Sykora has high ceiling as high school draft pick


Age on opening day 2024: 19

How acquired: Drafted in third round in 2023 from Round Rock High School in Round Rock, Texas

Ranking: No. 11 per MLB Pipeline, No. 11 per Baseball America

MLB ETA: 2027
* Projected by MLB Pipeline

Signing bonus: $2.6 million

2023 levels: Rookie-level Florida Complex League

2023 stats: 7-0, 0.84 ERA, 58 IP, 58 SO (high school)

Quotable: “He was a first-round guy going into the year. Over the summer, he had some minor delivery issues. There was more effort, little head whack and recoil in his delivery. Really cleaned it up in a short period of time this year and it looks a lot more polished. A lot less effort now as a kid that will reach triple digits with his fastball. He'll show you flashes of an above-average slider, a wipeout-type pitch that he'll put guys away with. He's got a split-finger that he'll probably scrap and probably go to more of a traditional changeup in the end. But big body with a great arm and a makings of a plus slider.” – Kris Kline, former vice president of scouting

2023 analysis: Sykora entered this year’s draft as MLB Pipeline’s No. 40 draft prospect and one of the top pitchers coming out of high school.

The 19-year-old is listed as 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds and dominated the Texas high school ranks by going 7-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 58 innings this season.

Sykora’s best pitch is his 70-grade fastball, rated as the biggest in this high school class, that sits 95-98 mph and can reach 101. His slider and splitter both sit in the mid-80s, and he has shown the ability to locate and miss bats with both.

Projected to go in the middle of the first round, the right-hander slipped to the Nats with the first pick in the third round, No. 71 overall. He was the first of only two prep players the Nats drafted with their 20 selections, and was one of the eight pitchers and seven righties.

The Nats were able to sign Sykora away from his commitment to the University of Texas with a $2.6 million bonus, which equates to top 35 money.

Sykora was assigned to the FCL in August, but he did not appear in a game before the end of the season.

2024 outlook: Any high school pitcher selected in the draft is a project.

They show so much raw talent, but they still have a lot of developing to do and innings to eat before they start making a name for themselves as a top prospect.

Perhaps that’s why Sykora fell out of the first two rounds.

But the Nationals – who made it a point to draft experienced players from the college ranks this year – felt like the high school star was a worthy project to undertake with their third selection.

Sykora repeats his sound delivery and pounds the strike zone with his physical presence on the mound and natural athleticism. Scouts have praised his intelligence and work ethic as a prep pitcher.

He still has time to fill into his large frame, and when he does, he’ll have a high ceiling as a top pitching prospect. He and Cristhian Vaquero have the furthest ETA to the majors of any top 30 Nats prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Sykora will likely spend next season in the FCL as he gets acclimated to being a professional baseball player at a young age. But if his stuff plays well enough there, perhaps he could make an appearance with Single-A Fredericksburg before season’s end.

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