ROME, GA — Jared Shuster returned to action Tuesday, May 26 after a three-week layoff. While he didn’t go deep into the game, the Atlanta Braves Top-10 prospect showed what made him a target in last year’s MLB Draft.
Here are some quick thoughts on what to know about Shuster.
Shuster was the Braves first-round draft pick in 2020, selected 25th overall. A big lefty, he came out of Wake Forest, where he improved every year as he worked his way into the rotation. It wasn’t until his 2019 summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds that he really jumped onto the radar. That summer he went 4-0 in seven starts, pitching to a 1.40 ERA while striking out 35 in 32 innings. He made a one-inning appearance in the CCBL All Star Game and struck out one in a perfect frame.
While 2020 was a wash — he made just four starts before play was stopped — there was one key takeaway. Shuster was pumping a 97 mph fastball. This uptick in velocity, paired with some of the better secondaries in the draft class saw the southpaw shoot up the draft boards.
There is a lot to like about Shuster. He’s listed at 6’3 and 210, so he’s an intimidating presence on the mound. He settles in on the third-base side of the rubber, working very quickly, leaving hitters little time to adjust. In this particular outing he filled the zone with strikes aplenty, and though his command wavered a bit in the second, there weren’t many bad misses.
He came out in the first inning and pounded the strike zone. He was flashing the mid-90s fastball and on the very first pitch got a fly out to right field. He threw six pitches: all six were strikes, three were fly outs, two were swings and misses.
The second inning is where it got a little shaky as his command was a bit wild. But it could have been that he was trying to hit particular locations because his fastball missed just low in the same spot a couple of times. Despite throwing 21 pitches — only 11 of which were strikes — Shuster picked up his first two strikeouts of the evening, the first looking at his change and the second a swing and a miss.
The third inning was back to basics. He landed five strikes on seven pitches, picking up his third strikeout of the evening. He was lifted after a fly out to right. His final line was: 2.2 IP, no hits or runs, one walk and three strikeouts.
The fastball popped loudly in the catcher’s mitt and touched mid-90s. It’s certainly a strong pitch, but it was very reassuring to see him go to the change up not only often, but anywhere in the count. There is no question it is a strikeout pitch. It hit around 80-81 on the evening and moves, falling away from the batter. Thirty-four pitches isn’t much to determine anything as a certainty, but it appeared his release on the fastball and change were consistently similar. If that’s the case, and he’s taking 10-15 miles off the pitch, that is quite deceptive and a big-time weapon.
He landed 22 of his 34 pitches for strikes, seven of which were swings and misses. He was mostly fastball/changeup on the evening, and they are two pitches that are ready to play. With his age and experience, the Braves could choose to move him up the ladder as a reliever quickly, but there doesn’t seem to be a rush. Expect him to work on his slider and at least see if he can handle the starter workload in Rome before the bullpen becomes an option.