Sparhawk's Top 30 & Prospect Talk

Wow, so I'm just about the only one working this week at my job. Since no one is around, I thought I'd put together my top 30 and add a few other notes. I'll never get tired of talking about prospects, even if this top 30 has been extremely challenging.

Sorry for some sloppiness, I was having issues with some things like imbedding tweets.

1. AJ Smith-Shawver - I've been talking about Smith-Shawver's slider all season. When his command was on, his stuff was near unhittable. I also thought his change-up saw solid improvement over the year as well. How far he goes will come down to his fastball command and development of the change-up. Most of the games I watched, they didn't have the velo on the screen, so it was relying mostly on announcers talking about his stuff, which didn't happen often. He seems to be sitting 94-96, but can sit 96/97 in the 1st inning. Slider is around 89-91, and it's a beaut. Only pitcher in the system with a borderline ++ breaker.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">AJ Smith-Shawver, the next Atlanta breakout pitching prospect. Numbers were disappointing in 2022, but Smith-Shawver has a good frame at 6'3/205 and excellent stuff. FB sits upper 90s, CH is developing but gets nice fading action. Slider is easily plus. <a href=""></a></p>— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) <a href="">December 23, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

2. Dylan Dodd - I like Dodd a smidge more than Shuster. Although he is a year older than Shuster, I think he's got a bit better fastball command and better breakers. Their change-ups are both borderline ++. Dodd's fastball is in the 90-93 range. The slider and curve really lag behind in the 45/50 FV range. Dodd has all the makings of being an innings eater 4th or 5th starter, but he'll need the breakers to develop more for that to happen.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hard to find a better year from a Braves minor league pitcher than Dylan Dodd. Over three levels...finished among the organizational leaders in wins (12, T-1st), IP (142.0, 1st), starts (26, 2nd), WHIP (1.18, 2nd), ERA (3.36, 3rd), and strikeouts (153, 4th). <a href=""></a></p>— Chris Harris (@CHarris731) <a href="">October 3, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

3. Owen Murphy - I'll admit that while I haven't been thrilled with the last 2 drafts, taking undersized and injured pitchers don't exactly excite me. However, there's no denying the Braves scouting gets more right than wrong. After watching Murphy pitch, I'm quickly becoming a believer (still need to see how the arms hold up over full seasons). Reports were than Murphy's fastball sat low 90's. He mostly sat 93-95 mph in the 3 games that I watched with a slider around 87 mph and an 77 mph curve. I didn't see a change-up, so hopefully that's something he's working on. What I'm looking forward to in 2023 is how he holds up over a full season, including his fastball velocity levels and overall command; then comes the development of his breakers and change-up. It's a lot, but really, just stay healthy for a complete season.

4. JR Ritchie - Ritchie, like Murphy has a 4 pitch arsenal. Unfortunately, his velos were not shown in the games I saw and the announcers didn't really say much other than he maxed out around 97 mph. His velo seemed to be in line with Murphy, so he's likely in the 93-95 mph range. All the things I'm looking forward to in 2023 for Murphy, apply to Ritchie. Just stay healthy and I'm sure good things will come.

5. Darius Vines - One of the few college pitchers I thought would be perfect for the Braves come draft time. It's always a bit surreal when a player you like in college actually gets drafted by your team. He's pretty average across the board, but he does have a really good change-up. I also think his curveball flashes above average too. With a weak fastball (88-93), it's going to come down to command. When his command is off and he catches too much plate, it's going a long way. He gave up 17 HRs in 140 innings. Only Shuster gave up more HRs this season with 18 HRs in 139 innings (Tanner Gordon did give up 17 in 120 innings). I'm not sure he's a starter long term, but I think he could be a very good long reliever.

6. Victor Vodnik - No team took him in the Rule 5 draft, so why is he this high? His overall stuff as a reliever arm is really good. Health is the only thing that will hold Vodnik back. He's got a nice rising fastball that can sit 96-98 at times. I thought his slurve looked better this year too and his change-up is also an above average pitch. So he's got 3 solid pitches. Just stay healthy and reduce the walk rate!

