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Braves Pounce On Bryce Elder In Fifth Round



The Braves drafted Texas righthander Bryce Elder in the fifth round in 2020. This year he will have a chance to put himself on the map during his first minor league season.

Elder slipped in the draft because of signability concerns. He and the Braves ultimately came to terms for $850,000, which was more than $500,000 over slot, after signing two other draft picks to under-slot deals. Atlanta considered Elder a third-round talent.

After posting a 5.55 ERA in 22 games his freshman season with the Longhorns, Elder made a leap his sophomore campaign. He had a 2.93 ERA and struck out 86 batters across 83 innings. He continued piling up strikeouts in the shortened 2020 season, fanning 32 in 18 innings.

The Braves are hopeful Elder will strengthen the organization's pitching depth at the lower levels while developing into a solid big league starter. The 21-year-old was among those who participated in the organization’s smaller instructional league in Gwinnett in early October.

“He can sink (his fastball). He’s got a pretty good slider—a swing-and-miss type pitch,” Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown said. “He logs innings. He’s been very durable . . .

"We feel like this is a guy who can really be part of the back end of your rotation one day.”

Elder, who stands 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, was generally considered a high floor pitcher entering the draft. But because he didn’t fully commit to baseball until halfway through high school—he was also a talented golfer—and he made such progress between his freshman and sophomore collegiate seasons, it’s not inconceivable he could outperform projections.

His character and work ethic are also highly praised.

Alongside Elder, the Braves also drafted Wake Forest lefthander Jared Shuster and Clemson righty Spencer Strider. For years, the Braves’ pitching depth was the envy of most organizations. They’re now beginning the process of replenishing the system. Elder proving as advertised, or maybe even better, would be a step in the right direction.

WIGWAM WISPS

— The Braves' 40-man rosters contains a number of lesser known pitchers who could receive spot starts or bullpen innings in 2021. That group includes righthanders Jasseel De La Cruz and Patrick Weigel, who have their supporters in the front office but haven’t had the opportunities to make an impact yet.

Even as they have contended the past three seasons, the Braves have proven they won’t hesitate to throw unproven players in the mix. In 2020, journeyman lefthander Tyler Matzek blossomed into a high-leverage reliever. The season before, rookie righty Jacob Webb accrued a 1.39 ERA over his first 36 games before an elbow injury ended the reliever's season. Perhaps the team’s next surprise is already on the 40-man roster.

Webb is a reliever to watch in 2021 after he didn’t allow a run in eight appearances in 2020. He’s among the Braves’ most intriguing pitchers.

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