Texas Baseball: 5 Longhorns on the MLB 250 ahead of the 2023 Draft

Tanner Witt, Texas baseball. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Tanner Witt, Texas baseball. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

For Texas baseball and its fans, the 2023 season ended unceremoniously under the lights of Klein Field in Palo Alto, California. Although the season did not end with a dogpile in Omaha, the 2023 Longhorns showed impressive resolve after being picked to finish fourth in the Big 12.

With the college baseball season wrapping up on Monday night with the LSU Tigers raising the National Championship Trophy, many have turned their attention to the 2023 MLB Draft.

Taking place from July 9-11, the MLB Draft is always an important time of the year for Coach David Pierce and the Texas baseball program.

At least one Longhorn has been selected in every year of the draft, something the Texas baseball Twitter account proudly boasts in its bio. That streak will not be broken this year, as Texas has three current players and two signees in the most recent MLB 250.

The MLB 250 is a comprehensive prospect ranking list that combines all draft-eligible high school and college products. Led by Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com writers poll executives and scouts while also looking at production and projectability to create the most accurate pre-draft ranking list online.

We are less than two weeks away from the 2023 MLB Draft, so let’s look at which current Texas baseball players and signees were listed on MLB.com’s top 250 draft prospect list.

Five Texas baseball players poised to be taken in the 2023 MLB Draft

No. 40 – Travis Sykora (RHP) – 2023 signee

No. 20 high school prospect (No. 2 in Texas)

Travis Sykora is a Round Rock (TX) High School product ranked as one of the top players in the state. The 6-foot-6 righty has a sturdy build that helps him unleash one of the best high school fastballs in the country. Sykora’s heater sits in the upper 90s and has been clocked at triple digits. He balances the fastball with a slider and splitter. The secondary pitches are a work in progress, but he has shown the ability to generate many swing-and-misses with them.

According to MLB.com, scouts praise Sykora’s intelligence and work ethic and believe he has a high prospect ceiling.

Sykora committed to the Longhorns in the fall of his junior season and has stuck firmly with that commitment over the past 18 months. It is still unclear whether Sykora will spend time on the Forty Acres. His stock continues to rise throughout the pre-draft process, and I would not be shocked to see him selected in the latter half of the first round.

If he does decide to attend the University of Texas, he would be an immediate contributor and a key cog on the 2024 pitching staff.

No. 75 – Will Gasparino (OF) – 2023 signee

No. 40 high school prospect (No. 7 in California)

Will Gasparino is a Harvard-Westlake (CA) High School product ranked as one of the top players in California. The 6-foot-6 outfield prospect has incredible tools, leading him to be projected as an early pick in the 2023 Draft. If everything goes right, Gasparino’s build projects out as a do-it-all outfielder with a chance to join the 40-40 club.

MLB.com writes, “Gasparino screams projection from his 6-foot-6 body, with raw tools aplenty and a high baseball IQ. His bat is a little bit of a work in progress, with long levers that can lead to some swing-and-miss. It often takes guys this size a bit longer to figure it out, but he has tremendous raw power that could be plus in time, and when it’s clicked at the plate, he’s shown he can do real damage from the right side.”

The Southern California product will be drafted early by a team looking to develop him into an elite five-tool big leaguer.

Gasparino committed to the Longhorns in the fall of his junior year. The commitment has been firm, but turning down the signing bonus money an MLB organization offers him will be tough.

No. 76 – Tanner Witt (RHP) – Redshirt sophomore

2023 stats: 2-1, 10.2 IP, 10.97 ERA, 8 K, 8 BB

Every Texas baseball fan knows Tanner Witt’s story. The Houston native was seen as an early-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft but opted to attend the University of Texas instead.

Witt was named a Freshman All-American in 2021 after finishing the season with a 3.16 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. He jumped into the weekend rotation for his sophomore season but was shut down for Tommy John surgery after just two starts. He returned to the mound 14 months later but could not find much continuity on the bump this season. He allowed 13 runs in 10.2 innings pitched.

Despite his 2023 struggles, the 6-foot-5 righty still has the tools to entice some team to take him very early in the draft. He combines a plus-fastball with a strong changeup that keeps hitters off-balance in the box. Witt is an incredibly competitive pitcher, which is why there is no doubt in my mind he will become a successful pro.

For Texas fans hoping he returns to the Forty Acres, I would not completely rule it out. Witt was on track to be a shoo-in first-rounder before his injury. Returning to Texas next year and dominating the Big 12 on Friday nights could move him into that slot again.

No. 171 – Dylan Campbell (OF) – Junior

2023 stats: 64 GP, .339 AVG, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 26 SB

Dylan Campbell was the glue that held the 2023 Texas baseball team together. The junior outfielder dazzled as the three-hole hitter and everyday right fielder for David Pierce. The Houston native slashed .339/.436/.603 in 2023 while hitting safely in 38 consecutive games – a Big 12 record.

Campbell has a pure swing that combines contact and pop to make him a very tough out. He has a high IQ inside the box and uses the whole field as well as anyone in this draft class. He is a plus defender with an absolute cannon of an arm. Campbell is a threat to steal every time he gets on base and would be an elite bat to have as a lineup flipper.

While you could argue he has unfinished business in Texas, I would be surprised if he does not jump at this professional opportunity. Campbell is coming off one of the all-time years for a Texas hitter and will likely capitalize on his current draft stock.

No. 173 – Lebarron Johnson Jr. (RHP) – Redshirt sophomore

2023 stats: 8-4, 86.2 IP, 2.91 ERA, 98 K, 38 BB

Lebarron Johnson Jr. burst onto the scene in the second half of 2023, becoming one of the more reliable arms on the Texas staff. Johnson posted a 1.88 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings over his last five regular-season starts, including a complete game, one-run gem in the Miami Regional. The Jacksonville, Florida, native has worked himself into a position to earn a good amount of money as a mid-round pick this July.

Next. 3 summer enrollees impressing in workouts for Texas football. dark

At 6-foot-4, Johnson is an intimidating presence on the mound. He uses a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and a slick breaking slider to get hitters out. His splitter can be developed into an elite third pitch, but he still struggles with its command. Johnson walked just 3.97 hitters per nine this year after struggling with command in 2022.

Johnson has the tools to become a contributor on a big league staff, but pitching one more season under Texas pitching coach Woody Williams could go a long way for his draft stock.