Nick Loftin went undrafted as a Texas high school senior in the 2017 MLB draft.
Loftin, a shortstop, received interest from the Los Angeles Angels. But the Angels’ area scout suggested he honor his commitment to Baylor University and develop his skills for three years in preparation for this June’s draft.
Loftin’s followed that advice and it has paid off. Nearly three years later, he enters this spring as one of the top draft-eligible college shortstops. He also is poised to go in the early rounds of this year’s draft.
Although the professional attention is motivating, Loftin hopes to keep the same team-first mentality that has allowed him to thrive in his first two years at Baylor.
Loftin also credits catcher Shea Langeliers and third baseman Davis Wendzel for advising him on how to handle the draft attention throughout his junior year. Langeliers and Wendzel played with Loftin at Baylor the last two years and both were selected in the first 41 picks of last year’s draft.
“It hasn’t been something I’ve thought about a lot,” said Loftin on the draft. “I am a big believer in faith, so I am just trying to put it in God’s hands. Right now, I am focused on Baylor baseball. I take things by day. It’s really rewarding and makes you work harder because every day you want to be better than you were the day before.”
Loftin transitioned smoothly to the collegiate game as a freshman in 2018. He hit .306 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 36 RBIs. He followed that up with an even better sophomore year last season when he posted a .323 batting average with 18 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 41 RBIs.
In his 457 at-bats over his first two years at Baylor, pro scouts have been enamored with his feel of the strike zone and ability to consistently barrel up pitches. He has drawn 38 walks and only struck out 37 times in his first two seasons.
He has sneaky power but is more of a line-drive hitter to all parts of the field.
“My bat to ball skills,” said Loftin on his biggest strength. “For the past couple of years, I haven’t been a guy that strikes out that much. I put the ball in play with authority in all accounts from the first pitch to being 0-2. You name it, I’m able to put the ball in play with authority all over the field.”
Although Loftin has made 12 errors in each of his first two seasons, he profiles as a shortstop at the next level. He isn’t flashy but has a strong arm and the quickness to stick at the position long term.
He also has position versatility. Last summer with the U.S. collegiate national team, Loftin started games at shortstop, second base, third base, left field and right field.
As a junior this spring, Loftin has focused on refining his skills defensively.
“I’ve wanted to improve the last couple of years with my internal clock and understanding runners and guys who burn down the line and guys I can take my time with,” Loftin said. “There are times I get caught up in being too rushed and make an errant throw. Just understanding the time I have and the need to get into a good position to field and make a quality throw is important.”
Baylor has made three straight NCAA Tournament regionals. The Bears haven’t qualified for the College World Series since 2005, however, which has been on Loftin’s mind since he arrived in Waco, Texas, he said.
Loftin is the preseason favorite to earn the Big 12 Player of the Year award. Although he hopes to show improvement in all facets of the game, his top priority is to lead an experienced Baylor team deep in the postseason this spring.
“My goal since I started baseball has been to win,” Loftin said. “Regardless if it’s winning practice or individual drill work or workouts, that’s been a goal of mine is to win. It’s never been any personal accolades. I just want to win. That’s what makes me happy.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today 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.