When the Braves selected Adam Maier with their seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft, it caught our attention. While Maier was injured, it was definitely going to require an overslot deal to sign him. When it was announced that the Braves agreed to give him a signing bonus of nearly $1.2 million, our interest heightened further. Here is a look at one of the newest pitching prospects that the Braves added to their minor league system this year.
Preseason Report Card
Maier certainly wasn’t on our radar for the Braves going into given that there was no guarantee whatsoever that the Braves would draft him. He did have some draft buzz, especially pre-injury, and Baseball America had Maier as their 154th-best draft prospect going into the 2022 MLB Draft.
What we saw in 2022
Before hurting his elbow, Maier was getting some buzz as having one of the better breaking balls in the 2022 draft class. It’s a high spin pitch with hard, late break that Maier can throw for strikes, or have it dive out of zone for swings and misses. We wouldn’t be surprised if it morphs into more of a hybrid power slider/curve as a pro, but the pitch was likely Maier’s biggest selling point for the Braves. His fastball hit 97 mph in college, although it generally sat lower than that; it will be interesting to see where the fastball is, velocity-wise when Maier returns from injury.
The biggest takeaway from Maier’s 2022 was that his season was largely lost due to an elbow injury. Notably, Maier did not undergo Tommy John Surgery and instead opted for an internal UCL brace procedure. This approach is still relatively new; it’s hard to make any predictions for how his arm will hold up as a pro (given our lack of medical expertise and all).
It is pretty clear that, barring a setback, we will get the chance to see Maier pitch in 2023, and it could be relatively early in the season, given that UCL brace procedure is not as invasive as Tommy John Surgery. Moreover, the Braves giving Maier the equivalent of second-round money is certainly a vote of confidence from the organization that they believe in Maier’s recovery and his upside.
How will Maier look after making it back on the mound? Who knows. High-spin breaking balls can put a lot of strain on a pitcher’s arm, until we see his return, we remain cautiously optimistic. We expect him to make his full-season debut in 2023 in Augusta, if not Rome. If Maier’s recovery goes well and he is in good form, don’t be surprised if he moves through the system quickly as a college arm with real upside.