Atlanta Braves Top 31 Prospects by Eric Longenhagen June 17, 2022 © Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here. All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2022 2021 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Braves Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Michael Harris II 21.3 MLB CF 2022 50 2 Spencer Strider 23.6 MLB SP 2024 45+ 3 Vaughn Grissom 21.5 A+ SS 2024 45 4 Jared Shuster 23.9 AA SP 2023 45 5 Kyle Muller 24.7 MLB SIRP 2022 45 6 Spencer Schwellenbach 22.0 R SP 2026 40+ 7 Diego Benitez 17.6 R 3B 2027 40+ 8 Bryce Elder 23.1 MLB SP 2024 40+ 9 Geraldo Quintero 20.7 A SS 2025 40+ 10 Drew Waters 23.5 AAA CF 2022 40+ 11 AJ Smith-Shawver 19.6 A SP 2026 40+ 12 Freddy Tarnok 23.6 AA SP 2022 40 13 Tucker Davidson 26.2 MLB MIRP 2022 40 14 Ambioris Tavarez 18.6 R 3B 2025 40 15 Alan Rangel 24.8 AA SP 2022 40 16 Andrew Hoffmann 22.4 A+ SP 2025 40 17 Brandol Mezquita 20.9 A OF 2024 40 18 Luke Waddell 23.9 AA 2B 2024 40 19 Braden Shewmake 24.6 AAA SS 2023 40 20 Royber Salinas 21.2 A+ SIRP 2024 40 21 Brooks Wilson 26.3 AAA MIRP 2023 40 22 Victor Vodnik 22.7 AAA SIRP 2023 40 23 Jesse Franklin V 23.5 AA CF 2024 40 24 Cal Conley 22.9 A DH 2025 40 25 Douglas Glod 17.4 R 3B 2027 35+ 26 Darius Vines 24.1 AA SP 2023 35+ 27 Jasseel De La Cruz 25.0 AAA SIRP 2022 35+ 28 Austin Smith 23.0 A+ SIRP 2025 35+ 29 Justyn-Henry Malloy 22.3 A+ 3B 2025 35+ 30 Tyler Collins 19.3 R CF 2026 35+ 31 Adam Shoemaker 19.6 A SIRP 2026 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF SP SIRP MIRP 50 FV Prospects 1. Michael Harris II, CF Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Stockbridge HS (GA) (ATL) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 55/55 35/50 60/50 50/45 70 Harris was a switch-hitting, two-way high school prospect who many teams preferred on the mound because of his mechanical grace and ease, his fastball’s action and angle, and his curveball’s depth. He stopped switch-hitting as a high school senior (he had good feel for contact as a righty hitter but was much less explosive than he was from the left side) and while many teams continued to prefer him on the mound, the Braves were one of the clubs that viewed him as a hitter, so blown away by his BP during a pre-draft workout that they didn’t bother to ask him to pitch during it. After they picked him, Harris went to the GCL and raked. Not only was his on-paper performance fantastic (.349/.403/.514), but so was his underlying TrackMan data, as both Harris’ average exit velo and hard-hit rates were well above the big league average. Exposed to a fair bit of 2021 big league spring training, Harris played well and produced some amazing individual highlights. He hit an oppo homer off of Peter Fairbanks and made a running catch in The Triangle at Fenway South, then went to High-A as a 20-year-old and hit .294/.362/.436 in his first full pro season. There were some yellow flag attributes revealed during that season, mostly that (like Cristian Pache and Drew Waters before him) Harris is apt to chase, which not only impacts his OBP but also his quality of contact. Partly because he tends to expand and partly because of his swing’s previous mechanics (more on that momentarily), Harris has tended to hit the ball on the ground too often for his power to really play in games. Combine this with the notion that he may not be a long-term fit in center (though he’s a short-term fit and the best center field defender on Atlanta’s 40-man) because we’re talking about a compact young man with a very low center of gravity and a bottom-heavy frame who is arguably already at physical maturity, and you have the reasons why Harris was just outside our offseason Top 100 rather than firmly entrenched in it. Harris was a doubles machine during the first five weeks of 2022 and the Braves decided that he should leapfrog Drew Waters when Adam Duvall‘s legs seemed overtaxed in center, which was bleeding into his offense. They altered his swing shortly after Harris was called up, in the middle of their late-May series in Arizona. Harris’ hands start and are loading much lower now, which may prevent him from cutting down at the baseball quite so much. It’s only been about two weeks since he’s made the change, and of the balls he’s put in play since, roughly 52% have been on the ground, which still isn’t great, but the fact that he’s continued to hit big league pitching as a 21-year-old who’s making a swing change on the fly is incredible. It’s too early to draw any real statistical conclusions about what kind of impact this swing change will actually have on Harris’ power output. It may enable him to hit more homers and/or exacerbate some of issues Harris has already had with in-zone, letter-high fastballs. This will become a key development should he indeed have to move to a corner outfield spot. It has tended to serve us well to wait for hitters like this to make a swing change and yield results before totally pushing our chips in (recently rounding down on Garrett Mitchell and Jarren Duran feels correct so far, and waiting for Pete Crow-Armstrong to show prolonged results with his new swing does, too), while we’ve been punished for anticipating change (50’ing Travis Swaggerty from the get-go). Harris was a Pick to Click in anticipation of him making some of these adjustments this year, we just didn’t think it would happen at the big league level. The foundation for Harris to be an integral role player is basically already here: at worst, even if he moves to a corner, he’s an oft-used fourth outfielder (this is the area where ZiPS has had him projected) in the Joc Pederson mold (there are body type and swing similarities with Joc here), while he still has star-level ceiling if Harris stays in center and this swing change makes a real difference. 