Nick Kurtz is arguably the best power hitter in college baseball, possessing well above-average raw power. His offensive toolset is a scout’s dream due to his ability to hit for average and power.
Kurtz has made notable strides in his development in his first two years at Wake Forest. It’s impressive, especially because Kurtz initially committed to Wake Forest as a left-handed pitcher in high school. But after undergoing shoulder surgery as a prep player, Kurtz realized his future was as a position player.
It was the right decision for Kurtz, who is now a premier professional prospect as a position player. Scouts project the Wake Forest first baseman as the potential top pick in the 2024 MLB draft.
“It’s something I’m proud of,” Kurtz said. “I came in here not really ranked too high or the guy on campus everyone was talking about. I liked it better that way. I’ve just put in the work and hoped it would go well. We all think we are good players, and you have to have the confidence. But once you can see that on display, it’s pretty awesome.”
It’s easy to see why Kurtz enters his junior season with lofty expectations. He is a 6-foot-5, 235-pound left-handed hitting first baseman who has raked in his first two years at Wake Forest.
Kurtz hit .338 with 14 doubles, 15 home runs and 56 RBIs in 204 at-bats as a freshman in 2022. He recorded 48 walks compared to 38 strikeouts. Last year, Kurtz took a step forward, batting .353 with 10 doubles, 24 home runs and 69 RBIs in 190 at-bats. He had 63 walks and 50 strikeouts.
Kurtz credits his growth to a refined approach and better understanding of the pitchers he steps in the box against. This offseason, he has focused on his offensive skill set and taking another step forward this spring.
“I struck out too much last year,” Kurtz said. “I had some at-bats that didn’t go my way, so I want to improve. This season, I need to just stick to my plan and be a little more aggressive. I am a patient hitter and take pride in that. But there is some time when I need to be a little more aggressive.”
Scouts will watch Kurtz closely this spring in anticipation of the draft. He uses a short, effortless swing and advanced approach to consistently square up the baseball and drive it to all fields. He is a complete hitter, possessing well above-average contact and power skills, and profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter in pro ball.
Kurtz isn’t the prototypical first baseman. He boasts notable athleticism and quality instincts, allowing him to be an above-average defender. Scouts also believe he can handle an outfield corner spot in pro ball. Kurtz has gained experience in the outfield during high school and college.
“My biggest strength is my ability to hit parts of the ballpark,” Kurtz said. “I also am a pretty good defender. I take pride in getting balls in the dirt and being able to stretch and jump a little bit when I need to. Those are the two things that are the best parts of my games.”
Wake Forest had a notable season last year, advancing one game shy of the College World Series championship series. The Deacons didn’t lose two straight games until the CWS and finished with a 54-12 record.
This season, the Deacons hope to reach the CWS and capture their first national title since 1955. They boast a loaded roster headlined by Kurtz, second baseman Seaver King, right-handed pitcher Chase Burns, left-hander Josh Hartle and right-hander Michael Massey.
“We know what it takes to be an Omaha-caliber team,” Kurtz said. “We have all the parts. A big part of it was the team culture. The team chemistry that we had last year. We truly wanted every single person to succeed. That is a big thing that every team needs to have if they want to be good.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.