Get to know No. 21 Draft pick Kaelen Culpepper

July 15th, 2024

One of the top-ranked amateur shortstops in the country, Kaelen Culpepper has built himself a legend at Kansas State and risen to the status of potential first-round pick.

Here's what you need to know about the Twins No. 21 Draft selection.

Position: SS
Ht/Wt: 6-foot-0, 185 lbs.
B/T: Right/right
DOB: Dec. 29, 2002
College: Kansas State
High school: St. Benedict at Auburndale HS (Cordova, Tenn.)
Born: Memphis, Tenn.
MLB Pipeline ranking: No. 31
MLB Draft selection: No. 21 overall (Twins)

He kept busy in 2023

As a rising junior last summer, Culpepper split his summer between the Cape Cod League -- where he played for the Harwich Mariners -- and the collegiate national team. He played well in both roles, but one in particular really drew attention.

Team USA's 2023 collegiate roster was, as usual, absolutely stacked; in addition to Culpepper, that lineup boasted four of's current top 10 Draft prospects (Charlie Condon, Jac Caglianone, JJ Wetherholt and Braden Montgomery). It would be a monumental effort to lead that group in one statistical category. Culpepper led in three -- batting average (.471), on-base percentage (.526) and slugging (.853).

No days (or summers) off

So we've covered summer 2023. A year earlier, Culpepper spent some of his break playing for the Bluefield Ridge Runners of the Appalachian League, now a collegiate wood-bat league. True to form, he played great baseball there, too -- in 29 games, he hit .299 with two home runs, 20 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and more walks (27) than strikeouts (19).

"It was like a Minor League schedule, so I got to experience [that] firsthand at a young age," Culpepper, then a rising sophomore, said of his Appy League stint. "We played every day. I loved it, I loved the grind, I loved the bus rides, I loved playing every day ... just to get accustomed to how things will be at the next level."

He lives and breathes baseball

As if it weren't already obvious. Young as he is, Culpepper has had his eyes trained on the Majors for years, and by all accounts he’s had the commitment to match that ambition for just as long. As early as his freshman year of high school, he, along with some of his teammates, was spending hours at the field after baseball practice, occasionally heading home only when school security cut the stadium lights for the night. Ryan Knott, Culpepper’s hitting coach at St. Benedict, told K-State’s Sports Extra of those evenings spent at the ballpark with his shortstop: "I'd hit ground balls to him until my hands were bleeding. Literally, I'd have bloodstains all over the bat."

He's back at short. But for how long?

Players are customarily moved from shortstop to third base -- not the other way around. But Culpepper, a natural shortstop who moved to third base at the beginning of his collegiate career at Kansas State, has returned to short in his junior season. Overall, it's going pretty well (see below).

With that said, some scouts question whether he possesses the lateral quickness to succeed at shortstop at the big league level. On the other hand, his arm could help become an asset if he has to move back to the hot corner again.

He recently saved a no-hitter

For a position player, saving a no-hitter -- making "The Play," if you will -- can be a ticket to legend status. In Jacob Frost and Jackson Wentworth's combined effort for Kansas State on March 8, Culpepper attained said status among his teammates when he made this diving play to preserve the no-no.

He could make school history -- twice over

If taken in the first round of the 2024 Draft, Culpepper would be joining an exclusive group of K-State attendees -- the school has produced just three first-rounders, Charles Coe (1971), Bob Lesslie (1972) and Jordan Wicks (2021), of whom just one, Wicks, ever reached the Majors. But that's not all: Culpepper also went to St. Benedict at Auburndale High School in Cordova, Tenn. Of all its graduates, he would be just the second ever to be selected in the MLB Draft -- the first was the Reds' Sam Moll, a third-round pick by the Rockies in 2013.