45+ FV Prospects 2. Spencer Strider, SP Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Clemson (ATL) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 80/80 40/45 40/55 45/50 97-99 / 102 Strider, who recently exhausted rookie eligibility, missed 2019 (his sophomore season at Clemson) recovering from Tommy John, but pitched well during the lone month of the ’20 college season, and Atlanta picked him in the fourth round of the shortened draft. In 2022, he is enjoying his third consecutive season of increased velocity, going from the 92-94 mph range in ’20 to averaging 95.7 during the ’21 minor league season, climbing throughout the year and sitting 97 during his late-season big league debut; he now sits at a whopping 98.7 mph, topping out at 102.5. Strider’s moniker is appropriate considering that his delivery is so explosive thanks largely to his powerful lower half, while his arm stroke looks almost effortless. Additionally, Strider’s fastball has big carry and flat angle, making it a dominant, 80-grade pitch that should at least enable him to be a great late-inning reliever on its own. His slider, which was reworked during his TJ rehab to feature more vertical action, is still below-average and not nasty enough to miss bats in the strike zone. It is hard, typically in the 83-87 mph range, but has short movement. I was at a start in which Strider, while facing a D-backs lineup of entirely left-handed and switch-hitters, threw changeups 22% of the time. In his four 2020 starts, Strider threw a total of 13 changeups, and the ’21 minor league pitch data we were sent by a front office contact had him throwing changeups just 3% of the time. While he does appear to slow his arm speed when throwing the changeup, Strider’s fastball arm speed is already so (seemingly) low-effort that he might get away with it, and while he lacks feel for locating his changeup consistently right now, that pitch shows at least as much potential to become a bat-missing offering as his slider (at least it did during my in-person look against the D-backs). This is definitely a one-pitch guy right now, and at age 24 you’d typically have no compunction bucketing him in a bullpen role. Even if you isolate his fastball usage as a starter (68%), it’s way above that of Carlos Rodón (63%), whose heater usage is currently tops among qualified starters. But this is an elite pitch we’re talking about, and while it runs counter to his secondary deployment so far, we think there’s room to project on Strider’s changeup (he’s had so few reps due to his TJ timing, the pandemic, and then being put in a relief role for a while), enough to hope he’ll eventually have a second above-average offering and have a shot to continue to start. In the meantime, the raw power and quality of his fastball will be tested by better lineups that know how to make adjustments and anticipate its line once they’ve seen him once or twice through the order. 45 FV Prospects 3. Vaughn Grissom, SS Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Hagerty HS (FL) (ATL) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 50/55 25/50 50/50 40/50 55 Because he was a high school teammate of 2019 fifth overall pick Riley Greene, Grissom was heavily scouted as he broke out during his senior spring, rising from a pocket follow to an early-round prospect. The Braves saved money on their picks in the top 10 rounds so they could splurge on prep prospects who slipped. Grissom wanted to be a part of the org and Atlanta scouted him closely all spring, convinced he could stick at shortstop despite a 6-foot-3, 180 pound frame that had many scouts assuming he’d move off the position. Since signing, he’s added 30 pounds and is back to projecting more in the 2B/3B area, and it’s possible he’ll eventually see some time in the outfield en route to a super utility role. Grissom’s bat-to-ball skills are advanced, enabling him to limit his strikeout rates to the 13-14% range. He can turn on inner-half pitches with over-the-fence power, while he takes more of a take-what’s-given approach on pitches out away from him, knocking pretty, hitterish singles to right field. For a prospect in A-ball, Grissom has a high-confidence hit tool. He likely doesn’t have the raw thunder power for stardom but is tracking like a bat who will play most days at a few positions toward the middle of the defensive spectrum. 4. Jared Shuster, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Wake Forest (ATL) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 45/50 55/60 45/60 91-93 / 95 Shuster’s velocity fluctuated wildly from start to start last season; altogether, he averaged just 89-90 mph, about three ticks below his typical velo in the lead up to the 2020 draft. It has been more consistent so far in 2022, but had still resided in the 88-91 mph range until Shuster sat 91-93 in his three most recent starts leading up to list publication. Except for that brief run up to the 2020 draft, Shuster has shown below-average fastball velocity, and while it’s worth monitoring for change (especially because things were up a tad in this most recent start), Shuster’s history as a player points toward this velo band being where he’ll sit for the long haul. His fastball has other characteristics that help enable it to punch above its weight, but it isn’t a plus pitch at its current velocity. Instead, he continues to rely on his plus changeup, of which he has plus command. Shuster locates his cambio down and to his arm side with remarkable consistency, and it is by far his best offering. In part because of how well he hides the ball, Shuster’s slider has some in-zone utility, especially against left-handed hitters, though he struggles to locate it in that enticing, off-the-plate location where most sliders play best. While Shuster doesn’t have a tool for every situation, he is a lefty with a plus changeup whose fastball has sneaky utility despite medium velocity, the skill set of many a No. 4/5 starter. 