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Atlanta Braves 2021 MLB Draft Report Card

To see all of our 2021 draft report cards as they’re released, plus new scouting reports, analysis & more for the 2022 draft, visit our MLB Draft Tracker

Best Pure Hitter: Shortstop Luke Waddell (5) was one of the older players in the 2021 class. With four years of history at Georgia Tech, Atlanta felt confident in the quality of his hit tool and offensive approach. While not the toolsiest player, Waddell controls the zone at a high level, is tough to strike out and was a career .308/.407/.432 hitter with Georgia Tech. The Braves were aggressive and pushed Waddell all the way to Double-A, where he struggled in eight games but overall he hit .260/.324/.450 between Mississippi and High-A Rome. Outfielder Tyler Collins (8) has a contact-oriented approach and posted a .347/.424/.453 slash line in 23 games in the Florida Complex League.

Best Power Hitter: Power wasn’t a defining tool of this 2021 Braves draft, but outfielder Christian Robinson (15) does stand out for his huge raw power and loud exit velocities. Whether or not he’ll be able to tap into that power regularly in-game is still the big question for him. 

Fastest Runner: Collins has wheels and could be an old school top-of-the-lineup sort of hitter because of that. It’s plus-plus speed that should give him plus defensive potential and helped him go 12-for-16 (75%) in stolen bases in the FCL.

Best Defensive Player: Waddell isn’t the twitchy, toolsy, highlight reel caliber shortstop who will wow you with remarkable feats of athleticism, but he is an exceptionally reliable defender who is capable of handling the entire infield. He shows impressive body control and a good internal clock, has an ability to throw from multiple arm slots and always seems to make the routine play. He logged time at shortstop, second and third during his pro debut. 

Best Fastball: Atlanta went back to Wake Forest for their first round pick for the second straight year, taking righthander Ryan Cusick (1) and his fire breathing dragon of a fastball. The pitch was one of the best heaters in the 2021 draft class, has been up to 102 mph and generates tons of whiffs inside the strike zone with good life and better control in his pro debut than he showed in college.

Best Secondary Pitch: Righthander Spencer Schwellenbach (2) has a chance to develop multiple plus secondaries with his slider and changeup now that he’s focusing on pitching full-time, while the early reports on righthander AJ Smith-Shawver’s (7) slider development is quite eye-opening. Smith-Shawver’s breaking ball has been up to 90 mph and has easy plus upside as he continues to get more acclimated to pitching.

Best Pro Debut: Cusick struck out 50.7% of batters during his 16.1 inning stint with Low-A Augusta in his pro debut, posting a 2.76 ERA with 34 strikeouts to just four walks. It was a dominant, if brief start to his career with the Braves.

Best Athlete: Both Schwellenbach and Smith-Shawver standout as impressive athletes in this draft class. Schwellenbach was a shortstop at Nebraska who would come to the mound and get to 97 mph without so much as throwing regular bullpen sessions. Smith-Shawver has explosive arm speed and twitchiness on the mound and was a talented high school quarterback.

Most Intriguing Background: Schwellenbach and Smith-Shawver would also take the category here given their athletic and multi-positional backgrounds. Smith-Shawver drew interest as a Division I quarterback prospect, while Schwellenbach was named Mr. Baseball for the state of Michigan in 2018.

Closest To The Majors: Cusick has the power fastball to excel in a relief role if the Braves choose to push him in that capacity, though all indications are that he’ll be developed as a starter. Waddell could be a fast mover as an older college player with utility value and lefthander Dylan Dodd (7) has a high floor with a four-pitch mix including fastball with riding life and changeup that flashes plus.

Best Late-Round Pick (Or NDFA): The Braves signed lefthander Adam Shoemaker (11) for $477,500, which tied for the fourth-biggest bonus the team handed out this year. He’s got tons of physical projection with a 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame and has been into the mid-90s from the left side. Righthander Andrew Hoffmann (12) had a strong spring with Illinois and started his pro career well, posting a 2.73 ERA over seven starts and 29.2 innings, with 27 strikeouts and eight walks.

The One Who Got Away: Outfielder Ty Evans (20) was the only player the Braves failed to sign this year. He’s committed to Florida and has an impressive power-speed combination and right-right profile that could look more appealing for clubs with a few years of SEC production. Evans ranked as the No. 187 prospect on the BA 500.

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