Braves: Hurston Waldrep rockets up Keith Law’s prospect rankings

Hurston Waldrep Braves

The story of the 2024 Atlanta Braves — if we’re looking at things positively — has been the pitching. Atlanta’s rotation has been one of the best in baseball — led by Max Fried, Chris Sale, and Reynaldo López — and the bullpen has been equally as reliable. Without the pitching, the Braves wouldn’t even be .500, but the arms haven’t just been impressing at the major-league level. The top guys on the farm are turning heads as well.

A case could be made that 20-year-old Owen Murphy had been the most dominant pitcher in all of the minors before it was announced he would undergo Tommy John surgery. Spencer Schwellenbach began the year in High-A Rome and just worked his way to the majors last week. However, according to Keith Law, the most impressive arm in Atlanta’s system is 2023 first-round pick Hurston Waldrep.

Over at The Athletic, Law recently updated his top 50 prospects after the first two months of the season. Waldrep came in ranked 80th prior to the season; now, he’s cracked the top 50, clocking in at #41.

Waldrep got bombed in his first outing of the year, but since then he’s been cruising with a 1.74 ERA and, most importantly, a reasonable walk rate just over 8 percent. Atlanta has him throwing his slider much more often so he’s not so reliant on his grade-70 split-change, and he’s having success with it, especially against lefties.

Waldrep was promoted to AAA Gwinnett over the weekend and made his first start on Sunday. Over six innings, he struck out 11 batters, allowing just three runs on five hits and one walk. It seems to all be coming together for the former Florida Gators standout. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in an outing in his last nine starts, and over his last four starts, he has 34 strikeouts to only four walks.

How the Braves handle Waldrep moving forward will be intriguing. In recent years, they’ve had no problem throwing their guys into the fire early with promotions to the majors, and it’s worked out well. However, that’s not necessarily the formula for every young player.

Eventually, I expect the Braves to give Waldrep a shot to win the fifth and final spot in the rotation, which has been a revolving door for as long as I can remember. But it is possible that they let him marinate in Gwinnett for a little while and allow him to build some confidence. Waldrep has the opportunity to be a big piece of the Braves playoff run down the stretch, whether it be as a starting pitcher or a reliever.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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