5. Kyle Muller, SIRP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Jesuit Prep HS (TX) (ATL) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 60/60 55/55 45/45 30/35 95-96 / 98 Now nearly six years removed from his draft, Muller still does not have consistent feel for his fastball. His starts, even many of the good ones, are often inefficient, and some of them spiral into traffic-heavy chaos where he’s walking five or six guys, though at other times the quality of his stuff helps him escape trouble. His fastball is a nasty enough pitch that it would probably be fine even if Muller threw imprecise strikes, but he throws many non-competitive heaters nowhere near the zone. He has more consistent feel for locating his slider (which is plus, but really only plays as a chase pitch) and his changeup, which Muller was throwing more often early in 2022 but has since hit the brakes on. He threw fewer than 10 total changeups in his two starts immediately preceding list publication. While he has mid-rotation stuff — mid-90s heat from the left side, two good breaking balls and enough feel for a below-average changeup that it has some utility — Muller is now in his second option year and most of the strike-throwing sand has passed through the hourglass. In a vacuum, it is easy to project Muller to the bullpen for the long haul (this is an FV befitting a set-up man — if Muller has a velo spike in single-inning relief he could be Jose Alvarado), and in most cases one would assume that would happen soon. But the Braves have tended to leave their young, walk-prone starters in the Triple-A rotation as spot-starting depth for as long as possible, opting to fill their big league bullpen with veteran free agents rather than see if someone like Muller, or Touki Toussaint, or any of the many pitching prospects for whom this is true, can find another gear in the ‘pen. So unless he suddenly becomes less prone to implosion, Muller feels likely to be up and down each of the next two seasons. 40+ FV Prospects 6. Spencer Schwellenbach, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Nebraska (ATL) Age 22.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/60 50/60 30/50 92-96 / 97 Schwellenbach was a two-way star at Nebraska, the team’s starting shortstop for three years and their closer for one. He hit .282/.405/.423 and often worked multiple inning in relief. While he was viewed as a prospect on both sides of the ball, the teams most interested in Schwellenbach before the draft were the ones that thought he was just scratching the surface after having pitched for just a year in college, even though Schwellenbach has more of a relief look on the mound. A fair delivery and frame comp here is J.B. Bukauskas, and like Bukauskas, Schwellenbach will show you mid-90s heat (he’s been up to 98 mph, and finished the 2021 college season sitting 92-94) with a plus slider, and when he locates his changeup that pitch also has enough tailing action to miss bats. Because he had Tommy John not long after the draft, he’s more likely to be back during 2022 instructs or Fall League than during the minor league regular season. The Braves plan to stretch him out as a starter and the repertoire foundation for that sort of thing is clearly here even if Schwellenbach does have an atypical mechanical look, which might be altered as he comes out of TJ rehab. 7. Diego Benitez, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 17.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/55 20/50 40/40 35/55 60 Benitez, who signed for a sizable $2.5 million in January, had one of the more potent and advanced hit/power combinations in this year’s international class. Because he had more mature physicality as an amateur, there was industry sentiment that it put him at greater risk of sliding down the defensive spectrum, and that Benitez would perhaps not grow into significantly more power. But sources’ early looks at Benitez in the DSL (he was not part of the Braves’ extended spring training group, which has been typical of 2022 IFA signees) have not echoed those sentiments. He’s smooth and balanced in the box, able to generate impressive pull-power for his age even with a measured, conservative style of swinging, and the combination of contact and power this generates gives Benitez a shot to develop into an everyday third baseman. 8. Bryce Elder, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from Texas (ATL) Age 23.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 35/35 50/55 45/55 50/50 50/55 90-92 / 94 Since signing with the Braves, Elder has reshaped his secondary offerings, scrapping his seldom-used mid-70s curveball from college, while introducing an upper-80s cutter, and then increasing the usage of that pitch in 2022. His glove-side slider command is above-average, while Elder’s feel for the rest of his stuff is below. He has tended to live in the zone with his sinking fastball but isn’t commanding it with precision. The cutter and Elder’s newly heavy use of it will help keep hitters off his sinker, but its shape and pedestrian velocity make it a comfortably below-average pitch. Elder’s changeup still has room for growth if he can learn to locate it more consistently. There are times when it looks like his nastiest pitch, but too many of them are still finishing in the heart of the strike zone. He looks like a grounder-getting fifth starter right now, but Elder’s durability (more innings, more WAR) and the hope that he might yet refine his changeup command could see him vault that projection down the line, which is where the 40+ distinction is coming from. 9. Geraldo Quintero, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 20.7 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 30/40 30/40 60/60 40/50 45 Quintero is in our wheelhouse: a compact, switch-hitting middle infielder with precocious feel for contact and bat control. The short-levered Quintero can let pitches travel deep and smack them to all fields, and he can even turn on top-side fastballs and yank them out to right field. While small, he’s an explosive rotational athlete, and even though his peak exit velos have been near the bottom of the big league scale to this point, hovering right around 100 mph, there might eventually be power here by virtue of the consistency and quality of his contact. He also runs extremely well and does have some experience in center field, though he has played nothing but third and second base so far in 2022. While most eyeball observers consider Quintero more of a utility prospect than someone who might play every day, we caution readers not to sleep on another twitchy, up-the-middle athlete with plus bat-to-ball skills. 