ATLANTA -- Those who watched Kyle Muller pitch last year and then returned to Texas to see him again this year certainly had reason to wonder if they were looking at the same guy. At some point over the winter, the physically imposing left-hander gained some muscle and a fastball that made him one of the most attractive pitchers available in this year's MLB Draft.
Though they had already taken two left-handed high school pitchers on Thursday, the Braves did not pass on the opportunity to take Muller with the 44th overall selection and add him to their strong stable of pitching prospects. The 18-year-old Dallas-area resident is currently competing in the Texas state tournament with his Jesuit Prep teammates.
"He's an animal," Braves scouting director Brian Bridges said. "He's 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and it's not fat. He's just a big Texan."
The Braves took Ian Anderson with the third overall pick and then followed that up by taking left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz four spots ahead of Muller. Each of the pitchers ranked among MLB.com's 25-best available prospects in this year's Draft.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Muller was recently named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. This is the kind of honor received after going 8-0 with a 0.46 ERA and 133 strikeouts over 76 innings. It also didn't hurt that he batted .396 with 15 home runs.
Along the way, Muller set a national high school record when he struck out 24 consecutive batters over a two-game span. He struck out the first 18 batters he faced in the second game and ended up with 21 strikeouts over eight innings that day.
Muller has shown the ability to command a fastball that sits between 91-95 mph, but he is still developing his secondary pitches. This is simply part of the developmental process which was aided by the 25 extra pounds of muscle he added this past winter.
"I guess it just popped for him," Bridges said. "That happens and it happens for everyone at different points. I call it their Christmas present."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.