The 2021 MLB Draft is now over so it is time for the annual look at the Atlanta Braves draft class as we grade each pick and handicap the odds of each player signing with the team. Of course at the end an overall draft grade awaits, though as usual the early picks make up a significant portion of the overall grade.
Two notes before we get started that should be kept in mind. Players drafted in the Top 10 rounds are 98% likely to sign if not better as only a couple players in the entire league drafted in these rounds don’t sign in any given year. This is because of how bonus pools work and the fact that there is a general agreement between the two sides before a player is picked in most cases, just so the team knows how much money they are playing with. The few exceptions to this are players who fail physicals or change their mind about going pro. The other thing to note is that when I refer to a player as underslot or potentially underslot, it does not mean they are taking a massive cut from slot value. If a slot value is $2.8M and that player signs for even $2.6M, those $200k still help the bonus pool and that player is still considered an underslot despite the fact they came close to the full slot value.
Round 1 - Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest
The Braves went back to Wake Forest to draft another pitcher in the first round in Ryan Cusick. You can read more on him here.
Grade: C+. Cusick has some nice attributes, especially the fastball, however I just can’t help but see a reliever because of his command issues and the lack of a third pitch presently. The grade is lower for that reason alone as I struggle with taking a guy I see as a reliever in the first round of any draft. This grade could be wrong if he can develop the changeup and improve the command, just that it is going to take a lot of projection on his game to get there.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came in a little underslot.
Round 2 - Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/RHP, Nebraska
The legitimate two way prospect as a shortstop and a pitcher was the Big Ten Player of the Year and had been linked heavily to the Braves in the first round before the team was able to get him in the second. You can read more about him here.
Grade: B/B+. While Schwellenbach was linked to the Braves in the first round, this was more the range he belonged as he was really only tied to the Braves in the first round. He’s got an interesting profile with a great fallback option, but he would require the risky conversion from reliever to starter as a pitcher. As a hitter, it would be tough to see him sticking at short defensively, making a move to third very likely. It’s solid value to get him here, especially since the Braves clearly liked him a lot, but it also isn’t a slam dunk pick either.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign.
Round 3 - Dylan Dodd, LHP, Southeast Missouri
Dodd is a pitchability lefty with actually decent stuff. The senior doesn’t come with a ton of upside, but it doesn’t take a lot of projection to see him making the big leagues someday. You can read more about him here.
Grade: B. This is a tough pick to grade, because he was being drafted as a senior sign in the third round. Typically teams using picks that high on senior signs have loaded up on overslot guys early(see what the Pirates did for example). I like Dodd and think he is a useful arm with a high floor, but being a third round senior sign does drop the grade a notch.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Also Dodd is a senior sign, ready to go pro.
Round 4 - Cal Conley, SS, Texas Tech
Conley started his career at Miami only to transfer to Texas Tech and become very productive there, and we know how the Braves love their Red Raiders in the last five to ten drafts. You can read more about him here.
Grade: B+. Conley is solid value in the fourth round as a high floor guy with some actual upside too. He’s a guy with the tools to someday end up on a Major League roster for an extended period.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Due to his college transfer he is actually on the older side for a college player, though not a true senior sign.
Round 5 - Luke Waddell, SS, Georgia Tech
Waddell is a local prospect from Georgia Tech and put together a great college career. He is a guy who can really rake and comes as a senior sign. You can read more about him here.
Grade: A. Waddell doesn’t get the same penalty in the grade as Dodd as a senior sign in the fifth round is much more standard. Like Dodd he has a high floor, because he can really hit and get on base. Waddell has a chance to make it, or at the very least be a very strong organizational piece.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Waddell is another senior sign.
Round 6 - Justyn Henry-Malloy, 3B, Georgia Tech
Henry-Malloy is a New Jersey kid who started out at Vanderbilt and didn’t really play regularly before transferring to Tech this season and having a big year. There are some questions about the hit tool, but his on base skills are legitimate and he’s got some power as well as athleticism. I had personally ranked him #5 among the third basemen in this draft class.
Grade: A. I’m a big fan of Henry-Malloy and think there is some upside in him. The hit tool as well as some defensive concerns are concerns I think he can get taken care of considering he is a cold weather product who didn’t play very much in his first two years at Vandy. Give him some pro coaching and a few years of regular playing time and see if you can develop his tool set.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Henry-Malloy is reportedly going to be taking a somewhat underslot deal.
