Royals' Righty Ben Kudrna Readies For First Spring Training
Righthander Ben Kudrna's eagerness for the start of the 2022 minor league season is understandable.
After being drafted by the Royals in the second round in 2021, Kudrna didn’t pitch in any official games last summer. The fact that the Kansas City area native will play for his hometown organization adds to the anticipation.
Even without an official game on his ledger, Kudrna has still been learning everything he can about how to pitch, how to be a professional and how to take care of his body. The 19-year-old pitched a few games during instructional league before embarking on an offseason strength and conditioning program.
“I’ve already developed and grown in so many small places since I’ve been drafted,” Kudrna said. “The big things for me that I started to pick up and learn from them (Royals pitching development staff) is the importance of a 'low and out' fastball and being able to command your fastball when you need to.”
Kudrna said he’s also worked on his changeup, a pitch that he didn’t have to use much in high school. Fortunately, he’s not starting from square one.
“He’s got natural feel for it,” Royals director of pitching performance Paul Gibson said, “so really the emphasis is just trusting the grip that he has and trusting the delivery of it to get it looking as close to his fastball as possible . . . That pitch will be a weapon for him very quickly.”
Kudrna estimates that he’s added between 25-30 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame since last summer and now tips the scales at around 215. Given that his fastball already touches 98 mph, the added strength could give him a few more ticks on the heater.
“I’m super excited for (spring training),” Kudrna said. “It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be tough. I’m going to face the best competition that I have so far. I’m just ready to get going.”
— The Royals held a minicamp in February prior to the official start of minor league spring training, with 71 players split between two rosters. While prospects on the 40-man roster could not participate due to the lockout, top prospects Bobby Witt Jr., Asa Lacy, Kudrna, Frank Mozzicato, Shane Panzini, Nick Loftin and Alec Marsh were among those participating.
— Among the list of players not in their teens or early 20s on the minicamp rosters was 31-year-old righthander Arodys Vizcaino, a seven-year MLB veteran who last pitched in the big leagues in 2019.