Braves Select Hurston Waldrep (2024)

By Mark Polishuk | at

TODAY: The Braves officially announced the selection of Waldrep’s contract this morning. Right-hander Daysbel Hernandez was optioned to the minors and Acuna was placed on the 60-day injured list in corresponding moves.

June 8: The Braves are calling up top pitching prospect Hurston Waldrep, according to multiple reporters (including’s Mark Bowman). Waldrep will make his Major League debut on Sunday in a start against the Nationals, as Atlanta is giving Max Fried extra rest by pushing his next outing to Tuesday. A 40-man roster space will have be opened to accommodate Waldrep, though that could be easily accomplished by moving Ronald Acuna Jr. or Spencer Strider to the 60-day IL.

The move represents another aggressive promotion from the Braves, as it was less than a year ago that Waldrep was selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2023 draft. There was even some speculation that Waldrep was being considered for his MLB debut near the end of last season to give the Braves an extra high-powered bullpen arm for the playoffs, though the club opted against moving quite so quickly with the right-hander’s development. Even still, Waldrep has only 84 2/3 pro innings under his belt, and just two starts at the Triple-A level. Waldrep recorded 11 strikeouts over six innings with Triple-A Gwinnett last Sunday, allowing three earned runs on five hits and a walk in his first Triple-A outing of 2024.

This was enough to convince the Braves that Waldrep is ready for the Show, and the 22-year-old will now get an opportunity in what has become a revolving door of a fifth starter’s position. Atlanta’s top four of Fried, Reynaldo Lopez, Charlie Morton, and Chris Sale has been very solid, but since Strider underwent season-ending elbow surgery, six other pitchers have gotten starts in Strider’s place. None have achieved much success, so Waldrep might well get an extended look if he shows he can hang against big league hitters.

Waldrep was a consensus top-100 pick on preseason prospect rankings, with Baseball Prospectus (30th) and Baseball America (49th) the most bullish about his potential. (He was ranked 77th by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, 80th by The Athletic’s Keith Law had him 80th, and 90th by MLB Pipeline, though Waldrep is now 72nd on Pipeline’s updated in-season list.) There is universal acclaim for Waldrep’s splitter, which has upper-80s velocity and “completely falls off the table,” in the words of BA’s scouting report, leading to “ugly swings against hitters unable to hold back.” Beyond this signature pitch is a fastball that regularly sits in the mid-90s and can hit as high as 99mph, and he also has a plus slider.

Controlling this arsenal has always been something of an adventure for Waldrep, so perhaps the most intriguing number on his 2024 stat line is his 7.56% walk rate over 55 1/3 total innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. That is already a big upgrade from the 13% walk rate he posted in his first 29 1/3 pro innings in 2023, and if this improved command can continue in the majors, Waldrep has front-of-the-rotation potential. At the very least, Waldrep might profile as an elite closer down the road if he can’t stick as a starter, but naturally Atlanta will give him plenty of looks in the rotation before deciding on that step.

The obvious comparison here is with the hard-throwing Strider, and Strider might well have matched Waldrep’s first-round pedigree if he hadn’t undergone a Tommy John surgery in college. Of course, it would be asking an awful lot of Waldrep to match Strider’s meteoric rise to big league stardom, and if Waldrep is “only” a decent rotation arm in his first taste of the majors, that is still a huge achievement for a pitcher just a year removed from the University of Florida.

If Waldrep can stay on the Major League roster for this season and beyond, he’ll be in good position to earn an extra year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two player. As per the Prospect Promotion Incentive qualification system, Waldrep can earn a full year of MLB service time if he finishes first or second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, though Waldrep would have to be truly exceptional to overtake the likes of Shota Imanaga, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jared Jones, or others who have excelled in the majors for the entire 2024 campaign.

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Braves Select Hurston Waldrep (2024)
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