10. Drew Waters, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etowah HS (GA) (ATL) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 55/55 40/45 60/60 45/45 60 Waters was a tooled-up second round pick who signed a slightly below-slot deal and coasted through the low minors, earning a Double-A assignment to start 2019 when he was still only 20. He hit .319/.366/.481 there, was promoted to Triple-A late that year, and was a unanimous top 100 prospect the following offseason. Waters’ plate discipline turned out to be in a red flag area and since that season, upper-level pitching has exploited his free-swinging approach, and Waters’ performance has not only plateaued, but taken a dive into the 90 wRC+ area during his multi-year Triple-A tenure. The age-related adjustment one could have arguably made (certainly, for a time, we made it) during the early part of his stretch in Gwinnett is much less applicable now, and the 23-year-old Waters continues to walk at just a 4% clip at Triple-A and chase pitches that he either misses or that limit the quality of his contact. He still has rare raw power for a switch-hitter who can play a viable center field, and even though he’s likely to end up with a well-below average hit tool such that he’s not an everyday player, up-the-middle defenders who can damage mistakes from both sides of the plate tend to carve out a big league role. Waters’ long speed, athleticism and arm strength allow him to make the occasional spectacular defensive play, while his hands and balls skills are more of a mixed bag. His toolset is similar to that of a diluted Aaron Hicks (without the plate discipline), and Kevin Pillar’s batting line provides a fair look at what Waters’ might look like if he played every day, though he does not play defense at Pillar’s level. Most contemporary fourth outfielders are really just part of a platoon somewhere and tend to come from the part of the prospect pool with more stable hit tools. Instead Waters feels like an abnormally dangerous fifth outfielder. 11. AJ Smith-Shawver, SP Drafted: 7th Round, 2021 from Colleyville Heritage HS (TX) (ATL) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/60 40/45 30/55 20/45 94-96 / 98 Smith-Shawver was a two-sport star in high school and committed to Texas Tech for football (QB) and baseball. He was drafted as a long-term project with a big frame (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), present arm strength (up to 95 mph last summer), and a loose, efficient arm action, which portends secondary pitch development. Smith-Shawver has already begun to throw harder (he’s now parked at 95-96 mph for whole outings and reaching back for more when he wants) and his fledgling slider also has incredible velocity, hovering around 90 mph and biting late, with two-plane movement. Though those two pitches are easily his most frequently used weapons, Smith-Shawver’s arm action is beautiful and efficient, the sort of arm action on the sort of athlete that tends to get us to project changeup growth. Combine that with his relatively new focus on just baseball, and this guy might just be scratching the surface. He’s FV’d on par with the top 20 or so teenage pitching prospects in pro ball. 40 FV Prospects 12. Freddy Tarnok, SP Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Riverview HS (FL) (ATL) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 40/45 50/50 45/55 45/50 93-97 / 98 Tarnok was a pop-up arm (and shortstop — taking two-way players and narrowing their focus is a really cool trend in this org) in the 2017 draft who entered the year on a few team’s radars, but by May, he had inspired several scouts to fly to Tampa to see the athletic righty who was touching the mid-90s. He threw out a big number prior to the draft, and the Braves took a chance on him in the third round, luring him away from the University of Tampa with a bonus of just under $1.5 million. A reworked delivery began to yield big results in 2021, when Tarnok doubled his strikeout rate in a brief return to High-A prior to promotion. After sitting at 92-94 mph during his 2019 campaign, Tarnok was parked at 95-96 throughout ’21 and has been again this season as he works shorter starts at Double-A. His changeup has become his best chance of missing bats (other than his fastball), featuring occasionally huge arm-side action. Tarnok hasn’t had feel for his slider this year and instead has better feel for his mid-70s curveball, which he often uses when he’s behind in counts or as the first pitch of at-bats. It’s easy for upper-level hitters to identify because of the way it pops out of his hand and because it has such extreme velocity separation from his fastball, but that pitch still has utility as a get-me over strike. That Tarnok is sitting 95 mph as a starter means he might throw harder in a relief role, which he realistically projects to given the effort of his delivery. It’s rare to find a starter with a delivery like this. Tarnok’s changeup (or something else) needs to take another step forward for him to have multiple bat-missing offerings and profile as more than a middle reliever, but given his lankiness, athleticism and arm speed, he might throw 100 mph if he’s put in the bullpen. As noted in previous blurbs, the Braves don’t seem inclined to do that, and in this case it makes a lot of sense because Tarnok’s secondary pitches need reps. 13. Tucker Davidson, MIRP Video Drafted: 19th Round, 2016 from Midland JC (TX) (ATL) Age 26.