Ambioris Tavarez was the first major international signing for the Atlanta Braves since their sanctions in 2017, but early returns aren’t looking favorable.
Tavarez was signed to a $1.5 million signing bonus on January 15, 2021.
Preseason Report Card
Tavarez came into the 2023 season with little professional experience, having played in just 17 games in 2022. His recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome was a major hit on his ability to develop, but there was hope for a breakout year for the young shortstop. Tavarez had shown bat speed and raw power as an amateur that had many dreaming of impact potential, though whether he would stick at shortstop was an open question. Beyond that, Tavarez was mostly a question mark, with a huge need for higher-level development of his hit tool and approach.
What we saw in 2023
We can answer one early question about Tavarez and project him now to stick at shortstop. While he still is young and prone to mistakes, his actions and athleticism at the position make him a potential plus defender, and he has the arm to make any throw. Shortstop is his future, and he needs to maximize that defensive ability because he didn’t show many positive signs on the other side of the ball. Tavarez did at times flash that easy power and plus bat speed from the right side of the plate, but he was far too often lost and seemed ill-prepared to handle full-season-caliber pitching in 2023. He would go through occasional stretches of decent play, but also spent time mired in weeks-long slumps where his effort at the plate was called into question.
Tavarez’s numbers were abysmal, and the glaring one is his 40.8 percent strikeout rate. No other minor league player with 400 or more plate appearances struck out 40 percent of the time, and his inability to recognize spin plagued him throughout the season. Tavarez ran a high BABIP which saved his overall numbers from ranking at the bottom of the minor leagues, and there is some actual support for that high BABIP, as he ran a high line drive rate and hit the ball hard when he made contact, both traits that could make him a reasonable contact bat if he can ever hit secondary pitches enough to get to the Double-A level. The power and defense are there for Tavarez, but his maturity as a player and a worker need to take major strides for him to sniff the upper minor leagues.
Tavarez will likely repeat Single-A, and this will be a test of how much work he put in during the offseason. Tavarez spent all last season as a 19-year-old, and is still that young guy with eye-popping bat speed and solid athleticism that the Braves gave seven figures to three years ago. Still, he needs to make huge leaps in his development in a short period of time, and developing a player from a 40 percent strikeout rate in Single-A to a big leaguer is a monumental ask.
Tavarez’s glove and overwhelming talent still make him a prospect to watch, but his current pace is disappointing and could have him looking for another organization to play with in short order. The Braves made a substantial effort to clean up his long and mechanical swing last season, trying a number of different setups and swing paths with varying degrees of success. Tavarez seems willing to make these changes and put in the effort to be better, and will try to come back in 2024 at least getting his strikeout rate down to where you can hope for something from him down the line.