Thatcher Hurd capitalized on the extra time he had this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With his junior season of high school baseball cut short, Hurd used the time to transition from playing catcher to pitching.
Hurd, a right-handed pitcher, tossed three innings in his first three years of high school. Due to his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, Hurd believed it was best for him to move from behind the plate to the mound. The decision has already paid off for Hurd, who caught the attention of professional scouts on the showcase circuit this summer.
“I was really pleased with how the summer went,” Hurd said. “This was probably the best summer I ever had in baseball. It was a great time.”
Hurd already has solid present stuff and displayed enormous potential on the mound this summer. He received no MLB draft attention from scouts before pitching on the showcase circuit. But after his strong performance against the country’s top prep hitters, Hurd is one of the top prep draft prospects in the 2021 draft.
Scouts project Hurd as a likely early-round pick in July’s draft. Besides his status as a draft prospect, Hurd also is a UCLA commit. He committed to UCLA as a pitcher on Sept. 16 after decommitting from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he previously committed to play catcher.
“I had zero draft interest going into the summer,” Hurd said. “It has been fun. It’s different than college recruiting. Every kid dreams of it, but there are many good players out there, so you have to just hope for the best and work hard.
“The best thing for me is I’m committed to my dream school in UCLA. If I don’t get drafted, I can go there. I am confident that if I go to UCLA, I will develop into the pitcher I want to be in my early 20s. I think it’s a win-win for me.”
Hurd throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot. He is athletic, and the ball comes out of his hand easily and with little effort.
His low-90s four-seamer has a high spin rate but, at times, is a little flat. Hurd is developing a two-seamer to use off his fastball and to give him a high-velocity pitch that has movement.
Although Hurd needs to refine his pitches, he has displayed a tremendous feel for pitching despite only focusing on it for about six months.
Hurd credits his rapid development on the mound to his experience as a catcher and to his older brother, Logan. His brother is a freshman left-handed pitcher at Loyola Marymount University.
“My biggest strength is my feel for pitching,” Hurd said. “I think for going on six months of pitching, I think I have a good feel for pitching. I really just want it more. Everything in my life revolves around baseball and pitching. I think that’s on my side. My feel for pitching so far is my biggest strength, but I have a lot more to work on. I am pleased with how it is coming together so far.”
In the offseason, Hurd hopes to refine his off-speed pitches. His curveball and slider tend to blend together and resemble more of a slurve. Hurd plans on tinkering with different grips to gain a feel for two distinct breaking pitches. His changeup has made notable progress and also remains a focus of his moving forward.
“I really want to get into the weight room and get strength,” Hurd said. “I want to put on some mass, get stronger and more mobile. When I get back to pitching, I want to work on my breaking balls. I want them to be two different pitches. I hope the velo comes along with the strength I add.”
Hurd views himself as a pitcher-only in the future but plans on hitting his senior year at Mira Costa High School in California. He is eager for his final prep season and hopes to build on the encouraging results he displayed as a pitcher this summer.
“I want to keep progressing,” Hurd said. “No matter what, I want to continue to progress and polish up my game. The more I pitch, the better I have gotten with my command and my movement. I want to take my team as far as I can, and I want to enjoy my senior season of high school baseball.”
Read more in-depth stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects here.
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.