Big arm – reliever?
The Atlanta Braves returned to the college ranks when they selected 6’-3, 198-pound righty Austin Smith out of Arizona. If you search for Austin Smith on the web, make sure you get the one who spent three seasons at Southwestern University before transferring to Arizona for the 2021 season, not Cedar Park, Texas’ own Austin Brian Smith.
In his three years at Southwestern, Smith threw 134 2/3 innings, striking out 179 batters and pitching to a 3.41 ERA. At that time, Kendall Rogers at D1 Baseball (subscription required) called him the most intriguing arm he saw in Texas College ball with a fastball that sat 93-97 and a mid-70s breaking ball.
When Smith transferred to Arizona in 2020, Tucson.com quoted Roger’s scouting report.
"“Smith has a huge arm and didn’t seem to use a ton of effort the day I saw him. However, he could greatly benefit from improved secondary stuff, and that should come under the direction of either Oklahoma’s Skip Johnson or Arizona pitching coach Nate Yeskie.”"
Arizona used Smith from the bullpen until April but limited his starts to three innings or less; in effect, he was a reliever all year. He finished 2021 with a 5.14 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 25 IP, including a seven strikeout game when he threw 3 2/3 innings.
The chaos of 2020 hurt Smith’s transition to Arizona and, no doubt, his final numbers. The pitcher that Rogers saw in 2019, a third or fourth starter ceiling, may still emerge. Worst case, his high-velocity fastball becomes a weapon at the end of a game.
Sweet Home Alabama
The Atlanta Braves returned to the southeast and selected 6’-2, 218-pound, righty Samuel Strickland out of Samford University with their penultimate pick.
Baseball America ranked Strickland at number 402 entering the draft. Their scouting report loves his huge K/BB rate second-best mark of all Division I arms in 2020. It goes on to say his fastball had more zip this spring, touching 95 at times, but his secondaries are fringy, making him a low ceiling, back of the rotation, or bullpen arm.,
The Atlanta Braves final selection of the draft was Ty Evans, a 6’2-195-pound, right-hand hitting outfielder, out of Lakeland Christian School (FL), BA’s number 188 prospect nationwide.
Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Field: 50 | Arm: 50
Evans scouting says he has power and speed, hit well against advanced pitching, and will improve significantly as he matures.
"Evans is plenty strong with above-average raw power now and a chance to get to plus power in the future as he continues to grow and add more muscle . . . some scouts giving him a chance to stick in the middle of the outfield because of his running ability and others thinking he will outgrow the position and slow down a tick. . . . A team that signs Evans out of his Florida commitment is either heavily convicted in his pure hitting ability or thinks he has a chance to stick in center"
He’s a draft and hope player, unlikely to sign when selected this low, and will probably honor his commitment to Florida.
That’s a wrap
The Atlanta Braves took five more pitchers today, splitting the draft evenly between pitching and position players. High school players in this group may well choose to forego signing and head to college or a JuCo to raise their stock.
There are a couple of interesting arms in today’s selection; Anglin looks like a sleeper if he signs, while we’ll know pretty quickly what Smith and Hoffman are. I’m also intrigued by both catchers.
Once bonuses and signings begin, we’ll let you know here at The Take.