Name: Hurston Waldrep
Height/Weight: 6’2″, 205 lbs.
D.O.B.: March 1, 2002
Comp: Logan Gilbert
Fastball: 60/65 Curveball: 55/60 Slider: 60 Splitter: 70 Control: 45 Overall: 55
In many drafts over the last several years, Hurston Waldrep would have clocked in as the best arm in the draft - pandemic or no. As it just so happens, Waldrep had the unfortunate timing of entering the draft the same year as Paul Skenes and Chase Dollander. Despite being a full tier below either of those two arms in terms of draft appeal, it should be noted that Waldrep has arguably the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the draft - including Skenes and Dollander. At his best, Waldrep projects as a future top-of-rotation pitcher capable of throwing just about everything, including the kitchen sink. There is some confusion when it comes to evaluating his different offerings, with not everyone agreeing on what he is throwing. What they all seem to agree on though, is that he brings the heat and he has a nasty ability to get both lefties and righties out using any of his pitches, including his change of pace offerings.
Waldrep transferred from Southern Miss after his sophomore season, where he compiled 90 innings over 17 starts, finishing with a 3.20 ERA and 140 strikeouts. His junior season at Florida was a bit up-and-down but, he finished with a 4.16 ERA over 101 2/3 innings and 156 strikeouts, good for third in Division I baseball. The biggest knock on Waldrep, and the biggest reason he is not a lock for going in the top-5 is his control which, this past season saw Waldrep post a 12.7 BB%, as his 57 walks were the eighth most in Division I and led to most of his struggles.
Fastball: As with pretty much every starting pitcher in today’s modern game, Waldrep will go as far as his fastball will take him. Currently, the pitch sits slightly above average but gets fairly average results. If Waldrep can find a bit more consistency through control, showing he is able to throw to his glove side with more regularity, his fastball becomes a true plus offering. As things stand now, Waldrep’s velocity sits 95-96 , even deep into games. Waldrep’s reach-back has repeatedly touched 99. If Waldep continues to work on his conditioning and also is able to clean up his somewhat jerky delivery, he may well hit triple digits when he tries to air things out.
At times, Waldrep’s fastball is inconsistent in shape which in turn leads to Waldrep struggling with location. At the same time, much of the issues with his shape come from the cut-ride action of the pitch, movement that, if harnessed, becomes mighty compelling. This intriguing movement is why Waldrep’s success will largely be defined by his ability to throw the pitch glove side with regularity. The cutting action of the pitch makes it very hard to square up on the bat especially up in the zone.
Waldrep, as a supinator, with low spin efficiency could opt for more of a true cutter in the same mold as Corbin Burnes should he continue to struggle getting on top of his pitch. Currently, the pitch is very successful when he is able to locate it up in the zone. He also uses it well against righties, missing bats down and away, a tactic he needs to work on against lefties to find better, more consistent results. Waldrep’s ability to cut the ball in on the hands of lefties is what currently allows him to deploy it against them and, should he finally get consistent control, could turn the pitch into a devastating weapon against those opposite-handed batters.
Waldrep’s struggles with consistently come from his tendency to throw from a higher arm slot than most, which makes getting the pitch to the top of the zone somewhat difficult. The result is that he lives too much in the middle third of the zone vertically around the belt and thighs with his fastball. That sort of offering will get punished with impunity at higher levels.
Curveball: Waldrep features a tight-spin curve with downward motion that he throws in the low-to-mid 80s. It is both a legit out pitch and one which he will flip up across the plate to jump ahead in counts early. The biggest knock on Waldrep’s curve is that he throws it too often, something that comes from having better control with the curve than any of this other offerings. When Waldrep’s control is on, his curve is unhittable, mixed into a repertoire of similar deliveries. When his fastball control starts to flag, he relies on the curve, becoming predictably reliant on them. Hitters do much better when they can sit on it.
