Ritchie signs with Braves for $2.4 million

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, as a junior, JR Ritchie, the standout pitcher at Bainbridge High School, was almost certain he was going to atttend UCLA on a baseball scholarship.

But after being picked 35th in the recent Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves and finding out he could sign a contract worth $2.4 million he changed his mind July 22.

Ritchie said prior to the draft the team that took him had to be right fit for him to turn pro. Atlanta must have met that criteria.

“It’s about finding a team that believes in me as much as I believe in myself,” Ritchie said. “I think if I can find that fit with a team, and I can be the guy in a couple of years, it would be an opportunity you can’t pass up.”

At least one draft analysis, Christopher Crawford, thinks Atlanta is a good spot for Ritchie. “It’s a very good fit. They are one of the best developers of pitching in the sport. He has a chance to work out some of the mechanical kinks and develop into a mid-rotation starter – or better,” Crawford said.

Ritchie, 19, is known for throwing a hard slider that mixes well with his fastball that has hit 97 mph and a curve ball and changeup that he will continue to work on in the pros. This season he went 6-0 with a 0.38 earned run average, and 54 strikeouts and six walks in 23.2 innings.

Career highlights include his first high school no-hitter with 18 strikeouts last year in a 2-0 win over Central Kitsap for the league title.

Prior to the draft, Ritchie was considered one of the Top 50 prospects so he was invited to the draft and MLB All-Star events last week.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is the first BI native to be drafted since Brian Coleman in 1990. And he is the highest draft pick from Kitsap County since North Kitsap’s Aaron Sele went 23rd to the Boston Red Sox in 1991. Although Kitsap County has seen a handful of baseball players drafted within the first few rounds, none had come from BI. Besides Coleman and Sele, Todd Linden and Drew Vettleson came from Central Kitsap, and Willie Bloomquist from South Kitsap.

Review sports reporter Nicholas Zeller-Singh contributed to this report.