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 60/60 55/55 40/40 40/40 91-95 / 98 Count Davidson among the many Braves upper-level pitching prospects who seem to carve at Triple-A, then struggle when they’re tasked with making a spot start in the majors. He first reached Gwinnett in 2019 and has a sub-3.00 ERA there, but he’s been walk-prone during his nine big league appearances and has had some rough starts. While he touches 97 mph, Davidson’s fastball sits mostly 92-94, and while it has a backspinning axis, its angle causes it to play down a little; big league hitters have been able to get on top of it and it’s generating a worse-than-average swinging strike rate at Triple-A. Davidson’s money pitch is his upper-80s slider, which has late vertical action. It was his most-used secondary in 2021 and Davidson has upped its frequency again this season, bending his slider in about 40% of the time. He might be able to pitch heavily off his two breaking balls in a five-and-dive starter role long-term, but we tend to prefer that type of approach in a long relief role. Given that Davidson will soon be out of options, such a move may be coming in 2023. 14. Ambioris Tavarez, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (ATL) Age 18.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 168 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 45/55 20/55 45/40 40/50 50 Out of the penalty box they were in for the previous administration’s transgressions on the international market, the Braves made their first big investment in Latin America since 2017 when they signed Tavarez, who had one of the more highly-regarded bats in that year’s international class, to a $1.5 million deal in January of 2021. While he has a bit of a slow trigger due to a big step that initiates his swing, scouts marveled at his bat speed and power potential. Already 6-foot-2 and in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, he’s going to get bigger and stronger and will likely end up as a power-hitting third baseman, as he’s already a tick or two slow for shortstop, but his arm should be plenty for the hot corner. While he played some at the end of big league spring training when the full-season minor leaguers broke camp before the big leaguers did, Tavarez still hasn’t played an organized game and it’s unclear why. Our points of contact with the org won’t say what’s going on, nor do other teams have an injury for Tavarez listed in their internal systems. 15. Alan Rangel, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Mexico (ATL) Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/50 55/55 40/40 92-96 / 97 Rangel has had a modest velocity spike in 2022, his first on the Braves 40-man, and his riding fastball now sits about 94 mph. That pitch has been blowing past Double-A hitters in the strike zone so far this year and is comfortably plus even though it has just average velocity. The shape and line on his fastball helps set up Rangel’s slow curve, which misses many more bats than is typical of a curveball that slow in contemporary upper-level baseball. His best secondary pitch, though, is his changeup, which has enough tailing action that hitters will swing inside it even when it finishes in the meat of the zone, which is good for Rangel because his feel for it isn’t all that great. Rangel and Freddy Tarnok are similar in many ways, from their deliveries right on down to their slow curveballs. While imprecise, Rangel’s ability to throw strikes is better right now, and among the many pitchers straddling the starter/reliever line in this system, he’s arguably the one who has the best chance to actually start. 16. Andrew Hoffmann, SP Drafted: 12th Round, 2021 from Illinois (ATL) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 55/60 40/50 30/50 92-94 / 95 Hoffmann had a nomadic amateur career, starting at Oakland University in Michigan before a JUCO stint at John Logan CC and ultimately a move to Illinois, where he had some dominant starts and some epic clunkers amid the occasional week or two off. Some of his fastballs were dipping down into the mid-80s at times, but Hoffmann showed an ability to miss bats with all three of his pitches and the Braves used a 12th rounder on him. After he signed, Hoffmann’s velocity stabilized, and he sat 92-93 mph for the rest of 2021, and has been in the 93-95 range this year. For a 6-foot-5 guy, his levers and arm action are actually pretty short, and this, combined with how well he gets down the mound, gives his fastball flat angle that plays at the top of the zone. His slider isn’t all that hard, living in the low-80s, but it has a huge amount of lateral action and projects as a plus pitch, while he occasionally turns over a dandy changeup. Mixing all three offerings pretty evenly and attacking the zone so far in pro ball, Hoffmann already looks like a high-probability back-of-the-rotation starter less than a year after he was a Day Three pick. 17. Brandol Mezquita, OF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (ATL) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 45/50 35/50 50/50 30/50 55 Mezquita has close to average big league raw power at age 20 and has gotten to it in games throughout the early stages of his domestic career despite some swing-and-miss tendencies. He’s of medium build (and that may be generous), but not of medium bat speed and explosion, as his pull-heavy uppercut swing is built to do damage. Mezquita’s breaking ball recognition is only fair. If you hang it, he will bang it, but he’s also apt to chase ones off the plate. Though he’s not built like a prototypical right field prospect, Mezquita’s power over hit skill set fits in that mold. 18. Luke Waddell, 2B Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Georgia Tech (ATL) Age 23.9 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/70 30/30 20/30 40/40 40/45 30 Despite having reached base at a 40% clip during his college career to that point, Waddell was passed over in the 2020 draft because he is landlocked at second base due to his arm strength and lacks even a modicum of power or athleticism. He can sure as hell put the bat on the baseball, though, and the Braves have wasted no time in surging him through the minors, with Waddell getting a taste of Double-A and the Fall League at the end of his first pro season. Back with Mississippi to start 2022, he has (as of list publication) walked more than he’s struck out, and his ratio of balls in play to swings and misses is an absurd 4-to-1 per Synergy Sports. Built like a human fire hydrant, Waddell’s arm strength not only limits him to second base, but it can be problematic there and is sometimes the difference between completing a double play or not. It’s tough to profile as an everyday second baseman without any sort of power, and if Waddell could even run around in left field and be somewhat versatile, it would go a long way to helping him carve out a multi-positional role. César Hernández is an encouraging precedent for a hitter like this, and it’s extremely likely that Waddell is a big leaguer of some sort because he has the most important skill in the game. 19. Braden Shewmake, SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Texas A&M (ATL) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 40/40 30/35 55/55 50/55 55 While Shewmake never put up gaudy numbers at Texas A&M, he was a consistently plus performer at an up-the-middle position for a major program, which was enough for the Braves to select him with the 21st overall pick in 2019. He wasted little time adjusting to pro ball, reaching Double-A just two months after being selected, but he has since become a great example of why not to overreact to rapid upper-level promotions and to be mindful of orgs that are trying to manipulate industry opinion with such promotions (though the Braves are not necessarily one of those). Even though Shewmake has increased the frequency with which he pulls and lifts the baseball over the last two years, he’s still skinny as a rail at age 24 and doesn’t have the raw power for this shift to create a meaningful increase in his power output. His expansive approach also dilutes his ability to hit for power, and makes his hit tool play closer to average even though he has plus bat control. He can cover all four quadrants of the plate and spray contact to all fields, it’s just not very hard, nor is it supported by on-base skills. Shewmake’s defense at short is fine, but not so slick that he represents an obvious late-inning upgrade as a plus or better defensive infielder, and he’s never played anywhere but short in pro ball. There’s enough happening here to consider Shewmake an above-replacement player, but it’s tough to see him as more than a good injury replacement given his present lack of versatility; hopefully at some point in 2022, he starts to play other infield positions so he can eventually be the team’s sixth infielder. 20. Royber Salinas, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 21.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 260 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 60/60 45/50 30/35 93-95 / 98 Salinas’ explosive mid-90s fastball has been like a hot knife through butter against low level hitters, and as of list publication, he has one of the three highest strikeout rates in the minors among pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings, and he’s top 10 in swinging strike rate as well. In addition to it just being very fast, Salinas’ heater has big carry. His plus-flashing curveball and average changeup round out a starter’s mix just on pure stuff, but they tend to play down because Salinas has 30-grade command and even though he’s starting right now, he projects as a reliever long-term. His delivery isn’t especially violent, he’s just a stiff-legged athlete without great feel and stuff that is best suited for living out of the zone. While he’s been up to 98 mph this year, Salins sits mostly 93-95 and can dip a little below that late in starts. If he can sustain 95-plus he’ll have something like a 70-grade fastball, and that seems more likely to happen in the bullpen. There’s late-inning upside here, though Salinas will need to polish his control and command to get there, and he is still a good bit of distance from the big leagues. 21. Brooks Wilson, MIRP Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from Stetson (ATL) Age 26.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops 40/40 45/50 60/70 40/50 90-93 / 94 Wilson had a three-tick increase in velocity between 2019 and ’21, and even though he was only sitting 93 mph last season, his fastball has other elements that enable it to play up. His best pitch is his cartoonish splitter, which looks like it falls through an invisible trap door juuuuust as it approaches the plate. It’s his most frequently used pitch and one of three that have big league utility, the final one being an upper-70s curveball that acts as a viable show-me offering. It’s a three-pitch mix that seemed poised to race to the big leagues in 2022 before Wilson needed TJ right before the season. There might be enough here for Wilson to work more than just an inning at a time starting sometime in 2023, though Atlanta was deploying him exclusively in single-inning relief during the back half of his breakout ’21 season. 22. Victor Vodnik, SIRP Video Drafted: 14th Round, 2018 from Rialto HS (CA) (ATL) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/65 45/45 50/55 30/40 92-96 / 98 Vodnik remains a mid-90s relief prospect with a good changeup. He was sitting 94-96 mph during the 2021 regular season and was often sustaining 95-97 (mostly 97s) during the 2021 Fall League, though his arm strength has been down about a tick so far this season. His slider’s velocity was greater (as hard as 90-91) during that Fall League stint than during the 2021 regular season (per our sourced pitch data, it sat 83) and that has continued to some degree this year, as Vodnik’s slider has averaged 86 mph, though it remains a distant third pitch. His fastball’s cut and carry at the top of the zone makes it a bat-missing weapon up there and should spearhead a consistent on-roster middle relief profile. 23. Jesse Franklin V, CF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Michigan (ATL) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/55 35/50 50/50 40/45 40 Franklin was a bat-first high school prospect from the Pacific Northwest who ended up playing center field for Michigan, one of the most talented college teams of the past half-decade. He raked as a freshman (hitting .327 and slugging .588), then saw fewer pitches to hit as a sophomore and made adjustments (his walk rate doubled) as opponents approached him differently. He ended his sophomore year with a really hot postseason run, spraying balls to all fields with power against Florida State and Vanderbilt, while playing an okay center field. His 2019 Cape look was not as good; Franklin looked corner-y from a body and speed standpoint. He never played a game as a junior because he broke his collarbone in a skiing accident just after the 2020 New Year. The injury kept him from the start of the season and the pandemic squashed his return. Teams’ sense of Franklin was likely impacted by the combination of his 2019 Cape look and the long layoff. He felt like someone comfortably in the second round mix coming out of his sophomore year but ended up going toward the back of the third round; lefty bats with some pop who perform at big schools don’t typically last that long. Franklin hit 24 bombs at High-A in his first pro season, then had a putrid Fall League run, during which he looked totally gassed. Sent to Double-A to start 2022, Franklin made it through 15 games (most all in right field) before he was shut down with an elbow injury. He had Tommy John at the beginning of June and will miss the rest of 2022. While healthy Franklin looks like he’ll get to enough power to play a corner outfield role, the injuries have piled up and he’ll turn 24 having played less than a whole season’s worth of games. He is valued here as more of a hopeful bounce-back candidate. 24. Cal Conley, DH Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from Texas Tech (ATL) Age 22.9 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/55 35/50 40/40 30/40 40 A fourth round shortstop, Conley originally attended Miami (but never played there), then transferred to Texas Tech, where he only played the 2020 and ’21 seasons, giving him a much shorter runway for evaluation and stat generation than most power conference prospects. He slugged .600 during his career in Lubbock. Conley is a switch-hitter with pull power from both sides of the plate. He looked rough on defense as an amateur and may not have the hands for the infield, but because we’re talking about a switch-hitter with power, Conley has some exciting potential outcomes, even if he has to move to the outfield. He has a chance to be a valuable, bat-first utility type. 35+ FV Prospects 25. Douglas Glod, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 17.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/50 20/50 45/40 30/45 40 Glod is a quarter stick of dynamite, a physically mature 17-year-old infielder with plus bat speed and advanced feel to hit. The Braves signed him for $1.3 million in January. There’s risk he falls down the defensive spectrum, and scouts have extremely varying levels of resolve about his ability to play second base, which seems to depend on when during his amateur career Glod was seen. Everyone agrees he has a bat, though, and a puncher’s chance to be a regular as a result. 26. Darius Vines, SP Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Cal State Bakersfield (ATL) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 55/60 35/50 88-92 / 94 Even though Vines had K’d a batter per inning leading up to it, he really didn’t find feel for his trademark changeup until May. It’s actually been Vines’ fastball, which has lift and carry through the strike zone, that has induced most of his swings and misses this year, even though he hasn’t had any kind of velo spike and is still sitting in the 89-92 mph range and topping out close to 94. A fringy, low-80s slurve rounds out a solid if unspectacular pitch mix that has been weaponized by Vines’ command. Fastball playability, a good changeup, and plenty of strikes drive spot starter projection here. Vines will likely enter the offseason on Atlanta’s 40-man bubble. 27. Jasseel De La Cruz, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (ATL) Age 25.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 60/60 40/40 30/30 94-98 / 99 De La Cruz has finally moved to the bullpen after years of having his stuff improve but his command not, and he was throwing harder still in the couple of short relief outings he worked prior to being put on the IL. He sat 95 mph as a starter in 2021, and was living 96-98 and touched 99 in the bullpen. His mid-to-upper-80s slider is plus and better in terms of velocity and break, though he struggles at times to harness the pitch in the zone. De La Cruz lands quite closed and comes across the body with considerable effort, and his arm action is longer than the new Batman movie. He projects as an up/down reliever. 28. Austin Smith, SIRP Drafted: 18th Round, 2021 from Arizona (ATL) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/50 30/40 94-97 / 98 After three seasons at Division III Southwestern (TX), Smith transferred to the University of Arizona and enjoyed a velocity spike throughout his only season there, with some 88 mph fastballs at the start of the year and some 98 mph fastballs at the end. Per scout sources, he continues to sit 94-97 and touch at least 98 while closing at Rome. The consistency of his delivery improved significantly at Arizona and at least on paper, Smith seems to be continuing to improve as a strike-thrower, as he’s only walked 5.6% of opposing hitters as of list publication, much better than his career norms. He had been working with a shapely mid-70s curveball at U of A, but considering how much arm strength Smith has, there’s probably a firmer breaking ball in here. 29. Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B Drafted: 6th Round, 2021 from Georgia Tech (ATL) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 50/50 30/40 40/40 40/45 30 Scouts liked Malloy as a raw but toolsy third baseman out of a New Jersey high school in 2018, but a strong commitment to Vanderbilt prevented him from getting much play. Two years of struggles with the Commodores resulted in just 39 at-bats, then Malloy transferred to Georgia Tech for his junior year and hit .308/.436/.558 with more walks than strikeouts in his only year of actual playing time. He impresses when he gets off the bus. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he looks like a power hitting third baseman, and he’s starting to play like one as well, as he’s hitting .296/.394/.484 at High-A as of list publication. The Braves think he can play third base, where Malloy has great footwork but struggled badly with arm strength and accuracy at Tech. Of course, he’s had a fraction of the reps typical of a player his age, so this could conceivably improve. Though not an imminent corner role-playing fit, he is a good Day Two sleeper from last year’s draft who has more abstract projection than most big school hitting prospects. 30. Tyler Collins, CF Drafted: 8th Round, 2021 from McKinney Boyd HS (TX) (ATL) Age 19.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 30/40 20/35 60/60 40/50 50 An over-slot eighth rounder out of a Texas high school, Collins is a short-levered, contact-oriented outfield prospect with terrific hand-eye coordination and a slasher-style approach to contact right now. He runs well and has the skill foundation of a traditional leadoff hitter, with perhaps less physical projection than is typical of a high school draftee. His most likely avenue to a sizable big league role will be to develop a plus or better hit tool and stay in center field. 31. Adam Shoemaker, SIRP Drafted: 11th Round, 2021 from St. Benedict Cath. (ON) (ATL) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/60 40/50 40/50 20/40 91-95 / 97 Shoemaker, a Canadian lefty, experienced a huge velo spike and was into the 93-95 mph range during his draft spring after sitting about 87 during the 2020 summer. He’s been back in the low-90s early on during Complex League play in 2022 and remains an physical projection sleeper in the extreme. His delivery is pretty violent, and he struggled to get on top of his upper-70s slider during 2020 showcase play, which caused it to flatten out, but Shoemaker also has a ton of room on his frame for strength and, hopefully, velocity. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Real Juice Tyler Tolve, C CJ Alexander, 3B Landon Stephens, 1B/LF Tolve is an undrafted free agent from Kennesaw State who has all-fields, strength-driven power. Alexander raked in the low minors but has struggled as he climbed the ladder. His swing is geared for low-ball contact and he’s vulnerable throughout the rest of the zone. He does have plus power and can play both corner infield spots, though. Stephens is 24 and still in A-ball, but he led this entire org in barrel rate in 2021 and has been a great on-paper performer so far. High-Floor Depth Arms Tanner Gordon, RHP Dylan Dodd, LHP Nolan Kingham, RHP Gordon had an incredible start to 2022 at High-A (36 strikeouts and 0 walks in 22 innings prior to promotion), but he’s come back to earth at Double-A. His low-90s fastball has weird angle that plays at the top of the zone. He lives almost entirely off of deception, but in short bursts that might work. Dodd was throwing harder for a little while and then regressed, but he’s still a lefty with a good changeup and therefore likely to at least be a depth option. Kingham throws a ton of strikes, but he has 40-grade stuff. Arm Strength Relief Prospects Lisandro Santos, RHP William Woods, RHP Jared Johnson, RHP Santos sits 96-98 mph and will touch 99, but he’s a 20-grade athlete with a very inconsistent delivery. Woods’ velocity backed up a little bit before he was put on the shelf with an ankle injury. Even though he was sitting 95-97 mph in the Fall League, his fastball was still hittable, and he can’t seem to finish his slider outside of the zone. Johnson remade his body and came into huge arm strength, but his secondary stuff was way behind, and now he’s had an elbow surgery. Young Guns Jeremy Celedonio, RF Jair Casanova, CF Both of these outfielders are on the complex. Celedonio is physically monstrous and has the power to match. Casanova has a contact/power blend and his body is also relatively mature, so he may not stay in center. System Overview As mentioned in some of the blurbs above, the Braves seem to gravitate toward players who might only be scratching the surface, tip-of-the-iceberg types whose careers have had a weird detour, or who have a two-way background, or an injury that might have obscured them for a time. Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider are both of this ilk. Atlanta has also taken to cutting under-slot deals early on in the draft and redistributing pool space to six-figure over-slot high schoolers later in the draft. One of those was Joey Estes, who became part of the Matt Olson trade. As this system has thinned a bit from trades in a successful pursuit of a ring, this strategy would seem to make sense as a way of restocking the system’s depth, though you’re arguably sacrificing individual player upside by taking this approach. The Braves could perhaps take advantage of their lack of 2023 40-man locks. They have some fair players on the cusp of the 40-man/Rule 5 Draft (Darius Vines, Tanner Gordon, Braden Shewmake) but nobody who it would be very painful to lose, and they also have six current big leaguers poised to become free agents, with club options on Charlie Morton and Will Smith as well. The lack of 40-man pressure here means the Braves have room to take on prospects from teams that don’t have room for them. They’d have to give something up to get them, of course, and their young-ish pitchers who haven’t broken through, but who are rapidly running out of option years, make sense to draw from. The Braves have pared down their pro scouting department in the extreme and now only have a couple of pro scouts as they lean more on data in this area. Because they’re contenders and likely to be deadline buyers, they’ll probably be spared the adverse effects of this approach. If they were a rebuilding team more likely to target low-level players, where the data matters less and the eyeball scouting reports matter more, it would be a detrimental approach. Of course, you don’t want to be caught flat-footed if you have an unexpectedly bad year.