Slider: Waldrep features an 87-88 mph gyro-spin slider with high spin rates that generates great depth. Against lefties, Waldrep can backfoot the pitch to induce some silly swing-and-miss. Against righties, he changes the shape slightly and brings it up, before it darts away from righties, sometimes inducing swing-and-misses in the opposite batter’s box. Unlike his fastball, Waldrep’s higher delivery actually helps his slider as the high arm slot helps the ball play well down in the zone. This becomes an even bigger factor when he pairs the pitch with his splitter.
Splitter: For all the hubbub surrounding Skenes’ fastball, Waldrep’s splitter is almost certainly the best single pitch in this year’s draft. Scouts and other evaluators have used descriptors such as; easy double-plus, electric, unfair, filthy, abusive, and demonic - reaching into the bowels of hell to get swings and miss. The pitch features a ridiculous 65% whiff rate. It is not the typical splitter thrown in today’s game. Instead, this pitch is a combination split-fingered fastball and changeup. The arm action is extremely deceptive and the pitch tunnels superbly with his slider. The split grip Waldrep uses allows him to kill the spin by varying degrees, which allows him to create several different pitches out of the one grip and motion. Mostly, he throws it with spin rates in the tumble-inducing 1200 rpm range, a simply filthy rate for such a hard pitch. Unlike most changeups, this pitch is thrown against both righties and lefties, getting a diving, tumbling motion that is belied by how hard it appears to be thrown. What’s more is, when he wants to steal a strike, Waldrep can peck at the lower corners of the zone and drop the pitch in for called strikes. This is Waldrep’s put-away pitch, the best put-away pitch in the draft, featuring a knee-buckling 14 inches of induced vertical break compared to his fastball. Even when hitters know it’s coming, especially in two-strike counts, they still swing over the top of it.
Hurston Waldrep represents a high upside play that embraces a not insignificant amount of risk. Waldrep has a high effort delivery, with a long arm stroke and a lot of moving parts in his wind-up. The spotty control and command of his fastball (largely a product of the aforementioned delivery) adds another element of risk. Yet, that same problematic delivery has resulted in a prospect who features three present grade secondaries of plus or plus-plus. Decisions will need to be made on how much to tweak what is already working and what can be lived with.
The numerous possible outcomes and the potential for a top-of-rotation ceiling has pundits mocking Waldrep as high as #9 and as low as #23. He ranks #19 overall at MLB Pipeline, #6 at Fangraphs, and #18 at Baseball America. Keith Law currently mocks Waldrep #15 to the White Sox while Kiley McDaniel currently mocks him to Arizona with the 12th pick.
The Bard’s Take|
If Arizona decides to take a pitcher early in the draft, Hurston Waldrep seems a very likely candidate. It is very possible that Dollander will be off the board before #12 and Waldrep is the best pitcher in the draft after Skenes and Dollander. It is even possible that they could get minimal draft pool savings by selecting Walderp at #12, though that should not be much of a consideration. If Arizona wants pitching and Dollander is off the board, this the guy to target and paying full-slot is in no way an overpay for the top-of-rotation upside. Like Dollander, if Arizona selects Walderp, he immediately becomes the best pitching prospect in the organization and likely becomes the #3 prospect with a road to leap-frogging to #1 next season already paved for him. Because of the mechanical tweaks that will likely be necessary, Waldrep will not rise as quickly as someone like Dollander, but he should still be MLB-ready by the latter portions of 2025. He is a thick-bodied, athletic pitcher who already has workhorse like endurance. That will help allow the team to increase his workload at the same time as working on the mechanical tweaks instead of splitting those developments as often happens with new acquisitions. Should Waldrep’s control never manifest to the desired level, he still profiles as an innings-eating #4 or a bully of a back-end bullpen arm. Honestly, Waldrep represents one of only two or three pitchers who belong anywhere close to Arizona’s radar at #12, the potential third one being the next review in the series.
Next up: Noble Meyer