It’s way, way, way too early to be worrying about who the Atlanta Braves will pick in next years first year player draft, but it’s currently December and us prospect folk don’t have much else to talk about so let’s do it anyways. MLB Pipeline released their first mock draft, and I’m sure you will be shocked to learn that they projected a college pitcher to the Braves. Atlanta holds the 24th pick next July, and Jonathan Mayo has the Braves taking Texas Longhorns pitcher Tanner Witt.
Witt, the son of former big leaguer Kevin Witt, was projected to be a higher first round pick but suffered a torn UCL last February which led to Tommy John surgery. Prior to his injury his fastball ticked up to the mid-90s with high spin rates and he has a three pitch offspeed mix that all garner high reviews. Witt will have a high variance in draft position that will be heavily influence by if and when he pitches this spring as his mix of pitches could vault him up draft boards if he comes back sharp this spring. He could also fade significantly if his stuff regresses or he isn’t able to make a speedy recovery.
There are yet more intriguing options that could be available with the 24th pick in a few months. Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA, who produced Matt Olson and former Brave Jeff Francoeur has another intriguing prospect this season in shortstop Colin Houck. Could Dana Brown look at a system short on high-end hitting talent, especially up-the-middle talent, and go with the 6’2 Houck if he were available as in this mock draft? Houck is a powerful hitter who has shown a feel for the barrel and a strong arm, although his speed and ability to stick at shortstop is his biggest question mark.
Atlanta could also go underslot as they have in years past and take a peak down at Campbell University right handed pitcher Cade Kuehler. Kuehler is undersized at 6 foot even, but has an arm that fits the profile the Braves often target. A mid-90’s fastball that’s peaked at 98 with standout carry up in the zone would be right at home in the Braves system, and he also features the hard, vertical slider that the Braves often teach pitchers such as fellow undersized righty Spencer Strider. These are just a couple of names that may be worth circling early on, but so much will change over these next seven months that we can’t get too attached to anyone.