High School | General | 5/6/2021

High School Notebook: May 6

Travis Ice         Joe Saunders         Vincent Cervino         Billy Cruz         Brian Sakowski         Colton Olinger        
Photo: Ben Kudrna (Perfect Game)

Ben Kudrna, RHP, Blue Valley Southwest (Kan.)

The LSU signee tossed a complete game on Tuesday evening while only allowing one run to score and striking out 10 opposing batters along the way. Kudrna is widely regarded as one of the top high school pitchers in the 2021 draft class and most of his outings during the high school season this year have only made his stock rise even more.  

Kudrna has an incredibly projectable frame standing at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. He’s long and lean with a high-sitting waist and slopped shoulders. Essentially, it’s the type of frame that MLB Scouting Departments dream of when they’re scouting a prep pitcher because pitchers who already have quality stuff and velocity like Kudrna does, getting them into a professional strength program usually allows their stuff and velocity tick up even more once they add more strength and grow into their man strength.  

He already has an advanced delivery for a high school pitcher and does a good job of repeating it throughout his starts. He doesn’t utilize his lower half very much, which is something that if he learns to tap into, significant velocity gains could be expected. He also gets solid extension out over his front side and releases the ball from a high three-quarters slot.  

His fastball sat at 92-96 mph on Wednesday, which lines up with the velocities he’s had in the other games I’ve seen him pitch in this high school season. He throws a two-seam fastball and as I said earlier, from a high three-quarters slot, which isn’t the ideal slot to be throwing a two-seam from because it’s not going to produce as much of the tailing or sinking movement a two-seam is intended to have. Kudrna’s heater does have some slight tailing action but it usually results in batters fouling off a lot of his fastballs. I think he’d benefit greatly from switching to a four-seamer in order to generate more ride and life on the offering, and in turn, more swings and misses. Kudrna is going to throw absolute smoke in the near future and would likely see that translate to more whiffs with his primary pitch. If he does sign with a Major League team in the draft, I would anticipate that is one of the first changes to his arsenal that they’ll make.   

This outing was the best I’ve seen his slider this year, it consistently had late two-plane break with plenty of teeth. He does a good job of manipulating the offering between 80-86 mph. The ones at the upper end of the velocity range are sharper and generate more whiffs, but the ones in the low-80s are also effective because they have a bit more depth and slurvy traits to it, but it’s a good version to have in his back pocket for a different look as he goes through the lineup multiple times. He just didn’t have a feel for the changeup in this outing, ranging from 86-89 mph, and he didn’t throw one that showed any sort of significant action.  

This is the most adversity and baserunners I’ve seen Kudrna have to work around, and it was good to see him show a streak of toughness and really bare down to make some big pitches. It is hard to imagine his name still being available after the first and supplemental rounds.  

Carson Liggett, RHP, Blue Valley (Kan.)

The Louisville commit matched up against Ben Kudrna on Wednesday for one of the better pitching duels you’ll see at the high school level, with Liggett striking out 13 batters on his way to a complete game shutout. Liggett had his whole arsenal working and most likely put himself on some radars that he wasn’t on prior to the game considering how many MLB scouts and front office executives were in attendance to see Kudrna.  

Liggett already has a strong, mature frame so there’s not a whole lot of projection left to dream on for the future with him. He utilizes both a two-seam and four-seam fastball which were 88-93 mph on Tuesday. Pounded the zone with both fastballs and flashed spot-up ability to both sides of the plate, as well as some feel for elevating with the four-seamer. His sinker has significant tailing action while his four-seam has some late cut to it. I thought his best pitch in this outing was his changeup, which was 80-83 mph and his best ones had real late and sudden bottom action to them. He also threw several with late fade and sinking action. Both versions missed bats and he showed advanced feel for commanding it. Consistently threw the offering with fastball arm speed to add some deception as well. His curveball was 76-80 mph and is a wide and slurvy-type offering most of the time while having plenty of tightness and bite to it. The curve is a very effective pitch against right-handed hitters especially. Did a good job of landing it in the zone for his whole outing. Also showed a slider at 85-87 which also has some teeth to it but it is on the short side and lacks notable depth.  

Liggett is very advanced with his feel for pitching and was impressive at how well he sets hitters up, commands his pitches and competes on the mound. He’s definitely a pitcher that I’ll have tabs on in college. Even though the frame appears mature at present, if he’s able to add some velocity at Louisville and continue to develop the secondary offerings he’ll get some draft looks after his junior year.  

Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (Okla.)

Jackson Jobe turned in an outing for the ages in his start last Thursday and proved why most consider him to be the clear-cut top high school pitcher in the upcoming 2021 First Year Player Draft. In this outing, which was a five-inning, run-rule shortened game Jobe struck out all 15 batters that came to the plate to oppose him and didn’t allow a single baserunner. He was a man amongst boys in this outing and that was clear to everyone in attendance.  

Jobe already has a very athletic and physical frame, while still having plenty of projection left for the future. Combine that with his already plus pure athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he continued to have his velocity bump up once the build continues to add strength. He also already has an advanced delivery and arm action for his age. He uses a medium arm circle that doesn’t have any red flags or hitches in it while having a very quick arm throughout the delivery. In his delivery, he really utilizes his strong lower half well and did a very nice job of repeating his delivery throughout this outing.  

He showcased a four-pitch mix and his fastball in this appearance was 92-96 mph and he showed advanced command by flashing spot-up ability to both sides of the plate, as well as elevating up in the zone where his riding four-seamer plays best. The slider was his most used secondary pitch in this outing which sat 82-84 mph and had two-plane shape with very late break. There were a few times that he got on the side of it, and it was a shorter offering, but he flashed several plus ones throughout this appearance that make me confident in saying it will be a consistent plus pitch at the next level in the future. He showed another breaking ball in the curveball that was 78-81 mph and appeared he threw it with a spike grip. Deep 11/5 shape and flashed plus bite and tightness as well to go along with his ability to already land it in the zone. Only got a few changeups out of him which ranged from 83-85 mph and showed late real late bottom action, splitter-like at times. He also did a good job of throwing the offering with the same arm speed as his fastball which adds an element of deception. 

It’s very rare to see a high school pitcher with this type of explosive stuff all the way around while still having advanced feel for commanding his arsenal in the strike zone. The fact that he’s such a good athlete and is still relatively new to pitching makes his future potential about as high as anyone’s in this draft class. He has the potential to be a future No. 2 starting pitcher at the Major League level in his prime and it should be expected that he’s the first high school pitcher selected in the draft.  
-Travis Ice

Joshua Stewart, RHP, St. Dominic Savio (Texas) 

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