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Braves’ Minor League Overview: LHP

Three out of my top five could find their way to Atlanta sooner than later.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Media Day Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are on June 4th — what is supposed to be days before the 2020 MLB Draft, a day of chaos for us in the Talking Chop Minor League crew as we run all of our articles through our draft wizard, Matt Powers, to make sure our scouting reports aren’t wrong. Instead, the draft has been pushed us which actually allows us to really look through the Braves organization and see where we are thin, identify unique players and try and gauge how the Braves will grow from this.

Today, I take you on a journey through some of the more notable left handed pitchers in the organization — and with the likelihood of expanded rosters throughout the season, if there is one, a majority may flirt with the big leagues as soon as this season.

With the likes of Fried, Hamels, Newcomb all on the roster as of now, it is a tough path to the rotation but here are some notable names:

Kyle Muller

The statuesque Kyle Muller is at the top of the list as the former second rounder is entering his now fifth season (fourth full season) in the organization. Standing at 6’6 and a listed 225 pounds (lol), Kyle is an absolutely imposing figure on the mound with a 65 grade fastball, beautiful curveball, and a developing changeup. He struggles with command at times, as can be seen by his 5.48 BB/9 rate in 2019, but he doesn’t allow a ton of hits with opponents coming in at a .206 batting average against.

Kyle is a student of the game and takes it seriously, highlighted by his time in the gym and at Driveline where he’s had some impressive videos over the years.

It looks like Kyle came into the offseason with one clear goal which was to work on his changeup:

A changeup with that kind of movement that pairs with his mid 90s fastball and already devastating curveball is an arsenal that’s good enough for the league — now it is time to see him take the next step in his command and demand a spot in Atlanta.

Tucker Davidson

There might not be a player that helped his prospect status out more than Tucker Davidson who apparently was on a mission to get to the majors as soon as possible. A former 19th round draft pick put together an absolutely superb 2019 campaign that saw him go 7-6 with a 2.03 ERA, 3.01 FIP, ~10 K/9, with a strong near 80% strand rate.

He didn’t let that stop him this off-season as Tucker headed to Driveline to get further refine his mechanics and boy did they unlock something with him there:

You can make the argument that Tucker is the better prospect than Kyle as he has four potential average to plus pitches: fastball (plus), slider, curveball (plus), changeup. He can still struggle with walks at times, as he’s never had an elite walk rate, but he’s definitely one prospect that really wishes Covid-19 didn’t happen because this could have been the year for him.

If the season does happen, I fully expect Tucker to be one of the players that spends a majority of his time in Atlanta getting work with some of the coaches because 2021 could see an even faster rise for the 24 year old out of Texas.

Philip Pfeifer

I was definitely one of the people that wrote Pfeifer off last year — I think my exact wording was that he was in Mississippi because they’ve tried him everywhere else and at this point he needs to eat innings. How did Pfeifer respond? By doing everything short of literally putting my foot inside of my mouth. Philip was an absolute revelation for the Braves last year — dominating in A+ ball, Double-A ball, and Triple-A. The Braves did what they do and he bounce between rotation and the bullpen but it really didn’t matter at the end of the year as he compiled a 2.97 ERA in 30 appearances, a 10.7 K/9 rate, 2.8 BB/9 rate, and a 1.163 WHIP. Like I said, he did everything outside of actually placing my foot in my mouth.

Philip has a low 90s fastball but can pump it up into the mid-90s and it possesses good arm side run, and he pairs it well with a strong curveball that sits in the low 80s. He also has a changeup that flashes slightly above average. The path to a spot in the rotation is a tough one for Philip but if he can build off of his 2019 campaign while sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball he could absolutely be a player in the bullpen as soon as this year for the Atlanta Braves. He showcased all of this at Spring Training this year where Philip appeared in 7 games and accumulated a 1.23 ERA, 0.955 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9. He’s gone from organizational support to “why isn’t he in the majors” in just one year. That is the last time I will doubt Philip again.

Dilmer Mejia

2020 was an important year for Dilmer but looks like that’s going to be pushed to 2021 unfortunately. Dilmer appeared in 27 games with the first 13 out of the bullpen where he had a 1.42 ERA, .175 batting average against and an opposing OPS of .487. The final 14 came as a starter where he struggled a little more but was still strong - 3.25 ERA and .709 opposing OPS. The only “issue” is that he was a 22-year old in Low-A so you would expect numbers like these. On the year he was an impressive 8-5 with a cumulative 2.66 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and meager 1.8 BB/9 rate.

Overall, huge bounce back year for Dilmer and this stoppage in play couldn’t come at a worse time as his developed had been a bit delayed and it looked like he was turning the corner and now there’s likely no minor league season at all. He’s still many years away but if he slowly develops like Philip Pfeifer does he could be a sneaky good bullpen arm in the future.

Hayden Deal

2019 saw Hayden Deal assert himself as a left handed prospect in the Braves organization thanks to the ascension of his cut fastball. Over the past two seasons you’ve seen him assert himself with very strong numbers - in 2019 he started 22 games and had a 7.47 K/9 and 3.24 ERA for the Florida Fire Frogs. I still see him more of a reliever because he doesn’t have too many other strong offerings but the cutter appears to be real and is good enough to get players out.

Like Dilmer, Hayden was trending upwards so no 2020 seasons definitely hurts. He would enter 2021 26 years old so the Braves will likely be a lot more aggressive with him — but if he does continue to improve and he finds himself in the majors thanks to that cutter it will be a really nice story about an undrafted kid from Presbyterian College.

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