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Atlanta Braves 2023 MLB Draft Recap

A review of each of the players in the 2023 MLB Draft class for the Atlanta Braves.

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

With the 2023 MLB Draft now complete, it is time to look at the newest members of the Atlanta Braves organization. The Braves selected 21 players during the 20 round draft, with the extra pick as compensation for losing Dansby Swanson last offseason. It should be expected that barring something surprising on a physical, the Braves should be able to sign all 21 of these players this year.

Of the 21 players the Braves drafted, 19 came from college and just two high school players. We also 12 pitchers to nine hitters, and of the 12 pitchers 10 of them were right-handed versus just two lefties.

Here is a closer look at each new member of the Braves 2023 draft class. Since the Day 1 and Day 2 guys were already covered after those days of the draft, I won’t spend too much time on those guys and will instead put links to more about them while focusing a little on the Day 3 guys.

1.Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida - Waldrep brings arguably the best raw stuff in the draft into the Braves system and is up there with anyone in the farm system in terms of pure stuff. He does have some command questions, but the stuff is very real. He’s got two pitches that are borderline plus plus in the fastball and splitter.

2.Drue Hackenberg, RHP, Virginia Tech - The brother of former NFL QB Christian Hackenberg and White Sox prospect Adam, Drue Hackenberg is a sinker-slider pitcher who could end up at the back of a rotation or come out of the pen. He’s athletic and a guy who a data driven team like the Braves see more value in than teams who rely mostly on old fashioned scouting.

2C.Cade Kuehler, RHP, Campbell - The writeup for Kuehler would be fairly similar to Waldrep, huge stuff but also command issues. His stuff is a tick below Waldrep’s and his delivery leads to some questions on whether he belongs in the bullpen longterm - but he’s another guy with overpowering stuff.

3.Sabin Ceballos, 3B, Oregon - A former prep shortstop known for his glove, is now a third baseman being picked more for his bat. Ceballos is the top bat in this draft class and has a chance to hit for average and decent power. He’s got enough glove for third, but he’s a well below average runner and may have to move - but has a chance to catch. I talked to one of his former coaches about him, a coach at San Jacinto JUCO, which is one of the Top 2-3 JUCO programs in the entire country, and he gave one of the most glowing reviews of not just the player, but the person and did so on the record.

“Sabin was one of, if not the most, beloved recruits I ever had the pleasure of landing at San Jac. He came in with a three-headed monster signing class of Harold Coll and Armani Sanchez and Sabin may have been the most undervalued of the three. He roomed with Mason Auer (OF now in the Rays system) and learned what real work really was. I told scouts constantly “Saba will be a big leaguer! His tools are off the charts, his head is in the right place, he is just hard enough on himself to be humble and realistic. More than that, if I had a daughter, I would have her ask him to marry her. He is a special young man.” (Oregon coach) Waz and company did a great job with him at Oregon. Honestly, how many collegiate players can get their coaches to jump and give high fives on HR’s rounding 3B? Saba convinced me to do it and he convinced Oregon coaches as well. Think about that in of itself. The kids attitude is infectious. I’ll never change my profile picture because of who he is. He made me a better coach.”

4.Garrett Baumann, RHP, Florida HS - Baumann is a massive 6’8” prep arm with a big fastball from Vaughn Grissom’s old high school. He’s a player who will take some time to improve his secondaries as well as his command and consistency in his delivery, but the upside is big if it all comes together for him.

5.Isaiah Drake, OF, Georgia HS - Drake is arguably the most fun prospect in the class with his 80-grade speed and plus power as well as plus defensive potential in center. He’s got some questions to answer about the hit tool, but did have a strong showing at the MLB Draft Combine. The North Atlanta HS product is going to be a fan favorite in the organization from day one.

6.Lucas Braun, RHP, CSU Northridge - While Braun didn’t have the best year statistically this year, he opened eyes with his improved stuff on the mound this year and has the data metrics to be a better pro than college player. Braun has a solid three pitch mix, with the fastball being the best pitch of the three. He has a chance to be a starter, but a future in the pen isn’t out of the question either. He is definitely reminiscent of a pair of pitchers from other California colleges drafted in the last decade - Shane Bieber and Tanner Bibee. I’m talking those two before Cleveland stepped in and helped them maximize what they are now, but the overall profile of the three at their draft time isn’t far off.

7.Justin Long, RHP, Rice - Justin Long converted from catcher to the mound this year and showed enough promise in a short time to draw scouts interest quickly. Of course having a mid 90s fastball to work with never hurts, but he’s essentially a clean slate with no bad habits to break for the Braves.

8.Cory Wall, RHP, William & Mary - Wall is another data metrics guy in this draft class. The former Fordham transfer has good stuff and throws strikes, and when you combine the two you get a type of pitcher the Braves like. He’s both started and came out of the pen, but he is probably more of a reliever in pro ball.

