With the 31st overall pick in the 2013 MLB Rule IV draft, the Atlanta Braves have selected right-hander Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State University. The 6'1", 200-pound Hursh had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and was forced to redshirt and sit out the 2012 season while he recovered from the surgery. Hursh returned in 2013 and pitched well, starting 16 games and throwing three complete games while striking out 86 and walking 28 in 106 innings of work.
Hursh seems to have a consensus ranking among draft experts as one of the top 50 draft prospects for 2013. Baseball America has him at 46, while Keith Law ranked him 48th and MLB's Jonathan Mayo had him at 41.
His major redeeming trait is a monster, heavy fastball with some movement that has been clocked in the upper 90's. The challenge will be to bring his raw off-speed offerings up to par, but the plus fastball is a great starting point.
In fact, Hursh's off-speed pitches may not have that far to come, according to a quote from Atlanta Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio in the AJC.
...we think he’s going to have three plus pitches. Breaking ball is going to have to be cleaned up and firmed up, but it’s good. He’s already got a plus change. We really liked the power arm basically…and he was there.
Here's what Baseball America has to say about Hursh:
The Pirates failed to sign four high school arms in 2010 who should go in the top five rounds of the 2013 draft. Hursh, a sixth-rounder out of a Texas high school, is the best prospect of that group, which also includes Austin Kubitza (seventh round, now at Rice), Dace Kime (eighth round, Louisville) and Kent Emanuel (19th, North Carolina). Hursh pitched just 30 innings as a freshman in 2011 and missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. His velocity returned last summer, when he hit 103 mph according to the (notoriously juiced) scoreboard at the National Baseball Congress World Series. He has continued to light up radar guns as a redshirt sophomore, throwing 92-98 mph and sitting in mid-90s with little effort. Add in heavy life and late tail on his fastball, and it's one of the most devastating pitches in the draft. Hursh still is developing feel for his secondary pitches, as he flashes an average slider and a decent changeup. He can live off his fastball, but hitters will sit on it until he develops a reliable No. 2 offering. There are durability concerns due to his 6-foot-1, 197-pound frame and his medical history, though he has improved his delivery and arm action since getting hurt.
While not the pick that many Braves fans may have been expecting, it's clear that Atlanta loved what they saw from Hursh in terms of both velocity and talent. It's not a sure thing that he remains a starter, but Hursh has the ability to either be a solid starter if his off-speed stuff progresses or a power reliever in the back of the bullpen if it doesn't.
DeMacio on Hursh: "We feel we chose a pitcher with a real power arm who has a lot of years and innings ahead of him.”
DeMacio on Hursh: "We feel we chose a pitcher with a real power arm who has a lot of years and innings ahead of him.”— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) June 7, 2013
The slot value for the 31st overall pick is set at $1,704,200.