Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Hurston Waldrep's future, a mock draft and more (2024)

Here’s the quote the Atlanta Braves have been looking for all season. “The offense has been clicking a little bit more,” catcher Sean Murphy said after a 7-0 win Wednesday. “It is one of those things where hitting can be contagious. Today, everything clicked.” Those are some welcome words in Atlanta after a prolonged dry spell at the plate. Have the floodgates been opened? Let’s delve into the trends with this week’s Braves Digest.

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Power rankings: Atlanta Braves are No. 8

Every team has a player who’s not getting nearly enough credit. For this week’s edition of the power rankings, we celebrate an unsung hero for each team. (Record as of Tuesday morning)

Record: 39-31
Last Power Ranking: 6

Unsung hero:SPChris Sale

The sky has been falling for months in Atlanta.Spencer Strideris gone for the season. So isRonald Acuña Jr.The historic offense of 2023 has been replaced by a more lackluster version in 2024. The Phillies are running away with the division and looking likely to snapAtlanta’s six-year reign atop the National League East.

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On the bright side? Chris Salelooks a lot like Chris Sale. His fastball velocity is holding firm at just shy of 95 mph. He’s striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings. And he’s already made 13 starts. The Braves are going to reach the postseason. When they get there, their rotation of Sale,Max Fried,Reynaldo LópezandCharlie Morton could carry them. — Andy McCullough

The latest hits

ICYMI, our national writers weighed in with what they are hearing and seeing

1. Which young MLB starters who recently debuted are best set up for success?

Our Eno Sarris scoured the data on Braves rookie Hurston Waldrep and other recent arrivals. Sarris noted that past research into young starters who’ve recently broken out suggests that good building blocks include:

• One hard pitch (fastball or slider) the pitcher can command
• One hard pitch with at least average stuff
• One secondary pitch with clearly above-average stuff

Here’s a Waldrep comparison based on pitch movements and release points alone that is equal parts sobering and uplifting:

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Hurston Waldrep's future, a mock draft and more (1)

This, from Alex Chamberlain’s pitch leaderboard, shows that Waldrep’s fastball is a dead ringer for Keaton Winn’s in every way except Winn has an additional five inches of wiggle on the pitch. They release from very similar heights with poor extension toward the plate and merely OK vertical movement. The extension undoes some of the good in their average fastball velocity, and recent research suggests that 96-plus mph is required for a heater to reap great gas rewards.

Winn is far from an established pitcher so this isn’t necessarily definitive, but it probably does throw some cold water on Waldrep’s upside, as there’s nothing remarkable (in a good way) about his fastball, and even Winn’s slider and splitter look slightly superior due to being harder, with more drop.

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2. MLB City Connect: Braves’ uniforms ranked No. 3

Our writers ranked each uniform using a scoring system of 1-30 (1 being the best), and those totals then were averaged and ranked. Here are their takes on Atlanta’s City Connect jerseys, which took the bronze medal behind the No. 1 Colorado Rockies and the No. 2 Miami Marlins.

Tyler Kepner (who ranked them 5th):You’ve gotta appreciate a uniform that honors Hank Aaron breaking the home run record in 1974. I’ve never cared for the lowercase “a” from those caps, so I love that they replace it here with the current “A.” Extremely well done.

Stephen Nesbitt (2):Most City Connects feel as if the design process began with outlawing anything remotely signature about the team’s current look. Not here. Crisp white unis with blue and red accents and hidden tributes to Hammerin’ Hank? Looks sublime. That’s all I care about.

C. Trent Rosecrans (12):So close to being good — the ’70s Braves uniforms are gorgeous. But there’s something about the unoriginality that makes me dislike it. But what I really dislike is the “The A.” I think there’s a difference between City Connects, throwbacks and alternates. This one is more throwback than City Connect.

Jason Jones (3): Adding “The” next to the “A” puts this one over the top and makes it one of the best of the bunch. Almost all my friends say they are going to “The A” and not Atlanta. I know this is a tribute to Hank Aaron, but “The A” gives it just the right amount of modern flavor.

3. Who did the Braves get in Keith Law’s latest mock draft?

With the MLB Draft about a month away, our Keith Law took a swing at forecasting the first-round picks. As always, he did so based on what he’s heard from sources in the industry and his understanding of the philosophies of specific scouting directors and general managers.

