Get to know Atlanta Braves First-Round Draft Pick Hurston Waldrep

The Atlanta Braves selected Hurston Waldrep as their first pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. Who exactly is he and what can fans expect from him? Benjamin Henderson from Fansided's own Hail Florida Hail gives insight into what exactly the Braves are getting from this pick.
2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship
2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

The 2023 MLB Draft has concluded and the Atlanta Braves did a great job with selecting players with upside and a great mix of pitching and position players. With their first pick in the 2023 Draft, Atlanta selected Hurston Waldrep from the University of Florida 24th overall.

Waldrep was one of the best arms available in this year's draft and has a lot of upside with his mid-90s fastball and nasty splitter. There are some issues to consider such as his command and delivery needing improvement but overall this is a great pick for Atlanta.

Fansided's own Benjamin Henderson. from Hail Florida Hail, did a question-and-answer exchange with House That Hank Built to give you some insight into what exactly fans can expect from the first-round pick. In return, we answered any questions they had about Waldrep and what his future may hold as an Atlanta Brave.

What are Waldrep's biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Benjamin: He is another one of these new-age pitchers that have a fastball that consistently touches over 95 MPH and he keeps that velocity deep into games. He went six or more innings in 11 of his 19 starts and threw at least 90 pitches in 13 of those starts. He's a big strikeout guy and once he gets you to two strikes you either need to sell out for the fastball or hope you pick up his splitter, which was his go-to strikeout pitch.

But it is to that point that teams could pick up the fastball and lay off when Waldrep wasn't locked into the zone or able to work deeper counts to draw walks. When he falls behind in a count, he tries to rely on his fastball to get him back. Throwing a first-pitch strike dictated a lot of whether Waldrep was going to get a guy out or walk him.

What is the biggest reason he struggles with command?

Benjamin: One of the frustrating parts of the Gators' season this year is that all three of their weekend starting pitchers were inconsistent with locating their fastball from game to game. Three of his four starts during the NCAA tournament were outstanding, picking up a minimum of 12 strikeouts. But in his final start of the season in Game 2 of the CWS against LSU, the Tigers were able to stay patient and didn't chase his fastball if it wasn't in the zone. 

He doesn't throw a traditional changeup, so his options, if he fell behind in the count, were to either throw a fastball or hope he had enough bite on his secondary pitch to entice a hitter to swing. And if hitters didn't chase then the walks would pile up.

What Major League pitcher does Hurston Waldrep remind you of most?

Benjamin: Given that his splitter is his go-to strikeout pitch, I would have to imagine that Waldrep will draw comparisons to Kevin Gausman of Toronto. Beyond the splitter, both are 6' 2" and both have a fastball that touches 95 MPH and above.

What secondary pitch do you believe will be his best?

Benjamin: As I have alluded to, his splitter is nasty. He also throws a slider and curveball and gravitated more to the slider as the season progressed. I personally think he would benefit if he would swap out either the slider or curveball and add a traditional changeup to his arsenal just to give him a pitch he can for sure throw for a strike without having to always rely on pumping fastballs when he falls behind. 

What exactly can Atlanta Braves fans expect from Hurston Waldrep?

Benjamin: Waldrep was only with the Gators this season after transferring from Southern Miss, but he fit in well with the identity and culture of the team. Florida as a whole was a fiery but humble group throughout the season. They didn't showboat for the sake of showboating (looking at you Tennessee), but if the moment called for it they would let their passion out. So, I think Waldrep will carry with him that energy and passion into the big leagues.

Obviously, Atlanta is SEC Country, and while the Georgia Bulldogs don't seem too interested in fielding a competitive baseball team, the SEC as a whole in baseball is as hot and energetic as it has ever been. He won't be intimidated walking into Philly or New York after making a full round in the SEC.

As you can see, there is a lot to be excited about with Waldrep but also some things that need improvement. I want to say a huge thanks to Benjamin from Hail Florida Hail for his time and for answering our questions. Be sure to check out their site here to see our answers to their questions.