Multiple Alabama baseball players enter MLB Draft amid new coach’s hire
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Peyton Davis
Following Tuesday’s announcement putting Maryland head baseball coach Rob Vaughn in charge of the Crimson Tide, pitchers Grayson Hitt and Hunter Furtado along with outfielder Andrew Pinckney have entered their names into the 2023 MLB Draft Combine.
That’s not a major surprise, as entering the draft doesn’t rule a player out from returning to the program, but more players could be joining them soon.
Left-handed pitcher Grayson Hitt is regarded as an upper echelon draft prospect, especially going into the year. He ranked D1 Baseball’s 11th-best prospect going into the 2023 season. His junior season ended in late April as he underwent Tommy John surgery announced on April 20.
Still, Hitt is a consensus top 50-100 because of his mid 90s fastball grouped with strong secondary pitches with a sweeping curveball and changeup. When he’s able to locate, his pitches are a nightmare for hitters, especially from the left side. He made eight starts for the Tide in 2023, going 3-1 with a 4.18 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 38.2 innings pitched. His ability to miss bats was felt down the stretch of the year — especially against a team like Wake Forest, who’s left-hand heavy lineup exploded for 22 runs in the team’s final game of the year. Out of the three who declared, it’s safe to say Hitt has the lowest chance of returning to the program in 2024.
The Tide’s other primary lefty, Hunter Furtado, also entered the combine after a 2023 season where he saw major improvement throughout the season. The self-described “very late bloomer” had an ERA of 4.75, mostly serving as a relief pitcher throughout the spring for the Tide. He made his best starts down the stretch, especially against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, where he threw 5.0 shutout innings in just his second start of the season.
The 6-foot 4-inch, 210-pound Wake Forest transfer was able to run his fastball up to the upper 90s range from the left side, so he’ll get MLB looks based off that, but his projection shows that the 21-year-old’s best pitching is still ahead of him.
Ideally, Furtado will come back for another season to develop his cutter/slider pitches to complement his fastball.
Andrew Pinckney, perhaps the most recognizable name of the three, is the other player who entered into the MLB Draft Combine.
His combination of speed and power tools understandably draw attention of MLB scouts.
The 6-foot 3-inch, 205-pound outfielder had by far his strongest season in 2023, batting .339 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs with an OPS of over 1.000, and he became revered as one of the top arms from right field in the entire country.
His athleticism and arm in right field are his best attributes and those translate to any level of baseball immediately, but the 22-year-old still has a lot of pop and fast hands that is worth a shot for an MLB organization in the early-middle rounds of the draft. Odds are good he’s played the final game of his college career.
The combine is set for June 20 through June 23 in Phoenix, Arizona, and the draft will air on MLB Network July 9 through July 11.
That means the Crimson Tide will know by next month whether or not these players are returning. Either way, it’s likely all three keep their names in the pool as they pursue a professional baseball career.
Other players are bound to follow, meaning Vaughn will be looking for new starters for the 2024 season.