Shuster was the team’s first-rounder from Wake Forest. His college production wasn’t exciting, with an ERA exceeding 6.00, but the Braves saw him make significant strides since the Cape Cod League last summer.
In four starts this season, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefthander’s velocity had bumped from the upper 80s to the 91-95 mph range thanks to a revamped delivery. He posted a 43-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26.1 innings before the pandemic ended the season.
Shuster’s changeup is his best pitch, grading as one of the best in his class. It produced a 64% whiff rate in 2019 and helped him garner attention on the Cape, where he went 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
While the Braves might have reached for Shuster—Baseball America ranked him as its No. 43 prospect—vice president of scouting Dana Brown believes he’s only scratching the surface, largely because of that adjusted delivery.
“We feel like this is a pitcher with upside,” Brown said. “We think the aptitude is really good and there’s a chance this guy could be a three-pitch mix with above-average to plus stuff.”
Franklin, meanwhile, was the 97th overall pick. The third-rounder already has caught eyes at the alternate camp, including when he made a diving catch in right field to rob Drew Waters during a scrimmage at Truist Park in mid-August.
The Braves believed Franklin could be a true power-speed threat. The Michigan product broke out in 2019, hitting .262/.388/.477 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs. He didn’t play in the truncated 2020 season after breaking his collarbone in a skiing accident.
With Franklin fully recovered, the Braves are excited to work with his raw tools. He was the only position player the Braves drafted, and they needed an influx of position talent in their system.
“He’ll grow into some power,” Brown said. “I saw it more so in batting practice, so he’s got some raw power. Because of the swing and the way it looks, we feel like he’ll be able to get into a lot of that power.”
— Cristian Pache, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, debuted in Atlanta on Aug. 21, starting in left field and hitting ninth. It’s likely only a matter of time until he assumes regular center field duties. Pache, 21, is an elite defensive talent with blooming offense.
— With Pache’s debut, the Braves have only one blue chip position prospect yet to make the majors: outfielder Drew Waters. The Braves are weaker in the lower levels than they have been in five years. They are now tasked with balancing present and future, trying to contend while replenishing the minors. Atlanta ranked as the No. 4 farm system entering the season, which will likely be their last time in the top five for a while.