7. Jared Shuster - Sometimes you just wish the draft was a bit more fair. We thought we were getting a left throwing 94-96 like he did the year he got drafted. What we got was a pitcher throwing 89-94. His fastball command waffled this season and like I mentioned above, when he's even a little off, the ball is getting crushed as evident of the 18 HRs he gave up. His change-up may be borderline ++, but his slider is below average to average. It was honestly disappointing seeing the lack of fastball command and no developmenet of the slider. I hope his goals for 2023 is to hone the fastball command and develop the slider. It would also be nice to see the velo tick back up.

8. Alan Rangel - Signed by the Braves after being a FA. Wasn't much of a prospect until the fastball ticked way up. Now the fastball sits 92-96, max 98 mph. He's got a solid curve and change-up, and even added a slider this year (big time work in progress). He's been healthy and an innings eater. However, fastball command became an issue for the first time this season. He was issuing more walks and giving up more HRs than at any other point in his career. Shoring up the command is what I'd like to see in 2023.

9. Spencer Schwellenbach - Yeah, I wasn't a fan of this pick. He seems to have some upside with the stuff, but the lack of actually pitching experience and his age just make this a very confusing pick. I truly hope it works out. At least we'll get to see him pitch in 2023. Staying healthy is the obvious thing for Spencer.

10. Cole Phillips - Another injured arm, but it's doubtful we even see Phillips in 2023. Lots of potential as a fastball/slider pitcher and someone that should sit mid to upper 90's when healthy. Just take your time and make sure he's 100%.

11. Jesse Franklin - Missed a lot of 2023. One of the few power hitters in the system.
12. Cody Milligan - Love the bat and the way he plays. Very versatile defender. Just give me some gap power, please!
13. Roddery Munoz - Him and his brother throw the easiest gas in the system. The fastball is 94-98 mph, slider is 88-92, and the change-up is 85-88 mph. I thought the slider ticked up to above average to plus by mid to late season, and the change-up was at least average by end of year. Munoz's hard work really paid off this season and it was no surprise the Braves protected him. Like many Braves prospects, the command needs to improve. Just too many walks surrendered.
14. Luke Waddell
15. Braden Shewmake - Ugh. I thought I would come to like this pick, but nope.
16. Ignacio Alvarez - Hard to know what you really have in a shortened season, but he's got talent on both sides of the ball.
17. Tanner Gordon - Crushed High-A, but couldn't find the same success in AA. Faired better toward the end of the year, but took him awhile to make some adjustments. Fastball is 90-94, but completely straight. His best pitch is his above average change-up. The slider is average at best. Like Vines, it comes down to fastball command, but he really needs the breaker to improve as well.
18. David McCabe - Has some power and knows the strikezone. I'm looking forward to a full season. I'd like to see 40+ XBH, 100+ wRC+, with a K-rate under 25%.
19. Blake burkhalter - He's got 3 above aveage pitches. But can he start? I'd like to see him tried out as a starter in 2023.
20. Drake Baldwin - Catchers always have slower developments, but put up solid numbers right after the draft. There's more pressure for him to succeed since he's now the top catcher in the system.
21. Adam Maier - Threw 15 innings before getting shut down with an elbow injury. I don't think I've ever heard of a player getting shut down and not eventually needing TJS within 2 years. So, he'll likely need TJS in the next couple of years. While that part sucks, he's got a plus slider and maybe a plus changeup. You take that all day in the 7th round. He was a bit pricey, just a little more than Schwellenback, but I think it's a soid gamble.
22. Brandol Mezquita - Braves actually have something to show for the 2016 international fiasco. While I'm not sold on the bat like some, he did have a breakout year and that needs to be applauded. I still need to see more consistent hitting ability and a lot more power. 22 XBH in over 400 plate appearances, yuck!
23. Geraldo Quintero - He'd rank higher if he had a defensive home. He can hit and steal bases and there's value in that. He also showed more power than you would think with over 40 XBH. He has speed, so his arm must be pathetic for him not to be played more in the OF. He did get some time at 3B, and it was beyond bad. I also think his BABIP was low for a guy with his speed. I'd like to see the line drive rate improve and learn to play the OF.
24. Cal Conley - Had such an up and down year for a guy that I thought would be way more consistent. I think he was pressing a lot this year to prove he's a big prospect. There's a lot to like about Conley. He uses the whole field, GB rate in the low 40%s, good strikezone judgement, and has a bit of pop in the bat. I really want Conley focusing on being a high on base guy instead of trying to hit HRs. Hit those gaps, rack up walks, use your speed to steal bases. He'll have a lot of success if he does that.
25. Diego Benitez - I didn't want to rank any of the recent international players since I just don't know anything about them. Not a single one of the top Braves signings stood out. Unlike Tavarez, he played the year he was signed.
26. Douglas Glod - Again, I don't have much. The numbers were not good other than the walk rate.
27. Jair Casanova - Was probably the best hitter among the international signings. .391 OBP is eye catchy, and a K-rate under 20%. So yeah, I'll rank him for now.
28. Ambioris Tavarez - Didn't play the year he got signed. Missed most of 2022 as well due to injury. Missing 1.5 and dealing with injuries. He's so far behind now in development. 41% K-rate and a 4% BB-rate. I mean, really? I'll rank him for now since it's a weak system, but he's gonna have to show something in 2023 to stick.
29. Elison Joseph - Signed in 2019, but didn't see a game until 2021. Broke through to A ball in 2022. That's pretty good considering how little he pitched in pro ball. He'll be 22 in January. This might be a crazy pick here, but I watched him pitch several times and came away impressed every time. His fastball was 94-99 mph. His slider came and went, but at times it flashed above average. We should see him for a full season in 2023 at the age of 22. I want to see him starting over a full season, improve the fastball command and develop a change-up. I think it'll be extremely difficult to work on the fastball command out of the pen. Might be a tall order considering Augusta will be stacked with players.
30. Austin Smith - Had a good season and pitched well in the hitter friendly AFL. I like him more than William Woods, but I did like Lisandro Santos and Justin Yeager a bit more. However, Santos and Yeager aren't with the org anymore.

