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Atlanta Braves Prospect Update: Jason Hursh

I love prospects. I enjoy projecting players into the future, and wondering what they will develop into over time. So from time to time, I’ll select an Atlanta Braves prospect and give an overview of their career and how they are developing. I’m sure many of you will already know about the players I discuss, but for those of you who don’t I hope I am able to give you a glimpse at some guys who may be impact players for Atlanta in the future. I am by no means an expert, but I will share my thoughts on these players and I hope you will do the same in the comments. The player I’ll start with is 2013 first round pick, and right-handed starting pitcher, Jason Hursh.

Hursh is a 6 feet 3 inch 200 pound right-handed pitcher out of Oklahoma State University. After red-shirting his Sophomore year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Hursh became the ace of the Cowboy staff in 2013. He started 16 games compiling a 6-5 record, a 2.79 ERA, and 7.29 strikeouts per 9 innings. After the season the Braves selected Hursh with the 31st overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Once in the Braves system Hursh was placed on a strict innings limit due to the high amount of innings he threw his last year in college, and because he was recently coming off surgery. He finished off 2013 with Rome in the South Atlantic League, where he was fantastic. Hursh finished with a 0.67 ERA  in 27 innings.

Hursh started 2014 two levels ahead of Rome in Double-A with Mississippi. So far this season Hursh has started 21 games and posted a 3.56 ERA over 126.1 innings. His strikeout rate has decreased from 13.9 % to 12.8 % with the jump to Double-A, but his walk rate has also dropped from 9.3% to 7.5 %.

Before the 2014 season Marc Hulet of FanGraphs had Hursh rated as the 6th best prospect in the Braves system, and had this to say about him.

The Scouting Report: Hursh is basically a move physical J.R. Graham. Both have heavy, mid-90s fastballs and both need to polish their secondary stuff, which for the recent draft pick includes a slider and changeup. He underwent Tommy John surgery in college so durability is a minor concern. Hursh’s delivery has some effort to it.

The Career Outlook: There are questions surrounding Hursh’s future role, including: Is he a future mid-rotation starter or is he a high-leverage reliever? Time will tell…

I have only seen Hursh on video or MILB.tv (which is awesome if you like watching prospects) and so far I like what I see. Contrary  to the scouting report from before 2014,  it seems like he has a smooth delivery and has removed most of the “effort” from it. The arm action is not great, but it’s a far cry from the max-effort delivery he used before his Tommy John surgery. His slider and change-up are solid pitches that should be at least playable against major league hitters. The slider is better than the change-up at the moment. His best pitch is that sinking fastball, especially when he runs it up in the mid 90s.

Some project Hursh as a closer or set-up man, while others see him as a clear middle of the rotation starter. Right now I (with extreme bias) tend to lean towards the optimistic projection. If he can continue to pound the strike zone, and induce ground balls I see no reason why Hursh can’t at least begin his career as a starter. Worst case scenario he could be an outstanding relief pitcher, but Atlanta will not go that route unless starting proves unfeasible. When Hursh makes it to Atlanta his ground balls will be a welcome sight for Braves fans. With Andrelton Simmons and most likely Jose Peraza as the long-term up the middle tandem, Atlanta will be the place ground balls go to die.

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