Most things about the 2021 Atlanta Braves seem to revolve around the unprecedented shortened season of 2020, and evaluating prospect talent is no different. In 2020 the MLB Draft was shortened from forty rounds to a measly five rounds. Then, almost to add insult to injury, the lack of a minor league season meant these draftees saw no competitive pro games in all of 2020.
This article will serve as a refresher to who the Braves added during the 2020 MLB Draft and as undrafted free agents. The organization’s eyes will surely be on these players as they take their first steps into competitive, professional baseball.
2021 Atlanta Braves: 2020 Drafted Players
Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest (Round 1)
The Braves added four players in the draft, all college guys, and to start they took the 2019 Cape Cod League breakout Jared Shuster. Shuster dominated in the Cape, making seven starts over 32 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts, five walks, and an ERA of 1.40.
Shuster continued this dominance in a small sample size for Wake Forest before the 2020 NCAA baseball season was shut down, recording 78 strikeouts over 60 innings, while only allowing 50 baserunners total.
Shuster saw a real uptick in fastball velocity, sitting 88-92 mph his first two years in college to a healthy 91-95 mph his junior year. It’s also worth noting that his changeup has real plus potential, which can be rare for a college pitcher. The Braves are eager to see if Shuster can continue his recent dominance over a longer period of time.
No Pick (Round 2)
The Braves forfeited their second-round pick due to the one-year signing of Marcell Ozuna. After his silver slugger campaign in 2020 and the fact that he now is under contract for four years with no draft penalty, I doubt many will see this lost draft pick as a true loss.
Jesse Franklin, OF, Michigan (Round 3)
Jesse Franklin’s storyline is quite interesting. He was a high school prospect with a strong hit tool who ended up heading to the University of Michigan. He lit the world on fire his freshman year and performed well against strong competition his sophomore year while seeing much fewer pitches to hit than he did his freshman year.
Franklin was seen as a potential first or early second-round pick until sustaining an injury skiing just days before the 2020 college season. That injury mixed with the 2020 NCAA season being cut short meant Franklin saw no action in 2020.
Still, Franklin’s raw tools made the Braves willing to take a raw prospect who has seen a lot of success and see if they can shape him into a contributing big leaguer. Don’t expect to see him in Atlanta any time soon, but his potential makes him a very interesting prospect in the organization.
Spencer Strider, RHP, Clemson (Round 4)
Spencer Strider may be one of the most interesting picks in this shortened draft, just due to the fact that he missed all of his 2019 college season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Apparently, the Braves liked what they saw prior to injury and the little he played in 2020 enough to take a chance.
And it seems as though that chance may be rewarded. Strider’s fastball had previously sat around 93 mph and would touch as high as 97 mph, but reporting from the Fall Instructional League says Strider’s fastball had topped out at 99 mph and that his curveball had a reinvented look to make it a plus pitch.
If Strider can continue his improvements and stay healthy, it’s possible we’ll being hearing a lot more about him in seasons to come as he rises the minor league ranks.
Bryce Elder, RHP, Texas (Round 5)
Bryce Elder entrenched himself as the ace of the Texas Longhorns staff at the start of 2019 and has shown no signs of slowing down. Any concerns that may be quoted about his velocity or stuff should be quelled by the fact that he didn’t fully commit to baseball until about halfway through highschool, making him truly one of the more raw prospects in the draft.
Had Elder been taken as our first-round pick, it’s possible there would be some gripes from those that cover that Braves minor leagues. As the final pick for the Braves in the 2020 draft, Elder should be seen as a potential starter project with tons of raw talent upside that the Braves can mold as they see fit.
2021 Atlanta Braves: Signed Undrafted Free-Agents
Antonio Barranca, 1B/C, Calvart Hall College (MD) HS
Bryson Horne, 1B, Columbus State
Carter Linton, RHP, Tusculum
Cam Shepherd, SS, Georgia
Landon Stephens, UTL, Miami (Ohio)
Ethan Workinger, OF, San Diego City JC
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