Tuesday, June 15, 2021
We have now crossed over into less-than-a-month-away territory as the 2021 MLB Draft mocks have come out in droves recently. Next month’s three-day event — July 11-13 — has been picked apart about as much as humanly possible at this point… just like every other year of course.
Although for the Braves this season, I have to say that the predictions are rather consistent: essentially every major outlet has Atlanta going with some sort of pitcher in the 2021 draft. Whether it’s a college arm from a Power 5 school or a two-way prep star — the general consensus remains the same… the Braves appear primed to return to its bread and butter this time around; although if it winds up true, hopefully it’ll work out better than it did in 2018.
To get a solid understanding of what’s being discussed for Atlanta’s first pick this year, I simply visited what I believe are probably a handful of the most-reputable sites in the industry — MLB.com, Baseball America, ESPN, The Athletic, Prospects Live and CBS Sports. As I’ve mentioned, the common denominator is that the Braves are expected to select an arm:
MLB.com – Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Baseball America – Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
ESPN (ranked at no. 24) – Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
The Athletic – Spencer Schwellenback, SS/RHP, Nebraska
Prospects Live – Bubba Chandler, SS/RHP, North Oconee HS
CBS Sports – Spencer Schwellenback, SS/RHP Nebraska
Now there’s probably two other things you’ll notice from these mocks: a) two have the same player listed… and b) three include a two-way player. I should also note that the ESPN mock isn’t exactly a “mock” in its traditional sense. Instead of predicting which teams pick who, this year Kiley McDaniel (ESPN’s prospect guru) published a first-round ranking.
Before today, save for one of those guys above, I hadn’t really looked too deep into these players, so I’ll share with you my findings…
FYI: The Braves 24th overall pick has a bonus pool of $2,831,300 million this year
Michael McGreevy, RHP
UC Santa Barbara
Playing with reigning AL Cy Young MVP winner Shane Bieber’s alma mater, McGreevy is a tall (6-foot-4) righty who owns a 2.33 ERA in 189 ⅓ career innings at UC Santa Barbara, where he’s been since 2019. It was only last season that he began pitching as a starter, for during his freshman campaign, all 29 of his appearances came out of the team’s bullpen.
But the transition to a starter has been flawless. McGreevy seems to have carried over his fast-working mentality from his bullpen days as he wastes no time on the mound. And his plus-control pairs nicely with a four-seam fastball that sits at 93 MPH and tops out as high as 96. McGreevy also has three solid secondary pitches: a slider that’s clearly his no. 2 offering, coupled with a strong curveball and an average changeup he’ll occasionally mix in.
McGreevy’s 2021 campaign featured a 9-2 record in 16 starts to go with a stingy 2.92 ERA and only one walk per nine innings. MLB.com mocks him going to the Braves at no. 24 but I’ve seen him as high as no. 20 to the Yankees.
Ryan Cusick, RHP
Baseball America claims Cusick wields the most overpowering fastball in the 2021 class, which has allowed him to strikeout 108 batters in 70 innings this season with the Deamon Deacons (or a K rate of 13.9 strikeouts per nine). However, like many arms that routinely touch the century mark, Cusick’s superior velocity isn’t always on point, illustrated by his 45-grade Control by scouts.
Consider this take by MLB.com:
“There isn’t much effort in Cusick’s delivery and his arm works well, but he has yet to provide consistent strikes. As impressive as his arm strength is, he’ll have to be more efficient to succeed as a starter at higher levels. His huge 6-foot-6 frame and high arm slot provide angle and plane on his pitches and add to the difficulty of trying to barrel them.”
Cusick tallied 12 starts with Wake Forest this season and finished with a 4.24 ERA. As you can see, this is a pretty high-upside arm, especially given the velo and body type (6-6, 225lb) — but there’s also some risk to consider.
Jordan Wicks, LHP
I already covered Wicks back on May 12 over at SportsTalkATL, so you can check out a more in-depth look at his background and profile there. Honestly, as much as I’d love the Braves to grab a southpaw like Wicks, I really doubt he falls all the way to no. 24. This kid’s changeup is incredible… and everyone knows it.
Spencer Schwellenback, SS/RHP
Schwellenback is 2021’s Big Ten Player of the Year as he compiled a 0.57 ERA (lol) as a pitcher and posted an .862 OPS as a hitter (so he’s NCAA’s verison of Shohei Ohtani?).
Perhaps not as impressive as Ohtani, but this kid’s story is pretty cool. Schwellenback was actually drafted coming out of high school back in 2019 — 34th round by the Indians — but he wanted to play shortstop and all the interested MLB teams that year wanted him as a pitcher. Well Schwellenback’s impressive career as a college hitter now has him looked at as BOTH a middle-infielder and a pitcher. In three seasons at Nebraska (albeit with very little to go by in 2020), the dual-threat Schwellenback managed to show real upside as a plus-contact, gap-power type hitter at the plate, which pairs very nicely with his upper-90s MPH fastball and wipe-out slider on the mound (he also has a decent changeup).
The consensus here is that Schwellenback is probably a 45 hitter as a pro… with 40 power, and his sole use as a reliever at Nebraska leads you to believe his absolute ceiling may be as a back-end starter. However this sort of versatility could really be valuable for the Braves, especially for a system that’s fairly thin at shortstop and second and has lost quite a bit of its second-tier pitching over the last few seasons. Schwellenback is certainly an interesting prospect.
Bubba Chandler, SS/RHP
North Oconee HS
Prospects Live has such underrated content, and the site’s draft analysis is about as good as it gets. So I’m just gonna share what they have on Chandler, because it does a great job of covering the main points:
“Bubba Chandler is one of the more intriguing players in this year’s class. He’s a two-way, two-sport star committed to Clemson, though it’s looking likely that he won’t be reaching campus. On the mound, you’re looking at an uber-athletic operation with a lightning quick arm, boasting a fastball that has touched 97 MPH, sitting 92-95 MPH. Pair that with a tight-spinning slider, a big curveball, and a burgeoning change-up, you’ve got a recipe for a first round arm here. However, let’s not forget what he brings to the table in the dirt. Some teams have turned Chandler in as a shortstop instead of an arm. He’s a switch-hitter with average or better power potential and has shown solid speed on the base paths. The Braves built a dynamic farm system through arms, though we’ve heard they like the bat as much as the arm.”
To me, of the two-way players here, Chandler appears to possess more upside… at least on the pitching end (although you can’t discredit what Schwellenback has done in that role while in college ball either). I’ll just say both Chandler and Schwellenback offer very interesting cases as a potential first-round pick for the Braves. I believe either one brings tremendous value.
Hopefully my schedule will allow it, but now that we’re closer to draft day, soon I plan to look at a handful of hitters. Guys like prep outfielders Joshua Baez and Will Taylor will most likely be included in that piece… if it’s written.