Braves sign draft and follow pitcher

Bill Shanks talks with the newest member of the Braves' organization.

The Atlanta Braves have signed right-handed pitcher James Curtis to a contract as a draft and follow player. Curtis was the Braves' 40th pick in last year's amateur draft, and he spent this season with Manatee Community College in Florida.

Curtis, who is six-foot-one and 205 pounds, was 5-4 for the Lancers with a 3.80 ERA. He allowed 41 earned runs on 110 hits in 97 innings pitched, with 38 walks, and 79 strikeouts. In the FCCAA state tournament, Curtis was 2-0 with two complete games. He allowed seven runs and struck out 18.

"It was an exciting season," Curtis said. "We finished in second in our conference. We ended up state runners-up in that state tournament. I did pretty well overall."

Curtis has a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph, along with a curve, an occasional changeup, and slider. When he was a senior in high school, he was throwing in the 83-85 mph range, and then he was in the mid-80s when he got to Manatee. So while his fastball has improved, he admits his breaking stuff needs work.

"I think I've progressed pretty well the last few years," he said. "There's room for improvement. I'm not at the top of my game yet. I can do nothing but get better."

Curtis's rise to college baseball was a strange one. He was not drafted out of Southeast High School in Bradenton, and he was barely looked at by any colleges.

"It was amazing," Curtis said. "I didn't get a scholarship out of high school. MCC needed a shortstop for the summer. I played for their summer team and got offered to come back in the fall. Then at the end of the year to be drafted was just amazing."

"When I got out of high school, there was a two-week window where I thought my baseball career was over. In nine or ten months, I went from not playing baseball at all to being drafted by the Braves. Pretty amazing."

Thankfully, for Manatee and the Braves, his career was far from over. Curtis was 6-2 in 2005 with a 3.76 ERA in 81.1 innings pitched. Then for his dad's favorite team to draft him after his freshmen season was quite a thrill.

"My dad like the Braves when I was a kid," Curtis said. "I grew up liking the Braves because my dad watched them, and then I liked the players the Yankees had so I rooted for them too."

Curtis, who turned 20 years old on May 6th, will more than likely be apart of Danville's pitching staff when the Appalachian League's season starts next month. He's ready for the challenge of being a Braves' pitching prospect.

"It's a pretty good feeling," Curtis said. "They have a great farm system for pitchers. I couldn't think of a better organization to pitch for than the Atlanta Braves. It's a real pleasure to be looked at by the Braves. I'm real excited."

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look at the Braves' traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at

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