I shouldn’t try commenting on other teams because I don’t have the time, nor inclination, to follow their drafting habits, but it really seems the Braves focus heavily on college relievers who have the ability to accelerate through their minor league system. Today’s Random Prospect, Nate Hyatt, is just another example from a group that includes Craig Kimbrel, Shae Simmons, and Cory Gearrin.
Hyatt was born on September 26th, 1990 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because I like random facts, the Braves lost 5-2 that day to the eventual World Champion Reds, their 92nd loss in a 65-97 season. John Smoltz was outpitched by Jose Rijo despite Ron Gant‘s 31st homer. Hyatt attended Brevard High School, which has never produced a major league player, before heading to Appalachian State for his college education. With App State, Hyatt tried his luck at both starting and relieving, but eventually transitioned into a full-time closer in his junior season, saving 16 games to lead the Southern Conference and help send the Mountainers to the College World Series Regionals. With App State, Hyatt played often against conference foe and future Braves draftee Ross Heffley, who has also been given the Random Prospect treatment.
The Braves liked what they saw out of Hyatt, who throws in the high 90’s, and selected him in the 13th round of the 2012 draft, five picks before Heffley and nine picks before Simmons, who beat Hyatt to the majors. Hyatt spent a little time with Danville before heading to Rome to finish 2012. All told, it was an eye-opening debut for the right-hander, who struck out 37 in 25.2 ING with just 8 walks. He was supposed to have significant control issues. Quickly, it looked like Hyatt could be another fast-rising reliever.
Pegged to open 2013 with Lynchburg, Hyatt’s control problems finally surfaced. He walked 30 in 46.2 ING, or basically three more walks per nine innings than he had in 2012. While he did strike out 55 and led the ‘Cats with 12 saves, it was a disappointing year. He did show some signs of moving forward when he struck out 17 in his final 13.1 innings of the season where he did not give up an earned run. However, he did still walk nine.
This season, Hyatt is back in Lynchburg and while his 2.45 ERA looks good, he is still walking 5.2 BB/9 and has struck out 28 in 29.1 ING, a respectable total that is the lowest of his career. Much like last year, he started the year with better control and K’d 15 in his first 10.2 ING with just three walks, but has since walked more batters than he struck out.
Hyatt turns 24 in late September, which is entirely too old to be struggling at A ball. The second half of the Carolina League season will be big for Hyatt. If he can spot his fastball and his inconsistent slider, rack up strikeouts, and keep opposing hitters off the base paths, the Braves will find room for him. Otherwise, Hyatt will be passed by more recent draftees and could be a spring training cut. While the Braves have invested and believed in Juan Jaime and Ryan Buchter, other relievers with control issues in the minors, Hyatt’s 1.59 WHIP with Lynchburg will not impress Braves management, especially when you factor in falling K rates. Giving up just two homeruns in 100.2 ING is a nice stat. Walking 55 in the same time frame, on the other hand…