The Atlanta Braves used their first round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft on 6’6 right-hander Ryan Cusick out of Wake Forest. Cusick brings a big arm with a slider and a still developing changeup. He has touched 101 mph on the radar gun according to Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown, and the team was very excited to get him.
Cusick talked about getting picked by Atlanta, the draft process and what this weekend has been like Tuesday morning.
“I knew that the Braves were interested,” Cusick said. “I have had a good relationship with Billy Best, the area scout, for a few years now. He’s a great guy, would always reach out to me and we’ve had a good relationship throughout this whole process. The Braves are one of the teams that I thought were a real possibility going into the night. When I heard that they were the team, I was just ecstatic. I’ve heard so many great things from Jared Shuster about the organization. Just really super excited.”
Best also played a big part in the Shuster pick for Atlanta in 2020 so it isn’t a surprise to see his name mentioned here. Cusick flew to Colorado on Saturday with his family and friends. He was picked by the Braves on Sunday and then was able to attend the Home Run Derby Monday night.
“It’s just been kind of a rush, but it’s something that I worked my whole life for.”
During the draft process, some have Cusick projected as a reliever and the development of his changeup is going to be key. Brown mentioned Sunday that Cusick was a guy that could be a reliever at some point but could develop his way into a major league rotation. Cusick is very aware that the changeup is in many ways the key to his future as a starter as a professional.
“I think the third pitch is going to be huge for me,” Cusick said when asked about the changeup. “My last Wake Forest game was May 23, so I had six weeks between that and the draft to work on the changeup and also the slider, which is more of a hard cutter slider. The changeup is relatively a new pitch for me. It’s come a long way in the past year, once I started throwing it during quarantine. It’s getting better and more consistent and it’s at the point now where it’s ready for game use.
As is the case with a lot of hard throwing young pitchers, Cusick has had issues at times with his control. In three years at Wake Forest, he struck out 206 hitters but also walked 79 in 158 innings. Brown talked about some mechanical adjustments that Cusick had made to throw more strikes. Cusick went into a little more detail about the adjustments.
“Using the lower half. That’s been the theme for me for the past 18 months,” Cusick said of the adjustments he is working on. “I’m a guy that my body naturally moves cross body stepping towards the third base dugout and I rotate around that front leg that’s across my body. Learning how to use the hip hinge and go from quad-dominant to glute-dominant and use all that muscle that I worked so hard for in the weight room. Making more of a linear move right towards the plate and not wasting as much force. That’s been the huge thing for me.”
Cusick indicated that he is ready to get started although he wasn’t sure when they might happen.
“I think I’m gonna fly down to Atlanta to get a physical and then sign a contract and then move on from there. To be honest, I want to go pitch up pitch today if I could. I’m ready to go as soon as they want me to get going and I’m just excited to get started.”