By Steve Breazeale
San Clemente High School senior and Major League Baseball pitching prospect Kolby Allard sounded as calm as could be one week before what figures to be the biggest day of his life.
The 17-year-old highly regarded left-hander was on his cell phone, fresh off a workout, casually outlining the steps he has taken while rehabbing from an injury. The always-upbeat Allard has spent the last three months slowly recovering from a stress reaction in his back, an injury that shelved the idea of him mowing down opponents with a mid-90s fastball and devastating curve as the ace of the San Clemente pitching staff in 2015.
Despite throwing only seven innings before his senior season was shut down, many believe that come June 8, Allard will be among the first high school pitchers called in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Allard, a UCLA commit, has been recovering since March. He recently started throwing from 120-feet and has progressed from body-weight training exercises to slightly heavier lifting.
“I’m kind of chomping at the bit because I’m not too much of a patient person, especially because I want to get out and play the game I love,” Allard said. “I’ve got to take it easy because that’s the best for the long term … But I want to get out there as soon as I can.”
As a junior, Allard pitched 63 2/3 innings, recording 98 strikeouts to go along with a 1.32 ERA. He was named the Perfect Game All-American Classic MVP at Petco Park in San Diego and helped pitch the USA Baseball 18U team to a gold medal at the 18U COPABE Pan American Championships.
The impact of the injury on Allard’s draft stock is impossible to gauge at the moment, but several MLB Draft prognosticators have Allard going in the first round. Some, like ESPN’s Keith Law, regard Allard as the top high school pitching prospect in the draft. Baseball America currently lists the 6-foot-1-inch 170-pounder as the No. 18 overall player in the draft and the No. 2 pitcher in the state.
Depending on how early he is drafted, Allard could be a newly-minted millionaire on June 8, a prospect that can weigh heavily on a high school player. But Allard, who is committed to the No. 1 collegiate team in the nation, remains calm as ever in the days leading up to the draft.
“It’s been pretty wild and kind of a hectic three or four months, but it’s a good problem to have. It’s been my dream ever since I was a little guy (to play in the MLB),” Allard said. “UCLA is an absolutely outstanding school, too. We’ll see what happens on draft day, and then we’ll weigh our options and go from there.”
Allard said he will watch the draft with his family and the family of teammate and catcher Lucas Herbert, another likely Tritons draft pick, and a few close friends.