With the No. 31 selection in the 2013 MLB draft, the Atlanta Braves chose to add to their pitching depth by taking right-hander Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound prospect compiled a 6-5 record and 2.97 ERA in 106.1 innings this past season to land him Second Team All-Big 12 honors. What should fans expect from Hursh’s career with the Braves?
Strengths: It all starts with the fastball for Hursh. He routinely hits the mid-90s with the pitch and can crank it up to 97 or 98 MPH when needed. The pitch features good downward movement to help him get a high volume of groundball outs as well as a strikeout pitch at times. Hursh features good control on the mound as he walked 28 batters in 106.1 innings for the Cowboys this past season.
Weaknesses: The secondary pitches for Hursh have some catching up to do with his fastball. His slider can be a plus pitch at times in the mid-80s but lacks the consistency at this point in his career. The same can be said for his change-up. Hursh also has an injury history as he missed the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. While plenty of pitchers have recovered from the surgery to perform well, it’s at least worth monitoring as he moves forward with the Braves.
Outlook: Hursh will begin his career in the minors as a starter, but ultimately I see him winding up as a reliever. The Braves have young starters in Atlanta (Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy) as well as the minors (J.R. Graham, Lucas Sims, Sean Gilmartin). Alex Wood also looks to be a starter, which leaves a crowded rotation.
Meanwhile, the bullpen does not have a long-term power right-hander to set up closer Craig Kimbrel. The fact that Hursh has a potentially dominating fastball and relatively average secondary pitches makes him a likely candidate to be a successful reliever. Obviously, to maximize his potential as either a starter or reliever, he will need to develop his slider and change-up. A reliever with that much heat could get away with having just two pitches, but a starter cannot and leads me to believe he eventually makes the switch to a relief pitcher.