Let’s cut right to the chase. As it stands today, Manhattan Beach, California righty Thatcher Hurd is near, if not sitting at the very top of my list for preps that make a ton of sense for the Seattle Mariners at pick no. 47.
It’s true, Hurd probably isn’t in in play for Seattle at pick no. 12 -- at least as things currently stand. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue introducing you, the reader, to names that could be on Jerry Dipoto’s shortlist in the first round as the day draws near. But today, let’s dive into a guy found a little further down most draft lists. He may not be a name to know for the front-half of the first round right now, but given a big Spring, that could change. And there’s reason to believe that could happen.
Hurd was my 47th interview in the 2021 MLB Draft class. 46 of those players rank inside my Top 100 for the class. Only one other player left me as impressed as Hurd did after our conversation. His knowledge for the art of pitching, his utilization of tech, the data behind how it all works, his genuine, wholehearted enthusiasm toward the sport of baseball and competing... it left a mark on me. Hurd wasn’t scripted. He wasn’t canned. He was himself, and I think that will serve him well as he moves up the ranks and through a farm system.
A 6-foot-4-inch, 210 pound right-handed pitcher, Hurd is committed to play baseball at UCLA. Except that’s a reasonably newer development. You see, entering the 2020 calendar year, Hurd was most notably a catcher. He received high marks for his ability to receive the baseball, as well as his athleticism and flexibility behind the plate, especially considering his size. His arm, as you might imagine, was also revered.
Those traits earned him a scholarship offer to UC-Santa Barbara where’d he been committed for quite some time. That, until he jumped on the mound this Summer.
Spread out over multiple showcase events, Hurd’s stuff was extremely loud this summer. The athleticism and arm action played really well on the mound, and the data he was producing was jaw-dropping. By the time June was over, he was almost certainly a pitching prospect, and the Bruins had taken notice. On September 16, Hurd flipped his commitment to UCLA where he could focus on refining his craft on the mound full-time.
As the Summer rolled on, Hurd’s stuff got more and more exciting. Part of that due to his newly found commitment to developing exclusively as a pitcher. That might be the most exciting thing about Hurd. He’s merely scratching the surface of what he’s capable of on the mound. His training, his development, his mindset, it’s all taken a 180° as his focus has shifted. We’ll get to the explosive stuff momentarily, but it’s important to note just how infantile all of this still is for him. He’s still learning how to pitch.
So why this kid? Why Thatcher Hurd? Surely, there’s a number of guys with a greater track record on the mound that would make more sense for the Mariners at 47?
Well, the first thing you should know is this kid can absolutely unfurl the hell out of a baseball. We’ll be sure to hit on that ad nauseam. But first...
The ease of which Hurd finds rhythm on the mound is awfully compelling. It’s a smooth, fluid, easy arm action from an over-the-top slot. The entire operation is on time and lacks violence. For now, it’s more quad-dominant, something Hurd will want to work on if he’s to optimize becoming a harder thrower. Sitting into his glutes more and riding down the mound a little longer would likely result in more velocity, and that may come naturally as he gets older and stronger. He’s already got a strong lower half, so getting into his legs as he gets older shouldn’t be an issue. Hurd doesn’t show very strong hip hinge action right now, though I believe that too could be developed if he’s to focus on adding velo.
Hurd has long levers and a long body, and that’s where he’s generating most of his velocity right now. He seems to be generating moderate rotational torque through hip-shoulder separation. This is a good thing, meaning there’s not too much stress being placed solely on the arm.
Finally, Hurd has a good lead leg block, though it can get inconsistent and a little balky as he works his way deeper into appearances. The fact he’s capable of efficient energy transfer out in front is all that’s necessary to take away here.
In layman’s terms? Hurd’s strong lower half, efficient arm path, natural athleticism, and a few missed opportunities in efficient energy transfer should result in more velocity in the coming years. That, and merely focusing on training and developing the muscles used in pitching -- something, as we’ve discussed, he has not had the opportunity to do yet.
Tools (Future Value)
Hurd throws two fastballs; one of the four-seam and one of the two-seam variety. They both have their purpose. The former to ride up in the zone and the latter to tail away from lefty bats. He’s shown a propensity to control both pitches well, though command is still developing. Leaving a two-seam fastball up in the zone can get you in trouble. Conversely, the four-seam fastball at the belt can be quite a cookie for opposing hitters. Hurd has been guilty of both in showcases this summer, but that’s neither here nor there in this report. He throws strikes, and that’s a good start.
Hurd’s fastball is consistently 90-92, touching 93. He’s yet to touch 94, though one would imagine that’s in the cards very soon. More importantly, both of Hurd’s fastballs average close to 2500RPMs, peaking at over 2800RPMs. For context, that would put him inside the 86th percentile of big league pitchers. All this, as a 17-year-old who’s truly been pitching for but nine months of his life. It’s not hard to imagine his fastball spin rates sitting north of 2600 as a pro, and then we’re talking elite, elite stuff.
