Michael Kennedy grew up hearing about how Northeast baseball players were not at the same level as those in the southern states. But in recent years, Kennedy believes that perception has changed.
Kennedy, a left-handed pitcher, credits the influx of indoor baseball training facilities and the increase of high-end MLB draft talent from the Northeast for the change.
In 2016, the Atlanta Braves selected right-hander Ian Anderson third overall out of the New York prep ranks. Last year, the Kansas City Royals drafted Connecticut prep lefty Frank Mozzicato seventh overall.
“Seeing guys like that break down the door is a big help for guys like me,” said Kennedy, a New York native. “It shows that we are on the same level. With the facilities around here, they help us be ready for the spring just like any guy who lives in the south.”
After performing well in the PDP League and with USA Baseball’s 18U National Team last summer, Kennedy is the latest highly-touted prep pitcher from the Northeast. Scouts project Kennedy, a senior at Troy High in New York, as a potential early-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft.
Despite the draft buzz, Kennedy is trying to focus on his development and his team’s success in his final high school season.
“It’s important to understand that it is still a game,” Kennedy said. “Whether we are blessed to play it as a profession or we are not, it still is a game. It’s a game you fall in love with. For me, I am trying to enjoy my senior year. I want to win the state championship. It would be my school’s first-ever state championship. I am just trying to enjoy the moments I can and the ride as it goes.”
Kennedy is a 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander who throws a fastball, slider and changeup from a low three-quarters arm slot. He is athletic and has above-average control of his pitches. He also has a starter’s build and features some deception in his delivery.
Right now, Kennedy isn’t the most overpowering pitcher. Instead, he has a solid feel for his pitches and attacks the strike zone with all three of his offerings. His fastball tops out at 92 mph and has arm side run, allowing him to generate swings and misses.
Kennedy’s best off-speed pitch is his slider. It sits in the high-70s with high spin and late-breaking action. His changeup is a developing offering that touches the low-80s.
“Adaptability is my biggest strength,” Kennedy said. “As time goes on, I continue to make changes to succeed at every level. I enjoy the big moment and the opportunity to throw in front of whoever is behind the plate. The simpler you make it, the better you do. My job is to get outs, and I am available whenever they need me.”
Besides his status as a top draft prospect, Kennedy also is a Louisiana State commit. He verbally committed to LSU under then-head coach Paul Mainieri in the months leading up to his sophomore year of high school in 2019.
Last year, Mainieri retired following the 2021 season. LSU hired highly-respected coach Jay Johnson to take over for Mainieri. Despite the coaching change, Kennedy’s commitment to LSU never wavered. Instead, he’s eager to play under Johnson if he doesn’t turn pro out of high school.
“It is a win-win situation,” Kennedy said. “LSU is one of the greatest programs of all time. Coach Johnson has done a great job in such a short time. That is why I am not putting too much pressure on the draft. Whatever falls into place falls into place. It’s not a bad situation if I end up at LSU.”
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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.