Bubba Chandler is the top two-way player in the 2021 MLB draft class. His success as a right-handed pitcher and shortstop this spring has caused his name to shoot up draft boards.
Chandler didn’t know what to expect this spring after adding 35 pounds to his frame in the offseason, he said. He has displayed an uptick in velocity throughout the early portion of his senior season at North Oconee High in Georgia. The higher velocity and implementation of a slider have allowed him to overwhelm opposing hitters.
Scouts have noticed Chandler’s development and success this season. He entered the spring as a potential top-three-round pick. But over the last month, he has enhanced his value to move squarely into first-round consideration.
“It has been a lot easier than I thought it would be,” said Chandler on handling the draft attention. “I knew coming into the spring that I was going to have a lot of pressure with scouts coming to practices and games. But really, I have dealt with it well. I have a really good supporting group around me.”
Chandler is in a unique situation. Besides the professional interest he’s garnering, he also is a Clemson baseball and football commit.
Chandler dreamed of playing two sports in college but wasn’t sure if it would ever be possible. He was content just playing college baseball until Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney called him and offered him a chance to play football.
The four-star quarterback recruit, according to 247Sports, didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to play both sports at Clemson.
“It takes away some of the pressure knowing I have Clemson as an option as well,” Chandler said. “It’s a very tough but difficult decision. If I don’t do the draft, and I guess I will go play baseball and quarterback for four years at Clemson, which isn’t a bad gig.”
Chandler is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, circle changeup, curveball and slider from a three-quarters arm slot and low-effort and athletic delivery.
His four-seam fastball is an above-average offering that sits in the mid-90s and touches the high-90s. He occasionally mixes in his two-seamer.
This spring, Chandler has relied on his recently-developed slider as his strikeout pitch. Chandler started throwing his slider in the offseason after watching and talking with Vanderbilt righty Kumar Rocker, a North Oconee High alum and potential No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
Chandler’s 11-to-5 curveball also is a quality strikeout pitch, while his low-80s changeup is a respectable offering that he consistently throws for strikes.
Chandler’s intangibles and upside make him an intriguing prospect. He isn’t satisfied, however, and hopes to show improvement with his control and command over the remainder of his senior season.
“I just want to have better command throughout the entire game,” Chandler said. “Coming into the year, it was sustained velocity the whole game, and I have done that. Now it is just focusing on being able to command all my pitches the entire game.”
Chandler views pitching as his primary position. But, scouts also are intrigued with his abilities at the plate and in the field. Chandler is a switch-hitting shortstop who has solid power potential and speed.
Defensively, Chandler has above-average arm strength, a quick first step and the ability to field balls in the hole due to his athleticism.
“Defensively, I am very quick and fast,” Chandler said. “I can get to any ball and my arm strength is there, of course. I can make every play, but sometimes it might not look as smooth as it can be.
“On the offensive side, I have power from both sides of the plate. I used to be more of contact over power guy, but now I am more of a power guy. My swing has changed a lot over the last six months due to how my body has changed.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.