One year removed from Draft Combine, this prospect is dominating on the mound

Klassen, Philly's sixth-round pick in 2023, has an 0.96 ERA and 13.4 K/9

June 23rd, 2024

When George Klassen walked into Chase Field for his first day of the 2023 MLB Draft Combine last June, he soothed his nerves by telling himself that he was chosen to be there for a reason. He went on to showcase the talents that earned him a coveted spot at the Combine and put himself on the radar by ramping his fastball up as high as 97.5 mph.

“It doesn’t really feel like a year ago, it feels like I just got started with all of that,” Klassen said. “It’s been a blast from Day 1.”

Almost a year to the day of the '23 Combine, the motto Klassen repeated to himself still rings true: Trust himself.

The growth in confidence has allowed for the talent of the Phillies' No. 28 prospect to flow, manifesting in five no-hit innings Saturday night in his second start with High-A Jersey Shore during an 8-0 win at Brooklyn's Maimonides Park.

“You show what you got and that’s all you can really do,” Klassen said. “[You] just keep on moving forward and just trust in everything you got.”

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The 22-year-old was selected as the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2023 Draft. Once he reported to Florida at the team's training complex, he got straight to work attending meetings and camps, though the organization opted to let his arm rest after he threw 56 2/3 innings for the University of Minnesota.

The West Bend, Wis., native’s trajectory has not been without its bumps in the road. After not pitching in 2021 following Tommy John surgery, he was limited to 7 2/3 frames in '22 and pitched to a 5.72 ERA in his final collegiate season. But upon finally entering game action this year, he was named the Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April. Shortly thereafter, the righty sustained a right shoulder issue that forced him to exit early from his May 3 outing with Single-A Clearwater.

The injury was only a minor setback, and on June 11, the Golden Gophers product was promoted to High-A Jersey Shore. Across the two levels, Klassen has an 0.96 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched. Batters have hit just .143 against him with only one ball leaving the yard.

To get the impressive numbers, the Phillies prospect has taken advantage of every tool he has been given from trainers, coaches and nutritionists in order to hone his craft.

“Just getting in there and putting on some weight, getting stronger to be able to support the heavy workload that comes with the season,” Klassen said of what's been key to his early success. “Just feeling confident on the mound, minimizing things and trusting that you’re going to go out there to compete and do the best you can because you’ve got guys behind you ready to compete with you.”

Coming up on a calendar year as a professional under his belt, Klassen is focused on keeping things simple and sticking with his plan, which will help him pitch more freely and with more confidence. Of the entire experience -- from Combine to Draft day to moving across three levels -- there is one piece of advice he would give to prospects of future Draft classes:

“Stay true to yourself. You don’t want to be like someone else or try to mimic something. Just stay true to yourself because you already got to that point, so someone already sees something [in you].”