9.Riley Gowens, RHP, Illinois - Gowens was hit hard this year, but data metrics love him. So that was all it took for the Braves to grab him late on Day 2 as they try to see if they can get the best out of him and make him better in pro ball than what we saw in college.

10.Pier-Olivier Boucher,OF, Southern Illinois - Boucher is a Canadian, and grew up focused on playing hockey, only switching to baseball fairly recently. He might already be 23-years-old but the fact he’s still newer to full time baseball gives him more room to grow as a player than most guys his age. In his second year at SIU this season, he hit 16 homers and stole 19 bags, showing a power/speed combo to work with.

11.Jace Grady, OF, Dallas Baptist - The Braves started Day 3 with a player I wrote as a candidate for them as a Day 2 senior sign in Jace Grady. All Grady has done at DBU is hit. The 22-year old switch hitter has below average home run power, but good extra base power, with above average run speed. Still it’s the hit tool that got him drafted. Here are a look at his career numbers:

2021: .337/.418/.534, 4 HR, 24 XBH, 15-18 SB, 23 BB, 33 K

Cape: .346/.378/.539, 4 HR, 7 XBH, 5-5 SB, 4 BB, 7 K, 83 PA

2022: .310/.419/.509, 10 HR, 24 XBH, 25-27 SB, 40 BB, 60 K

2023: .309/.416/.534, 12 HR, 29 XBH, 25-28 SB, 45 BB, 42 K

12.Brady Day, 2B, Kansas State - The Braves doubled down in the next round and took Brady Day, another high on base guy. Day hit .356 with a .492 OPS this year, walking more than double the amount of times he struck out (49-22). He went to the Cape after the season and has held his own against top competition with wood bats. He doesn’t have a ton of power or speed, but the hit tool and approach are why you are drafting him. Of course just hours after he was drafted he hit a homer in a Cape Cod League game today.

13.Will Verdung, 3B, Mississippi JUCO - The Braves went to the JUCO side to grab a 3B who put up some excellent numbers this year in Will Verdung. All Verdung did this year was hit .389/.484/.706 with 15 home runs, tying the school record set by Red Sox recent Day 2 pick Tyreque Reed. The Southern Miss commit has real power and a track record for tapping into it in games, making him a worthwhile pick on Day 3.

14.Mitch Farris, LHP, Wingate - The Braves went into D2 to grab a two way player, and despite the fact he had a .947 OPS with 6 HR he is a pitcher all the way at the next level. As good as those hitting stats sound, he put up video game numbers on the mound this year: 1.21 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 3.9 H/9. The raw stuff isn’t huge, but he’s got good break on it that helps the fastball play up and has turned in outstanding results. He went to the Cape this summer, and while it’s hard to take much from an eight inning small sample, he did strike out 13 hitters over those eight innings.

15.David Rodriguez, RHP, California JUCO - The Braves went back to the JUCO ranks to take David Rodriguez out of California in the 15th round. Rodriguez is more low 90s with a solid slider and some feel for the change. He’s pitched in relief in the past and started this year but has some traits where either avenue is possible, though he may seem like more of a reliever long term. It’s worth noting that he struck out 124 with just 13 walks over 102 IP this year, so he is able to get swings and misses.

16.Isaac Gallegos, RHP, New Mexico - Isaac Gallegos is a sinker-slider type of pitcher who is still just 20-years-old at this point. He’s probably going to end up as a reliever because he’s a two pitch guy with some effort in his delivery and not huge stuff - so a move to the pen could help his stuff play up even more.

17.Kade Kern, OF, Ohio State - Ignore the fact that this is the 17th round, because Kade Kern is a toolsy player with an interesting power/speed combo. He’s also walked nearly as often as he’s struck out and posted an OBP of .402 this year. He hasn’t fully put everything together yet and has struggled with the wood bats on the Cape in each of the two previous summers, but the upside is there if the Braves are able to unlock it.

18.Cam Magee, SS, Washington State - Cam Magee started out at Arizona State and made his way to Wazzou this year, where he split time between all four infield positions. He’s got more modest power, but he makes contact and gets on base while limiting the strikeouts and with his defensive versatility has upside in a utility type of role.

19.Riley Frey, LHP, Milwaukee - The second lefty in the class is Riley Frey from Milwaukee. Frey is a low-90s stuff guy who relies on deception, but he’s been able to miss bats both in college and on the Cape this summer. He likely projects as a reliever because he’s more of a two pitch guy with the fastball and slider, but this is the point in the draft where relievers have real value.

20.Will King, C, Eastern Kentucky - The Braves love to draft at least one catcher every year, and they waited until their final pick to do so this year. King is more interesting than his 20th rounder status might indicate. He’s still just age-19, has produced double digit homers in each of the past two seasons, and done so with only two more strikeouts than walks over those two seasons. King went to the Cape this summer and impressed there with a .807 OPS in 69 plate appearances.

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