Kayden Porter is a versatile baseball talent. And that versatility has produced the biggest crossroad of his young life.
On one hand, the Spanish Fork senior — the best high school baseball player in Utah and the most recognizable prospect in the state — is close to a lock to be selected in the first 10 rounds when the Major League Baseball draft begins Monday.
But there’s also that full scholarship offer to North Carolina, one of the favorites to land in the College World Series in a few weeks, and a program that churns out coveted pro prospects almost annually.
Then there is this: Porter is a power hitter, capable of banging out majestic home runs, someone Dons coach Jim “Shoe” Nelson calls “a once-in-a-lifetime talent.”
However, Porter also throws a consistent 93 mph fastball and can crank it up to 95. He has scouts drooling over his potential as a power pitcher.
So, Porter has a couple of tough decisions to make, with the outside world pulling at him from different directions. Not surprisingly, the process has been both exhilarating and frustrating.
“Choosing is really the toughest part of the whole thing,” Porter said. “Most teams have been talking about pitching. I’m willing to do either one. Teams want the bigger body type on the mound.”
Either way, he adds, “It’s a dream to even be considered to play baseball for a living.”
Porter is the jewel of Utah’s high school baseball class of 2012. It’s a class that includes Connor Williams and Brady Lail, both from Bingham. Williams, who will play at Utah, is a speedy center fielder who could possibly develop into a pitching prospect. Lail, committed to Arizona, is one of the best right-handed hurlers in the state. Tyler Wagner, a closer out of Utah, is considered the top collegiate prospect in the state.
In Porter’s case, he is experiencing what scores of top high school prospects go through each year: the lure of the upfront money versus the security of top-notch collegiate baseball and a free education. The prospect of tedious contract negotiations following the draft, or, conversely, the task of going through all of this again after at least three years of college.
In Porter’s case, he practically has his bags packed for Chapel Hill.
With summer school enrollment two weeks away, Porter and his father, Donald Young, say that Kayden is heavily leaning toward North Carolina. He could still become a pro, but it would take him being picked in the first three rounds — plus a can’t-say-no signing bonus — for it to happen.
“At this point, with the feedback we have from his adviser, we think he is going to go to school,” Young said. “It’s funny how quickly things changed. He’s been a hitter all of his life, but scouts started projecting him as a pitcher once they saw how strong his arm had become. Being a pitcher is safe, more of a safe pick than being a hitter.”
Influencing Porter’s decision is his love of hitting. Simply put, he’s not ready to put the bat down.
And that’s where the Tar Heels come in. They want him to pitch, and want him to develop on the mound, but they will also give him a chance to hit as well.
The ability to do both has been an enticement. And it will help Porter professionally, even if it’s down the line.
“Kayden has two things going for him,” said a major league scout who asked not to be identified because he did not want to speak publicly about a prospect. “He has good power, and he has good arm strength. Both are raw at this point, so he’s probably better served to go on and play at North Carolina and develop both of those tools.”
The four top baseball draft prospects in Utah
Spanish Fork High School
6-foot-5, 240 pounds
2012 second team Rawlings All-American
Gatorade Utah Player of the Year
Draft projection: Rounds 5-8
Committed to North Carolina University
Bingham High School
6-foot-3, 185 pounds
2012 West All-Region
Draft projection: Rounds 10-12
Committed to the University of Utah
Bingham High School
6-foot-3, 170 pounds
2012 West All-Region
Draft projection: Rounds 10-15
Committed to Arizona University
University of Utah
6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Holds the school record with 17 saves
Draft projection: Rounds 5-10
• First night is live on the MLB Network at 5 p.m. MDT.