Prospects In Person: Likely first-rounder Kaelen Culpepper stars for K-State; Brady Day sizzles

April 18, 2024

MLB scouts descended onto little Friedman Diamond at Northeastern University in droves on Wednesday afternoon to get a rare look in that part of the country at multiple 2024 MLB Draft picks, including one on Kansas State who’s been cemented in the first round for some time now.

But it wasn’t just Kaelen Culpepper who popped in Brookline, Mass., as a few Wildcats were certainly worth writing about after the game.

Kaelen Culpepper, SS — Kansas State (No. 30, FSS Plus 2024 MLB Draft prospects)

As mentioned in the Northeastern side of this, when guys get this high on the board, there usually isn’t a ton of flexibility in the evaluation. In short, they’ve been seen a ton, and there’s a consensus. FSS Plus analyst Joe Doyle has got him at No. 30 in his recently updated Top 400 2024 MLB Draft prospect rankings, and writes “He’s gained good weight on campus and is now a twitchy, athletic, physical infielder with upside at both positions on the left side of the infield. There’s budding impact at the plate too. Defensively, he’ll get the opportunity to play shortstop at the next level after receiving the bulk of his play at Kansas State at the “6” in 2024. His plus throwing arm will be an asset at either shortstop or third base role.

Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to see Culpepper challenged defensively that much, but he showed that advertised strong arm in I/O prior to the game. He also showed power to the pull side during batting practice, and had several hard-hit balls during the game. Frame feels like it’s a bit on the bigger side of six-foot, 190. Doyle has him going at No. 34 in his latest mock Draft, and a lot of that is likely carried by the ability to stay up the middle long-term. Average at best runner, but still with instincts and range at short.

Brady Day, 2B — Kansas State (No. 358)

Day is a bit more under the radar, but made a strong impression on Wednesday as the other half of K-State’s double-play tandem. A 12th rounder by the Atlanta Braves last year who elected to stay in college, there was a lot of hard contact here, including a no-doubt homer to his pull side as a lefty bat.

As Doyle writes, “He doesn’t possess a ton of raw power, but routinely posts contact percentage figures and chase rate figures at Kansas State that rivaled next to nobody in college baseball. He’s an extremely passive hitter who has a tendency to leave the bat on his shoulder too long at times, but when he pulls the trigger it’s generally on pitches he can hit. As one might imagine, Day draws a ton of walks and hardly ever strikes out.”

He’s having a big year at the dish with a .389 batting average and a 32:21 K/BB ratio, but did have a few tough moments at second base throughout the day. Projections on more of a utility role down the road here make some sense, but the bat could carry him to more of an every day role.

Tyson Neighbors, RHP — Kansas State (No. 103)

Neighbors is an alum of the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series, having come through with the Dallas Patriots in the 2020 grad class tournament as a member of the Dallas Patriots.

With that said, I don’t think I saw him at his best on Wednesday, although he did impress with a big, late-game strikeout of potential first-rounder Mike Sirota on a slider. Neighbors sat at 93-94 on the gun in Brookline, but got hit around a bit for three run (two earned) on three hits and a walk in two innings of work.

Doyle notes that Neighbors is a “solid multi-inning relief projection,” saying “Neighbors is primarily a two-pitch guy; a fastball-slider combination that shows solid upside. The fastball can touch 95, though Neighbors is primarily 91-93 with tons of carry through the zone. He doesn’t yet command the pitch well, a prerequisite he’ll need to improve upon if the pitch is going to perform at the top of the zone like it could. Ironically, Neighbors commands his slider with precision low-and-away to righty bats. It’s a pitch that’s generated huge chase and whiff rates. It’s a mid-80s breaking ball with far more depth than sweep.”

Ranked at No. 103 in the Top 400, scouts likely walked away more impressed with Northeastern’s Dennis Colleran, but even in a down junior year, the track record is there for six-foot-two, 220-pounder to where he’ll still get some looks in the middle rounds.

David Bishop, 1B — Kansas State

At six-foot-three, 210 pounds, Bishop is a draft-eligible first baseman who made some noise with his bat in his first year at K-State after transferring from TCU. Historically, he hasn’t shown a ton of in-game power despite his size, but he did barrel up a fastball to his pull side gap from the right side.

Bishop might not be cemented on the Draft radar, but will get some eyes with scouts coming to town to see Culpepper, Day and Neighbors.

Josh Wintroub, RHP — Kansas State

Wintroub was solid and effective on Wednesday, mostly working at 88-91 to get through 4 1/3 scoreless with two hits and two walks allowed while striking out six. Grad senior who did well at D3 Augustana and is getting a shot on the bigger stage. Likely not consistent enough at this level to get an affiliated shot — was coming off a very rough outing against Oklahoma — but could foreseeably get a pro ball look on the indy side and get a chance to prove himself.

Mike Ashmore
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