Braves' Waldrep racks up 11 K's in dazzling return to Triple-A Gwinnett

June 2nd, 2024

Two batters into ’s first Triple-A start of the season, it looked like it would be a day to forget. Five innings later, that could not have been further from the truth.

The Braves No. 2 prospect, who made one start at Triple-A Gwinnett last September, fanned a career-high 11, allowing three runs in six innings in the Stripers’ 3-1 loss to Norfolk on Sunday.

More from MLB Pipeline:
Top 100 prospects | Stats | Video | Podcast | Complete coverage

Toeing the rubber at Harbor Park in the top half of the first, MLB’s No. 72 prospect was introduced to the power-packed Norfolk lineup instantly. On the fourth pitch of the game, Orioles No. 6 prospect Connor Norby roped a double to the left-field corner. Then, on the next pitch, Heston Kjerstad -- MLB’s No. 21 prospect -- launched an opposite-field homer into the stands.

"That's a really good lineup, a really mature lineup, but it's baseball, that happens," Waldrep said. "You can't freak out over it. After the double, it was 'alright, well got to minimize the damage here.' After the home run, it was 'well, got a clean slate, start over again.'"

The former Florida Gator did a good job of making the most of that "clean slate." Following the jack, he induced a ground ball from Orioles No. 30 prospect Billy Cook, before punching out the following two batters to close out the frame.

"It's the competitive edge," said Waldrep in relation to having a short memory. "Never giving up, never giving in, no matter what happens. Just because he got me this time, doesn't mean I won't come back and throw you my best stuff again."

From there, Waldrep found his groove. He carved through the Norfolk lineup, fanning four batters over the next two innings, before getting into a jam in the fourth. After allowing a leadoff double, Waldrep got the next batter to ground out, but ultimately surrendered his third run of the start on a sacrifice fly.

Just like in the first, the 2023 first-round pick bounced back to finish off his outing, striking out the next batter he faced and four more in the following two frames.

Waldrep’s bread-and-butter pitch in the start was his 65-grade splitter. The right-hander tallied all 11 of his strikeouts on the pitch, which he threw 46% of the time and induced whiffs on 57% of the time.

"I know for a fact it's the highest [my splitter usage] has been all year," Waldrep said. "With a pitch like that, when it's working, you kind of just have to go to it. If they're going to swing at it, then let them swing at it."

Waldrep entered the contest with a 2.92 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in nine starts for Double-A Mississippi. The outing moved those marks to 3.09 and 1.36, respectively, while also raising his K/9 to 9.6 on the season.