Five Virginia Tech baseball players were selected in the 2021 MLB Draft, headlined by Shane Connolly in the tenth round on Monday, marking 15 straight years a Hokie has been drafted.
Shane Connolly: Round 10, Pick 289 by the Kansas City Royals
Connolly, a 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher from Huntersville, N.C., transferred to Virginia Tech after the 2020 season after spending three years at The Citadel. In 21 appearances in 2021, the junior had 81 strikeouts in 63.0 innings. He finished the spring with a 4.14 ERA and a 2-3 record, notching six saves.
The premier pitcher out of John Szefc’s bullpen, Connolly had to adjust to more of a Sunday-starter role mid-season after injuries plagued starters Chris Gerard and Peyton Alford. Through Tech’s first seven games, in which the Hokies posted a 6-1 record, Connolly recorded four saves, including two against then-No. 3 Miami and one against then-No. 25 North Carolina. He also notched a save in a 6-3 win over Virginia on May 1, a team that made a run to the College World Series.
“The whole thing for me when you’re on the mound is, ‘is the count 2-1 or is the count 1-2?’” Szefc said after Tech’s series win in Miami. “Are you ahead or are you behind? I keep using Connolly as an example. He’s always ahead. It’s strike, strike, strike. It’s hard to come back on pitchers if you don’t walk guys, and it’s hard to come back on pitchers who don’t throw balls.”
Connolly has one year of eligibility remaining, should he choose to return to Blacksburg, though his slot value (guaranteed signing bonus money) is $147,700.
Mason Albright: Round 12, Pick 351 by the Los Angeles Angels
A six-foot left-handed pitcher from Thurmont, Md., Albright played his high school ball in Florida at IMG Academy. He signed his national letter of intent to play at Virginia Tech in November of 2020.
Per this article from Prep Baseball Report, Albright mainly throws a fastball, occasionally switching to a slider or changeup. Greg Swatek wrote an awesome piece for The Frederick News-Preps on Albright, too, that I encourage you to check out.
Albright has a decision to make. He can pass up his selection to the Angels’ organization and venture to Blacksburg in the fall if he so chooses. Should he play for the Hokies, MLB rules dictate he must stay in college for three years before he is draft eligible again. He can also forgo his NCAA eligibility and join the Angels. The slot value for his selection, which is the same for all picks after the tenth round, can be up to $125,000 without counting towards the team’s draft pool amount.
On the bright side, three years in Blacksburg could help turn Albright into a higher draft prospect. Spending a few seasons under Szefc could vault his stock up before the tenth round, which is a real draw.
T.J. Rumfield: Round 12, Pick 355 by the Philadelphia Phillies
A 6-foot-5 first baseman, Rumfield was impressive for Virginia Tech in 2021 as a redshirt freshman.
The transfer from Texas Tech started all 52 games for the Hokies and hit .315, totaling a team-high 37 RBIs. The Temple, Texas native was second on the team in batting average, hits (64), doubles (12) and home runs (7) this spring. He’s on the Trenton Thunder’s roster this summer in the MLB Draft League, too, which is solid experience.
Rumfield redshirted his freshman season in Lubbock in 2019 and got an extra year of eligibility thanks to the NCAA’s blanket waiver in 2020. He and Gavin Cross anchored a young batting order this season (five of Tech’s starting nine were freshmen) that should only improve with experience, leading to success down the road.
If Rumfield chooses to stay in Blacksburg, he’ll have three years of eligibility remaining.
Chris Gerard: Round 12, Pick 361 by the St. Louis Cardinals
Plagued by injury in 2021, the 5-foot-10 lefty from Wayne, N.J. entered the spring as the Hokies’ ace but only appeared in eight games.
Gerard was Tech’s go-to Saturday starter through February and March until he suffered a groin injury and missed over a month. He appeared just once in April, in a win at Wake Forest, and then threw ten innings in two games in May against Toledo and Duke.
The sophomore finished the season with a 3.02 ERA and a 2-2 record in 41.2 innings. He struck out 48 batters, walking just 12, and only gave up 14 earned runs. In his three seasons at Tech, he has a career 2.63 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 120.0 innings pitched.
He’s a prospect that can have success in the future if he can avoid injury. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining if he returns to Blacksburg in the fall.
Anthony Simonelli: Round 16, Pick 469 by the Kansas City Royals
The second Hokie taken by the Royals in the 2021 draft, the 6-foot-2 Simonelli posted a 5-2 record in 13 starts for the Hokies in the spring.
The right-handed pitcher from Winchester, Va. had the second-best ERA among Tech starting pitchers at 3.91, only behind Gerard. Simonelli took over the Saturday starter role for the Hokies in Gerard’s absence and often threw over five innings. In fact, he threw at least five innings in nine of his 13 appearances this season.
A junior with an electric personality on the mound, Simonelli struck out 77 batters in 66.2 innings in 2021 while walking 28. He posted a career-high ten strikeouts in Tech’s loss at Duke in May, and he struck out seven and got the win in the Hokies’ victory over Virginia on May 1.
Simonelli will have one year of eligibility remaining if he returns to Virginia Tech.