Ryan Waldschmidt develops into impact player at Kentucky

Ryan Waldschmidt recognized all he needed was a chance to showcase his abilities at the Division I level. Despite only garnering two offers out of high school, the Florida native embraced the opportunity presented at Charleston Southern, exceeding all expectations in his freshman season. His exceptional performance there served as a springboard for him to transfer to Kentucky, where he has since thrived, emerging as a quality player in the fiercely competitive Southeastern Conference over the last two years.

This spring, Waldschmidt has showcased remarkable plate discipline and an impressive ability to hit for average and power. His well-rounded skill set recently earned him the distinction of second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors.

Scouts are excited about Waldschmidt’s potential, recognizing him as a highly-regarded prospect for July’s MLB draft. With his demonstrated prowess and consistent performance, Waldschmidt is poised to be an early-round pick, a testament to his hard work and dedication to the game.

“For me, it’s just having that belief in myself,” Waldschmidt said. “I’ve been through injury, lack of offers and I’ve been from the small college and climbed the ladder to the SEC. It’s just always believing that I have the ability to do that, and I belong here. I’ve always had the belief, but I just needed the opportunity. Once I got that opportunity, I showed I belong.

“I know it’s going to be a lot like the exact journey I went through. You’re going to get picked by a team, and you are going to have to climb the ladder again. I’ve been through a lot of experience that a lot of people can’t say they’ve done, and I think that’s going to benefit me.”

Waldschmidt is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-handed hitting outfielder who is a well-rounded player. He uses a simple setup at the plate with minimal movement and no stride. His quick swing allows him to consistently square up the baseball to drive the ball into the gaps to hit for average and power. Scouts also rave about his quality plate discipline and above-average approach.

Waldschmidt is an athletic player with quality speed that allows him to steal bases and take the extra base when afforded the opportunity. This spring, he has thrived in the leadoff role due to his speed and overall hitting ability.

“For me to control the strike zone, it allows me to swing at better pitches and get into better counts,” Waldschmidt said. “I hate striking out. My goal is to put the ball in play or draw a walk. When I can get on base and I’m a threat to steal bases, it helps the team.”

Ryan Waldschmidt
Photo of Ryan Waldschmidt courtesy of Kentucky athletics.

Defensively, Waldschmidt started his college career as an infielder. He moved to the outfield during his freshman season at Charleston Southern after the coaches asked him to fill a void left by an injury in 2022. He relished the opportunity to play in the outfield full-time and felt it was his best long-term chance to have consistent playing time.

Waldschmidt’s speed allows him to cover plenty of ground in the outfield. He has played in left field this spring, but scouts believe Waldschmidt could handle center field with additional training.

“I have only played the outfield seriously for two seasons now,” Waldschmidt said. “I see growth every day. The biggest thing for me is the arm strength right now. I still have the infield throw I used to have. I’ve gotten a lot better with it this season, but that is the biggest thing for me is building my arm strength because that is my lowest tool right now.”

Waldschmidt missed the start of the season due to an ACL tear he suffered in the Cape Cod League last year. Despite missing time recovering from the injury, Waldschmidt has played a vital role in Kentucky’s success this spring.

Waldschmidt hit .290 with 14 doubles, five home runs, 37 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 200 at-bats last year. He tweaked his approach this spring, showing a more aggressive approach earlier in the count, and it has translated into more success. He’s hitting .370 with 16 doubles, 11 home runs, 39 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 222 at-bats. He has 33 strikeouts compared to 31 walks. 

As Kentucky prepares to begin postseason play, the Wildcats boast a 39-12 record, including a 22-8 conference mark. They captured the program’s second-ever regular-season conference title.

After making it to the NCAA Tournament super regionals last year, the Wildcats believe they have the pieces to make their first-ever College World Series appearance this season.

“This season has been amazing,” Waldschmidt said. “This is the closest team I’ve ever been on. The guys here are so bought into the team and our ability to win games. No one is worried about individual results, draft status, or what is going to happen next. We are here and in the moment and just doing everything we can to win ballgames.”

Read more in-depth stories on top 2024 MLB draft prospects at Baseball Prospect Journal.

Video of Ryan Waldschmidt.

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.

Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski IIIhttp://BaseballProspectJournal.com
Dan Zielinski III is the creator of the Baseball Prospect Journal and has covered the MLB draft since 2015. His draft work originally appeared on The3rdManIn.com, a sports website he started in December 2011. He also covered the Milwaukee Brewers as a member of the credentialed media for four years. Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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