As we continue along with our 2023 MLB Draft coverage here at Battery Power we’re going to take a look at the depth of left handed pitching in this draft and whether it makes sense for the Braves to take a look at the position in the draft. Obviously, no organization can ever have enough pitching and the Braves will be taking a number of them throughout the draft. The first two parts of this series are here and here.
Why the Braves could pick a left-handed pitcher early
In most years the buzz around the Atlanta Braves centers heavily on pitching in the first round, but this season it seems more and more like the industry things they’re looking on the offensive end of things. However a lot of that is under the assumption they will go best player available when in the past they have tended to go with an underslot pick in that first round. There is still time for left-handed pitching to rise up the boards into that late first round territory but right now it’s a surprisingly thin position with only one player inside of Baseball America’s top 35 draft prospects.
If the Braves did go with a lower-ranked prospect with their first pick an intriguing option would be Paul Wilson out of Lakeridge High School in Oregon. Now, with Dana Brown no longer in the organization draft strategy isn’t exactly clear, but in the past Atlanta has heavily valued pitchers with high athleticism and Wilson fits that mold. More checks on Atlanta’s sheet is a fastball with carry and a fastball that has peaked out at 97 mph though velocity has backed off this spring a bit. Wilson also features a mix of a curveball, slider, and changeup that will give the Braves a number of options to develop off of and it seems they’ve leaned towards multiple breaking balls as a development option for a number of recent young pitchers.
Why the Braves won’t pick a left-handed pitcher early
As mentioned before there just isn’t really that many options that would seem to fall into best player available. The Braves have surprised us in the past with players like Owen Murphy, but even in those cases it was well known that those picks were seen as money-saving options. A player like Thomas White sliding down draft boards seems like an unlikely case at this point, so in order for the Braves to go left handed pitching at 24 they would have to reach a bit. Wilson, along with his fellow draft prospects like Cameron Johnson and Joe Whitman are more likely to be compensation round or second round picks and that would also be the most likely spot for Atlanta to target pitching. Right now all signs point to them going with a position player in the first round of the draft.
Day Two/Three Targets
Adam Hachman - Hachman is a large, projectable left handed pitcher with huge stuff that had a chance to go in the first round, but he has struggled with injuries and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery in spring. That makes him a huge value proposition as there aren’t going to be many if any young arms with upper-90’s heat available after the first day of the draft, though Hachman is going to be a major project for Atlanta. He could also be a pitcher they view as a clean slate, as he basically needs a complete reset with his mechanics and secondary offerings and the development staff will be able to mold him completely to the Braves wishes.
Quinn Mathews - A senior sign with a fantastic changeup, Mathews is more akin to recent picks like Dylan Dodd and could be one that the Braves target in the early rounds of day two. There simply aren’t many high end college left handed pitchers available and Mathews is one of the more standout options. He struck out 158 batters in 124 2⁄3 innings for Stanford this spring and is a plug-and-play option that will immediately add depth to the system and starting depth for the big league club within a couple of years.
Bryson Hammer - MLB teams have a unique opportunity this spring and will have the option of using a mid round pick of a dude named Hammer whose best pitch is his curveball. Hammer also features a fantastic changeup that he uses even more often than the curveball and he has a good enough fastball to be able to get into those secondaries. The problems are abound once we start talking command and mechanics so there is work to do for the Braves, but he has been a good performer at the college level so they will give him a run as a starter. His ultimate role is likely in relief due to the aforementioned problems.
Hunter Dietz - Another in the category of an intriguing size/athleticism combination, Dietz stands 6’6 but isn’t a hard-thrower with his fastball sitting in the low-90’s. There is some belief that he could add some muscle and velocity, especially if he can make mechanical tweaks to get his lower body more active through his delivery. Dietz’s best offering is his slider, but both it and his changeup show inconsistent shape and will need to be developed for awhile before he is ready for the upper levels of the minor leagues. His fastball has solid movement and still gets whiffs at the prep level, so even if he doesn’t see a tick up in velocity as long as his secondary offerings can develop he could still have a starter’s future.
Sebastion Gongora - Gongora has been solid in his junior year for Wright State, and though he is a player that may be better suited for another season in college he could have a profile that the Braves and others are interested in. His fastball sits in the 90-91 range and features impressive induced vertical break due to the extreme and efficient backspin he has on his fastball. At 6’5 there is at least some reason to think he could add velocity with a professional strength training program and tweaks mechanically, but as of now his fastball is still effective even at lower velocities. His curveball has solid movement and velocity profile though it’s going to be about developing consistency as he pitched heavily off of his fastball in college. His changeup is a distant third at the moment, but he likewise did not use the pitch much in college and it has a decent base in its shape and his arm action. I like Gongora quite a lot and think he is one that could be a better pro than amateur player with the right hands to mold him.