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Braves Minor League Player Review: JR Ritchie

The Braves’ second first round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft had his season cut short by injury this year.

2022 Major League Baseball Draft
JR Ritchie and Fred McGriff
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

JR Ritchie was entering his first full pro season in full-season ball at just 20 years of age. However his season ended up being cut short due to injury.

How Acquired

After taking a high school right-hander with their first choice of the day, the Atlanta Braves used their second first round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft on a second one in JR Ritchie. The 35th overall pick in the draft out of Bainbridge HS in Bainbridge Island, Washington, Ritchie signed for $2.4 million.

Preseason Report Card

Ritchie came into the year ranked as the #4 prospect in our own Top 25 prospect list. The high-upside, 6’2”, 185-pound right-hander was seen as having middle of the rotation upside with four quality pitches, led by an upper-90s fastball. His 2022 debut after signing went as well as anyone could have hoped for in a short sample size, as he dominated in two short outings in the FCL and then hurled 10 solid innings over three starts in Low-A, all less than three months after graduating high school.

What we saw in 2023

Ritchie was widely expected to begin back in Low-A after only having thrown just 14 13 innings after signing in 2022. He made four starts and looked real good, though it is hard to take much from such a small sample. He struck out an extremely impressive 25 batters in just 13 13 innings in full-season ball at the age of 19 (he turned 20 in late June). Over those 13 13 innings he posted an eye-popping 47.2 percent strikeout rate, and a great walk rate of just 5.7 percent. While I don’t think you can take a lot with such a small sample, his ability to miss bats at a very high rate without also walking everyone just can’t be ignored.

But, disaster struck after those four starts, as it turned out Tommy John Surgery was in the cards for the young right-hander.

2024 Outlook

The most likely outcome for Ritchie in 2024 is not appearing in a game while he continues to rehab his injury. Even if he meets the shorter end of the Tommy John Surgery recovery window, he’d end up ready for action by end of August — right when minor league seasons are starting to wind down. Of course, if he takes a longer time to recover, he could remain on the shelf through the fall instructional league, or beyond.

In other words, we’re all going to be looking forward to Ritchie’s eventual 2025 return to see just what he looks like. His middle-of-the-rotation ceiling, with some potential to be more than that, was there pre-injury, but now we are left waiting to see what the post-TJS version of Ritchie looks like.

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