Braden Olthoff didn’t start pitching until his senior high school baseball season at El Camino High in California.
Now four years after first stepping on the mound, Olthoff is drawing MLB draft interest. He is a projected early-round pick in July’s draft. Scouts believe the Tulane right-handed pitcher likely will hear his name called in the second or third round of the draft.
This year marks the third time Olthoff has garnered draft interest. Olthoff received draft interest after his sophomore year at Palomar College in California and then had interest from numerous teams in the fourth round of last year’s shortened draft.
This year, the Tulane ace is eager to see how the draft unfolds.
“I wanted to sign last year, but I thought I would bet on myself and come back this year while also getting my degree,” Olthoff said. “I’m really excited to start in pro ball and go through this draft process again. I’m pretty positive this year is going to work out. It’ll be nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel finally.”
Olthoff spent his first two years of college at Palomar College. As a sophomore in 2019, Olthoff posted a 2.51 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed in 68 innings.
After turning down pro interest, Olthoff attended Tulane, where he was nearly unhittable in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He recorded a 0.32 ERA with 47 strikeouts and three walks allowed in 28 innings.
He once again decline pro interest and returned to Tulane for his senior season. Olthoff tallied a 3.78 ERA this season with 91 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed in 78 2/3 innings to enhance his draft status.
Olthoff is a 6-foot-4, 228-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball and slider from an effortless delivery and three-quarters arm slot.
The righty has a strong feel for pitching and attacks the strike zone with all his pitches.
His fastball is a low-90s offering with sinking action. It consistently generates ground balls and weak contact. His changeup is his best offering and is an above-average pitch that he tunnels well off his fastball. The low-80s pitch looks like a fastball out of his hand before displaying noticeable break.
Olthoff’s slider and curveball are solid offerings that he throws for strikes and uses to generate swings and misses.
“My strikeout-to-walk ratio is my biggest strength right now because I limit so many free passes,” Olthoff said. “There are a lot of guys who pitch really well. But if you walk a lot of guys and then give up one hit, that can turn into a lot of runs. My competitiveness also is a strength of mine. When I am out there pitching, I am just competing at the highest level. I want to win so bad.”
One area Olthoff wants to improve is his fastball velocity. He has a short stride and could use his lower half more in his delivery.
Although Olthoff has been effective with his current delivery, scouts believe Olthoff could experience an uptick in velocity with a few mechanical adjustments.
“I think my stride could be one of my weak points,” Olthoff said. “Once I get into an organization, I think they will really be able to look at that and show me some stuff and develop me. I think that is something I look forward to is just continuing to develop and hopefully using my lower half to get to the mid-to-high-90s.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.