Justin Hackett is the latest highly-touted prep pitcher from Iowa. Iowa right-handed prep pitchers Carter Baumler and Jackson Wentworth drew early-round MLB draft interest in the last two years, with Baumler going in the fifth round to the Baltimore Orioles in 2020.
In recent years, Iowa has turned into an under-the-radar area for baseball talent, producing numerous high-profile prep prospects for the draft. Hackett, a right-handed pitcher from Winterset High School, has the skills and potential professional scouts seek.
If Hackett excels in the Iowa Spring League, scouts believe he could solidify himself as a top-five-round pick in this year’s draft.
“It has been an awesome and super exciting experience,” Hackett said. “My biggest thing is remaining focused on self-improvement and getting better. Whatever it is, it will work out how it’s supposed to be. I enjoy the attention and look forward to working on getting better every day to make that dream come true.”
Hackett is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball from a high three-quarters arm slot. He repeats his mechanics well and throws at a downward angle.
Hackett’s fastball is his best pitch and touches 94 mph. The pitch features riding action, making it harder for right-handed hitters to square up the pitch.
His changeup is his best secondary pitch. He has an advanced feel for it and the confidence to throw it in any count. He started throwing his changeup when he was 9 years old while he waited to develop a breaking pitch until about five years later.
Hackett’s hammer 12-to-6 curveball shows the potential to be an above-average put-away pitch at the next level.
In the offseason, Hackett worked on developing more consistency with his secondary pitches and throwing strikes at a higher percentage. He believes his strides in those two areas will allow him to have a strong senior season.
“I think of myself as uber-competitive,” Hackett said. “If I don’t have my best stuff that day, I will give it my all to give the team the best shot to win.”
Besides his status as a draft prospect, Hackett is a Texas Christian University commit.
Hackett committed to TCU as a junior in September 2020 due to the school’s strong academics and the baseball program’s coaching staff and player development. He committed to TCU when Jim Schlossnagle was the head coach.
But, TCU experienced a coaching change last offseason when Schlossnagle left for the same position at Texas A&M. Hackett’s commitment didn’t waver, especially after TCU promoted pitching coach Kirk Saarloos to head coach.
Hackett developed a strong relationship with Saarloos during the recruiting process. Saarloos pitched in the major leagues for seven years and has coached at TCU since 2013. He is considered one of the top pitching coaches in college baseball.
“I am even more excited for the opportunity now that Kirk is the head coach because I have a really good relationship with him,” Hackett said. “With him also being a former pitcher, I am really excited about the development I will receive there.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four 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.