Round 7 - AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, Texas HS
Smith-Shawver is a big, projectable arm who is still fairly new to pitching. Not only is he a two way player with huge power, but he was a star quarterback in high school, so there are gains to be made for him for all these reasons. You can find a full report on him here.
Grade: A+. Smith-Shawver is the type of kid you love to see taken in this range as he has so much upside. He is years away as it is going to take a lot of work to fill in the body, gain pitching experience, and fully refine his game....but the end product could be big.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Smith-Shawver will be an overslot signing.
Round 8 - Tyler Collins, OF, Texas HS
Collins is a speedy center fielder who makes good contact. He’s hardly a finished produce but he has all the makings of a prototypical throwback leadoff hitting centerfielder once he has time to develop. You can find a full report here.
Grade: A/A+ Collins is a very strong pick and a good risk/reward play on the upside towards the end of the second day of the draft. Like Smith-Shawver he is a few years away and needs to fill in his body and refine his game with pro coaching.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Collins is another overslot signing.
Round 9 - Liam McGill, C, Bryant
McGill is a large human being who transferred from Columbia to Bryant this year in order to play with the Ivy Leagues sitting out this year. It’s not likely he sticks behind the plate, but this senior sign brings some real power into the system and is a guy with a decent approach in addition to having real power.
Grade: B+. This is the range where nearly every team is focused on senior signs, so that is kept in mind with this grade. The Braves did well to bring in a former Ivy Leaguer(smart, good makeup) with a legitimate carrying tool at a discounted rate at this point in the draft.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. McGill is also a senior sign.
Round 10 - Dylan Spain, RHP, Hawaii Hilo
What an interesting pick this was. Spain hasn’t pitched since 2019 and actually wasn’t on the team this year as he focused on developing himself on the side. His results weren’t great in the past against lesser competition either. But then he showed up at a Braves tryout and his stuff was touching the upper 90s, taking him from just some D2 arm with mediocre results to being a guy that is an actual prospect.
Grade: A+. This is a great pick by the Braves in the middle of senior sign territory. Getting a guy with the stuff Spain showed them at the tryout for a massive percentage of savings on the slot value is hard to grade as anything lower.
Odds of Signing: 99%. You don’t get drafted in the first 10 rounds without intending to sign. Spain isn’t just a senior sign, but a guy who didn’t play this past season as he prepared to go pro.
Round 11 - Adam Shoemaker, LHP, Canada HS
The Braves took a big projectable Canadian arm that already throws 95 MPH and has the makings of a swing and miss breaking ball. This is a guy who on talent alone should have gone quite a bit higher because the upside is big- though like the other two prep kids the Braves drafted, Shoemaker is years away. A full writeup on him is coming.
Grade: A+. Shoemaker is the type of guy you want in the 11th round of a MLB Draft, an overslot guy with real upside. The Braves got that here.
Odds of Signing: 100%. Shoemaker is reportedly already agreed for an overslot deal that is nearly four times the post-10th round slot value of $125k, getting $480k.
Round 12 - Andrew Hoffman, RHP, Illinois
Hoffman is the rare college arm with some projection remaining and has a good career for one of the top programs in the Big Ten. His breakout came in 2021 and he followed it up well in the MLB Draft League, where he showed a promising fastball and changeup mix.
Grade: B+. It’s hard to call Hoffman anything else than just a good solid pick. While he doesn't wow you, he has a useful arm that can get to the big leagues- especially if he can add a little more by filling his body in. That future would likely be in relief, with some backend starter potential, however this is the point in the draft that finding a big leaguer is more important than anything(unless you have more money to spend like the Braves did in 2019).
Odds of Signing: 100%. Hoffman tweeted out on Thursday that he was going to be going pro.
Round 13 - Adam Zebrowski, C, Saint John Fisher
See the comments on 9th rounder Liam McGill. Zebrowski is another large human being(same height but not quite the same weight) with real power and not the most likely to stick behind the plate longterm. Zebrowski comes from a small school where he put up some huge numbers and seemed to have a plan at the plate, but will need to make the transition to much tougher competition to determine how well his power will play.
Grade: B+. This pick is all about getting a guy with a legitimate carrying tool, which Zebrowski has in his power. How much he taps into it will be determined by how well he can handle the jump up in competition.
