We wrap up our series of scouting reports on Atlanta Braves prospects by looking at their recent first-round pick in Ryan Cusick.
I’m very hopeful a CBA agreement will be in place soon and we can start to turn our attention to the rest of the offseason, Spring Training, and the on-time start of the regular season (wishful thinking, I know).
But I’m excited to finish this series with the Braves first-round pick from 2021 in Ryan Cusick.
The 6-foot-6 righty came out of Wake Forest with a big fastball that can tough 100 MPH. In 2021 with the Deacs he struck out 108 batters in 70 innings.
Atlanta took a chance on his upside in the first round taking him 24th overall.
Outside of one bad start where he didn’t make it out of the first, he was really solid at Augusta with a 2.76 ERA in 16.1 innings with 34 strikeouts.
He didn’t go very deep in games with 4 innings being his longest outing as they continue to stretch him out.
What was most encouraging is that his BB/9 in Augusta was 2.2 compared to his high BB/9 rates at Wake Forest (4.1 in 2021 and 7.3 in 2020).
Ryan Cusick — Pitch Mix and Delivery
Fastball (93-98), slider (86-89), change-up (90-91)
I read in several places that Cusick had the best fastball in the 2021 draft, and after watching, I can see why.
Maybe it’s because he knew his outings would be limited, but he kept his high 90s velocity throughout all the starts I watched and several times topped 100 MPH.
There is no question he owns an elite fastball. However, I will say he has more control than command over the pitch. As he moves up levels he’ll need to be able to better command that fastball while maintaining the velocity.
His slider (slurve) is one I couldn’t figure out. In one start I watched it had more horizontal break, and in the other start it had a sharp north-south break.
He threw a curveball in college and then switched to the slider, that’s why I think he could be throwing more of a slurve. That’s a pitch he’ll need to figure out in 2022.
Cusick also throws a change-up; although, I think I saw him throw it two or three times in the two starts I watched.
I really do love Cusick’s delivery and arm action and think it will be easy to repeat and maintain as a starter with his big frame.
It seems like a really easy 95+plus.
Ryan Cusick — The Ceiling
The Braves front office has clearly created a strategy in recent drafts to take upside college arms early and pay them under slot to take some shots on high school players in later rounds.
And while I haven’t been thrilled with the Jared Shuster and Ryan Cusick picks because I feel like there were higher ceiling players available when those picks were made, I’m coming around on this strategy.
The reason is, I see the potential upside with guys like Cusick, Shuster, and even Spencer Schwellenbach as number two or three starters.
While there is risk they never reach that ceiling, the floor of all three of those pitchers is also pretty high as back-end relievers.
I feel fairly confident in saying that if Shuster, Cusick, and Schwellenback don’t develop as starters, they’ll be big pieces of the Braves bullpen, which is very valuable in today’s game.
And that’s where I am with Cusick. If he continues to develop as a starter with that fastball, he has a chance to be a top of the rotation arm. If not, he’s probably a closer or late-inning reliever.
Ryan Cusick — The Timetable
Unlike most college pitchers, the Braves will go slow with Cusick. He was not as polished as other college starters coming out and has a lot to work on.
Sure, he was able to dominate Low-A with a high 90s fastball, but he’ll need more than that to get by at the higher levels.
He’ll start 2022 in Rome and likely spend most of the season there.
The earliest I see him making his big league debut is 2023 as a reliever, and then possibly 2024 as a starter.