Braves Make Interesting Move in Latest 2024 MLB Mock Draft

The Atlanta Braves are likely to pick a pitcher in this summer's first round, but would they go college or prep with that selection?
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves have a “type” in the MLB Draft - college righthanders. 

In 2023, of their twelve pitchers drafted, ten of them were righthanders and all but one were from college - Garrett Baumann, taken in the 4th round, was the lone prep pitcher in Atlanta’s class. 

That’s not to say that they’re against taking prep pitchers - the 2022 draft featured four prep arms, including the first three picks in Owen Murphy (1-20), JR Ritchie (CB A-35) and Cole Phillips (2-57, since traded). But when they take prep pitchers, it’s typically to set up a “layer” of pitching in the system, players who are expected to come up through the system together, competing with one another and with a specified ETA of when that group of players will be debuting in the majors. (Murphy is part of the 2026 “layer” with JR Ritchie being one year behind due to his Tommy John surgery.)

The Athletic recently put out their 2024 MLB Mock Draft (paywall), written by longtime prospect writer Keith Law, and they have Atlanta going back to the prep pitching well with a selection of righthander William Schmidt out of Catholic HS in Baton Rouge, LA. 

Law, who refuses to refer to the team as the “Braves” and just uses the standalone “Atlanta”, didn’t give a lot of analysis to explain the pick, saying simply “Atlanta hasn’t been afraid to go into the high school pitching end of the pool, and if they do so again, look for them to take a couple of these players as they did in 2022.”

MLB Pipeline, who has Schmidt as their #12 prospect in their 2024 Draft Rankings, has this to say about the youngster: 

Schmidt could follow the same Catholic HS (Baton Rouge, La.) to Louisiana State to big leagues path blazed by Kurt Ainsworth, the Nola brothers and Josh Smith. But with the way he's pitched as a senior, he'll go in the middle of the first round and never make it to college. He owns the best curveball in the prep class and is also one of its more projectable pitchers.

Schmidt can spin his curveball at upwards of 3,000 rpm, and it's an low-80s hammer that breaks so much that it often fools umpires as well as hitters. He has good command of a fastball that has gained 3 mph this spring, now sitting in the mid-90s and maxing out at 99 mph with carry and arm-side run. He rarely has needed a third pitch but shows some feel for a low-80s changeup with some sink.

Not only does Schmidt have some of the best stuff in the Draft, but he also generates it with ease and fills the strike zone. He still has room to add more strength to his wiry 6-foot-4 frame, so he could get better. He used to elicit comparisons to three-time All-Star Adam Wainwright, but now he's better at the same stage of his career.

 

On the note of Schmidt needing a third pitch, Atlanta’s had success with teaching sliders to their pitching prospects, although a lot of that stems from finding ways to improve an existing slider versus teaching an all-together new pitch. 

But with Charlie Morton and Max Fried (for now) in the organization and known for having excellent curveballs, giving Schmidt the opportunity to spend some time post-draft in the organization could prove fruitful in refining that curveball into a major-league quality offering. Having a carrying pitch is more important than ever in baseball and it no longer needs to be a fastball, as both Morton (41% curveball usage) and the entire Boston Red Sox rotation can attest. 

A prep draftee from this class would have a realistic 2027 ETA, and with the team’s potential loss of MLB-caliber pitchers over the next two seasons - Fried and Morton are both free agents after 2024 and veterans Chris Sale and Reynaldo López could be done after 2025 and 2026, respectively, if Atlanta doesn’t pick up their club options - it feels like Atlanta would rather have a collegiate pitcher with a shorter ETA to the majors in the first round. 

But if they’re able to get the #12 player on draft boards at pick #24, it’s hard to argue with the value at that slot and what some financial savings could unlock with later picks.  


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Lindsay Crosby

LINDSAY CROSBY

Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at contact@bravestoday.com