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Braves top draft pick Carter Stewart chooses not to sign, heading to school

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It’s official the Atlanta Braves and first round pick Carter Stewart failed to come to terms on a contract.

Toronto Blue Jays Introduce Jose Reyes
General manager Alex Anthopoulos
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves have failed to sign first round pick Carter Stewart. According to Jim Callis of MLB.com in the below tweet, the Braves and Stewart will go their separate ways.

Why Did This Happen?

At the start of last week, we had heard some rumors about Stewart having some ligament issues in his wrist. After reaching out to multiple sources for comment, we were able to confirm this. The full news broke earlier this week that it was the wrist that held up the signing.

Stewart was injured later this spring and saw his stuff go down a bit before taking some time off. After a short time away, he returned and looked as strong as ever. When the Braves drafted him they along with everyone else believed that this was simply a minor issue that wouldn’t hold things up.

That’s when Stewart took his Braves physical and an issue with his wrist ligaments became clear. From this point on it took the initially agreed upon amount and made the Braves offer an underslot deal. Part of this was a negotiation strategy, but part of this was due to concern about him being hurt.

Who is to blame?

I know general manager Alex Anthopoulos has a tough track record with prep pitchers in Toronto, but this isn’t entirely his fault. I’m also not blaming Stewart either.

The reason the physicals exist in the first place is to catch issues like these before something final occurs. Had Stewart signed and the injury gotten worse, that would have been a worse look for the Braves than not getting him signed.

This happens every so often. It happened with Rays first rounder Drew Rasmussen last summer, and he ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Not to compare Stewart and Rasmussen’s very different injuries, but it just happens.

Stewart was absolutely the best prospect on the board for the Braves and they took him. Had they taken someone else, another team would have taken Stewart soon after to find this issue.

More on this to come but considering the money offered being closer to the $2M mark and Stewart’s willingness to head to a JUCO next year to re-enter the 2019 draft, I tend to put more blame on the team.

How Does This Effect the Braves?

This hurts more than just the loss of Stewart. Losing Stewart also costs the Braves his slot plus five percent that they can go over by. That means not only do the Braves miss on adding Stewart, but they also can’t bring in talented LSU pitcher Zack Hess.

Aside from losing Stewart and Hess, it does have some positive impact to it as it assures the Braves will pick ninth in the 2019 MLB Draft, as Stewart went eighth this year and the Braves will he awarded a “plus one pick” to get the ninth pick. Not only does that give the Braves potentially two first rounders next year, assuming they don’t sign a free agent that costs them their own pick, but it increases their bonus pool flexibility a great deal.

The 2019 Draft looks solid and there are a number of college bats who will be in that area for those in the add more bats segment of the fan base. I’ll get into some of the individual prospects in the coming days, but aside from Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and Texas prep star Bobby Witt Jr., there is no one out there who I would say can’t slip down to ninth overall. I do not believe the Braves could get a player of Stewart’s caliber at nine next year- but there is still time to change that.