Atlanta Braves fans could see Hurston Waldrep sooner than they expect

The Atlanta Braves skipped their number two prospect and brought Spencer Schwellenbach (Braves #3) up from AA to Atlanta last week, but Hurston Waldrep looks as ready as anyone and could arrive before the All-Star Game.
The Atlanta Brave could promote Huston Waldrep less than a year after he pitched  Florida to an SEC title..
The Atlanta Brave could promote Huston Waldrep less than a year after he pitched Florida to an SEC title.. / Cyndi Chambers / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite Spencer Strider’s injury, the top of the Atlanta Braves rotation is rolling along, but the same can’t be said of the pitchers slotted into the four and five slots. Last year’s All-Star, Bryce Elder, struggled and is back at Gwinnett trying to sort things out. AJ Smith-Shawver suffered an oblique strain, and Ray Kerr gave up eight runs in two starts, totaling 7 2/3 IP. Meanwhile, Hurston Waldrep has quickly moved from Pearl to Gwinnett.

College World Series to Atlanta in 12 months?

After signing with the Braves in June 2023, Waldrep made one start with Augusta, moved to Rome for three starts, and on to Mississippi for three more before ending the season with four shutout innings for the Stripers in a start on September 29. He ended the year with a combined 1.53 ERA in 29 1/3 IP.

Waldrep started this season back in AA, making nine starts and pitching to a 2.92 ERA, striking out 48 and walking 17 in 49 1/3 IP. Last Sunday, he found himself on the bump for the Stripers, facing the Orioles’ loaded AAA team.

After giving up a double to Connor Norby and a home run to Heston Kjerstad (no shame in that, Kjerstad’s a stud), Waldrep threw six innings of one-run, three-hit ball, striking out 11 (including Norby and Kjerstad in their next ABs), and walking one.

Keith Law released his latest Top-50 prospect list Monday and slotted Waldrep up to number 41.

"Waldrep got bombed in his first outing of the year, but since then he’s been cruising with a 1.74 ERA and, most importantly, a reasonable walk rate just over 8 percent. Atlanta has him throwing his slider much more often so he’s not so reliant on his grade-70 split-change, and he’s having success with it, especially against lefties."

Keith Law

Announcing the arrival…

I can’t tell you when it will happen, but I think we’ll see him before the All-Star Break. It isn’t rocket science; it’s logic.

  • Kerr did his best, and like most Atlanta Braves’ pitchers in May, the lineup failed to provide the needed run support.
  • In his last two AAA starts, Bryce Elder gave up eight runs ins 12 1/3 IP. His last start was two runs in eight-inning against Norfolk, so he’ll likely get another shot.
  • Ian Anderson hasn’t thrown an official pitch anywhere this year.
  • Schwellenbach has never thrown more than 65 innings in a season.
  • Obliques take a while to heal, and they’ll take care not to bring AJSS back too soon.
  • Injuries happen.
  • He’s already better than the alternatives.
  • The Braves haven’t been shy about promoting pitchers quickly.

I’m not alone in believing that another start like Sunday’s moves him to the top of the “next-up” list.

The Braves take care of their pitchers as well as any team, and pitchers today are better prepared than they were a decade ago, but I always worry about pitchers being rushed through the system because history tells us bad things can happen.

However, there’s a dearth of quality starting pitching across the league, and No one’s trading anyone right now and any trade will be expensive, so ready or not, it’s happening.

The Braves have a stretch of 31 games in 34 days ahead that will challenge both starters and relievers. I believe Waldrep will get the call sometime in that span.

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