Kyle Muller Is Ready To Break Through
When spring training opened, no organization carried as much pitching wealth as the Braves. Even among a talented group, lefthander Kyle Muller stood out.
The 21-year-old Muller, whom the Braves selected in the second round of the 2016 draft out of a Texas high school, went 4-1, 3.10 with 27 strikeouts in 29 innings in his first taste of Double-A.
He’s yet to join the ranks of Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright and other notable names in the team’s system, but once his fastball command improves and his changeup becomes more consistent, he might reach those ranks.
"It’s been neat to watch him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "The kid’s an imposing figure, too. He’s a very impressive kid.”
After a slow start to his pro career, everything is starting to click for Muller. His velocity has steadily increased, getting back to the mid-90s toward the end of last season. He looked dominant in a pair of spring outings, when he struck out four in two innings, showcasing his offspeed pitches at their best.
Muller reaching the majors this season is not out of the question. The Braves aren’t shy about promoting prospects, including the calls for Bryse Wilson and Wright last year, but Muller’s fate may be decided by an injury situation.
They’re so stocked with pitching options, the Braves may simply decide against starting Muller’s clock even if he proves ready. They’ve also transitioned from rebuild to contention, and ushering in another young arm may be less preferred than adding veterans at the deadline.
If Muller’s time does come, the team would likely plug him into the bullpen. After pitching 139 2/3 innings last season, the Braves sent Muller to the Arizona Fall League as a reliever. He struck out 15 and walked eight in 10 2/3 innings, earning a spot in the Fall Stars Game.
"Coming out of the ’pen, it’s a bit of a different animal,” Muller said. "It shows you that a lot of the stuff, the superstitions you have as a starter, you don’t really need. Sometimes you just have to go in—you might get the seventh, you might get the fifth. You don’t really know exactly what time you’re going in. So just learning how to deal with that, and obviously it’s something good for the future, being comfortable in that type of situation.”
Braves outfield prospect Drew Waters looks the part. His batting practices are worth the price of admission: Waters already has a healthy amount of pop with a frame that should support more weight. The 20-year-old is a true baseball junkie with athletic bloodlines from a father who played football at Georgia Tech.
Waters, the club's second-round selection in 2017 out of high school in Georgia, could be a candidate for a Ronald Acuna-style rise, according to one of his coaches. That’s not to compare him with the 2018 Rookie of the Year, but Waters has the skill set that could advance him through the system at a similarly quick pace. The Braves love Waters' physical profile and mental makeup and believe he's a strong season away from knocking on the door of the big leagues.