Braves 2024 MLB Draft Preview: RHP

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Brody Brecht | Lee Navin/For the Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Taking a look at how the Braves may approach RHP in the 2024 MLB Draft.

The Atlanta Braves draft pitchers early and often in the MLB Draft almost every year, so it’s a safe bet that they draft a right-handed pitcher early in the 2024 MLB Draft. I say safe bet because the way the draft sets up, the right-handed pitchers project to be a little better than the lefties when the Braves are on the clock.

Why the Braves could draft a right-handed pitcher early

The Braves big league rotation is filled with right-handed arms from Spencer Strider to Reynaldo Lopez to Charlie Morton, down to the young guys. Bryce Elder has had a tough season, but we can’t forget the fact he earned an All-Star spot last season. Top prospects like Spencer Schwellenbach, AJ Smith-Shawver, and Hurston Waldrep have all made their big league debuts, and all are closing in on being ready for full-time spots in the next year or so. Then you have Ian Anderson on his way back from Tommy John surgery at the moment. That means that the depth at the top of the organization is very strong, pending the results of the trade deadline of course.

Among the other right-handed arms in the system, JR Ritchie and Owen Murphy are the top prospects at the position. Ritchie is currently getting back to 100% after his own TJ surgery, while Murphy just had surgery. Blake Burkhalter is another talented arm that is recovering from surgery and on his way back to full health, but the team has high hopes for him. Last year’s picks Drue Hackenberg, Cade Kuehler and Garrett Baumann have had some mixed results so far, but they are less than a year out from turning pro, so there is still time for them, while Lucas Braun has looked very good for a later Day 2 selection. Jhancarlos Lara is a young arm with plenty of upside and Jeremy Reyes is even further away but also has considerable upside as an 18-year-old. That doesn’t even mention Adam Maier, Allan Winans, and Seth Keller, who all have some potential. You could say that right-handed pitcher is the strongest position in the organization.

The Braves have been linked to a few right-handed pitchers quite frequently. One is college switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje, who will be drafted to pitch from the right. The Mississippi State sophomore eligible arm had a rough freshman season after being highly regarded coming in, but he has made real strides with the command this spring to push his way into first round projections. The other arm is California prep arm Braylon Doughty, a potential undershot candidate at #24. Doughty has real upside with three potential plus pitches, but his spring breakout and limited looks at him against top competition before this spring limit his overall resume a bit.

There is also Iowa’s Brody Brecht and Illinois prep arm Ryan Sloan, though both are likely to be gone. There is some chance one of this duo could fall to 24, with Brecht’s command and Sloan being a right-handed prep arm being the potential reasons that they could fall from their projected 15-22 draft range.

Why the Braves won’t draft a right-handed pitcher on day one

The Braves will almost definitely draft a pitcher on the first day of the draft, as it’s hard to see them going with back to back bats to open a draft. The only way it plays out that the Braves don’t draft a right-hander is if they choose a lefty instead. Should a Cam Caminiti fall, or the team prefers Duke’s Jonathan Santucci, if they take a pitcher first it is likely to be a right-hander.

Day Two/Three targets

Matt Ager – Ager is a college pitcher with some potential projection remaining. He had a bit of a disappointing spring, but he throws strikes and has a legitimate four pitch mix that the Braves could hope getting him into a pro system helps get it all together. He may not end up with a true plus pitch, but his slider can get swings and misses and he’s got three other potentially average offerings.

Drew Rerick – Rerick is going to be an interesting name to watch. He’s got a plus fastball up to 98 MPH, two breaking balls that can get swings and misses, and a change that projects as solid. That said he is a rare top prospect out of a North Dakota high school, is committed to a school with real NIL money (Texas A&M), and had some back issues already at a young age. In a draft like this there aren’t a ton of guys with an arsenal like this, so it could warrant a roll of the dice on Rerick.

Josh Randall – The University of San Diego arm is an interesting story, moving from catcher to pitcher and later transferring from Arizona to USD. Randall may end up more as a reliever, but he checks some boxes the Braves have liked at times – the converted pitcher, and being a sinker/slider type of pitcher than generates ground balls. It’s also not like he wouldn’t have a chance to continue as a starter, provided he could improve the changeup.

Jackson Wentworth – Wentworth is a pitcher who really rose up the boards this spring as he went from the bullpen to a rotation spot for Kansas State. It’s worth noting that he has a Tommy John surgery in his past, which is part of why he only broke out this year as he wasn’t at 100% last spring in his return. There is hope that maybe he could see his fastball tick up just a little, because his slider and changeup are both plus pitches and he throws strikes. Wentworth has a high floor as a reliever because of those two plus pitches, but a team believing he could improve the fastball might take him early on Day 2 believing in his chances to start.

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Title: Braves 2024 MLB Draft Preview: RHP
Author: Matt Powers

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