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These Arizona players and recruits could get selected in 2021 MLB Draft

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Branden Boissiere
Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats could see quite a few current, former and future players have their names called over the next three days in the 2021 MLB Draft.

The 20-round draft begins Sunday at 4 p.m. PT with the first round, which will be shown live on MLB Network and ESPN. Rounds 2-10 set for Monday at 10 a.m. PT on the MLB Network, and Tuesday will have rounds 11-20 beginning at 9 a.m. PT on MLB.com.

This is the latest the draft has been held. In past years it would happen during the NCAA Tournament, often leading to distractions for drafted college players, but now has been pushed back to coincide with the MLB All-Star Game being held Tuesday in Denver.

Here’s a look at all the players with connections to the UA program who could get drafted:

Sure things to turn pro

The first UA-connected player drafted may be one who never ends up putting on a Wildcat uniform.

Tyler Whitaker, an outfielder from Las Vegas who signed with Arizona last November as part of its 2021 recruiting class, is ranked No. 60 on Baseball America’s top 500 MLB prospects list. That would translate to late in the second round, which would mean a signing bonus of more than $1 million.

“Whitaker’s stock continued to climb during his senior season at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, making it less likely that he will fulfill his commitment to Arizona,” Baseball America wrote. “He stands out for his frame and athleticism with at least three plus tools in his kit. He’s a known commodity to amateur scouts, having been a regular in tournaments and the showcase circuit for the entirety of his prep career, often playing up in age levels. Whitaker has also been well-known as a pitcher but will be drafted as a position player and could go as high as the second round.”

Arizona traditionally loses at least one of its incoming freshmen to an MLB signing. Last year it was California infielder Nick Yorke, whom the Boston Red Sox drafted in the first round; he’s hitting .295 in Class-A Salem (Mass.) in his first season of professional ball.

Among members of the UA’s 2021 College World Series team, the most likely guy to go first is outfielder Ryan Holgate. Ranked 108th by BA, Holgate hit .351 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI last season as the Wildcats’ everyday right fielder.

Holgate was picked in the 32nd round by the Minnesota Twins in the 2018 draft, while after a strong college career projects as a third- or fourth-round selection by BA. He’s also in the NCAA transfer portal, leaving himself with the option to follow former UA coach Jay Johnson to LSU if he doesn’t like his draft situation.

Same goes for first baseman Branden Boissiere, who led the Wildcats with a .369 average and 94 hits in 2021. He’s ranked 144th by BA, which compares him to former UA first baseman Alfonso Rivas, who went in the fourth round in 2018 and has spent this season with the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A team in Iowa.

The first UA pitcher off the board figures to be right-hander Chase Silseth, who is ranked No. 145 by BA. Silseth went 8-1 with a 5.55 ERA in 18 starts in his lone season with the Wildcats, serving as their No. 1 starter all season.

Despite the subpar ERA, Silseth grades well with scouts because of his stuff, particularly a fastball that has topped out at 98 mph and a “slurvy change-up.” BA’s scouting report indicates Silseth may have more of a future as a reliever due to his tendency to lose command when he gets tired.

Most likely getting drafted

Another incoming freshman, Las Vegas righty Christopher Cortez, ranks 221st on BA’s Top 500. He participated in MLB’s scouting combine late last month in North Carolina, helping to raise his profile, but it may come down to how big of a signing bonus he’s offered to determine if he signs or shows up on the UA campus in August.

The “slot value” for the No. 221 pick, per MLB.com, is $195,700.

Two other UA signees/commitments, high school righty Anthony Susac—the cousin of UA catcher Daniel Susac—and junior college third baseman Damiano Palmegiani, are ranked No. 294 and No. 467, respectively. Susac is a lock to play at Arizona, where he could form an all-Susac battery, while Palmegiani has seen his stock soar after a dominant season at College of Southern Nevada and may go much higher than his BA ranking.

The other two active Wildcats that are most likely to be drafted are second baseman Kobe Kato (No. 250) and centerfielder Donta’ Williams (No. 324). Both have been at the UA for four years and have graduated, making very likely each will sign and begin their pro careers.

Another 4th-year college player, lefty Garrett Irvin, isn’t ranked in the top 500 but could go somewhere in the later rounds or sign as an undrafted free agent. Irvin went 10-4 in two seasons with Arizona, throwing a pair of complete games in 2021 including a 3-hit shutout of UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA Tournament.

Lastly, former UA infielder Dayton Dooney made the most of transferring to Central Arizona JC, where in 2021 he hit .367, to sit at No. 229 in the rankings. A Freshman All-American with the Wildcats in 2019, he’s committed to Tennessee if he doesn’t end up signing.

Also in the mix

Baseball America also ranked the top draft-eligible prospects from each state, which brings nine more UA-associated players into the mix.

Third baseman Tony Bullard is ranked as the 15th-best prospect in Arizona, a ranking likely aided by his late-season power surge that saw him hit seven homers with 22 RBI in the final 18 games of the season. He’s followed on the in-state rankings by lefty Gil Luna (18th), outfielder Mac Bingham (21st), righty Vince Vannelle (24th), righty Austin Smith (31st), righty Quinn Flanagan (32nd) and infielder Jacob Blas (37th). Vannelle is the only one that cannot return for 2022, having exhausted his eligibility, while Flanagan is in the transfer portal.

Additionally, signee Noah Turley, a righty who spent the 2021 season at Yavapai Junior College, is the 30th-ranked prospect in Arizona, while incoming freshman catcher Josh Randall is ranked as the 91st-best prospect from California.