Barrett Kent didn’t anticipate a busy summer of baseball and figured he would only play in a few tournaments with the Dulins Dodgers last year. But he recalls that after he participated in USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline League, the showcase event invites started rolling in.
Kent, a right-handed pitcher, has made notable strides over the last year. Playing in numerous high-profile events and performing well on the showcase circuit boosted his prospect status in the 2023 prep class. Scouts consider him a well-regarded prep pitcher and a likely early-round pick in July’s MLB draft.
Besides his position as a draft prospect, the Pottsboro (Texas) High School pitcher is also an Arkansas commit. Arkansas boasts the top-ranked recruiting class in 2023.
“It’s been a shocker,” Kent said. “It has come and been a process. It’s been different, but I always look at it as Plan A is draft and Plan A is college. If the draft doesn’t work out, I have an amazing fallback option with Arkansas.”
Kent has the size, pitch mix and potential to be a starting pitcher long-term. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed pitcher throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, curveball, slider from a three-quarters arm slot and low-effort delivery.
Kent mainly relies on his four-seam fastball, which sits in the mid-90s with rising action. He likes to challenge hitters in the strike zone with his fastball, especially on the inside part of the plate. He occasionally mixes in his two-seamer, which he throws lower in the strike zone due to its quality sinking action.
His curveball is a quality pitch and serves as his go-to off-speed offering. He can land it in the strike zone, generating plenty of swings and misses with the pitch. His slider also serves as a quality strikeout offering.
Kent has a quality pitch mix and boasts notable command and control of his arsenal. He attacks the strike zone and does an excellent job of limiting walks.
“My biggest strength is my command,” Kent said. “Being able to place the fastball in or out. I think I threw my curveball for almost 90% strikes in the summer. Velocity has become a big thing in the game today, but if you can command your fastball and all your off-speed pitches, it’s just as effective as throwing 100 mph.”
In the offseason, Kent refined his slider and changeup to make them reliable pitches moving forward.
At the Team USA trails in Florida last summer, he saw Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda throwing a rehab bullpen session. He approached Maeda’s translator and asked what grip Maeda used for his slider. Maeda showed him the grip, and Kent incorporated it into his pitch mix, making slight adjustments to the grip.
Kent also tweaked his changeup grip in the offseason. He’s working on developing a feel for his changeup. It flashes some fading action and can turn into a quality secondary pitch in the future.
“It is a pitch I throw decently, but I’m working on a new grip,” Kent said. “It’s a pitch that will play at the next level, so that is just one thing I’m really working on. I want to consistently throw it for strikes.”
Kent has two intriguing options after he graduates from high school. If he doesn’t start a pro career straight out of high school, he will join the Arkansas baseball program in the fall. Arkansas was his first offer, he said. The program’s track record of success, player development and culture stood out to him.
Arkansas is a premier program in college baseball and each year produces high-level talent for the professional ranks.
“They are one of the best baseball programs in the country, and I was talking to (pitching) coach (Matt) Hobbs, and he was running me through what they are all about,” Kent said. “I was just loving it. My mom and I took a weekend trip to Fayetteville, and once we pulled into campus, it was like that cheesy saying, ‘Love at first sight.’ It fits my personality well and is a place I can see myself in the future. It was a no-brainer.”
Do you enjoy reading Baseball Prospect Journal’s draft content? Support our work and become a Patron!
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.