What do the Braves see in Jackson Kowar?

MLB: AUG 23 Royals at Athletics

The Braves shocked the baseball world when they dealt Kyle Wright to the Kansas City Royals ahead of the non-tender deadline.

Wright was set to miss the 2024 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he was still under contract through 2026 and was projected to earn less than $2 million in arbitration. After winning 21 games and finishing in the top 10 of the NL Cy Young race, most expected the Braves to wait it out with the 5th overall selection in the 2017 draft.

Instead, Atlanta cut ties with Wright, but what was perhaps even more surprising was the return, right-handed pitcher Jackson Kowar.

Like most Braves fans, my immediate reaction was, “Who?”

Kowar and Wright actually had similar paths to the bigs. Both elected to attend SEC powerhouses. Wright went to Vanderbilt, and Kowar is a product of the Florida Gators baseball program. They were then both selected in the first round. Wright went 5th overall in 2017, and Kowar 33rd overall in 2018.

You can even argue their professional careers have been relatively similar. Prior to Wright’s outstanding 2022 campaign, he posted a 2-8 record with a 6.56 ERA across 21 appearances (14 starts). Wright then recorded a 6.97 ERA over nine appearances (seven starts) in 2023 while battling shoulder issues. 2022 was an outstanding display of his potential, but for a 5th overall selection, Wright’s been rather underwhelming to this point of his career.

Kowar has yet to experience any major-league success. He owns an unsightly 9.12 ERA in 39 appearances over the last three seasons. His 5.99 FIP does suggest he’s suffered some pretty abysmal luck, but there must be significant improvement if he ever wants to be considered an integral piece of what the Braves are building in Atlanta.

On paper, there’s not really much to suggest Jackson Kowar will even play for the Braves in 2024. His numbers in AAA are equally as discouraging as his numbers were with the Royals, and his peripherals aren’t any better, but one thing does stand out. The 27-year-old can bring the heat.

Kowar averaged nearly 97 MPH on his fastball last season, up significantly from 2021 when it averaged 95.6 MPH. Of course, velocity is far from the only thing that matters at this level, but it is a substantial component of success.

The Braves have been incredibly successful at developing pitchers over the years. The Royals on the other hand, not so much. Kowar is much more of a ball of clay than a finished product, but he’s a ball of clay that can hum it nearly 100 MPH. Given the Braves ability to find diamonds in the rough, who is to say he can’t make an impact in 2024?

Photo: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: