Top 30 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Atlanta Braves. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, we’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, we’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in our opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on team lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Braves Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Cristian Pache 22.4 MLB CF 2021 60
2 Ian Anderson 22.9 MLB SP 2021 60
3 Drew Waters 22.2 AAA CF 2022 55
4 Michael Harris 20.1 A CF 2024 45+
5 Shea Langeliers 23.4 A C 2022 45+
6 William Contreras 23.3 MLB C 2021 45+
7 Kyle Muller 23.5 AA MIRP 2021 45
8 Alex Jackson 25.3 MLB C 2021 45
9 Bryse Wilson 23.3 MLB SP 2021 45
10 Jared Shuster 22.6 R SP 2023 45
11 Bryce Ball 22.7 A 1B 2022 40+
12 Braden Shewmake 23.4 AA SS 2022 40+
13 Tucker Davidson 25.0 MLB MIRP 2021 40+
14 Freddy Tarnok 22.3 A+ SP 2022 40+
15 Vaughn Grissom 20.2 R SS 2024 40
16 Terone Harris 25.2 AA LF 2021 40
17 Jasseel De La Cruz 23.8 AA SIRP 2021 40
18 Victor Vodnik 21.5 A SIRP 2023 40
19 Jesse Franklin V 22.3 R CF 2024 40
20 Ambioris Tavarez 17.4 R 3B 2025 40
21 William Woods 22.2 A SIRP 2022 40
22 Spencer Strider 22.4 R SP 2024 40
23 Patrick Weigel 26.7 MLB SIRP 2021 40
24 Ricky DeVito 22.6 A SP 2022 40
25 Bryce Elder 21.9 R SP 2024 40
26 Darius Vines 22.9 R SP 2023 35+
27 Jared Johnson 20.0 R SP 2024 35+
28 Stephen Paolini 20.3 R CF 2024 35+
29 CJ Alexander 24.7 AA 3B 2022 35+
30 Nolan Kingham 24.6 AA SP 2022 35+
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60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (ATL)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/55 40/45 70/70 80/80 70

Pache played in two 2020 regular season games before he was thrust into the Braves’ NLCS lineup due to Adam Duvall’s oblique injury. Even though he hit .278/.340/.474 as a 20-year-old at Double-A Mississippi, there are still some level-headed, long-term questions about Pache’s offensive ability. He had a 17% swinging strike rate in 2019 (if we 20-80’d swinging strike rates, that’d be a 30), and you might quibble with elements of the swing, most notably that the bat path only allows for power in certain parts of the zone, and that Pache’s pitch recognition is just okay (it actually looks better this spring). But Pache can square velocity and he’s a ferocious rotator with power. He’s also athletic enough to make adjustments in order to get to that power (though selectivity might be an issue). Couple this power-hitting potential with some of the flashiest, most acrobatic defense in pro baseball and Pache has a cathedral’s ceiling.

Pache’s reads in center, his contortionist’s ability to slide and dive at odd angles to make tough catches and position himself to throw, as well as his arm strength, combine to make him an elite defensive center fielder. He’s a likely perennial Gold Glover barring an unexpected, precipitous physical regression. Even if he’s not posting All-Star offensive statlines, he’ll provide All-Star all-around value. Expect him to hit about 20 annual pull shots, perhaps with a below average OBP. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Shenendowa HS (NY) (ATL)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 70/70 55/60 91-95 / 97

Anderson made a half-dozen regular season starts in 2020 and while he had some strike-throwing hiccups throughout, he struck out a ton of big league hitters and was nails when the lights were brightest in October. Everything he throws comes out of a very deceptive overhand slot that makes it difficult for hitters to parse his curveball from his fastball, and Anderson knows how to use each to set the other one up for a finishing blow. But Anderson’s best weapon is his changeup, which has a lethal combination of tail and dive. He’s no sniper, but Anderson can throw all three pitches for strikes and induce chases with all of them. He’s a high-probability mid-rotation starter and is likely to graduate from rookie status just a few weeks into the 2021 season. (Alternate site, MLB)

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etowah HS (GA) (ATL)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr S / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/60 55/60 40/50 60/60 45/50 60

Waters’ epicurean approach makes him a scary prospect. Eric watched him see a total of nine pitches in two games leading up to the 2019 Premier 12 tournament. It only became a problem during Waters’ late-2019 jump to Triple-A, when he was still only 20 years old. He also has 55-to-60 grade tools across the board and, until that month of struggles, had performed since high school.

His sweet lefty swing, bat speed, and underlying data indicate an elite ability to manipulate the bat as well as relevant power. One club told us his percentage of balls hit with a 95 mph-plus exit velo and a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees (i.e. hard hit line drives and fly balls) was in the top 3% of the entire minor leagues. And, again, that came as a 20-year-old in the upper minors. The window dressing is plus speed and a plus arm. Some teams were and remain turned off by Waters’ loud personality, while others just see him as a colorful guy. The broad strokes skills comp here is a version of Starling Marte. The return of Marcell Ozuna makes Waters a potential mid-summer trade candidate. (Alternate site)

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Stockbridge HS (GA) (ATL)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / L FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 50/55 30/55 55/50 40/45 60

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 explosion than 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. Remember that these numbers are still from 2019, our last minor league season, but Harris’ average exits were top 10 among teenagers, and only one of those ahead of him (Liover Peguero) clearly has a better chance of staying at an up-the-middle defensive position long-term.

Exposed to a fair bit of 2021 big league spring training, Harris has 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. He may not be a long-term fit in center because we’re talking about a compact young man with a very low center of gravity and a bottom-heavy frame who is rapidly approaching physical maturity. Conversely, this is a short-levered hitter with seemingly innate feel for making impact contact all over the zone, and while there may be a frame-related cap on his raw power projection, the hit tool might enable Harris to outperform his raw juice in games.

The industry knows less about Harris because aside from PG National, he did not participate in the big showcases before his draft year, and his first full season was lost to COVID. There’s a slice of the industry that thinks elite players just perform all the time, with any kind of extended failure or statistical hiccup evidence that a player won’t be elite. If that’s true then Harris is one of a handful of players who has a chance to be elite because he technically hasn’t failed yet, in part because he’s had fewer opportunities to. He’s a fantastic athlete who has looked like a terrific all-around baseball player when he’s been able to play, and he’s gone from a third rounder to someone who we value on par with a mid-first rounder in the span of two years. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Baylor (ATL)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/55 30/50 35/30 50/55 60

Langeliers was the consensus best catcher in the 2019 draft not named Adley Rutschman, but it was still a surprise to see him go in the top 10. His game’s maturity made Atlanta comfortable with a full-season assignment for his debut, and he impressed behind the plate while leaving scouts with mixed opinions about his future offensive potential. Langeliers has a decent understanding of the strike zone and can flash above-average raw power, but there are questions about how often he will get to it. He never put up big numbers at Baylor, and his swing can get mechanical and unconnected at times.

His offensive development will dictate his ultimate value, as his defense is big league-ready right now. Langeliers simply has no weaknesses behind the dish. He’s athletic behind the plate, an agile blocker, and features a plus arm with an accurate, quick release. Beyond the physical ability, he earns high praise for his pitch calling, game management and attention to detail. The Braves will be tempted to challenge Langerliers in 2021 after the missed year, but they can also afford to be a bit patient with his offensive development due to William Contreras’ position ahead of him on the depth chart. (Alternate site)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (ATL)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 50/55 35/50 45/40 45/55 45

An exceptional athlete for a catcher, Contreras still has a fairly significant developmental path to traverse before he’s a viable everyday backstop. Now a one-knee’d receiver, Contreras’ framing is still visually suspect. We also have very little visual evidence of him throwing over the last two seasons, and what we do have is not great. He has an awful lot of energy, much like his brother did as a young player, and sometimes it can be a little frenetic. Contreras carries that spirit into the batter’s box, where he really likes to swing. He has an uphill cut that works to right-center field even though it’s best-suited for impacting pitches middle-in and down. The hope is that Contreras can narrow his approach and strike out less often so more of his plus bat speed can actually play. If he can do that, then he’s got a very good chance of being an everyday catcher. If not, he’ll be a toolsy, frustrating upper-minors one until something clicks. (Alternate site, MLB)

45 FV Prospects

7. Kyle Muller, MIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Jesuit Prep HS (TX) (ATL)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 55/60 55/55 45/45 30/35 95-96 / 98

Muller’s stuff just keeps getting better. Though the developmental context of 2020 should lend some skepticism regarding to his retaining it, a three-year trend in his stuff runs from ’18 all the way through this year’s spring training. In 2019, Muller touched 98 but sat 91-95 during the bulk of his outings, and that fastball was complemented by a loopy, low-spin curveball and a changeup that had very little velocity separation from the heater. Then, while other pitchers lost about a tick and half of velo at the alt sites on average, Muller’s was up. He sat 95-96 there, added spin and power to his curveball, saw his changeup movement beging to improve (which has continued through 2021 spring), and added a really hard slider in the 88-90 mph range. He was parked at 96 during 2021 spring training. On paper, Muller’s ability to throw-strikes has regressed as he’s climbed the minor league ladder and there’s no way to know exactly how precisely he can wield this new stuff. While that may prevent him from being a starter, his stuff is so nasty that he projects to be a late-inning reliever if he moves to the ‘pen. Even among big leaguers, Muller’s Leviathan presence leaps out at you: this is a different type of athlete who has one of the sport’s most impressive bodies, and he seems likely to overwhelm hitters with sheer stuff and physicality. (Alternate site)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Rancho Bernardo HS (CA) (SEA)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 70/70 50/55 30/30 45/50 60

Jackson has already had a circuitous career and he’s still rookie eligible. In June it will have been seven years since he was drafted third overall as a bat-first catching prospect who it was thought at the time might have to move to third base or right field if, like Bryce Harper, his defensive development was slowing his bat’s ascent through the minors. But Jackson got very heavy very quickly and instead fell down the defensive spectrum out of athletic necessity. Over-aggressive elements of his approach were exposed and, from the outside, it appeared his relationship with the org had soured. The Braves acquired him for Max Povse and Rob Whalen about two-and-a-half years after he was drafted and asked him to catch exclusively, which he has done since joining the org.

During that time some things have changed. For one, Jackson showed up to 2021 camp looking as svelte and lithe as he has since high school. He’s now catching on one knee (which he did last year) even with runners on base (which he did not) and has become much better at framing low pitches as a result. At times, his ball-blocking appears to suffer from this new style but he’s still popping in the mid-1.90s on throws to second. Once someone we thought might only catch once an electronic strike zones is implemented and DH until then, Jackson now looks like a viable defender. While he remains a power-over-hit guy, he has rare pop for any player, let alone a catcher. His 2019 minor league HardHit% was one of the highest in the minors, with a whopping 51% of his balls in play that year scorched at 95 mph or more. His epicurean approach at the plate, and what it does to his peripherals, makes Jackson a hit-tool risk, and at most other positions that would be very scary, but at catcher that’s going to be fine. While he’ll likely begin his career as a backup, Jackson’s pop should also get him into the lineup as a DH pretty frequently. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Orange HS (NC) (ATL)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 224 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 40/40 55/55 40/45 55/60 92-94 / 96

Wilson’s performance has leveled off since his epic tear through the upper minors in 2018 and ’19. Even as the Braves were clamoring for stable starters in 2020, Wilson only threw 15 innings and was reduced to making an emergency NLCS appearance, in which he competed admirably. As his secondary stuff has looked largely unimpactful against big league hitters, Wilson’s saving grace will likely be his command. He’ll work his low-90s sinker at the knees, then run his four-seamer up the ladder to finish hitters, and Wilson has great command of his two-plane, upper-70s curveball. He seemed to lose feel for his mid-80s cutter/slider last year, and while he can locate his changeup, it simply isn’t that good. The depth of Wilson’s repertoire and his command of it make him a high-probability rotation piece but what he can lean on to miss bats is pretty narrow. He has fifth starter stuff but the command will help it play up and hopefully enable WIlson to eat innings in a way more commensurate with a 1.5 WAR type of starter. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Wake Forest (ATL)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/50 55/60 30/45 93-95 / 97

Shuster’s stuff got better while his walk rates dipped, and even though his high-effort power pitching style has a relief vibe to it, he has the repertoire depth and (more recently) strike-throwing ability to be developed as a starter. Shuster went from sitting 88-92 as an underclassman to sitting 91-95 as a junior. He also went from a WHIP close to 1.60 as a freshman and sophomore to one under 1.00 during his pre-draft summer on Cape Cod and month-long, pre-pandemic tear as a junior, amassing 78 strikeouts and allowing just 50 baserunners in those 60 innings. Shuster’s changeup is his best secondary offering, and he sells it to hitters by mimicking his fastball’s intense arm speed. Again, Shuster doesn’t look like a touch-and-feel guy at first blush but he has a real knack for locating his changeup down and to his glove side over and over again. If he can retain his riding fastball’s new velocity, then he’ll have two plus pitches and only need to refine the consistency of his slurvy breaking ball to project as a fourth starter type, or a multi-inning power reliever if this recent run of strike-throwing turns out to be a mirage. (Fall Instructional League)

40+ FV Prospects

11. Bryce Ball, 1B
Drafted: 24th Round, 2019 from Dallas Baptist (ATL)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 70/70 35/60 40/40 45/50 45

Ball hasn’t just hit, he’s mashed everywhere he’s gone. In two years at North Iowa Area Community College, he put up an 1.108 OPS. Transferring to Dallas Baptist for his junior year, he dipped to a 1.057 mark. Still, he wasn’t heavily scouted and the Braves nabbed him in the 24th round of the 2019 draft. From there, he just kept crushing baseballs, putting up a 1.023 OPS in his 62-game pro debut. Ball is an exceptionally large human being who combines raw strength and long levers to produce easy, double-plus raw power. What separates him from most power goofs is some intrinsic hitting ability as well, as while he’ll never be confused with Luis Arraez, he makes more contact than most players with his profile. His approach got a bit aggressive following a promotion to Low-A Rome in 2019, and he needs to begin focusing more on pitches he can drive as opposed to ones he can merely hit.

Ball’s value is entirely wrapped up in his offensive prowess. While he moves well for his size, he’s still a below average runner and inconsistent defender. Bat-only prospects are exceptionally risky, and Ball adds to the variety of outcomes by turning 23 this year (his birthday is in July) and having yet to play a full season in the minors. He’s looked overmatched at times this spring, but Atlanta is no doubt excited to see if he can put up another quadruple-digit OPS line in 2021. (Alternate site)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Texas A&M (ATL)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 45/50 30/40 55/55 50/55 55

While Shewmake never put up gaudy numbers at Texas A&M, he was a consistent 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, and reached Double-A just two months after being selected. Shewmake’s calling card is his ability to make contact. With a quick trigger and impressive bat control, he can cover all four quadrants of the plate exceptionally well, as evidenced by his sub-10% strikeout rate in college. While he showed some early promise of power with 11 home runs as a freshman, he had just 11 over his next two years combined and rarely drove balls during his Braves debut, seemingly more content to push balls the other way or shoot for liners over the infielders head, which frustrates some evaluators considering his impressive 6-foot-4 frame. There’s potential for average and on-base skills here, but the lack of ISO could limit his future, and we have him behind Ball here because we think Shewmake’s ceiling is close to a 45, whereas Ball’s power gives him more than that.

There are still questions about Shewmake’s ultimate defensive home as well. Scouts were mixed as to his ability to stay at shortstop heading into the draft, as he’s just an average runner who looks a bit stretched there at times, with some projecting him sliding over to second. The Braves love Shewmake’s maturity and baseball IQ, and while his upside is limited, he has a chance to move quickly. (Alternate site)

Drafted: 19th Round, 2016 from Midland JC (TX) (ATL)
Age 25.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 50/55 55/55 40/40 40/40 91-95 / 98

Davidson’s stuff and performance have vacillated enough throughout the course of his development that it’s fair to anticipate them continuing to do so once he begins to play a big league role. A low-profile junior college prospect, he has shown mid-90s heat in games (upper-90s indoors) along with two plus breaking balls when his stuff is really humming. In 2020, as has sometimes been the case during his time in the minors, Davidson’s feel for release was inconsistent and his velo dipped. He struggled to locate a 91-93 mph fastball during his big league debut late last year. We’re inclined to chalk at least some of this up to the bizarre nature of the 2020 season and expect Davidson is still likely to be an impact part of a staff soon. At his peak, he works at the letters with mid-90s velocity, and he has a power 12-6 curveball and an upper-80s slider with two-plane movement. It’s an inefficient power relief look, and Davidson’s peak stuff is worthy of later innings. He’s much more likely to spend 2021 as a starter, though. Atlanta’s projected big league bullpen has very little option year flexibility and Davidson would be fourth or fifth on the Braves’ lefty relief depth chart right now, so it feels more likely he’ll be at-the-ready rotation depth this year. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Riverview HS (FL) (ATL)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 50/55 45/55 35/50 89-92 / 96

Tarnok was a pop-up arm in the 2017 draft who entered the year on a few team’s radars, but by May, 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. While he’s yet to impress in terms of performance, he’s reworked his delivery and is starting to show some of the potential the club saw in him as a prepster. Focused more on his shortstop play in high school, Tarnok is ultra-athletic, and the club feels like they’ve finally gotten him to incorporate that athleticism into his new mechanics. After sitting at 92-94 during his 2019 campaign, Tarnok was parked at 96 with impressive life this spring, although it has been in short stints. His power breaking ball has the kind of velocity and spin teams look for, and his changeup has gone from nascent to flashing average as a pro. He generally throws strikes, but still has a long way to go in terms of commanding his arsenal. He’s a 2021 breakout candidate, but there are still plenty of risks based on his statistical track record. (At-home dev)

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Hagerty HS (FL) (ATL)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 50/55 25/50 50/50 40/50 55

Grissom was invited to the Braves’ alternate site (Atlanta opted out of video sharing) as a 19-year-old then went to instructs in Gwinnett. Because the club didn’t do instructs in Florida like everyone else who wasn’t in Arizona, sourcing non-pitch info from there was difficult, and the combo of the alt site opt out and the odd instructs leaves us with insufficient info to alter Grissom’s report: 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 Brave 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. His tools are average to a hair above across the board, and his offensive approach is more power-over-hit. He’s a young, high-variance prospect with a chance to be an everyday player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 32th Round, 2018 from Missouri (ATL)
Age 25.2 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 55/55 40/50 45/45 45/50 40

Harris (who has also gone by “Trey”) is a stocky stick of right-handed hitting dynamite who was listed at just 5-foot-8 and 215 pounds on Scottsdale’s 2019 Fall League roster (the Braves now list him at 5-foot-11). He was a 2018 senior sign who, after two bad underclass seasons at Missouri, has performed at every stop, albeit as an old-for-the-level player. Harris reached Double-A in his first full pro season and thrived there for about six weeks before continuing to hit in the 2019 Fall League. Yes, he’s been a little older than those around him, but there’s real big league bat speed and physicality here. Harris takes a really healthy cut in hitters’ counts and tones things down when he needs to protect, but still puts balls in play hard when he does. He has pretty good plate coverage, and his swing has a really entertaining, abbreviated finish that sometimes hides how explosive and strong he is. Harris is going to spray the ball all over the field with power. He fits as a part-time corner OF/DH and situational bench bat, a version of the role Adam Duvall played in Atlanta recently. (At-home dev)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (ATL)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 40/45 40/40 91-97 / 99

De La Cruz was not a highly regarded international prospect, but he’s gained strength since signing. The Braves’ player development process deserves praise as well, as the right-hander has seen his entire arsenal improve by a full grade or more over the last three years. His fastball has sat 95-97 mph this spring in a bullpen role, and he’s shown those types of velocities as a starter in the minors. 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, so overall it’s a reliever look and his changeup is both rare and fringy. The Braves could accelerate his development with a move to the bullpen, but they’ll likely exhaust all starting opportunities before doing so. He has a chance to make his big league debut in 2021. (Alternate site)

18. Victor Vodnik, SIRP
Drafted: 14th Round, 2018 from Rialto HS (CA) (ATL)
Age 21.5 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 had a velo dip during his draft spring but has otherwise been a mid-90s relief prospect for the last several years. This spring, his fastball has been in the 95-97 range during big league outings. He has a low release point but his fastball has more cut than carry, so the pitch may not play up in a huge way. The heater and Vodnik’s power changeup (in the 87-90 mph range) should both be impact pitches; his short, 83-85 mph slider may not be. Ultimately, Vodnik projects as a middle relief piece. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Michigan (ATL)
Age 22.3 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 (he hit .327 and slugged .588), then had a superficial sophomore statistical regression (.262 average, .477 slug). Because of his freshman performance, Franklin 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; lefty bats with some pop who perform at big schools don’t typically last that long. Franklin’s future role is of the righty-punishing platoon sort. (Fall Instructional League)

20. Ambioris Tavarez, 3B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (ATL)
Age 17.4 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 to a $1.5 million deal in January. Tavarez had one of more highly-regarded bats in this year’s international class. 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 the arm should be plenty for the hot corner. Tavarez will likely spend 2021 getting acclimated to pro ball at Atlanta’s complex in his native Dominican Republic. (International signee)

21. William Woods, SIRP
Drafted: 23th Round, 2018 from Dyersburg CC (ATL)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/55 30/40 30/40 96-99 / 100

Woods experienced a velocity spike during the 2020 layoff and went from sitting 91-96 in ’19, to sitting 95-99 last fall and during spring training this year. The fastball is the lone big league element in Woods’ repertoire right now. His low-90s changeup is below-average and his mid-80s slider has short, lateral action, which means he’ll need to either increase its depth or locate it very precisely for it to be effective. He can’t do that yet but this elite arm strength is so new that it’s unreasonable to expect him to. He’s just a single pitch’s development shy of looking like a major league-ready middle reliever. (Fall Instructional League)

22. Spencer Strider, SP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Clemson (ATL)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/55 30/50 35/50 91-95 / 97

Strider missed 2019 (his sophomore season) recovering from Tommy John but pitched really well during the first month of the ’20 college season, and Atlanta picked him in the fourth round of the shortened draft. He used his TJ rehab to rework his breaking ball, which now has action more like a true curveball, and came back with more velo, about a 3 mph uptick from his 2018 fastball. That trend continued through instructs. Strider went from sitting 93 and touching 97 to touching 99. In part because he’s not a tall pitcher, Strider’s fastball has flat angle and carry, and his new breaking ball could be plus at maturity. In his four 2020 starts, Strider threw a total of 13 changeups. A couple were very nasty; most were nowhere near the zone. Feel for this pitch may be behind because of a lack of reps. Whether it arrives will dictate whether Strider can start. (Fall Instructional League)

23. Patrick Weigel, SIRP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2015 from Houston (ATL)
Age 26.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 55/55 45/50 35/40 91-95 / 98

Weigel has been on the Braves 40-man for a couple of seasons but hasn’t made much of an impact with the big league club because he’s struggled to rein in his command. Weigel has big stuff. Though his fastball’s spin axis causes it to play down, it’s hard enough (92-95 early this spring, harder in the past) to be a viable offering, and his two breaking balls have elite spin. His feel for release and location was all over the place during his 2020 debut. If that doesn’t improve, Weigel should just be in the 35+ tier as an up/down type of reliever, though two of his option years have already passed and at some point soon it’ll be sink or swim. Though he still has four pitches, Weigel’s days of maybe projecting as a starter are likely over. Expect him to lean on his breaking stuff (his slider has incredible horizontal movement) in relief. (Alternate site, MLB)

24. Ricky DeVito, SP
Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Seton Hall (ATL)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 166 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 55/60 30/40 92-95 / 97

Devito’s stuff was up after the draft. He was 90-94 when former FanGraphs Northeast correspondent Josh Herzenberg saw him during the spring, then was up to 97 after he signed. His splitter flashed plus during Instructional League. The command/control element is still on the starter/relief-only fringe, but if Devito’s pitch-quality improves a little bit he has a strong chance to be a three-pitch reliever. (Fall Instructional League)

25. Bryce Elder, SP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from Texas (ATL)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/50 45/45 45/50 35/55 90-92 / 94

Though none of them are plus, Elder has four pitches and precise command of two of them. His fastball sits 90-92 and has heavy, grounder-inducing sink, while his most-used secondary is a curt, mid-80s slider. That’s not his best secondary, though. Elder’s changeup, when located, has enough fade to miss lefty bats, though his feel for the release of it is less consistent than it is with his fastball and slider. He also has a slow, shapely curveball that has utility as a first-pitch offering. His stuff and track record of strike-throwing at Texas suggest he’s a high-probability depth starter who needs to have a little velo bump to entrench himself in a rotation. (Fall Instructional League)

35+ FV Prospects

26. Darius Vines, SP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Cal State Bakersfield (ATL)
Age 22.9 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

Vines had a nomadic amateur career, first playing at Oxnard College (CA), then Yavapai (AZ) for his sophomore year. He was slated to join Arizona State but instead ended up at Cal State Bakersfield, where he became the highest-drafted player in school history. Vines works in the low-90s with plus-plus carry, his breaking stuff has good shape, and he has a plus changeup. Already a good depth starter prospect, Vines could break out if his velocity ticks up because his foundation of repertoire depth and command is pretty advanced. (At-home dev)

Drafted: 14th Round, 2019 from Smithville HS (ATL)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/55 30/50 94-97 / 99

One of a couple of over-slot high schoolers the Braves signed on Day Three of the 2019 Draft, Johnson was a pre-draft pop-up guy with burgeoning velocity who has totally remade his body in pro ball and now has a fastball that has crept into the upper-90s. He’s barely 20 years old and is already among the stronger players in the entire organization. How his secondary stuff develops (he flashed some above-average, sweeping sliders during instructs) and this velocity holds over the course of a real season remains to be seen, but Johnson is a young 2021 breakout candidate. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from St. Joseph HS (CT) (ATL)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/55 20/40 65/65 45/50 55

There’s no change to Paolini’s blurb, as there’s little to glean from what he did during 2020 instructs in Gwinnett: Paolini was known to most Northeast area scouts entering the spring of 2019 as a toolsy kid who wasn’t polished enough for the previous summer’s Area Code Games, but whose progress needed monitoring during his senior spring. Atlanta was one of the only teams that scouted him heavily; in fact, many teams didn’t turn him in at all. The Braves came up with a sizeable $600,000 to buy him out of a commitment to Elon as a pure tools bet. He has above average power potential, easy plus speed, and an above average arm, along with the elements to hit, but not much of a track record against pro-level pitching yet, so he’s likely to move slowly. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 20th Round, 2018 from State College JC (FL) (ATL)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 60/60 40/50 40/40 40/45 60

Alexander is a big-frame lefty power bat who signed as a 22-year-old JUCO draftee in 2018. He raked immediately upon entering pro ball, including during three weeks at High-A during that first pro summer. Then he struggled with High- and Double-A pitching amid an injury-marred 2019 and had no bounce-back opportunity last year because of the pandemic. Ideally he can play a passable third base (throwing comfort/accuracy have been issues this spring) and/or some combination of the outfield corners and end up in a multi-positional part-time role. (At-home dev)

Drafted: 12th Round, 2018 from Texas (ATL)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 40/45 40/45 45/55 92-94 / 96

Kingham was a strike-throwing starter at Texas who posted a combined 3.25 ERA as a freshman and sophomore, then had a rough 2018 junior year and ended up falling from the 5th – 7th round area to the 12th. He rebounded as a pro and reached Double-A during his first full season, generating strikeout and walk rates around 17% and 6% along the way. Then Kingham had a velocity spike, going from sitting 88-93 in 2019 to working in the 92-96 range now. His feel to pitch has regressed somewhat and there’s still no bat-missing secondary here right now, but if he can dial in just one of those two things, he’ll be a fixture toward the bottom of a staff rather than upper minors starter depth. (At-home dev)

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Power as a Carrying Tool
Kadon Morton, CF
Mahki Backstrom, 1B
Jefrey Ramos, LF
Drew Lugbauer, C/3B/1B

Morton, a two-way high schooler with a great frame and easy plus speed, and Backstrom were two of Atlanta’s 2019 Day Three, over-slot high schoolers. Backstrom has more power right now, but Morton is toolsier and has the higher ceiling. The rest are big power corner guys of varying ages. Ramos was once a 20-year-old at High-A coming off a 16 homer year but the pandemic cost him an important season and now he’s 22 and hasn’t played above A-ball. He seems poised to be a low OBP hitter even if things work out. Lugbauer has a catching background but is likely a first base-only type, and that’s a tough bar to clear.

Bench Sorts
Beau Phillip, SS
Andrew Moritz, CF
Justin Dean, CF

Phillip was a second rounder who took a $500,000 haircut, and was an interesting conceptual pick since he was behind Nick Madrigal and others as a underclassman then had a pretty good 2019, but things are pretty light from a tools standpoint. Moritz is a tweener outfielder with good instincts. Dean is a 5-foot-6, 70 runner form Lenoir–Rhyne University in North Carolina. The last two big leaguers from Lenoir–Rhyne were also Braves draft picks (John Curtis, Brad Nelson).

Younger Arms
Roddery Munoz, RHP
Kasey Kalich, RHP
Alec Barger, RHP
Lisandro Santos, RHP
Justin Yeager, RHP

There’s a relative lack of arm strength toward the bottom of this system. Munoz, now 20, is a two-year DSL pitcher up to 97. Kalich spent a year at a JUCO, then was a draft-eligible sophomore at Texas A&M, so he may be an under-scouted, sleeper relief prospect. He has a mid-90s heater. The last three are all 23-year-olds who were up to 96 at Danville in 2019.

Older Arms
Corbin Clouse, LHP
Thomas Burrows, LHP
Daysbel Hernandez, RHP
Josh Graham, RHP
Luis Mora, RHP
Kurt Hoekstra, RHP
Troy Bacon, RHP

Clouse and Burrows are both close to the big leagues and profile as the second lefty in a bullpen. Hernandez has mid-90s heat and could be a middle relief piece if his breaking ball becomes more consistent. He’s a 30-grade athlete, though. Graham throws hard but his fastball doesn’t miss bats, and it affects the way his excellent changeup plays. Mora has the highest ceiling of this group, and has been up to 101, but he’s very wild. Hoekstra is a conversion arm up to 95 with an average slurve. Bacon isn’t big, doesn’t have huge velo, and operates with small margin for error at the top of the zone, but is getting results.

System Overview

This system looks a lot like it did last year: it’s currently shallow due to trades, graduations, and the fallout from the previous regime’s scandal, which has kept it from acquiring two years worth of international talent. It’s still as top-heavy a system as you’ll find in baseball, with more potential stars than is typical. Had Atlanta been able to repeat what they did in 2019’s draft in 2020, perhaps there’d be another couple players at the bottom of the list. Had there been a 2020 season, maybe Morton or Backstrom would have made the main section by going out and performing. Johnson’s uptick in stuff was just much easier to identify than anything the club’s hitters improved upon.

This system was perhaps the most difficult one to source information for so far. Atlanta did not participate in video or data sharing from their alternate site, their Instructional League roster was the smallest in baseball, and they held their instructs in Gwinnett rather than in Florida, which was a curveball for us in terms of sourcing, since all the other Florida complex teams held theirs there. We were able to source 2021 spring training pitch data for many of the upper-level pitching prospects here but many of them haven’t thrown in games that have been broadcast. Then there was this news from Wednesday: we learned Atlanta will once again avoid participating in scouting access/co-operation, at the alternate site and for minor league spring training. Teams’ participation (or lack thereof) in in-person scouting could be more of a budgetary decision than a baseball one, but it makes teams harder for scouts to advance (especially with so many pitchers likely going back and forth from the alt site to the majors) and turns video from your alternate site into a tradable asset of sorts.

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3 years ago

Thanks for the great work, as always. Excited to see (or not see for awhile, I guess) Michael Harris continue to develop. Lot’s of “this kid’s special” kind of talk from inside Braves camp.