For the second straight year, the Atlanta Braves selected a Wake Forest pitcher in the first round of the MLB Draft. Atlanta selected right-hander Ryan Cusick with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft. Cusick 6-foot-6, 235-pound power arm who struck out 206 batters in 158 career innings over three seasons for Wake Forest.
“Cusick is a big power arm right handed pitcher with a really good curveball. His [fastball] velocity has been as high as 101,” said Braves scouting director Dana Brown when asked about the pick. “He made some adjustments to his arm action to get in the zone a little more. He’s had some walks in the past and we feel like he’s trending in the right direction. So we were excited to get him here. Anytime you can get a guy like this at 24 in the country that can touch 101. You know, it’s exciting, big physical competitor with really good makeup.”
Cusick made 12 starts in 2021 while posting a 4.24 ERA in 70 innings. He struck out a total of 108 hitters averaging just under 14 K’s per nine.
“When I saw him I knew he was a first round talent in any draft,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of where he’s gonna go. How would you line them up? Where does he fit in with some of the other guys that you’re excited about in the first round?”
Cusick displayed some big time velocity with his fastball and has a good curveball to go with it. His changeup is still a work in progress according to Brown. The Braves see him as a starter but also as a guy that could get to the majors as a reliever and then transition to a starter later.
“The change is the third pitch and it’s a work in progress,” Brown said “We think with a little bit of professional instruction that he’s going to be fine.”
Brown said they were primarily focused on college arms but that their draft board started to disappear the closer they got to their pick. That is one of the hazards of picking late in the first round. Still, he was pleased with the outcome.
“I think the strength of the first round was probably college pitching this year and we were very fortunate to get this type of talent in the back of the first.”