The 2020 MLB Draft somehow only took place a few months ago and the Braves’ top pick in that draft, LHP Jared Shuster out of Wake Forest, was added to the Braves’ player pool not long after he was drafted. Suffice it to say, there are not a lot of pitching prospects in the Braves’ farm system that are ahead of him right now. Lets take a look at how 2020 went and what we can expect in 2021.
What went right? Pretty much everything other than the lack of real live games as a pro. After a strong showing in the Cape Cod League thanks to some improved command, Shuster had a strong fall ball season and then came into the spring with a fastball that was up near 97 mph which was a pretty big jump for him. Combining that with one of the best changeups in the draft class and its clear to see why he was mowing guys down in the spring. It is pretty clear that the Braves bought that these improvements were going to stick because despite the lack of track record on Shuster, they popped him with their first round pick.
What went wrong? Shuster was probably never going to see a lot of innings anyways this year being his first in pro ball, but it sure would have been nice to see if the improvements he showed at Wake were continuing to stick. We have seen draft year wonders in the past and it would...well...not be great if that is what Shuster ended up being.
What to expect in 2021: Depends on what sort of mindset you are in regarding draft year performances of guys with iffy track records before that. The optimists among us will point to the Braves doing their due diligence and that Shuster has shown steady improvement since the summer of 2019. The pessimists, meanwhile, will question how he will perform over a full season’s workload as a starter and wonder if the COVID-shortened college season was enough of a sample size at his higher velocity to be sold on him as a first rounder. Expect to see him start at Rome and if he looks good, he could move quickly.