Braves draft two-way star from Nebraska, infielders from Georgia Tech

Nebraska pitcher/shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach

Credit: Courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

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Nebraska pitcher/shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach

Credit: Courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

The Braves made an intriguing pick in the second round of MLB’s amateur draft Monday, selecting two-way player Spencer Schwellenbach from the University of Nebraska.

A highly regarded prospect both as a right-handed pitcher and a shortstop, Schwellenbach was drafted by the Braves as a pitcher with the No. 59 overall pick.

“I always like taking shortstops that pitch,” Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown said. “... We feel like he’s going to be a starter for us. This is probably one of my favorite picks, I could say, of my career. I was so excited to get this guy.

“We told him, ‘Hey, we’re drafting you as a pitcher. We like you at shortstop, but we like you better on the mound, and we think you’re going to do great things for this organization.’”

Also on Monday, the Braves drafted two Georgia Tech infielders: shortstop Luke Waddell in the fifth round and third baseman Justyn-Henry Malloy in the sixth.

Brown said Malloy “definitely has some power, so we think we get him in the professional environment and he’s got a chance to take off.” Brown added that Waddell is “a very good defender” who can play multiple infield positions and makes consistent contact as a hitter.

Monday’s selections followed the Braves’ pick of 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-handed pitcher Ryan Cusick from Wake Forest with their first-round choice, No. 24 overall, Sunday night.

Schwellenbach won the 2021 “John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year” award -- presented annually to college baseball’s top combo pitcher-position player -- by hitting .284 with six homers and 40 RBIs and posting a 3-1 record with 10 saves and a 0.57 ERA in 31-2/3 innings as a closer. He also was named the Big Ten player of the year.

He made his college pitching debut as a junior this year and didn’t allow a run in 17 of 18 appearances. His fastball reached 99 mph.

The Braves continued their focus on college pitching in the third round, drafting left-hander Dylan Dodd from Southeast Missouri State, before taking Texas Tech shortstop Cal Conley in the fourth round.

Fifth-round pick Waddell hit .309 with eight home runs for Georgia Tech this year and was named first-team All-ACC. Sixth-round pick Malloy, who transferred to Tech after spending two seasons at Vanderbilt, hit .308 with 11 homers for the Yellow Jackets this year.

Other picks by the Braves on Monday included Texas high school right-handed pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver in the seventh round, speedy Texas high school outfielder Tyler Collins in the eighth, Bryant University catcher Liam McGill in the ninth and Hawaii at Hilo pitcher Dylan Spain in the 10th.

Sunday’s selection of Cusick marked the second consecutive year the Braves drafted a Wake Forest pitcher in the first round, following left-hander Jared Schuster in 2020. With a fastball that has reached 101 mph, Cusick had 108 strikeouts in 70 innings as a junior this year. He has struggled with control, although he has shown some improvement in that area.

The draft, which will conclude Tuesday with rounds 11 through 20, is being held in Denver in conjunction with MLB’s All-Star game.

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