Huggins goes from undrafted to Reds' 4th-round pick

July 19th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Right-handed pitcher Kenya Huggins went through the inaugural MLB Draft Combine in 2021 as a high schooler while carrying with him a college commitment to Louisiana Tech. In the Draft last summer, he watched as many of his friends got picked while he went unselected.

“I took not getting drafted last year personally,” Huggins said from his home in Avondale, La. “I went to school and told myself and my family that I didn’t want that feeling again. I felt like I let my family down even though they said I didn’t.”

Huggins, now 19, only had good feelings flowing on Tuesday, one day after he was selected by the Reds in the fourth round of the 2022 Draft out of Chipola Junior College in Florida.

After graduating from St. Augustine High School, Huggins switched gears to attend the smaller college instead of the Division 1 program at Louisiana Tech.

“As a kid, I wanted to go to D1 and be at the huge name schools. But it did not seem to be for everybody. Me going to Chipola was to put myself into this position again this year,” Huggins said. “I knew going to Chipola, I could play every week, get as many reps as I need, get bigger, get stronger. If I went Louisiana Tech, I probably would not have played as much.”

At Chipola this past season, Huggins was 4-3 with a 2.96 ERA and 97 strikeouts over 15 games (14 starts) and 73 innings. Scouting reports have his fastball velocity in the mid- to high 90s . Huggins said he often reached 98 mph at the 2022 Combine.

“He just pretty much keeps getting better every time out,” Reds director of amateur scouting Joe Katuska said. “We’re excited about the ceiling there. It’s going to take a little bit of time to develop him, but we have that time given his age and relative level of inexperience.”

Growing up in the New Orleans area, Huggins was able to mature in baseball via local baseball programs and eventually, at the MLB Youth Academy -- the first to be established in a non-MLB city.

As Huggins played for St. Augustine, name recognition followed.

“A lot of kids in New Orleans, no matter what school, they knew my name because of baseball in the community,” Huggins said. “Any time I went to any ballpark, someone always knew me, and they’d shake my hand or take a picture. I wasn’t a celebrity but felt important in making these kids want to play every day like I wanted to do and like I did.”

“It’s huge for the community, for our school,” St. Augustine coach Barret Rey told Crescent City Sports. “He has carried our community on his back for a long time now, since he was a freshman in high school. I think it’s well-deserved and he has put in the work to get there.”

Huggins played in big events like the Breakthrough Series and got exposure to former big league players Lenny Webster, Marvin Freeman and Lou Collier. Collier is the father of third baseman Cam Collier, Cincinnati’s top Draft pick this year at No. 18 overall.

Huggins and 17-year-old Cam Collier often played together -- at Chipola, the Cape Cod League and now, the Reds organization.

“We knew each other through Breakthrough. We always stayed in touch,” Huggins said. “When I went to Chipola, he said he was coming. We always stayed close, stayed together, went to the Cape together and stayed close.

“We thought the Draft was going to be the thing that separates us where I’d go to one team and he’d go to another. For some reason, God got us back together. It seems like we will go through it all again.”

MLB concluded the third and final day of the 2022 Draft on Tuesday, with rounds 11-20. Of the 10 picks the Reds made on Day 3, nine were pitchers.

The signing deadline for all Draft picks is Aug. 1 at 5 p.m. ET. The Reds plan to get as many of their new picks as possible to the team’s player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., by Saturday.

“They have to start right away,” Katuska said. “We should have a big group traveling this week and really getting familiarized with our field staff, our complex, our facility and all the things we have to offer to the players.”