The Atlanta Braves completed Day 1 of the MLB Draft by taking three college arms in Hurston Waldrep, Drue Hackenberg and Cade Kuehler. Hackenberg was the 59th pick out of Virginia Tech and Kuehler was the 70th pick out of Campbell.
Braves Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Ronit Shah spoke with the media following the conclusion of Day 1 and was asked if taking three college pitchers was the plan going in.
“I wouldn’t say that necessarily. I know it’s a cliche or adage but yeah, we truly were just taking the best players on the board at each pick and we are really excited about the three college arms we got,” Shah said.
Hackenberg was lower rated coming into the draft, but Shah and the Braves think that he has the makings of a dependable starter whose profile is trending upward.
“I think looking at Drue Hackenberg, you got a two year proven college starter that was also at Team USA,” Shah said. “Really strong resume here with strike throwing. Throwing a little bit harder. This year was 93 to 96 with a plus curveball that he’s always had. We love the makeup, love the delivery. We think he’s going to be another athletic strike throwing starter for us with an out pitch breaking ball.”
Shah wouldn’t disclose whether Hackenberg might be an underslot pick and reiterated that they were taking the best players on the board at each pick. He did say that the expectation is that every draft pick will sign.
The Braves nabbed Kuehler out of Campbell with the 70th pick.
“Another guy that was on Team USA,” Shah said of Kuehler. “Another proven college starter, logged a ton of innings for three years at Campbell. He’s got a power fastball, sitting in the mid 90s. Misses a lot of bats with it.
Kuehler is small in stature measuring in at 6-foot, 215. Naturally, the comparison is there for someone like Spencer Strider, but Shah was careful not to make that comparison.
“Yeah, I get that. I think I wouldn’t quite say that,” Shah said. “I think he’s Cade Kuehler, but his fastball is definitely electric and that’s a big reason for why he’s had the success he’s had It’s definitely an out pitch. It’s a primary pitch and he can pitch off the fastball.
Despite coming from a smaller program, Kuehler is pretty accomplished and would appear to have the stuff to move through the system quickly. Shah though wasn’t willing to put a timeline on any of their Day 1 picks.
“No, I don’t think we view him any differently,” Shah said. “Again, Team USA guy, so there’s a lot of history here. He’s been proven against better competition. At the end of the day, I’m not sure what the timeline’s going to be with any of these guys. Pro ball is obviously challenging, and a lot different than college, but we feel really good about these three guys and what they’re going to be able to do in pro ball.”