Jason Hursh, RHP
OFR Prospect Rank: 52
2017 Opening Day Level: AAA Gwinnett
(all stats AA and AAA only)
The 31st overall pick of the 2013 draft by the Braves, Hursh was converted full-time to the relief role mid-season of 2015. His first full season as a reliever was a relative success. After making it up to AAA Gwinnett late in 2015, a poor spring and a crowded minor league pitching corps had Hursh back in AA Mississippi to start 2016. Hursh was terrific for Mississippi and was promoted back up to Gwinnett in late July. Hursh was added to the 40-man roster and promoted to Atlanta in mid-August 2016. He was sent back down after one appearance on August 17, 2016 where he walked 3 and gave up 4 runs and only got one out.
A big hurler (6’ 3”, 200 pounds), Hursh has a big fastball that he can regularly gun up to the high ‘90s now that he’s committed to the bullpen. When he’s on, the fastball has a natural sinking trajectory that generates both swing-and-misses and groundballs. He also has a slider and a change-up that he uses against lefties, an aspect of his game that really improved in 2016. When he’s off he has a hard time commanding the fastball and will give up walks and extra-base hits in bunches.
Hursh was one of the first cuts in spring training after allowing 4 runs in 3 innings pitched in two appearances. He has appeared twice for Gwinnett and hasn’t allowed a run in 3.2 innings pitched. I happened to be in attendance Sunday when Hursh took the mound against the Durham Bulls. He struck out centerfielder Johnny Field on a well-placed fastball on the outside corner, but gave up loud, warning-track outs to top Rays prospects Jake Bauers and Willy Adames.
Hursh has the stuff to be a successful major league reliever, but there’s enough red flags to make anyone wonder if he’ll be consistent enough to stay. Needless to say, this is a major opportunity for Hursh to show he belongs.