Atlanta Braves continue to build pitching depth with another Minor League arm

The Atlanta Braves continued re-stocking their Minor League system with bullpen arms last week, signing another hard-throwing reliever with a big arm.

Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves signed righty Jorge Juan to a Minor League deal.
Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves signed righty Jorge Juan to a Minor League deal. / Chris Bernacchi/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves are bulk-buying Minor League relievers with big arms, and arms don’t get much bigger - longer anyway - than those attached to a 6’-8 200+ pound right-hander. The Atlanta Braves signed to a minor league deal Wednesday, Jorge Juan. 

Jorge Juan was a late arrival in terms of Latin American international free agents, signing with the Athletics in August 2018 when he was 17. He signed too late for league play and spent 2018 overpowering hitters in the Dominican Summer League. The Athletics moved him to rookie ball in 2019, where he found the competition stiffer and his numbers suffered.

Juan Big Surprise! 

Like many minor leaguers, Juan lost the 2020 season due to COVID-19 but still opened 2021 in low A. He threw 21 innings in four starts, striking out 31 batters before Oakland moved him to A+ ball. He made two starts there, striking out 9 in 5 2/3 IP before an arm injury sidelined him.

After the season, Baseball America made him the A’s number 18 prospect and gave this scouting report (subscription required).

"…listed at 6-foot-8, 200 pounds…His fastball velocity has gradually increased…(to) the mid 90s and touches 99 mph (from) a unique angle. Juan snaps off a mid-80s power breaking ball with considerable vertical break that flashes plus (and) generates plenty of whiffs when he buries it as chase pitch…Juan’s third pitch is a 90 mph changeup with lateral run that he uses infrequently."

Baseball America

Mystery Injury

An unspecified injury meant Juan didn’t pitch again until July 7, 2022, and when he did pitch, it was as a reliever. In 23 appearances in A-Ball, Juan threw 20 innings, striking out 28, walking nine, and pitching to a 3.92 ERA. He gave up three homers in his 16 2/3 A+ innings pitched, but two appearances threw seven shutout innings, striking out eight.

Juan began 2023 in High-A by throwing 14 1/2 innings of one-run ball in nine appearances, striking out 28, walking 10, and allowing only one XBH while pitching to a 0.63 ERA.

His good work in A+ earned him his first shot in AA, where batters were more selective and willing to take a walk. In 35 innings over 26 games, Juan struck out 37 and held batters to 29 hits, a .230 average, and a .325 slug.

Unfortunately, he also walked 34 batters, pushing his WHIP to 1.800 and opponents' OBP to .406. He also hit six batters and threw nine wild pitches.

That’s A Wrap

Jorge Juan is a lottery ticket who suffered an unspecified injury last year; my bet is an elbow issue as he ended 2022 by leaving a game with elbow soreness, but he didn't have surgery. If the Atlanta Braves can show him how to locate his pitches, he checks all the boxes for a closer no one wants to face. As the video shows, when he’s in the groove, he’s hard to handle, but like all tall, hard throwers, Juan struggles with location.

Pitchers with long levers notoriously struggle with control, but Juan is only 24, so he has time to figure it out. He has a nice, easy motion that delivers pitches in the mid-to-high 90s with little apparent effort that he repeats well. If the Braves can lock down his control, this lottery ticket could become a bullpen jackpot.  

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