Raiders RHP Karson Milbrandt faces choice next month: MLB or Vanderbilt

For the second year in a row, a player from the BJ Raiders may be in line to get selected in the top four rounds of the 2022 MLB Draft.

Raiders RHP Karson Milbrandt

In fact, it was the Kansas City Royals’ third-round pick last summer, former Raiders C Carter Jensen, who helped convince one of this year’s top prospects, RHP Karson Milbrandt (Liberty/Vanderbilt), that the Ban Johnson Collegiate League was an ideal place to stay sharp and have fun ahead of the draft.

“I talk to Carter Jensen a lot,” Milbrandt said. “I played with him a lot throughout my high school career and growing up. He said he did it last year and really liked it.”

Jensen’s experience wasn’t the only draw. Milbrandt also relished the chance to deepen bonds he’d made with other baseball players from around Kansas City, which the BJCL is uniquely positioned to do each summer.

“Obviously, a lot of my friends play and they said it’s really good competition, so I tried it out,” Milbrandt said.

Both of his appearances for the Raiders this summer were rained out, so Milbrandt didn’t accrue any official stats, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the experience.

“It was awesome,” he said. “You play against a lot of these guys during school ball, so it was really good to play with them. They’re your best buds, so it’s fun to compete with them.”

Raiders RHP Karson Milbrandt (center) chats with teammates during a recent BJCL game.

Milbrandt decided to shut down his arm for the summer, but he still found his way to the Raiders’ dugout June 29 to hang out with the team some more before heading to Nashville next week.

“The goal, obviously, is to make it to the MLB,” Milbrandt said. “But if you’re not having fun doing it, it’s not really worth your time. It’s a lot of fun playing with all these guys and it’s kind of like the last time you can relax — play with no worries. You’re just out here playing with your friends.”

Milbrandt’s fastball sits in the low to mid-90s. He also features a slider, curveball and changeup. Milbrandt said the BJCL provided a great place to refine those secondary offerings, whether he signs with an MLB team or elects to attend Vanderbilt.

“These guys have seen your velocity, but what they may not have seen is those secondary pitches with the sharp break and stuff,” Milbrandt said. “It’s good to work on those. I gave up a few hits, but that’s feedback. I still have stuff to work on.”

Milbrandt enrolled two weeks ago at Vanderbilt and will “take a few summer classes” before the 2022 MLB Draft begins July 17.

With the arrival of name, image and likeness (NIL) rights for college athletes, Milbrandt said his decision isn’t cut and dried.

He’s ranked as the No. 90 player overall on Jim Callis’ latest prospect ranking for the draft.

Down one path, he could be in line for a $700,000 signing bonus or more depending on where he gets picked.

Down the other path is a minimum of three years with the Commodores, one of the most successful college programs and the chance to cash in on some NIL deals.

“You get college, you get the experience, you get to play baseball for Vanderbilt and you can also still get paid, so that’s a pretty cool option to have,” Milbrandt said.

The Royals — who have a history of drafting local talent, including Jensen at No. 78 overall last summer — have five picks in the first four rounds at Nos. 9, 35, 49, 87 and 115.

Raiders RHP Karson Milbrandt (left) gets ready to throw some warm-up tosses with outfielders between innings of a recent BJCL game.