The Atlanta Braves quietly drafted a prep prospect in the 14th round, who based on talent should have gone quite a bit higher. They also signed this player on signing deadline day, sneaking this news in as everyone awaited news on Carter Stewart. So who is this prospect who has been drafted and signed without much talk?
Who is He?
Victor Vodnik is a right handed pitcher from Rialto, California’s Rialto High School. He was committed to stay close to home if he didn’t go pro, choosing Cal State Northridge as his college commitment.
One more thing sticks out with Vodnik, and that is the fact he is not very big. You can definitely go with an undersized label considering his 5’11”, 175 pound frame. There is some remaining projection on him, but he’s already got a fairly solid build on his frame.
Vodnik is a good athlete who was also a two way player in high school, playing shortstop when he wasn’t pitching and posting good numbers.
On the year he went 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 49 innings with 85 strikeouts to 33 walks. He also hit .418 at the plate.
Braves go with Victor Vodnik, who really burst onto the scene last fall heading into and at Jupiter. Undersized righty but with a live arm, up to 96 mph or so, good slider there— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) June 6, 2018
Vodnik is an arm strength guy, capable of hitting as high up as 97 MPH with his fastball. He typically sits closer to 89-93 with some downward plane, and the sink to induce ground balls.
The slider is a work in progress at present, but it has flashed as an above average pitch.
2018 RHP Victor Vodnik (CA) sitting 91-93/94 in 1st inning of work, quick arm; late bite on SL @ 83 to end inning. pic.twitter.com/ZIcuHqpfn8— Jheremy Brown (@JBrownPG) October 19, 2017
He has thrown a curve at some events and it could become a future offering for Vodnik. I can’t really grade the pitch at present but it has shown some flashes to potentially be a usable pitch.
Reports this spring are that Vodnik’s change was actually his best secondary offering, surprising from an arm strength prep pitcher.
Vodnik needs to work on his command for sure. His mechanics could use some alteration and he is raw as a pitcher, contributing to his command issues. With proper coaching he could refine that command and get it to average from the point he was at this year, walking 6.1 hitters per nine innings at the high school level. It goes without saying outside of his being raw, this is his biggest area for improvement.
Vodnik is tough to project. He’s got a chance to be a power armed reliever who can get ground balls. However with further development of the command along with the slider and change- and potentially even the curve, it isn’t out of the question he keeps starting.
I think the best course for a pitcher as raw as Vodnik is to see how he adjusts to pro coaching and determine if they should keep trying with him as a starter or try to move him quicker as a power arm out of the pen.
Either way this is an absolute bargain in the 14th round and for just a little over slot. If Vodnik is a reliever, he has a chance to be a very good one though probably not a closer. If he can progress enough to keep starting, that is a true draft steal.