Doubling the fun, Hurd generates between 18 and 20 inches of induced vertical break (IVB) (ride) on his four-seam fastball. At worst, we can call that above average. For context, Logan Gilbert generates between 16 and 18 inches of IVB. There will be plenty of life at the top of the zone. Where he’ll need to continue to improve is in his consistency. There are times Hurd’s fastball achieves 0:30 spin orientation at 99% spin efficiency, and other times he finds himself supinating the ball, effectively losing that carry. With time and practice, if Hurd finds himself more consistently throwing fastballs with the optimized characteristics above, especially with added velo and command, this could jump a full grade to plus -- a 60-grade offering at the big league level. But he’ll have to prove that first.
As a teaser, here’s Hurd getting super-prospect Jordan Lawlar to swing under a pretty good one.
His two-seam fastball is utilized less, but that’s okay for the time being. It’s characteristics lag behind the four-seamer. Hurd hasn’t been shy in employing the pitch against lefties in the past. It, too, lacks the command necessary if he falls behind in the count, but given the control he’s shown on both pitches, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the 2-seam develop as an important part of his arsenal in the future.
Here’s a pretty solid example against another star prospect in Tyree Reed.
Remember how I had mentioned this kid can absolutely unfurl a baseball?
Studies have shown the ability to really spin a baseball is an intrinsic trait in certain pitchers. Some people are simply predisposed to exert spin on a baseball. Hurd is one of those people, and then some.
Across two events, the Baseball Factory All-Star Classic and the WWBA World Championship, Hurd threw a grand total of 101 pitches. 19 of those were sliders.
The average spin rate on those sliders? 3088RPMs. He’d peak at WWBA, ripping a slider at 3335RPMs.
In 2020, Hurd would have ranked second in MLB in average spin rate on the slider, trailing only Kyle Crick’s 3130RPM figure. According to Baseball Savant, there were 40,001 sliders thrown this season. Only 92 of those exceeded 3335RPMs. Thus, Hurd’s best slider this Summer would rank in the 99.8th percentile. Incredible.
It’s an exceptionally gyro-heavy slider with more vertical drop than sweep. That’s what you like to see on a guy with a high IVB fastball. Generally thrown 78-80mph, one would expect that figure to creep higher as he gains more feel and confidence for throwing the pitch.
Hurd commanded the pitch really well at these events. There weren’t many hung, and I didn’t see him spike a slider either. His slider didn’t always show consistent shape, but the spin rates were always there. The ceiling for this pitch is pretty considerable. Hurd’s innate ability to spin a baseball, plus his feel for throwing strikes, a 60-ceiling may be selling his slider short. If this creeps into the mid-80s, watch out.
Like the slider, Hurd’s ability to wrinkle a baseball proves loud in his curveball. At WWBA and the Baseball Factory All-Star Classic, Hurd ripped 12 curveballs. Those curveballs averaged 2901RPM, peaking at 3059RPM.
One of my favorite things about the future of Hurd’s curveball is his understanding of mirroring seam orientation, allowing it to potentially play off his fastball well. Hurd throws a 12-6 curve, a grip that comes out of his hand looking exactly like his heater. It’s not always perfect. It’s had the propensity to get a little slurvy at times. That said, when he gets through one, it can be pretty wicked. Here’s Hurd locking up Ian Moller:
Like some of his other pitches, Hurd is still developing command on the curveball, though he has thrown it for strikes. It’s a mid-70s offering, You’d love to see that velo creep up as the rest of his arsenal gains steam.
It’s hard not to love a guy that can do things to a baseball others simply can’t. And for that reason, plus all the other positives previously mentioned, I feel pretty good about this being an above average pitch at the big league level at bare minimum.
Like his other pitches, Hurd’s changeup has had its moments. For now, the changeup lacks conviction at times and his release point differs from his other three offerings. It’s more diagnosable for hitters out of the hand than his other three pitches, but there’s reasons to like the pitch moving forward.
First, his changeup generally spins in the 1700RPM range. For a guy that makes his headlines on creating spin, the ability to kill spin on a pitch is a pretty impressive inversion. He generally throws his changeup in the 78-80MPH range, but I’ve only seen four or five thrown in-game.
That said, one of them he threw against Moller was pretty nasty.
I wasn’t even sure this was a changeup until I took a closer look at the grip frame-by-frame.
That said, the others were either spiked or sailed arm-side into the right-handed batters box. The dough is there to make bread here, but it’s currently lagging behind his other offerings.
Hurd is a really, really good kid and an impressive pitcher too. As it stands, he’s a fringe first round guy. Most scouts will want to see more velocity before draft day next July, but given his body and how green he is to the position, I would expect that to come. If Hurd is 93-94 next Spring, maybe bumping 96, the Mariners may have to decide on his talents at no. 12, or they won’t have a shot at him anyways.