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Did the Braves strike gold with their 2021 first-round pick Ryan Cusick

Previous Prospect Outlooks

It’s still too early to judge, but the Braves looked to have nailed several of their 2020 draft picks, which is even more impressive when you consider they only had four picks because the draft was shortened to just five rounds. Alex Anthopoulos appears to have a knack for this whole GM thing, and his first-round pick from 2021 is another high-upside arm that could be a staple in the Braves rotation of the future.

The first thing you’ll notice about Ryan Cusick is his size. At 6’6″ and 235 pounds, his mound presence is much like Kyle Muller‘s, but he throws from the right side. Like Muller, Cusick also sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, but he was clocked as high as 102 during his time at Wake Forrest.

With that high velocity comes a lot of strikeouts, and Cusick was a punchout machine at Wake Forrest. He only made four starts in 2020 because the season was cut short due to COVID, but he averaged 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings. In 12 starts last season for the Demon Deacons, he punched out 108 batters in just 70 innings (13.9 K/9). Like they do with a lot of their young arms, the Braves took things slowly with Cusick once he got to their organization. He ended up making six starts for the Augusta Green Jackets but pitched only 16.1 innings. Still, Cusick was impressive, recording a 2.76 ERA and striking out a ridiculous 34 batters.

The amount of success Cusick has will come down to two things — control and the development of his secondary offerings — as it does with most young arms. Cusick did walk his fair share of batters while he was at Wake Forrest. As far as his pitch mix, he currently has four offerings, with his curveball being his best secondary pitch. If he can develop one more go-to pitch to go along with his fastball-curveball combination, Cusick should have a lengthy career as a major-league starter.

 

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