Luke Hayden displayed intriguing potential in numerous high-profile showcase events, including the Perfect Game National Showcase, Area Code Games and East Coast Pro Showcase, last summer.
The right-handed pitcher from Bloomington, Indiana, is an underrated high school pitcher in the 2021 MLB draft class. He throws hard and has the competitive drive major league teams seek. If he can refine his mechanics and secondary pitches, Hayden likely will move up draft boards this spring.
Professional scouts currently project Hayden, a senior at Edgewood High (Ind.), as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
“It has been awesome to start going through the draft process,” Hayden said. “You just have to be grateful for it. Not many kids get the chance to be a draft prospect. The Zoom calls and meetings, you just have to take it all in. That being said, you can’t stop what you are doing because you are considered a draft prospect. I think it makes me work even harder.”
Hayden, who is 6-foot-1, 218 pounds, throws a four-seam fastball, slider and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot.
His best pitch is his fastball that sits 92-94 mph and has touched 96 mph. It also features a spin rate of about 2,600 revolutions per minute. He maintains his velocity late into starts and isn’t afraid to challenge batters with inside fastballs.
Hayden’s slider is his second-best pitch. He throws two variations of his slider. The slider he uses as his outpitch sits 83-85 mph and features a spin rate of about 3,000 rpms. Hayden also uses a 78-80 mph slider early in the count to steal a strike or induce a ground ball. He uses the same arm action for both sliders.
His changeup is a developing offering that he has improved this offseason, he said. The pitch touches 83-85 mph and has sinking and tailing action. He has confidence in his changeup but needs to show better feel for the pitch this spring to prove to scouts that he has a quality three-pitch mix that can translate to the pro game.
“One of the biggest strengths I have is my competitiveness,” Hayden said. “I don’t really care who I am throwing against. I will throw against anyone and challenge anyone. From a pitches standpoint, my fastball, slider combo is really good. I love setting people up to where I can get them to chase a slider.”
Hayden currently is more of a thrower than a pitcher. This offseason, Hayden is refining his mechanics and pitches in hopes of displaying an improved feel for pitching this spring.
During his offseason work, he has slowed his mechanics down to make sure he flows smoothly through his delivery. He believes the mechanical tweaks and refinement of his pitching repertoire will allow him to experience even more success.
“I have worked on getting more explosive, using my lower half more, and just overall footwork,” Hayden said. “I am focused on being easier with my mechanics and show less effort in my delivery. Another thing is my fastball command. At times last summer, I could get a little erratic but I think the more relaxed and smooth I am throughout my delivery, that it will help improve my fastball command.”
Besides being a draft prospect, Hayden also is an Indiana University commit. The opportunity to remain in his hometown played a significant factor in his decision. He also believes the Indiana baseball program is on the rise.
“I love the coaching staff,” Hayden said. “We have a really good relationship. I know I don’t have to go to IU and change many things I am doing right now. I also think IU is on the rise. In the next couple of years, they’re going to be really, really good. I would love to be a part of that, especially being a hometown kid.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s 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’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.