Matt Mikulski felt he was one of the top left-handed pitchers available in the 2020 MLB draft. But he went undrafted after receiving two calls in the fourth round and declining offers to sign as an undrafted free agent.
He felt his value was higher and wanted to return to Fordham to prove that to MLB scouts. After cleaning up his arm action, Mikulski has dominated opposing batters through eight starts this season. It also has put him squarely in draft considerations this season.
Scouts project Mikulski, a fourth-year junior, as a potential top-two-round pick in July’s draft. Mikulski’s goal is to prove to scouts that he is the top left-hander in this year’s draft, he said.
“Obviously, I likely will not be back next year, but I still deserve what I deserve when it comes to the draft,” Mikulski said. “I am working to earn that every start. I feel I have to go out there every start and prove people wrong after last year and that then everything will work out. “
Mikulski has enhanced his value as a professional prospect over the last two years. After two mediocre seasons at Fordham from 2018-19, Mikulski showed encouraging results in the Cape Cod League in summer 2019. He posted a 1.86 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 13 walks allowed in 19 1/3 innings in five appearances (four starts).
In a pandemic-shortened season last year, Mikulski recorded a 1.29 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks allowed in 21 innings in four starts. Mikulski has built on that success this season. He has a minuscule 0.92 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 19 walks allowed in 48 2/3 innings in eight starts.
Mikulski is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound left-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider and curveball from a short and quick arm action and delivery that has some effort.
In the offseason, Mikulski cleaned up his delivery and shortened up his arm action. The changes have increased his velocity and improved his consistency with his control and velocity.
Mikulski’s mid-90s fastball touches 98 mph and is an above-average offering. He has relied more on his changeup this season, and it sits in the mid-80s and features late sinking action.
His slider is his top strikeout pitch and flashes above-average potential. It also generates plenty of swings and misses.
“I can throw all my pitches for strikes,” Mikulski said. “When I just trust myself, that’s when I have success. I think that’s what I am doing well right now. I feel like I am throwing everything well and just challenging hitters to hit the ball.”
This season, Mikulski has displayed more consistency and cut down on his walk rate. Mikulski hopes to continue to show growth in those areas over the remaining part of the season, he said.
“I want to stay strong and not drop down with my velocity,” Mikulski said. “That is pretty much the main thing that was keeping me from separating myself from the pack. I want to prove that I can keep this success going.”
Besides improving his skills, he also wants to lead Fordham to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. The Rams qualified for the tournament in 2019 after not making the postseason since 1998.
If Mikulski can continue his success this season, he will be Fordham’s highest draft pick since the Baltimore Orioles selected right-hander Pete Harnisch in the first-round pick in 1987.
“I just want to go out there and perform with a lot of confidence,” Mikulski said. “I feel like I have done well with that all year. As long as I am confident on the mound, it will be hard for a lot of teams to hit me. I’d love to be the pitcher of the year in my conference and finish this off right.”
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.