Braves' No. 59 pick latest in line of pro athlete bros

July 10th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If Drue Hackenberg has any questions about what it’s going to be like to be a professional athlete, he can ask his brother. And if that brother isn’t available, he can ask the other two products of this incredibly athletic family.

Hackenberg was the second of the three collegiate pitchers the Braves took as the first day of the 2023 MLB Draft elapsed on Sunday. He doesn’t come nearly as acclaimed as Hurston Waldrep, who the Braves took with the 24th overall pick, nor does he have a fastball as electric as that possessed by Cade Kuehler, who was taken by Atlanta with the 70th overall pick.

But unlike the others, Hackenberg can soon proudly say he is one of four brothers who have been in professional sports. His most famous sibling, Christian, was beloved by talent evaluators during his years as Penn State’s quarterback. But after being taken by the Jets in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he never played a down in the NFL.

Drue’s brother Adam is a catcher who ranks as the White Sox No. 28 prospect per MLB Pipeline. His brother Brandon was taken in the first round of the 2021 MLS Draft by Orlando City. To read more about how chocolate milk helped these siblings, check out this story by my colleague Jesse Borek.

Now, Drue will attempt to make a name for himself.

After posting a 3.30 ERA over 92 2/3 innings at Virginia Tech in 2022, Hackenberg produced a 5.80 ERA over 85 1/3 innings for the Hokies in '23. His strikeout rate rose from 8.4 per nine innings to 10.4, but his walk rate went from 1.8 per nine to 2.7. The Braves believe playing home games on artificial turf might have negatively impacted the 21-year-old right-hander, who pitched for Team USA last summer. 

Looking at both the stats and the fact that Hackeberg was rated the No. 200 best-available prospect by MLB Pipeline, it’s easy to assume he was an under-slot pick taken to create the flexibility needed to go over slot with another selection. 

Sometimes, you get lucky going this route. The Braves went under slot with fifth-year college senior Dylan Dodd in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft to create the opportunity to go over slot with AJ Smith-Shawver in the seventh round. 

Nobody expected Smith-Shawver to reach the Majors this year. But if asked two years ago which of these pitchers might get there first, many might have gone with the high school kid who had just started consistently pitching a year earlier.