Other players:
Augusta should be stacked with former prep picks like Christian Jackson, Tyler Collins, Noah Willams, Adam Shoemaker, Seth Keller and Justin Militello. Militello was picked up after the draft, so he might get held back. His fastball was up to 94 mph before the draft. He also has a twin brother, Jackson, that went on to college (catcher at Eastern Michigan)

Harry Owen was also signed after the draft. The 20 year old JUCO catcher, put up some impressive numbers in his one JUCO season hitting .377 with 11 HRs. He only got 25 ABs after getting drafted, but has potential as an offensive minded catcher. Turns 21 in March.

Braves signed a few more guys after the draft like Bryson Worrell (East Carolina), who put up a 1.011 OPS in the FCL, Hunter Riggins (Souther MS), Nick Clarno (Lenoir-Rhyne) and Hayden Harris (Georgia Southern). I'm at least interested to see what they do in full season ball. They are older players, so you'd hope they move quickly. Worrell had an impressive senior season hitting 20 HRs and hitting .335. Never did that before, so it could just be age vs competition type thing. Riggins is knows for throwing strikes, but doesn't rack up K's. Harris's numbers weren't much to look at during his career, but the scouts must have seen something. Clarno is a defense first catcher, but is coming off a really solid offensive campaign.

Rolddy Munoz - Roddery'z twin. Signed a year after Roddery, so he'll be up for Rule 5 in 2023. He was very up and down, but displayed some impressive stuff at times. He has the same arsenal as Roddery, but the slider and change-up need a bit of work as well as his fastball command. I wonder if the Braves decide to move him into a starting role at High-A. Out of pen he lights it up with a 96-99 mph fastball.

Players that were injured in 2022 that should be healthy in 2023. Brooks Wilson - signed along with Alan Rangel. Wilson has a closer mentality and has an above average curve. Others returning include Jared Johnson, Yoansy Moreno, Daysbel Hernandez, Ruben Gil, Deivy Castro, Jesus Rodriguez and Spencer Schwellenback.

Yorlis Lendor is the 6'6" OF and he finally got to play in 2022. Numbers weren't great, but I'm still intrigued by the switch hitter.

Other international players that I'm looking forward to in 2023 include Maximo Maria, Didier Fuentes, Elian Cortorreal, Robert Gonzalez and Rolando Gutierrez.

The big 2022/2023 international signing is a guy named Luis Guanipa, 5'9" OF. #10 on BA and #34 on MLB; supposed to have a 55 FV hit tool. Can't wait to know who else gets signed and plays.

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