Two Illini Pitchers Selected on Last Day of 2021 MLB Draft

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The 2021 MLB Draft has concluded and it flew even further below the radar than usual, given that it coincided with Major League Baseball All-Star Game week. However, the Illinois Fighting Illini saw two of their own get selected, both pitchers, which is ironic, given how this past season transpired.

The Illini were a strong hitting team that struggled with pitching, generally, this past season, so it would stand to reason that position players would get drafted. However, the opposite is true, so let’s take a look at who got picked and where they went.

RHP Andrew Hoffmann (So.)
Round 12, No. 367 Overall, Atlanta Braves

We’ve profiled the “Friday guy” of the team in a previous post here. The John A. Logan Community Collegeand Oakland transfer was ranked the No. 14 MLB Draft prospect in the Big Ten by D1Baseball, No. 20 in the conference by Baseball America and No. 22 in the league by Perfect Game.

The Plainfield, IL native was also rated the No. 140 MLB Draft prospect in the nation by D1Baseball. He went 3-0 with a 2.87 ERA over 62.2 innings and 11 starts. An All-Big Ten third team selection, he became just the sixth Illini pitcher since 1980 to go undefeated in a season with a minimum of 10 starts.

“He’s had opportunities to pitch against the best and he’s kept us in every single game,” said Illini coach Dan Hartleb.

“He’s left games tied, left games ahead…but you have to look at the quality starts and the opportunities he’s given us to stay in, and I think he’s going to be a good pitcher for years to come and I think he’s going to be a good draft choice, and I think he’ll have an opportunity to move.”

Hoffmann ranked top ten in the Big Ten in several categories, including finishing second in WHIP (1.02) and third in strikeout to walk ratio (4.27)

LHP Nathan Lavender (So.)
Round 14, No. 412 Overall, New York Mets

After missing the COVID shortened 2020 season due to injury, Lavender finished the year 7-2 with a 4.11 ERA over 57.0 innings pitched. He was the #2 starter in the Illini rotation, featuring 13 times with nine starts and four relief appearances. He began the year in the bullpen before transitioning into a starter.

He also led the Big Ten in strikeout to walk ratio with 79 K to 15 BB (5.27) and tied for the league lead in wins.

Over the course of his three year Illini career, Lavender threw 85.2 innings with a record of 8-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 30 appearances with 13 starts.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the  Chicago Tribune.

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