You can find all our MLB Draft scouting reports here.

Photo: John Bunch/Icon Sportswire

Kaelen Culpepper is a versatile player with sound athletic traits and a solid offensive skill set whose future defensive position is a bit of a question mark.

Name: Kaelen Culpepper

College: Kansas State University

Bio: R/R 6-0, 190lbs.

DOB: 12/29/2002

 Scouting Grades on 20-80 Scale

Skill Grade
Hit 50
Power 40
Run 60
Arm 55
Field 45
Future Value 45


Culpepper stepped into a starting role immediately at Kansas State, playing third base during his freshman and sophomore years before becoming the everyday shortstop in 2024. He logged over 150 games over his three years for the Wildcats and earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors this past season.

He’s an excellent athlete who makes everything he does on the diamond look smooth. Whether it’s making a sliding stop on a ground ball or bat-flipping a towering homerun, Culpepper never looks like he’s in a hurry.

College Career:

Culpepper showed consistent improvement year over year at Kansas State. In 2022, he slashed .283/.356/.428 before making a significant offensive leap his Sophomore year. He upped his slash line to .325/.423/.576 and had a significant increase in his power production by doubling his home run total. His improved offensive profile saw him earn an invite to the Team USA collegiate national team trials in the summer of 2023 where he led the team with a .853 slugging percentage over 9 games.

His exposure with the national team vaulted him up draft boards coming into 2024, and he produced another good season at the plate and in the field. He put up a .324/.416/.570 line and led the Big 12 in triples, all while making the transition to being a full-time shortstop.

Year OPS K% BB%
2022 .784 14% 6%
2023 .999 15% 9%
2024 .985 14% 12%


He sets up at the plate with a slightly open stance and almost no bend in his knees. He keeps his feet wider than shoulder-width apart and evenly distributes his weight between them.

Culpepper keeps his hands by his right ear while waiting for the pitcher to come to the plate. The first move in his action is a short leg kick that helps him stack his weight over his back leg. At the same time, he bends slightly at the hips and knees which allows him to get his upper body in a more natural hitting position. As his weight shifts back towards the pitcher his hands drift slightly back which helps him get into a powerful launch position.

He likes to keep his hands close to his body as he fires them through the zone, allowing him to keep his barrel in the strike zone for as long as possible. He always finishes his swing on balance as his hands bring the bat over his left shoulder.


Culpepper developed into a disciplined hitter over his three years at Kansas State, doubling his walk rate throughout his collegiate career. His advanced approach led him to walk almost as much as he struck out in 2024.

He has a line-drive approach and likes to spray the ball to all parts of the field, and his tendency to keep his hands inside the baseball allows him to stay on pitches in any part of the zone. He likes to drop the barrel on the baseball and hunts pitches low in the zone, which can leave him susceptible to breaking balls that fall out of the zone late.

He is not very explosive with his lower half and can struggle a bit to create optimal home run launch angles on pitches down in the zone which has limited his power production in college, but his plus hand speed allows him to catch up to velocity higher in the zone. The height of the pitch allows him to generate a little more lift and launch the ball out of the park like this:

(Hello again Hagen Smith…)

We track college baseball data across Division I, charting as many games as we can. That allows us to use what we call our “Synthetic Statcast” tool to calculate some statistics that you normally wouldn’t be able to get.

Here’s a snapshot of his batted ball numbers from this year:

Name Barrel % (percentile) Average Launch Angle Hard Hit %
Kaelen Culpepper 9% (84th) 10° (41st) 33% (54th)


The biggest question when drafting a shortstop is whether will they be able to stick at the position in the major leagues.

Culpepper made the move to shortstop from third base this past year and proved that he could be more than a corner infielder at the next level. He has good lateral quickness and average range, coupled with soft hands which will allow him to be a solid defender at several positions in the major leagues.

The biggest area for development in his game defensively will be improving his arm accuracy. He shows great arm strength from his low ¾ arm slot but tends to lose the ball high over the first baseman’s head.

Using our “defensive misplays” stat that we track for every game we chart throughout the season, we can take a closer look at what types of misplays each fielder is making. We define defensive misplays as “any play on which the fielder surrenders a base advance or the opportunity to make an out when a better play would have gotten the out or prevented the advancement.”

We can see the disparity between Culpepper and other top draft-eligible shortstops in this class when it comes to misplays credited to bad or offline throws compared to fielding misplays:

Name Fielding DMs Throwing DMs
Kaelen Culpepper 4 9
Griff O’Ferrall 4 4
Colby Shelton 7 1


Culpepper is a smooth mover who has a knack for making every movement on the baseball field seem easy. He won’t have a gaudy offensive profile like some of the other players in this draft class, but his simple approach and reluctance to chase will allow him to consistently get on base at any level. His plus speed and athletic traits make him a factor on the basepaths and in the field, giving him the ability to play multiple spots across the infield. He projects as a utility infielder in the major leagues who can provide average defense at three positions.

Comp: J.P. Crawford

Draft Projection: Late 1st round/Competitive Balance Round A