Atlanta has the No. 24 pick and Law envisions a fit for Braylon Doughty, a right-handed pitcher from Chaparral High School in Murrieta, Calif. The rumor mill has the Braves doing an under-slot deal with Doughty here to try to go over on another prep arm at pick 62.

Classy moment of the week

We join the baseball community in mourning the loss of Willie Mays, one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Our thoughts are with Willie’s family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/6NyXmv0pkj

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) June 19, 2024

Featured in that photograph are 1,415 home runs, 7,064 hits, 579 stolen bases, two legends and countless treasured memories. The Braves were one of many sports organizations, athletes and dignitaries to pay tribute to all-time great Willie Mays, who died Tuesday at the age of 93.

Baseball beat

Our beat writer David O’Brien picked out what you need to know.

1. Braves’ Reynaldo López is the majors’ ERA leader

Alex Anthopoulos acknowledges that when the Braves signed the hard-throwing former reliever and announced their intentions to let López compete for the fifth starter job at spring training, they weren’t sure he would win it.

Actually, it sounds as if his wife, Jhilaris, was the only person who believed López was capable of doing what he has done in his first stint as a starter since the second half of the 2021 season. He’s been a resounding success, leading the majors with a 1.57 ERA.

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“Really, I just want to give my credit to my wife, who was the only one who believed in me, the only one who had faith in me to be a starter in the big leagues,” López said. “She was constantly telling my agent to keep looking for opportunities where I could be a starter somewhere, so she was the one who kind of kept the faith.”

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Hurston Waldrep's future, a mock draft and more (2)

Reynaldo López lowered his ERA to 1.57 with five shutout innings against the Tigers on Wednesday. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

2. Braves executive on team’s extended slump

The team’s general manager and president of baseball operations discussed the Braves’ recent dismal offensive performance. He also touched on what could be done to fix it.

“Look, we haven’t played well. I’m stating the obvious there,” he said last Wednesday. “The one thing is, you look at the (NL East) standings obviously, but the fact that the majority of the National League hasn’t played well has been good for us … So as much as you can look at the standings and you’re still looking at playoff spots and so on — we have to play better obviously, but the fact that you can keep your head above water when you’re not playing well … we are fortunate that the NL hasn’t played up to its capabilities across the board.”

3. Jarred Kelenic shifts to center field and leadoff

When Snitker was asked before Saturday’s game if he put Kelenicat leadoff because he seemed as good of an option as any on an injury-depleted roster, Snitker replied, “We’re running out of options,” punctuated with a sort of laugh-to-keep-from-crying chuckle.

Regardless of why Kelenic, filling in for injured center fielderMichael Harris II, ended up in the leadoff spot, it worked: He had three hits including the first of Atlanta’s four homers in a 9-2 rout of theTampa Bay Rays, the third consecutive win for the Braves since a five-game skid that was their longest since September 2017.

“He’s good, he can hit,” Marcell Ozuna said of Kelenic. “He sometimes goes a little crazy, but he resets and comes back. He’s going to figure it out and be in the right place. I think he’s gonna be a good piece for us the rest of the season, after we lost (Acuña). Hopefully, he stays healthy.”

Did you catch this?

Wanna little inspiration? Need a little pep in your step?

Just know that Grant Holmes spent 10 years in the minors and made a sensational debut as a Braves reliever last week.

Asked if he had a message for minor leaguers or other aspiring athletes, Holmes thought for a moment.

“Never give up,” he said. “I mean, there’s always hope as long as you fight for it. Never give up. That’s what I go by. Never give up.”

#Braves’ Grant Holmes, the day after pitching three scoreless innings in an MLB debut 10 years in the making. Yep, a decade in the minor leagues before his debut. pic.twitter.com/8TwLOLJiCI

— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) June 17, 2024

Picture of the week

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Hurston Waldrep's future, a mock draft and more (3)

(Casey Sykes / Getty Images)

Touching home plate hasn’t exactly been a Braves specialty this season, but Kelenic got things going just two batters into Tuesday’s game. He singled and came home with a flying flourish on Ozzie Albies’ triple.

(Top photo of Hurston Waldrep: Dale Zanine / USA Today)

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Hurston Waldrep's future, a mock draft and more (2024)

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