Atlanta Braves #3 Prospect JR Ritchie to have Tommy John surgery today

Atlanta Braves pitching prospect  R Ritchie to has UCL reconstruction surgery today.
Atlanta Braves pitching prospect R Ritchie to has UCL reconstruction surgery today. / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Trent told us Atlanta Braves number three prospect JR Ritchie went on the injured list with elbow soreness. This morning, Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes reported that Ritchie will have surgery on his UCL today.

The Atlanta Braves made the 19-year-old righty out of Bainbridge HS (Bainbridge Island, WA) the 35th overall pick in the 2022 Rule 4 Draft and gave him a $2,397,500 signing bonus.

Baseball America’s pre-draft scouting report (subscription required) said Ritchie had shown an impressive top-end velocity that peaked at 97-98, an above-average slider, and good feel for his changeup.

. . .(and the) control to profile as a starter and scouts have been impressed with his feel for all his pitches and general ability to move the ball around the zone.

Minor League Success

After two appearances in Rookie Ball, Ritchie moved to Low-A Augusta and finished 2022 with five starts, 14 IP, 14 strikeouts, and five walks.

Baseball America ranked Ritchie as the Braves number four prospect to start this season. His 5.40 ERA is skewed by one rough outing and pitching only 13 1/3 innings. In his 13+ innings, he posted a 1.050 WHIP, struck out 25, and walked only three.

UCL Surgery Classifications

We see reports that a player has a grade x tear of his UCL, but what does that mean? According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are three grades of UCL sprain injuries:

  • Grade 1: The ligament is stretched but not torn.
  • Grade 2: The ligament is stretched and might be partially torn.
  • Grade 3: The ligament is completely torn.

Pontes’ Tweet says Ritchie has a moderate grade two sprain, so the UCL is partially torn. Depending on the damage to the elbow, the surgeon has two options, traditional UCL replacement or an internal brace.

Most UCL reconstructions require a graft and a recommended 18-month rehab period.

The internal brace procedure is relatively new. It offers a faster recovery but requires an elbow free of bone spurs and with relatively little damage to the tissue.

We won’t know which procedure was used until after the surgery.

That’s a Wrap

Ritchie was pitching well and headed to a likely mid-year bump to High-A before his UCL injury. However, I expect the Atlanta Braves to allow him the standard 18-month rehab period, which means he won’t pitch until 2025.

It’s a sad reality of today’s game that so many pitchers are having surgery before they can buy a beer, and nothing’s done to change it.

Ritchie turns 20 in 33 days, and we here at The House That Hank Built wish him a speedy recovery and a long successful career.