Last year the Atlanta Braves drafted J.R. Graham in the fourth round of the MLB Draft, a pick that some considered the steal of the draft. Though he was the 146th overall selection, many prospect evaluators had him ranked in the top-100. His short stature may have caused him to fall in the draft, but in his first full year of professional ball, he's standing tall as one of the top prospects in the Braves system. Here is a snippet from a recent Baseball America article on him:
In a one-inning stint in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game, Graham sat 93-96 mph with his fastball while mixing in an 84 mph slider. Graham knows his stuff—especially his secondary stuff—still needs work.
"I'm still working on everything," Graham said. "Locating my fastball, throwing the two-seam, working on the slider and getting more consistent with that and working on the changeup. You never stop learning. It's a game of constant adjustments. If somebody tells you they've got it figured out, they're probably not going to be in the game very long."
Getting that kind of velocity out of a 6-foot, 185-pound build requires a lot of hard work. While Graham has retained mostly the same workout routine he used in college, he's also switched things up a little bit, especially after transitioning into a starter's role full-time.
"I'm still doing the same stuff—the plyometrics and the medicine balls are a big part of my workout routine," Graham said. "Those pretty much stayed the same, but I changed the leg workouts because you've got to keep the body guessing, like they say in 'Dodgeball.' "
Graham is considered a top-10 prospect in the Braves system. If his secondary stuff continues to improve he could move quickly up the minor league ladder, especially if the team decides they need him in a relief role. As a reliever, we could see Graham in Atlanta as early as next season, if everything goes his way.