Karson Milbrandt has had the luxury of learning from former major-league pitcher Shaun Marcum during his high school career. Marcum is entering his fourth year as the coach at Liberty High (Mo.) after playing nine years in the major leagues.
The experience to learn from someone who has played at the game’s highest level has helped Milbrandt, a senior right-handed pitcher at Liberty, develop into one of the top prep pitchers in the country.
“It’s awesome to learn from him,” Milbrandt said. “He always tells me he was a guy who didn’t throw it past people. Being a senior and getting to work with him the last four years, he has helped me a lot with location and pitch count.”
Milbrandt’s work with Marcum has helped him gain attention from professional scouts. Last summer, Milbrandt participated in numerous showcase events, including the Prospect Development Pipeline League hosted by MLB and USA Baseball.
Performing well against other top 2022 players has caused Milbrandt to receive interest in anticipation for this year’s MLB draft. Milbrandt is an intriguing draft prospect who could hear his name called in the early rounds of the 2022 draft.
“It is new to me because I didn’t grow up being the freshman that throws 90 mph or anything like that,” Milbrandt said. “It’s all pretty new to me. I’m really like it, but it’s busy sometimes.”
Milbrandt is a 6-foot-3, 192-pound right-hander who throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and low-effort and repeatable delivery.
His fastball touched 96 mph last summer. It doesn’t take much effort for Milbrandt to reach that velocity, and it’s easy to project him as a pitcher who could touch triple digits in the future due to his size and simple mechanics. Milbrandt’s fastball features a spin rate of at least 2,600 RPMs.
Milbrandt’s slider is his best secondary offering and serves as his strikeout pitch. It is a tight-breaking pitch with late-breaking movement.
Milbrandt’s curveball and changeup are developing offerings. He locates his fastball and slider well and has the skills and potential needed to develop into a reliable starting pitcher at the next level.
“My ability to locate my pitches is my biggest strength,” Milbrandt said. “I feel like I can spot up on the outside corner really good.”
While Milbrandt is confident in his fastball, slider combination, he hopes to improve his curveball and changeup. Last summer, he worked on his changeup with former MLB pitcher Brad Penny at the USA Baseball 18U National Team Trials.
Milbrandt currently throws his curveball early in counts to get hitters off-balanced. He said his goal is for it to develop into a true outpitch.
“I just need to play catch with it and spin it a little more,” Milbrandt said. “I need to get used to it because it is a touch and feel pitch.”
Milbrandt has the skills and potential to likely pursue a pro career straight out of high school. But besides that option, Milbrandt also is a Vanderbilt commit.
He initially committed to Missouri, but he felt it wasn’t the best spot for him as time went on. He reopened the recruiting process and instantly had numerous options. After visiting Vanderbilt, he felt it was the best fit for him.
Vanderbilt is one of the best programs in college baseball. The Commodores consistently win and produce top talent for the MLB draft.
“It felt like a place I wanted to be at,” Milbrandt said. “I loved the coaches and liked the players I met. They have a great track record of producing players. It’s hard to say no to.”
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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.