USC junior pitcher Kyle Hurt’s professional baseball dream came true this past Thursday when he was selected by the Miami Marlins with the No. 134 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft.
Hurt added his name to a long list of USC baseball greats, including Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver. But if Hurt is going to reach anywhere near the success those pitchers achieved at the Major League level — or even reach the big leagues at all — he still has a lot to prove.
Hurt came to USC after passing on a 34th-round offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. During his freshman season, he showed flashes of potential, firing 7.2 innings of no-hit baseball against Utah and earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week and Collegiate Baseball National Pitcher of the Week honors.
Hurt was inconsistent, though, and completed his first season for USC with a 4.76 ERA in 14 starts and a 1.1 K/BB ratio.
During his sophomore campaign in 2019, Hurt’s K/BB ratio improved to 1.97 and his BAA dropped to .223. However, his ERA ballooned to 5.69 for the season, and he was demoted to the bullpen for five appearances during the middle of the season.
As the ace of the Trojan staff, his junior season would be a great opportunity to finally prove to scouts he could be a dominant starter at the collegiate level and show that he could transition his talent to the big leagues. However, he lost that chance when the season was canceled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Up to that point, Hurt had started four games, lowered his ERA to 3.71 and was on pace to set career-best marks in punchouts, wins and walks. He was projected to be a second- or third-round selection if he continued to improve, but the shortened season ended that possibility. Hurt was ranked the No. 175 prospect just prior to the draft according to MLB Pipeline.
“He entered the spring as one of the more enigmatic college pitching prospects in this class,” the MLB Pipeline scouting service said of Hurt. “And there wasn’t really enough time for scouts’ questions to be completely answered this spring.”
It didn’t help that the draft spanned five rounds instead of the usual 40. With that, Hurt’s 175th ranking put him on the outside looking in, as the draft only had 160 picks in the updated format.
But Miami Marlins Director of Amateur Scouting DJ Svihlik was high on Hurt for his team’s final selection in round five and snatched him at pick No. 134.
“We were in the fifth round yesterday and my thought was, ‘Who is the player here that’s...extremely undervalued,’” Svihilk said. “Kyle Hurt was outstanding this year. He really turned the corner with a new pitching style, with a new coaching staff at USC.”
Leading that new coaching staff is head coach Jason Gill, who praised the pick and Hurt’s potential at the MLB level.
“It’s a great draft pick. They got a really good one there,” Gill said. “If the year would have played out, [Hurt] would have been drafted a little bit higher. He was starting to figure some things out, command of the fast ball got a lot better and we brought on a slider to him and he was starting to figure out how to use that slider.”
With the Marlins’ confirmation on Friday that Hurt will sign his rookie deal by the end of the month, Hurt shut down any rumor he will be back at USC in 2021. He’s officially off to the big leagues to once again try to prove he is an elite pitcher.