Braves sign 1st-rounder Cusick, 20 others

July 23rd, 2021

ATLANTA -- The Braves signed each of their first 19 picks from the 2021 Draft on Friday, as well as a pair of undrafted free agents, including JJ Niekro, the son of Joe Niekro and nephew of Braves Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

Those deals include first-round pick Ryan Cusick, who is set to begin his professional career after agreeing to a slightly under-slot deal, a source told on Wednesday.

According to’s Jim Callis, Cusick agreed to a $2.7 million signing bonus. His slot value as the 24th overall was $2,831,300. The club has not confirmed the terms of the agreement.

“I want to get going as soon as they want,” Cusick said after being selected on July 11. “I’m just excited to get started.”

When the Braves took Cusick, it marked the second straight year they used their first pick on a pitcher from Wake Forest University. They took left-hander Jared Shuster -- now the team's No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- out of Wake Forest with the 25th overall selection in 2020.

Braves scouting director Dana Brown loved the arm strength possessed by the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Cusick, whose fastball has touched 101 mph.

Cusick recorded 108 strikeouts as he posted a 4.24 ERA over 70 innings as a junior this year. He struck out 35.3 percent of the batters he faced and had a 10.5 percent walk rate. His command was better than it was as a sophomore, when he had a 41.8 percent strikeout rate and a 17.4 percent walk rate over just 22 1/3 innings.

Though Cusick might profile as a reliever, Brown believes the young flamethrower can find success as a starter if he continues to develop the changeup he recently added to his repertoire.

“He made some adjustments to his arm action to get in the zone a little more,” Brown said. “He's had some walks in the past. We feel like he's trending in the right direction. So, we were excited to get him here. Any time you can get a guy like this at [the 24th pick] that can touch 101, you know, it's exciting.”

As for the other signings on Friday, Atlanta completed deals with 19 of its 20 selections. The lone exception was 20th-round pick Ty Evans, a prep outfielder committed to the University of Florida.

The Braves also signed Niekro and Anderson De Los Santos. Niekro, a right-handed pitcher like his father and uncle, allowed one run or fewer in eight of his nine appearances this season for Florida Southern College in Lakeland. De Los Santos, meanwhile, is a prep infielder out of Central High School in Rhode Island.