The Atlanta Braves are light on position player talent these days in the minor leagues, especially when it comes to those that have true defensive versatility (i.e. they can play multiple positions well, as opposed to just being willing to occupy space at multiple positions). One of the more interesting prospects that fitting that bill is Cody Milligan, whose stock rose substantially over the course of the 2022 season.
Preseason Report Card
We did not have Cody Milligan on our preseason 2022 prospects list, nor did we note him in our honorable mentions. With the benefit of hindsight, we probably should have at least nudged at him on our honorable mentions, though, because we had heard some whispers that the Braves liked him. Between graduations, trades, and good ol’ fashioned attrition, he should be considered a top-30 prospect at present given his 2022 performance.
What we saw in 2022
After a sub-.700 OPS season in 2021, Milligan came out of the gates strong for the High-A Rome Braves, where he slashed .329/.458/.452 in 55 games. His performance there was so good, in fact, that he was named a 2022 South Atlantic League All-Star. Notably, during his stint in Rome, he saw time at all three outfield positions (primarily center field), second base, and even a game at designated hitter. For a guy that was a catcher in college, that is some pretty impressive defensive flexibility. The reports on his defense at second and center have been good, too.
In June, Milligan got promoted to Mississippi and while his numbers weren’t quite as good (.271/.345/.326), he was still an important cog in Mississippi’s offense while seeing a lot of time at second base and center field. The one thing that you can say that wasn’t great about his season is that Milligan didn’t show much, or any, power, and we don’t really expect that to change all that much. He is good for some gap power, but he isn’t going to hit the ball over the fence much and the two total homers he hit this season back that idea up.
Milligan’s defensive prowess, and his overall skillset, have gotten him a fair bit of attention from the Braves’ organization and he could move through the farm system reasonably quickly in 2023. He will have to continue to hit even if the power doesn’t show up, but having versatile players that can fill in in a pinch at Triple-A is very valuable for any team. We expect him to start the season at Double-A again in all likelihood, but he could head to Triple-A before long.
After that, it will come down to if he can keep doing what he has been doing. It is hard to project him as an everyday player right now given the lack of power. However, he should play himself firmly into a position where he could fill in the outfield and possibly second base (although the existence of Vaughn Grissom complicates the later) if needed. His ceiling right now is a utility guy that gets at-bats while giving other guys days off, but if the power starts to show up... that could change.