Odds of Signing: 95%. The Braves aren’t a team to waste picks, so despite the fact Zebrowski isn’t yet 21 years old, it is hard to see how there wasn’t at least the framework of a deal in place before he was selected.
Round 14 - Caleb Durbin, SS, Washington University(MO)
Durbin posted video game numbers for his tiny college in Missouri, striking out two times in 190 plate appearances. That’s just absurd no matter the competition level, and it’s not like his summer league numbers against better competition don’t prove he is legitimately hard to strike out. Add in some speed and a quality glove and the Braves found an intriguing small school addition here.
Grade A+. Durbin will need to make a major jump in competition, but has three tools that make him a player I personally am excited to watch make that jump. He provides real value at this point of the draft.
Odds of Signing: 95%. The Braves typically sign everyone they select in the first 15 rounds every year, so I would really expect to see Durbin go pro.
Round 15 - Christian Robinson, OF, Stanford
Robinson was a top recruit for Stanford with real tools and a strong power and speed combo. He never really put it together in college until he finally had a breakout this spring to start to look more like the guy he was expected to be in college.
Grade A+. The tools are there with Robinson and maybe getting out of Stanford and into the pros helps him unlock his potential. At this part of the draft you can’t ask for much more.
Odds of Signing: 95%. The Braves just don’t waste picks in the first 15 rounds; and I don’t see Robinson being the exception to this.
Round 16 - Kris Anglin, LHP, Texas JUCO
Anglin is an interesting story, a player who graduated high school last year and was set to go to hometown CSU Bakersfield before the pandemic changed things, and instead ended up at a Texas JUCO. He has a solid four pitch mix, but nothing particularly stands out at this point in his development. He probably profiles best as a reliever.
Grade: B+. It’s a solid pick on an interesting young lefty, but Anglin doesn’t truly stand out for any tool either.
Odds of Signing: 50%. Anglin was a first year JUCO this year and is committed to Texas Tech
Round 17 - Tyler Tolve, C, Kennesaw State
The Braves went with a local catcher in the 17th round that has an interesting tool set at catcher. Tolve is a player with very good athleticism for a catcher and a bit of power in his bat. He is also young for the class, not turning 21 until after the draft ended.
Grade: A+. Getting a legitimate prospect at catcher this late in the draft is always a strong pick up, and the Braves did just that.
Odds of Signing: 98%. Tolve still has two years of eligibility but the Kennesaw State program wished him well on Twitter saying along the lines that they would miss him but that he’d be just up the road. That indicates he is going to be signing with the Braves.
Round 18 - Austin Smith, RHP, Arizona
Smith is another interesting story line in a class filled with them. A former D3 third baseman(I was mistaken on Day 3 recap saying former JUCO), who was converted to a pitcher there. He’s got a live arm up to at least 98 MPH(some reports of 100 MPH), and transferred into Arizona to pitch out of the pen this year. He is still very new to pitching and has command issues, but this is a live, fresh arm.
Grade: A+. Getting a guy with this kind of carrying tool and potential this late is very big for the Braves.
Odds of Signing: 80%. While Smith could return to UA to try to improve his stock, it is important to remember he is already 22 years old and its hard to see him getting much more money next year as a senior sign.
Round 19 - Samuel Strickland, LHP, Samford
Strickland is the definition of a pitchability lefty, and one with exceptional command. This senior sign was actually higher rated in last year’s draft, but after coming back and seeing his stuff tick up he went on to struggle with results a bit.
Grade: A+. Strickland’s command and pitchability mixed with 95 MPH from the left side makes him an attractive pick this late in the draft.
Odds of Signing: 99%. Strickland is a senior sign and should be joining the Braves system.
Round 20 - Ty Evans, OF, Florida HS
Evans was a Top 5 round talent with a solid all around skill set and intriguing power. There was some question on if the Florida commit would hit, but not a massive question like there is with some other prospects.
Grade: A+ or INC. If Evans signs it is an A+ grade. If he doesn’t it is an incomplete as you can’t really grade a pick that doesn’t sign.
Odds he signs: 1%. Yes 1%. It would pretty much require Smith-Shawver, Collins, or Shoemaker or multiple of them, depending on who fails their physicals (Cusick and Schwellenbach wouldn’t work as they aren’t overslot and it would need to be an overslot guy for the money to work). Evans was drafted simply as insurance for that like every team does.