Ben Kudrna continues being underrated KC Royals pitching prospect

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Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's continuing series of stories profiling some of the KC Royals organization's top prospects. Up today is Ben Kudrna.

It has been two and a half years since Ben Kudrna was drafted by the KC Royals. He was playing at Blue Valley Southwest High School when his hometown Royals selected him as the 43rd overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. Although Kudrna's progress in the Royals system has been slow, he should not be overlooked in 2024.

KC Royals prospect Ben Kudrna did not slow down in 2023.

In 2023, at the age of 20, Kudrna achieved remarkable success. He played 13 games in Low-A Columbia in the previous season. Not only did he reduce his BB/9 to 3.95, but his K/9 also rose to 9.22. Kudrna improved his fastball control and maintained a steady speed in the mid-90s, with occasional bursts of up to 97. Furthermore, his changeup showed significant progress at the beginning of the season, surpassing his above-average slider in terms of effectiveness.

Although his strikeout rate may not seem impressive, he had the highest swinging strike rate among all players in the Royals organization. His 15% mark was tied for 33rd best among all minor-league pitchers with at least 90 plate appearances. While fans tend to focus on strikeout numbers, it's worth noting that being able to make batters miss altogether is just as impressive.

Kudrna advanced to High-A Quad Cities and made eight starts for the River Bandits. Although he started with a seven-inning shutout with six strikeouts on July 2, he encountered some difficulties in his next start and gave up eight runs on August 10. This is the reality for minor-league pitchers.

Kudrna will likely begin the season playing in High-A. However, fans can expect to see him play in Double-A Northwest Arkansas before the end of September. His pitch arsenal has improved over the past two professional seasons. While Kudrna may not have an extremely high ceiling, he still has value in the MLB. According to, "with a durable arm and workhorse-type mentality, Kudrna projects as a mid-rotation starter." This ceiling is great for Kudrna, and he has already demonstrated the ability to meet this expectation.

At 6 feet and 3 inches tall, he fits the mold of a pitcher in the current Royals team, whether as a starter or reliever. His potential for a lengthy MLB career is high in both positions, but the Royals seem to be more interested in his progress as a starter so far. He will turn 21 on Opening Day, and Kudrna is expected to remain one of the top five prospects in the Royals' system.