Braves' Ryan Cusick Stands Out In Pro Debut
Righthander Ryan Cusick impressed across six starts at Low-A Augusta last season, exhibiting the big arm that prompted the Braves to draft him No. 24 overall in 2021.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Cusick had a 2.76 ERA and struck out 34 in 16.1 innings. He achieved that success with a three-pitch mix: a fastball that reaches 102 mph, a work-in-progress changeup and a difference-making slider.
When the Braves drafted the 22-year-old out of Wake Forest, he had been working with his pitching coach John Hendricks on re-implementing his slider. He showed the Braves the pitch while working out in Florida before going on assignment.
The organization was so encouraged it recommended he abandon his curveball and focus on the slider.
“They said they loved the slider. 'We think we want you to continue working on it, so much so we’re going to have you not throw the curveball and just focus on the slider so you can get as many reps as possible,’ ” Cusick said.
“I thought that was an interesting approach because I thought my curveball was really good, too . . . It ended up working out great. I made so much more progress in 16 innings than I would’ve had I continued to use (my) curveball.”
Eventually, Cusick will use his curveball again, though he isn’t sure when that time will come. His changeup is a priority entering 2022. Cusick admits he has “no idea” how the pitch will play, but he’s eager to see its value.
“It could be something I throw 10% of the time, and that’s as much as I need it,” he said. “Maybe it works great as a third pitch. I don’t know if it’ll be a two-strike offering, where it’s a completely wipeout changeup."
Cusick has simplified his delivery, which has improved his control, a primary issue in college—and one that led some evaluators to see him as a future reliever.
— Outfielder Jesse Franklin has impressed the Braves since they drafted him in the third round out of Michigan in 2020. Franklin showed budding power last season with 24 homers and 24 doubles at pitcher-friendly High-A Rome. He was also successful in 19 of his 23 steal attempts.
— The Braves are excited for shortstop Vaughn Grissom. He’s shown an advanced approach and has enticing physical traits. Grissom is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how much power he develops as he grows.