Mr. Baseball: Spanish Fork's Kayden Porter came up big for Dons
Set school record with 14 home runs, batted .570 and 50 runs
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SPANISH FORK — Kayden Porter is a big dude.
The Spanish Fork junior stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 253 pounds. And during the 2011 high school baseball season, Porter put up colossal offensive numbers that were comparable to his massive frame.
Porter set a Spanish Fork High record with 14 home runs, batted .570 and drove in a whopping 50 runs. His single-season RBI total ties him for second-most in state history. His slugging percentage was 1.209, his on-base percentage was .632, and he smacked nine doubles.
With monstrous numbers like those, Porter is an obvious choice for the Deseret News' Mr. Baseball award. He is the third player to win the award in its fourth year of existence, joining two-time winner Marcus Littlewood of Pine View and Judge Memorial's Joe Pond.
"It's a great honor," Porter said. "I'm really honored to get it. The name Mr. Baseball is pretty cool. I'm glad I can represent Spanish Fork and my team as that. It's really cool."
The state has seen some outstanding high school baseball prospects in recent years such as Littlewood and other guys who went on to play out of state, including Spanish Fork's Adam Duke, Cottonwood's Tanner Robles and Jordan's Garrett Nash. Porter is the next big thing to come out of Utah.
Porter, who has committed to playing collegiately at North Carolina, is ranked as the nation's No. 9 prospect in the Class of 2012 by Perfect Game. Remarkably, he is viewed as a can't-miss prospect as both a hitter and pitcher. Porter went 9-1 as a starting pitcher in 2011, striking out 85 batters in 59 innings. Opponents hit .160 against him.
Porter's fastball clocked at 97 miles per hour on radar guns a couple of times during his junior season. Options aren't plentiful for high school batters when they're in the box, trying to combat something that fast coming at them.
"Not a lot," Spanish Fork coach Jim "Shoe" Nelson said of what a high school hitter can do against a 97-mile-per-hour fastball. "Not many high school kids are going to catch up to 97."
"It's hard to see," said Hayden Nielsen, Porter's teammate and the 4A MVP of the 2011 season. "You can't really see it. I don't think the batter can see it either. He spots it up, and he's a lights-out pitcher."
When Porter is on, it's usually lights out for high school batters. Nelson said Porter is at his best when his splitter and breaking ball are working. But it's Porter's power that leaves people in awe.
"It's just kind of like 'whew,' Nielsen said, making the sound of a pitch hitting a catcher's mitt and the motion of a hitter watching a fastball go by. "He (a batter) looks up and kind of has to reset himself and get back in there. He's probably thinking in his mind, 'Oh boy, here comes another one.'"
Porter's one loss as a pitcher during the 2011 season was memorable. He gave up a couple of home runs in a 7-2 loss to Snow Canyon in the 4A state tournament, causing Spanish Fork to play in the one-loss bracket. He didn't get another chance to pitch in the postseason, but he more than made up for it with his bat.
Porter tied a state record with three home runs and had six RBIs the next time Spanish Fork faced Snow Canyon, which was a 12-7 victory for the Dons that forced a true championship game. They weren't just typical home runs either. They cleared the fence at Utah Valley University, the berm that outlines the home-run fence, and another fence that sits atop the berm.
They were tape-measure shots that could have been in the 500-foot range.
"He pretty much carried us through the Snow Canyon game with the home runs he hit," said Nielsen, who threw a complete game in the victory. "He just launched them."
Porter's three-home run effort may have been the highlight of his season, but he was solid throughout the year. The Dons could count on him to come through at the plate and on the mound, as well as entertain them with mammoth home runs in batting practice. In Spanish Fork's 9-0 win over Snow Canyon in the 4A championship game, he hit a two-run triple.
"He was our guy all year," Nelson said. "He was our big guy at the plate and on the mound. He led our team in home runs, batting average, virtually every category that there was. Just having that threat in the lineup and that power source is a big help to the club."
Porter could be even better as a senior next season, as crazy as that seems. Along with continuing to hone his skills this summer, he will try out for Team USA's 18-under team, and play in the AFLAC All-American Game in San Diego. Next summer will be interesting for Porter, as he'll likely be an early-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and have to decide whether to play at North Carolina or sign a contract with the big-league team that selects him.
"I think he's going to have an outstanding future in the game," Nelson said. "He's going to be a highly sought after individual, not just as a pitcher but at the plate, too."
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