One position sorely lacking in talent throughout the Braves’ minor league system is catcher: there’s Drake Baldwin, and then question marks. However, that’s not to say there aren’t any intriguing catchers who could someday produce at the big league level, and Tyler Tolve is one of those guys.
The Braves plucked Tolve out of their backyard with their 17th-round pick of the 2021 draft, taking the backstop out of Kennesaw State University following a stellar career with the Owls and a final college campaign in which he posted an .891 OPS.
Preseason Report Card
Tolve failed to make our preseason prospect list, but given the amount of roster turnover at each level combined with other factors, he’s very likely to garner a spot there for 2024. Tolve has always been described as an athletic catcher with solid power potential, and we saw some flashes of that in his first taste of the upper minors this year.
What we saw in 2023
Coming into 2023, Tolve got a promotion to start his age-22 season at Double-A Mississippi. However, his season was plagued by injuries, as he only managed to get into 50 games on the year, with 43 of those coming at catcher. He was solid in terms of keeping the running game in check for Mississippi, cutting down 14 percent of runners across 366 2⁄3 innings.
Offensively, Tolve’s season was a bit of a mixed bag. Had he been fully healthy for the duration, he likely would’ve seen his numbers improve across the board. Still, across 217 plate appearances, the lefty posted an .698 OPS to go along with seven homers and 32 RBI (84 wRC+). In his minor league career to date, Tolve has played 149 games across two levels while sporting a .766 OPS with 21 home runs and 89 RBI. Offensive numbers like those for a catcher are sure to keep him on the radar for the Braves for the foreseeable future.
While his regular season was a bit up-and-down, Tolve’s 2023 campaign didn’t stop there, as he was named as one of the players to represent the Braves in the Arizona Fall League. Tolve started off rather slow in Arizona, but picked up his play towards the back end of the schedule. In 16 total games, Tolve put up a .637 OPS with a five extra-base hits, including a homer, and eight driven in.
Tolve figures to be the starting catcher at Mississippi for 2024, especially with Baldwin likely to get a bulk of the catching duties at Gwinnett. As we mentioned above, the Braves don’t exactly have a lot to show when it comes to catching talent throughout their farm system. So if Tolve gets off to a hot start and keeps it up through, say, the All-Star Break, he could find himself in Gwinnett alongside Baldwin and one step away from the majors — albeit he’ll only see Truist Park next year in the event of an injury or two as Chadwick Tromp and Baldwin are above him in the depth chart for now.