Kyle Muller impressing, could he factor into Braves’ 2019 plans?

March 27, 2018 Atlanta: Braves pitcher Kyle Muller delivers a pitch during the fourth inning in the Future Stars Exhibition Game on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
March 27, 2018 Atlanta: Braves pitcher Kyle Muller delivers a pitch during the fourth inning in the Future Stars Exhibition Game on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Braves prospect Kyle Muller is finding his stride at Double-A, and he’s garnering attention inside and outside the organization.

The towering Texas lefty, after an erratic start to the season, has reduced his walks and is overpowering hitters. Muller, who caught eyes at spring training, possesses a fastball that sits at 95-97 mph along with a strikeout curve.

Baseball America ranked Muller atop their weekly “Top MLB Prospects Hot Sheet” for his recent play. Muller went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts, allowing one run on six hits over 12-2/3 innings. He struck out 17 and walked four.

"If you look at Mueller's stats for the season, it's easy to say he's too wild," Baseball America executive editor JJ Cooper said. "And for the first few starts of the season, that was absolutely true. Mueller could not find the strike zone in early April, walking 14 batters in only 8.2 innings. In his first three starts, it was 50-50 whether he was going to throw a strike or a ball. But Muller has had no such problems lately.

“Right now, he’s working in and out with a 95-97 mph fastball, using it to set up a big 2-to-8 curveball that generates swings and misses.”

As Cooper also noted, Muller has walked 11 hitters across 33-1/3 innings this month. How he’s pounded the strike zone is an extremely encouraging development not only for the long term, but perhaps in the near future.

“I saw his last outing, his last few,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s good to see. Again, young guys with talent, you just keep running them out there and hopefully they figure it out.”

The Braves will seek pitching help at the deadline, though they would prefer a proven starter over a reliever. One reason: The bullpen can be bolstered by in-house options, as in how Sean Newcomb has found a niche in the role.

Among those who will warrant consideration is Muller, who, on paper, fits the mold of a power arm out of the bullpen. The Braves didn’t shy away from promotions during last season’s run, triggering a wave that included Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright. So it’s easy to envision them finding a place for Muller, even if it’s only to fill September innings.

Muller operated as a reliever at the Arizona Fall League, a means of keeping his innings down. He struck out 15 in 10-2/3 innings, earning AFL All-Star honors.

"Coming out of the 'pen, it's a bit of a different animal," Muller said. "It shows you that a lot of the stuff, the superstitions you have as a starter, you don't really need. Sometimes you just have to go in – you might get the seventh, you might get the fifth. You don't really know exactly what time you're going in. So just learning how to deal with that, and obviously it's something good for the future, being comfortable in that type of situation."

Of course, this is all dependent upon Muller’s progression. But if his performance in May is a sign of what’s to come, he’ll be the next coveted pitching prospect knocking on Atlanta’s door.

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