The Kansas City Royals selected right-handed pitcher Ben Kudrna in the second round with pick No. 43 in the 2021 MLB draft. He is the epitome of homegrown talent, as his hometown is Overland Park, KS, which is less than half an hour away from Kauffman Stadium on a good day. He played his high school ball at Blue Valley Southwest and played for a scout team at Perfect Game during the summer. Before Kudrna elected to sign with the Royals, he was committed to Louisiana State.
Jacob Milham of Inside The Royals, as well as myself, recently had the opportunity to interview Kudrna on our podcast, Royals Rundown. Ben was kind enough to speak with us about his time in baseball and with the Royals.
Here’s Perfect Game’s most recent scouting report on Kudrna from his high school days:
“Ben Kudrna is a 2021 RHP with a 6-3 195 lb. frame from Overland Park, KS who attends Blue Valley Southwest. Big and strong athletic build with plenty of room to get stronger. Pretty clean delivery with an extended 3/4’s arm slot, ball comes out of his hand easily, really gets out front well. Fastball topped out at 93 mph, more there with additional strength, has an advanced ability to work in and out already with his fastball. Change up is a polished pitch with feel and arm speed, has confidence in the pitch and can spot it. Short breaking slider has flashed potential in the past. Very projectable right hander who will keep improving. Good student, verbal commitment to Louisiana State.”
Kudrna is currently the Royals’ No. 8 overall prospect. Here’s what MLB.com had to say about him:
“Kudrna’s projectability stood out more than his present stuff until he broke out at the Area Code Games in August 2020. That performance and subsequent efforts at the tail end of the showcase circuit boosted him from a pitcher who seemed destined to attend Louisiana State to a potential second- or third-round pick, and his stock has continued to rise this spring. He threw a three-hit shutout to win the Kansas 5-A championship game, earned Gatorade state high school player of the year honors and eventually went in the second round to the Royals in July. Kansas City nearly doubled the slot for the 43rd overall pick by signing Kudrna to a $3 million bonus.”
“After flashing a low-90s fastball and lacking consistency with his breaking ball in the past, Kudrna made a jump at the Area Codes. He operated with a 92-95 mph heater, using his 6-foot-3 build and three-quarters arm slot to create some angle and sink, and unveiled a sharper 82-85 mph slider. He maintained that velocity and carried it deep into games in 2021, topping out at 97 with his fastball and 87 with his slider.”
Kudrna also shows some advanced feel for a low-80s changeup with fade, giving him the makings of a solid three-pitch mix, though it can get too firm at times. His arm works well, and he has good rhythm in his delivery, which allows him to fill the strike zone. There’s still projection remaining in his frame, giving him the upside of a No. 3 starter.”
Following a path similar to the 2018 draft class?
Kudrna is projected to make his major league debut in 2025. This is significant because the Royals approached the 2018 MLB draft intending to get college pitching, and those prospects are starting to appear at the major league level. Pitchers such as Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jon Heasley headline that group. The others — Austin Cox, Zach Haake, Tyler Gray and many others — are waiting in the minor leagues waiting for their turn. This gives the Royals the ability to develop and bring along pitchers like Kudrna and first-round pick Frank Mozzicato.
The Royals are starting over the process and have some very young talent to do that with. The future is bright and if recent drafts are any indication, the future is bright for this organization. Kudrna projects to be a major part of that growth and progression.