A top Braves prospect will be sidelined for quite some time.
Right-hander JR Ritchie will undergo Tommy John surgery, a person with knowledge of the matter confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. (Baseball America first reported the news.) Ritchie’s procedure was scheduled for Wednesday.
The Braves drafted Ritchie – their No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline – with the No. 35 overall pick in last year’s draft, a selection they acquired from the Royals in a trade that sent Drew Waters (and others) to Kansas City. The No. 35 pick is part of the Competitive Balance Round A portion of the draft, which falls between the first and second rounds of the MLB draft.
Over four starts with Low-A Augusta this season, Ritchie allowed nine runs – eight earned – over 13-1/3 innings. He struck out 25 batters while walking three.
Ritchie had not pitched since May 6, when he allowed a run over 3-2/3 innings. He struck out seven batters and walked one.
The Braves put Ritchie on the injured list with an elbow injury. As recently as Sunday, they still were evaluating Ritchie.
Pitchers often miss 12-18 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. This means Ritchie almost certainly will miss some of 2024, and perhaps a large chunk of it.
The Braves drafted Ritchie out of high school in Bainbridge Island, Washington. When the Braves selected him, his fastball could touch 98 mph. They were impressed by his velocity and strike-throwing ability.
“We were absolutely excited that he was still there (at the 35th pick),” former scouting director Dana Brown, now Houston’s general manager, said after the Braves selected Ritchie last summer. “We had (first-round pick Owen) Murphy higher on the board, more athletic, but we were shocked that Ritchie made it (to 35) because they were not far (apart) on our list. They were pretty close.”
In spring training, righty Blake Burkhalter, the club’s No. 22 prospect on MLB Pipeline, underwent Tommy John surgery.
More recently, right-hander Ian Anderson, who hoped for a bounce-back 2023 season, had the procedure done.
Tommy John surgery is used to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in a pitcher’s elbow.
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