While the Braves were hamstrung when it came to international signings for multiple years, they have been big players — as they were before — since the restrictions were lifted. Diego Benitez is one of the recent crown jewels of the Braves’ crop of international signees.
Considered one of the top prospects in his class, Benitez signed with the Braves for $2.5 million out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old. He was the headliner for the Braves in their 2022 class, along with outfielder Douglas Glod.
Preseason report card
In our preseason rankings, Benitez came in at number 11, despite having yet to play in any meaningful minor league games. He stayed at number 11 in our mid-season rankings despite an influx of talent via the MLB Draft, which speaks to his ceiling and projection as a player.
What we saw in 2023
After signing with the Braves in January 2022, Benitez was assigned to the Dominican Summer League team in March, and spent the entire season with that squad. To kick off 2023, Benitez got a look in Spring Training before being sent to the FCL team. In 46 games for the FCL squad, Benitez posted a .261/.332/.392 line (91 wRC+) with a pair of homers and 19 RBI.
Benitez technically got promoted to Low-A Augusta in late August, but wasn’t activated until September 19. He unfortunately didn’t get to see any Low-A action in 2023, but the stage is set for the 19-year-old to make his full-season ball debut with the GreenJackets in 2024.
As mentioned above, Benitez will begin 2024 in Augusta. While the pedigree, ceiling and potential are all there for Benitez, there are some question marks he’ll have to at least begin to answer next season.
Benitez’ hit tool has never really been a question, as he was billed as being an above-average hitter with an impressive amount of raw power for his age at the time of his signing. The power hasn’t exactly translated thus far: he’s only totaled four home runs across his stints in the DSL and FCL spanning 378 PAs, while striking out in over a fifth of his plate appearances.
Another question is where he’ll end up defensively. Signed as a shortstop, that’s where Benitez has spent his entire career defensively so far. However, there have been concerns as to whether he can stick there once his frame fills out.
The good news is, though, is that his age, his potential, and the fact that he plays a premium position are just a few of the reasons Benitez is already one of the more tantalizing prospects the Braves have. If he manages to get off to a hot start with Augusta, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Benitez to spend the second half — if not more — of the season in High-A with his sights set on Mississippi and beyond in 2025.