuff won’t blow you away, Hall does have elite control and good movement on his three main pitches. This elite control and movement allowed him to post 1.9 walks and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings throughout his collegiate career.

Round 4, Pick 116: Calvin Harris, C, Ole Miss

Calvin Harris was drafted to the Chicago White Sox, joining his former teammate Jacob Gonzalez in the Windy City. The former Ole Miss catcher posted a .304 batting average to go along with 17 HRs and 85 RBIs in his three-year career. Notably, Harris became the first ever SEC player to hit four HRs in a conference matchup this past year versus Missouri. Left-handed hitting catchers are a rarity in the big leagues. If Harris can develop well he will be a piece the White Sox are glad to have. 

Round 6, Pick 182: Cooper Pratt, SS, Magnolia Heights HS (Senatobia)

The only high school prospect to be drafted to this point was Cooper Pratt out of Magnolia Heights. The Ole Miss signee was selected by the Brewers, and now has to make a decision on his baseball future. Pratt, the 2023 Mississippi Player of the Year according to Prep Baseball Report, hit .436 with 18 doubles and 32 stolen bases as a high school senior. Interestingly, he also posted a 0.14 ERA on the mound enroute to winning ten games, allowing just 19 hits in 49 innings. 

Round 6, Pick 192: Cade Smith, P, Mississippi State

The second Mississippi State player to be drafted was Cade Smith to the New York Yankees. The right-handed hurler was in Starkville for three years, serving as a reliever in 2021 before transitioning to a starting role. In those three years, Smith posted a 4.14 ERA in 130 innings, striking out 132 batters. Throughout his time in Starkville, Smith showed flashes of dominance behind his power fastball and slider combination. The Yankees hope this will translate into future development and production.

Round 7, Pick 203: Justin Storm, P, Southern Mississippi

Another Southern Mississippi draftee, Justin Storm was selected by the Miami Marlins. This past season, Storm was one of the Golden Eagles’ best relief pitchers, posting a 2.36 ERA. The third-team All-American recorded 72 strikeouts in his 45.2 innings pitched enroute to eight saves. Storm primarily throws his fastball and slider, complemented by his unique arm angle. 

Round 8, Pick 229: Dustin Dickerson, SS, Southern Mississippi

Dustin Dickerson, the third Golden Eagle drafted, was chosen by the Kansas City Royals. The four-year starter at Southern Miss only missed one game in his collegiate career. Along with that reliability, Dickerson hit for a combined .311 during his collegiate career. While not known for being the biggest power bat, Dickerson recorded 52 RBIs this past season along with 14 stolen bases. 

Round 9, Pick 267: Jack Dougherty, P, Ole Miss

Jack Dougherty was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, joining fellow Mississippi product Tanner Hall from Southern Miss. Dougherty was primarily a reliever, but also made nine starts in the past season. Spanning his three seasons at Ole Miss, he posted a 5.64 ERA with 162 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. Dougherty primarily excels at limiting hard contact, only giving up 21 homeruns in his collegiate career. 

Round 10, Pick 301: Matthew Etzel, OF, Southern Mississippi

The final Mississippi product to be selected in the first two days of the MLB Draft was Matthew Etzel. The Southern Mississippi lead-off man is heading to the Baltimore Orioles. In this past season, Etzel had a batting average of .317 to go along with an on base percentage of .853. Possessing good speed and contact skills, Etzel also scored 55 runs and tallied 51 RBIs in 2023. He is also a plus defender in the outfield, and a player that Baltimore hopes can translate into future production. 

About the Author(s)
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James Bryan Harrell

James Bryan Harrell writes about Mississippi sports and culture for Magnolia Tribune. JB is a native of West Point and is a senior at Vanderbilt University, where he is majoring in communications.