Braves’ Drue Hackenberg Gets The Most Out Of His Stuff


The Braves drafted Virginia Tech righthander Drue Hackenberg in the second round a year ago, and he’s quickly become one of several pitching prospects emerging in the system.

Hackenberg pitched to a 3.64 ERA in 12 starts for High-A Rome this season, with 62 strikeouts and 28 walks in 59.1 innings. That earned him a June 25 promotion to Double-A Mississippi.

His early performance justified the Braves taking a chance on a pitcher who had run up a 5.80 ERA in the Atlantic Coast Conference in his draft year.

“We think he’s going to be another athletic, strike-throwing starter for us with an out-pitch breaking ball,” Braves assistant scouting director Ronit Shah said.

The Braves rave about how the 22-year-old Hackenberg attacks the strike zone. His sinker induced an extremely high 61% groundball rate in the South Atlantic League, a positive trait for a pitcher in a Braves organization that features a strong infield defense.

Hackenberg needs to continue refining his command, but his base-level traits are similar to some other recent young Braves who didn’t project as top-level pitchers but contributed at the highest level.

The easy comparison point is righthander Bryce Elder, who has bounced between Atlanta and Triple-A but has 263 career MLB innings. Like Elder, Hackenberg sits in the low-to-mid 90s and relies heavily on his defense. 

Hackenberg projects as a back-end starter, his ceiling likely limited by his physical attributes and stuff. His athletic bloodlines don’t hurt.

Each of his three brothers were athletes: Christian played quarterback at Penn State and became a second-round selection by the Jets. Brandon was a captain on Penn State’s soccer team and became a first-rounder in Major League Soccer. Adam played baseball at Clemson before the White Sox drafted him in the 18th round in 2021.


— Triple-A Gwinnett catcher Drake Baldwin will represent the organization at the Futures Game. Baldwin has continued improving and stands as one of the most valuable players in the system. His emergence has sparked a debate: Is Baldwin expendable—he would be a coveted trade chip—with Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud in the majors? Or is he too important as a potential long-term piece to back up Murphy, who could be under club control through 2029? The Braves have shown they place tremendous value on having multiple capable backstops.

— Triple-A Gwinnett shortstop Nacho Alvarez, perhaps the best position prospect in the system, has played extremely well since joining the International League. But the Braves seem likely to stick with veteran Orlando Arcia at shortstop, despite his offensive struggles, because of his defense. Alvarez is just 21 and unproven—but he would undoubtedly be a downgrade defensively, and the Braves prioritize defense at shortstop.

Alvarez’s future is an interesting topic, given the Braves’ infield is set long-term outside maybe Arcia, who is signed to a team-friendly deal and provides a solid floor as a reliable defender. Perhaps Alvarez ultimately becomes a trade chip, if the club doesn’t see him excelling at shortstop over the long haul.

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