Kirk Has Good Upside

The Chicago Cubs' scouting department believes they know a good arm when they see one, and left-hander Austin Kirk is that arm. The 19-year-old Kirk was taken by Chicago in the third round on day one of the amateur player draft from Owasso (Okla.) High School after going 9-1 with a 0.45 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings, helping his team its 11th state championship.

Kirk also swung the bat as a left-handed hitting outfielder for three years at Owasso. In his senior season with the Rams, he batted .408 with five home runs and a team-high 50 RBI. For his high school career, he batted over .400, including .477 his junior season.

"He's got a strong body. This guy is a good athlete," Cubs Director of Professional and Amateur Scouting Tim Wilken said of Kirk. "He's got a good feel for pitching and is very tenacious on the mound and presents himself well. We really like his makeup and think he's got a chance to hit the ground running more than a fair amount of high school kids do."

Owasso assistant coach Steve Holleman spoke highly of Kirk.

"He had a great season for us and had a great three years for us," Holleman said. "He pitched for us since he was a sophomore and has always been a two-way player for us. He's gotten better every year and he still has a lot of upside to him. He pitched his best for us late.

"He just seemed to really get in control of his pitches as the season went on."

In his final prep appearance for the Rams, Kirk went out with a bang. He pitched a complete game, allowing one run and four hits while recording nine strikeouts to lead Owasso High to a 10-1 victory over Santa Fe High in the State 6A Championship Game. It was the Rams' third consecutive 6A title.

Kirk's fastball was anywhere from 89 to 94 mph this past season, and he combined that with a traditional 12-6 curveball, a changeup, and a harder, "slurve" type pitch.

As the season progressed, Kirk made strides with the development of his secondary pitches, Holleman said.

"The last part of the season, he really got control of his changeup and curveball and that just made him double nasty," he said. "He was just terrific for us. After the season, the Cubs had him for a pre-draft workout, and I guess he just knocked their socks off and really impressed them."

Kirk said he was overjoyed when he learned he'd been taken with the Cubs' third-round pick. He was recommended by Cubs area scout Brandon Mozley and pitched in front of the team at a pre-draft workout in Arizona before the draft.

"My parents were watching the draft on the computer and I'd pretty much given up all hope of being drafted on day one," Kirk said of his draft day festivities. "Then I hear my name get called and my parents went crazy and it was pretty cool … I was excited, but actually when I heard my name I went into a state of shock. I had a big smile on my face, but couldn't really move or feel any part of my body.

"It's just kind of weird being drafted because what I've grown up wanting to do my whole life is now a reality."

Asked to describe himself, Kirk said he was a hard-worker and a bulldog on the mound.

"I believe I can go out there in any situation and compete and be successful at it," he said. "It's something I've always done. In my mind I know I'm going to beat whoever's at the plate, whether it be by striking him out or getting him to get himself out."

Kirk then touched on his repertoire.

"I've got my fastball, my curveball, and my changeup," he said. "When (the curve is) off, I have to find something else. Typically it alternates between my curveball and changeup as to which one is on that day. My changeup sometimes gives me a nice little off-side break and sometimes it's just a little velocity break. My fastball has been 88 to 91 for most of the season and in the past few weeks I've been throwing 90 to 94 and sitting around 92.

"I have two (breaking balls) that I throw. One is a kind of out-pitch. My ‘get-me-over,' as I call it, is a little bit slower; it's late-breaking and it's just more of a 12-6 type break. I throw a harder one, which you can almost call a slurve. It's got a tilt to it, but it sweeps more. It's one I typically throw low and let people bite on it in the dirt."

Kirk signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Oklahoma but said that Sooners coaches realized there was a good chance Kirk would sign with the Cubs.

"The chances are I'll probably go play (for the Cubs)," Kirk said. "They were perfectly fine with that. One thing Coach (Sunny) Galloway said that I liked was the day I signed with them, I became a Sooner (regardless)."

Holleman said the Cubs were getting not only a terrific pitcher in Kirk but an outstanding individual.

"One of the main reasons why I think he'll make it is he's a better person than player," Holleman said. "I think that'll go a long way. The Cubs will never have to worry about him getting them in trouble or doing something stupid. He's just a terrific kid."

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