Hurston Waldrep was a highly sought-after transfer in the offseason after spending his first two years at Southern Mississippi. He appreciated the experiences and strides he made at Southern Mississippi, but he sought a new challenge.
Waldrep entered the transfer portal in the offseason with the hopes of playing for a high-major program. He committed to the University of Florida, a top college baseball program with a track record of developing high-end pitchers.
The right-handed pitcher is thriving in his new environment at Florida. Waldrep didn’t allow a run in his four innings against opposing teams during the fall season. He pitched two-shutout innings against Georgia and strikeout all six batters he faced against Stetson, including throwing an immaculate inning.
Waldrep has made strides in his first 2½ years at the college level, transforming himself from a lightly-recruited high school player to a top college pitcher. Playing at Florida will only help his development, with scouts eager to see how he performs this spring. Scouts consider Waldrep as a potential top-10 pick in the 2023 MLB draft.
“You can’t deny it – it’s a cool experience,” Waldrep said. “But it is a long way away, and I am one of those who doesn’t like focusing on that stuff. There is so much to do between now and then. I just want to do my work and focus on what’s next in my career.”
Waldrep is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, slider, 12-6 curveball and splitter from an over-the-top arm slot and quick and athletic delivery. He overwhelms opposing batters with his repertoire and generates swings and misses with his four pitches.
Waldrep has a devastating fastball and slider combination. His fastball sits 94-96 mph and touches the high-90s. He consistently generates swings and misses with his fastball up in the strike zone.
His hard-breaking mid-80s slider is his most consistent secondary pitch. The above-average offering is a true weapon and serves as his outpitch. Waldrep’s curveball is a quality pitch he typically uses earlier in counts. It features tons of potential, but he is working on refining the consistency of the pitch so that he can throw it for more strikes.
Over the last year, Waldrep has incorporated a splitter into his repertoire. He previously threw a changeup but switched to the splitter because it tunnels well off his fastball. When he threw his changeup, he lowered his arm slot, which made it easier for hitters to pick up the pitch. Now, he uses his usual arm slot when he throws his splitter.
The right-hander is a power pitcher with a strong mentality and ace potential on the mound.
“Right now, my put-away pitches are my biggest strength,” Waldrep said. “Being confident later in counts when I’m ahead is big for me. I have confidence in my pitches and know that when I am later in counts, I feel like my pitches can get the job done.”
After pitching exclusively out of the bullpen his first year, Waldrep posted a 3.20 ERA with 140 strikeouts and 33 walks allowed in 90 innings last year at Southern Mississippi. He recorded a rate of 14 strikeouts per nine innings.
This spring, Waldrep hopes to do a better job of attacking hitters and not getting so deep into counts, he said.
“I feel like it was a little bit of a self-confidence issue,” Waldrep said. “I feel like I have gotten over it. Early last year, I was throwing my fastball too hard and feeling like I had to do more than what I was doing. Now, I realize I don’t have to overdo anything. I can let my stuff play.”
Florida is coming off a 42-24 record and NCAA Regional appearance. They have made 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Gators haven’t advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2018, when they went to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. They will try to snap that streak in 2023.
Most consider the Gators as one of the best teams in the country entering the spring, as they return plenty of depth and overall talent, headlined by outfielder Wyatt Langford and Waldrep.
“We all see the talent here and the chance we have to go to the College World Series,” Waldrep said. “We all work towards the same thing and put our heads down and work. Everyone wants to earn that spot (in the College World Series).”
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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.