The Braves went college arm-heavy with their first three picks of the 2023 draft, the last of which was Kuehler, whom they took with their latter of their two second round picks. While Kuehler’s pro debut was limited, the Braves feel that they may have found a potential future rotation piece in the righty.
Atlanta took Hurston Waldrep and Drue Hackenberg with their first two picks in the 2023 MLB Draft, but then took Kuehler out of Campbell University with the 70th overall selection, signing him with a $1.04 million bonus. Kuehler’s selection came via the pick the Braves received from losing Dansby Swanson to the Cubs via free agency. The 21-year-old posted a 2.71 ERA in his final campaign for the Camels while averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Preseason report card
As a 2023 draftee, Kuehler obviously didn’t appear on our preseason top prospects list. However, after he was selected in July, he checked in at number 10 on our midseason list. Kuehler possesses a good fastball that sits in the mid-90s, but he can ramp it up to 98 or so when needed. He can also spin a good slider and a solid curveball, changeup and splitter. Having that arsenal available helps his chances to become one of Atlanta’s better pitching prospects.
What we saw in 2023
As mentioned above, Kuehler didn’t have too much of an opportunity to showcase his talents in pro ball this season. After spinning 73 innings for Campbell, the Braves sent Kuehler straight to Augusta, where he started two games for the GreenJackets. In those two appearances, the right-hander tossed seven innings, allowing just one hit, four walks, and striking out eight.
While he only made a pair of starts for Augusta, there’s a very good chance Kuehler starts 2024 in Rome. If the Braves decide to stick him in Low-A to begin the season, he most likely won’t be stay there for long.
Double-A Mississippi figures to be Kuehler’s ceiling for 2024. But, Alex Anthopolous and the front office have shown an increased willingness to push their prospects — especially pitchers — in the event they perform. So as long as Kuehler puts up solid numbers and excels at each level he reaches, there’s a possibility, albeit a slim one, given his age, that he could reach Atlanta next year as a bullpen piece.
Long-term, Kuehler is going to be pushed as a starter until he gives the Braves a reason to move him to the bullpen. With his arsenal, college performance, and pedigree, there’s no reason Kuehler won’t be able to stick around as a starter for the foreseeable future.