Will Bednar increased his fastball velocity during his senior season at Mars Area High (Pa.), leading to interest from professional scouts in preparation for the 2019 MLB draft.
But tendinitis in his biceps during his final prep season caused his draft stock to diminish. It led to Bednar, a right-handed pitcher, attending Mississippi State in fall 2019.
Bednar excelled as a freshman at Mississippi State in the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. With Bednar a draft-eligible sophomore and potential early-round pick in July’s draft, expectations will be high for him this spring.
He has the traits to excel as a starter in pro ball but needs to prove to scouts that he can thrive in that role throughout an entire season this spring.
“Obviously, the draft is a possibility,” Bednar said. “But I try not to let that loom over me. I don’t want that to be my main focus. I just want to win games and have a good season.”
In his freshman year, Bednar posted a 1.76 ERA with 23 strikeouts and six walks allowed in 15 1/3 innings. After three of his four appearances came in relief last year, Bednar will slide into the starting rotation this spring.
Bednar is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound right-hander who throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot. His mid-90s fastball is an above-average pitch that features late life.
Bednar’s slider is his best off-speed pitch. It is a mid-80s pitch and has bite that generates swings and misses. His high-70s curveball has depth, while his changeup flashes the potential of being at least an average offering.
“I want to have control of my secondary stuff this year,” Bednar said. “Last year, I was mainly fastball-slider, but I have worked really hard on developing my curveball and changeup to get them where I think they can be.”
This spring, Bednar wants to show growth with his control and command of his secondary pitches after dedicating time in the offseason to refining the pitches.
“I just want to improve on throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes,” Bednar said. “I have good fastball command, and I think the ability to command my off-speed pitches will complement that this year.”
This spring will mark Bednar’s first full year as a starting pitcher at the collegiate level.
Mississippi State is one of the top teams in college baseball this season, most notably due to its starting pitching. Besides Bednar, Mississippi State’s starting rotation features right-hander Eric Cerantola and left-hander Christian MacLeod, who also are potential early-round picks in July’s draft.
The starting staff will allow Mississippi State to compete in an extremely talented SEC. It also will help them make a deep run in postseason play.
Mississippi State has advanced to the College World Series in each of the last two postseasons. The Bulldogs are in search of their first-ever national championship.
“I just want to have a good season,” Bednar said. “Win a lot of games and make a push to the College World Series is something we are trying to do.”
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.