ATLANTA -- Carter Stewart vaulted to the top of the Braves' Draft board when he grew two inches and added 30 pounds to what is now an athletic 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame. But the additional velocity gained from this growth spurt might always be regarded as a complement to what is
ATLANTA -- Carter Stewart vaulted to the top of the Braves' Draft board when he grew two inches and added 30 pounds to what is now an athletic 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame. But the additional velocity gained from this growth spurt might always be regarded as a complement to what is considered an elite curveball.
"The breaking ball was so special," scouting director Brian Bridges said. "They don't come along. You always look for that one thing, whether it be a power pitch or a big-time breaking ball. God willing that he stays healthy, it's the one thing he'll always have. And you'll be talking, when he makes his debut, about that big hammer."
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Stewart became the latest candidate to join Atlanta's fraternity of talent-rich pitching prospects on Monday night, when the Braves took him with the eighth overall selection in this year's MLB Draft. The 18-year-old right-hander from the Melbourne, Fla., area was considered the best available high school pitcher and ranked as MLB Pipeline's fifth-best overall prospect.
"I'd say for about a week or so now I've felt like the Braves were definitely a high possibility [to] draft me," Stewart said. "When they called my name, it was definitely a surreal feeling. It was really exciting."
With their second-round pick (49th overall), the Braves took Wichita State outfielder Greyson Jenista, who was named last summer's Cape Cod League's MVP. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound left-handed hitter's bid to join teammate Alec Bohm (3rd pick, Phillies) as a first-round selection faded as he hit .309 with nine home runs in 56 games this year.
"This guy has unbelievable power," Bridges said. "It's real power. He's a better hitter. I think a little Draft-itis was bothering him this year. He was trying too hard, and pressing."
The Braves kept an open mind as they spent the past few months focused on finding the best prospect who would be available when it came time for them to pick, bringing South Alabama outfielder Travis Swaggerty (10th pick, Pirates) and high school third baseman Nolan Gorman (19th pick, Cardinals) to Atlanta for workouts last week.
But for the fourth straight year, Bridges determined that a pitcher was the best available option for first pick. The team's past three top picks -- Kyle Wright (2017), Ian Anderson (2016) and Kolby Allard (2015) -- are among the seven pitchers listed within MLB Pipeline's top 10 Braves prospects.
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Stewart will likely join this group once he signs. The Mississippi State commit said there should not be any signability issues.
"You have to commit to something," Bridges said. "So, whatever you're going to commit to, you better buy all into it. There are no guarantees about how things are going to end. It's a long journey for pitchers. But the more volume you have of quality pitchers, the more chance you have to sustain when you start winning at the Major League level."
Stewart's curveball has generated a spin rate of more than 3,000 rpm, putting him in an elite category with such Major Leaguers as the Astros' Charlie Morton. But his stock truly rose when his growth spurt made him a legit power pitcher. His fastball sat 88-90 mph during last summer's showcase season, but his heater sat 92-94 and touched 98 mph this spring.
"I like to model myself after Justin Verlander a little bit, with his intensity and his ability to pitch," Stewart said. "I've been watching him for a long time, and I feel like that's one guy who I can definitely model myself after."
Stewart posted a 0.91 ERA and recorded 128 strikeouts over 61 2/3 innings during his senior season. He may have cemented his place with the Braves when he recorded 18 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter with cross-checker Tom Battista in attendance.
"I'm not going to see anybody any better, and I don't want to see him any worse," Battista told Bridges. "He's our guy."
As the Braves evaluated who to take with their second-round selection, they had their eye on University of Virginia left-hander Daniel Lynch until the Royals took him with the 36th pick. But they were happy to have a chance to add some power potential to the organization when Jenista was still available.
Jenista hit .320 with 14 doubles, one triple, nine home runs and six stolen bases during his sophomore season at Wichita State. He enhanced his stock last summer, when he batted .310, tallied three home runs and stole nine bases over 39 Cape Cod League games.
"We really like what he brings, definitely with the left-handed swing in our ballpark, gives us a potential to tap into that power," Bridges said. "You can't teach size, and you can't teach strength. You can't teach power. We ... get the most out of their abilities."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.