Gunnar Hoglund was highly sought after coming out of the Florida high school ranks in 2018. The right-handed pitcher drew significant interest and heard his name called by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 36th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft.
Hoglund didn’t start a professional baseball career straight out of high school, though. He instead enrolled at the University of Mississippi, a premier college baseball program.
“It was a blessing that night when I got selected for me and my family,” Hoglund said. “As the signing process evolved, I just thought it was best to go to Ole Miss for three years, get better, and learn under these coaches.”
Hoglund experienced mixed results in his freshman year. He then took a significant step forward and dominated opposing hitters in four starts before the season came to a halt do the COVID-19 pandemic last season.
In his first two years at Ole Miss, Hoglund has evolved into a complete pitcher while maintaining his top draft prospect status. Pro scouts project Hoglund as a potential first-round pick in July’s draft.
“I think the only difference is now I know what to expect a little bit more,” said Hoglund on the draft. “Coming out of high school, I always had that mentality that no matter what, just play baseball and everything will take care of itself. I am going to have that same mentality this time around.”
As a freshman at Ole Miss in 2019, Hoglund posted a 5.29 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed in 68 innings (17 appearances).
Hoglund worked on his slider after his freshman year. That offseason work showed as Hoglund posted improved results as a sophomore. He recorded a 1.16 ERA with 37 strikeouts and four walks allowed in 23 1/3 innings last season.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander throws a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball from a low-effort and repeatable delivery. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and he locates the pitch well in all quadrants of the strike zone.
Hoglund’s slider is an above-average offering that sits 80-85 mph and has a sharp break. It serves as his top put-away pitch.
He is one of the best strike throwers in college baseball. He has exceptional control and command of his pitches and isn’t afraid to attack the strike zone.
“I think the biggest strength is my command,” Hoglund said. “I also think my mentality. I go out there and have a bulldog mentality and going out there and giving my team the best chance to win.”
Hoglund spent the offseason working on his delivery, changeup and curveball. He worked on incorporating the lower half of his body in his delivery to increase his fastball velocity. He threw his changeup and curveball regularly in the offseason to generate a better feel and more consistency with the pitches, he said.
He believes his changeup was his second-best pitch out of high school, as he didn’t start throwing a breaking pitch until his junior year. He has incorporated his breaking pitches, especially his slider, more in college but wants to throw his changeup more in games this season, he said.
“My changeup is something I want to work on,” Hoglund said. “I thought it was pretty good in some of the starts this fall. I am trying to work on that pitch, so it can be a big pitch for me in every game this spring.”
Hoglund made the difficult decision of turning down an opportunity to embark on his childhood dream of playing pro ball to attend Ole Miss. He is glad he went that route. He believed Ole Miss was the best place for him to develop. He also sought a chance to play in the College World Series.
Ole Miss hopes to return to the College World Series for the first time since 2014 this season. Hoglund believes Ole Miss has all the pieces in place to accomplish his ultimate goal of winning a national title.
“As a team, we want to make it to Omaha and win a national championship,” Hoglund said. “That’s the goal every year, and we talk about it all the time. It is everywhere in our facility. That would be amazing to do.”
Read more in-depth stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s 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’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.