The Braves have been fairly resolute when it comes to their draft strategy on Day One in recent years. They have prioritized college performers from programs that they trust. For two straight years, the Braves have dipped into Wake Forest’s pitching roster and the first such foray was lefthander Jared Shuster.
Midseason Report Card: We ranked Jared Shuster as the Braves’ No. 9 prospect on our 2021 midseason list. He is a bit polarizing on our staff in terms of where exactly to rank him as of now, but it does seem like that he will drop at least a little bit on our next rankings.
Jared Shuster 2021 MiLB Stats: 18 G, 73 IP, 4.44 ERA, 90 K, 20 BB
What we saw in 2021: Lets start with the good stuff here. First, Shuster’s changeup is very, very good and was a big part of his admittedly impressive strikeout numbers from 2021. It is at least a plus pitch and he gets some really bad swings on it. He generally can throw all three of his pitches for strikes and his breaking ball showed some flashes of being plus although it was largely just above average.
The less than good news is first that, according to our sources, Shuster was not healthy when he joined the Braves in 2020 where his participation in organizational activities was limited. He did start the season with Rome, but then immediately missed over two weeks which certainly caught our attention. Moreover, his fastball which had taken a big jump in velocity during his draft evaluation was more a low 90’s offering particularly in the second half. Shuster knows how to pitch, so he was able to mask some of that fastball deficiency in high-A with that pitching IQ, but his fastball is going to be a concern as he moves up levels. His three appearance debut in Double-A didn’t exactly quell those concerns as he got beat up at Mississippi at the end of the season.
What to expect in the future: There are just a lot of variables with Shuster that make him really hard to evaluate. Its hard to say if he will be able to get some fastball velo back because we don’t know exactly the cause of it (COVID shutdown, injury, mechanics, voodoo curse, etc.). The changeup is good enough that we aren’t certain that a big jump in velocity is necessary as batters HAVE to respect that pitch, but we do think he will have to create a bit more separation to have consistent success. His time in Double-A didn’t diminish those concerns, but its a small enough sample at the end of a weird season to prevent us from saying the sky is falling. However, there are real questions and real risk here and we don’t expect him have a huge bounceback in 2022. Instead, we expect some incremental growth that could come with some speedbumps and struggles against the more advanced hitters in Double-A.