Young professional baseball players have more than enough personal pressure trying to make the major leagues without having to face public scrutiny. However, that’s not how baseball works and that’s why pitching prospect Aaron Kurcz has gone from relative obscurity in the Chicago Cubs organization to notoriety with the Boston Red Sox.
Kurcz was a star outfielder and right-handed pitcher for Durango High School in Las Vegas. He originally enrolled at Air Force, but decided to transfer to the College of Southern Nevada, so he could pursue baseball. Kurcz was a dominant reliever and teammate of Bryce Harper with CSN. They entered the draft together in 2010, where Harper was taken as the 1st overall pick and Kurcz was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 10th round.
Despite a slight frame (5’11, 170 pounds) for a pitcher, Kurcz possesses a fastball in the low to mid 90’s and enough feel for breaking pitches to indicate he has a solid future moving forward. In his first two professional seasons he has mowed down batters in the low minors. In 58 games spanning 109.2 innings, he has a 7-5 record, 2.95 ERA, 9 saves, and an impressive 139 strikeouts. More information on his statistics is available here.
Kurcz recently came to the public eye when it was announced on March 15th that he was the long awaited player to be named to complete the transaction that allowed Theo Epstein to jump from the Boston Red Sox to the Cubs. Now as Kurcz progresses through the Boston system, the eyes of Red Sox Nation will be upon him, as the team waits to see what they really got as their return.
2012 will be a pivotal year for Kurcz, as his ability to handle the pressure of being a focal point of Epstein’s departure will go a long way in testing his mettle. He will likely spend the year in A-ball and given the chance to perfect his secondary pitches. I had the opportunity to chat with Kurcz prior to the news of his trade and found out a little more about the intriguing prospect. You can also follow him on Twitter and keep up on how he fares this season.
Aaron Kurcz Interview:
Who was your favorite team and player growing up, and why?: Being from Vegas, we didn’t have a team here, so I was always a fan of the Padres since they were so close. Favorite player was Chipper Jones.
Do you believe your future lies in starting or relieving?: I like to think relieving; it’s where I’m most comfortable.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like with Chicago?: Draft day, I got a call from my agent telling me where I was going to be picked. When my name was called it was an awesome moment. It was crazy to see my name on the draft board online. The scout in my area called me later that day to talk about what was going to happen.
How difficult was it to decide between the Air Force and professional baseball?: I went to Air Force because of the great opportunities it opens for its graduates, but during my first summer there I was given the chance to go play summer ball in Minnesota. It was there that I realized I wanted to try and chase my dream of playing professionally.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: I throw a four-seam and two-seam fastball, changeup, and slider. This past year I struggled with my slider.
Can you talk a little bit about any advice or experience you have had with Greg Maddux?: Got to be around him a lot in instructs in 2010, and he was with our team about a week in Daytona Beach last year. Great guy, and tons of baseball knowledge. It’s always nice to be around someone like that who has been around the game for quite a while. I just tried to soak up all the pitching knowledge he shared with us.
What are some of the difficult off the field things about being a minor league player?: For me, being a single 21 year old. I can’t complain about too much. It can be a grind at times, but just got to work through it. It’s my job and it’s what I love to do.
What are your specific baseball goals for 2012?: First, I need to keep my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the main priority in my life. From there, the only thing I can control is how hard I work. It would be nice to advance a few levels, but just trying to become a better pitcher is the main goal.