After recently extending a certain Louisiana State University starting pitcher to begin the offseason, Baseball America believes another one could be coming the Philadelphia Phillies way next July.
Baseball America, a top baseball publication with an increased focus on young and developing players, recently released its post-draft lottery first-round mock draft (subscription required). In 2023, 20 of their 30 first-round selections were accurate in the sense that they were selected at some point in the first round. In a mock draft so early on in the offseason, it's tough to say who will be going where, as there is still a ton of baseball to be played, but BA has done an incredible job of hitting on first-round talent in the past.
With the Philadelphia Phillies slated to have the 27th pick, BA mocked them with selecting Thatcher Hurd, a 21-year-old, right-handed pitcher from the 2023 National Champion LSU Tigers.
Hurd, who was the winning pitcher in the Championship clinching game against Florida, is entering his third collegiate season in 2024 and his second with LSU. He first burst onto the scene in high school, ranking as the number two player in the whole state of California according to Perfect Game high school rankings, only behind Boston Red Sox No. 1 prospect Marcelo Mayer.
He's not only a top pitching prospect but an athlete behind the plate as well. As a senior in high school, Hurd not only sat consistently at 90-93 mph with his fastball but also showcased a 1.88 sec. pop time behind the plate and 91 mph exit velocity in his last Perfect Game event.
In 2022, the then 19-year-old Hurd started the fifth most games for the UCLA Bruins and didn't look overmatched. Through 34 innings, the 6-foot-4 righty posted a 1.06 ERA, striking out 48 and pitching to a 0.77 WHIP.
After such a successful season, Hurd then transferred to one of the top baseball programs in America in LSU. He struggled during the 2023 regular season. Over 23 games and 63 1/3 innings, Hurd allowed 59 hits and 40 walks, an issue that he had carried with him from his high school days. With an impressive second half, the starter ended with a 5.68 ERA and an 8-2 record.
Hurd's second half led into a strong postseason for the Tigers, where he was brilliant, pitching in three College World Series games, collecting a relief victory against a tough Wake Forest squad and, of course, getting the win in the last game of the year. The CWS hero pitched to a 2.25 ERA, allowing an opposing batting average of only .146 over his 12 innings and showing he could get it done on the biggest stage.
The question marks come with the command issues. Hurd's career college WHIP sits at 1.28, which is high for a first-round draft selection. His value comes with his explosive stuff and four-pitch mix (FB, CB, SL, CH).
By every account, The young man is a class act, contributing to his ball club and community. In February of 2023, Hurd donated all of his Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) money to the local food bank in Baton Rouge, providing over 30,000 pounds of food for those in need.
With the Phillies' recent track record of selecting young high-schoolers in the first round (Aidan Miller, Justin Crawford, Andrew Painter, Mick Abel), it would be an interesting change of pace to select a top-level college arm who could impact the Major League club quickly. A pitcher who might reach the MLB in a year or two instead of developing through the system could bring a unique skill set and hype, just like Orion Kerkering did in 2023.