We are less than two weeks away from Triple-A opening day on March 31st, and Battery Power’s prospect crew will be spending this week answering a series of questions to preview the season. This will be a great opportunity to get a few of the burning topics answered while also introducing you to our new look minor league staff. Garrett Spain has been with Battery Power now since 2015 and is taking over the reins of the minor league coverage going forward. Matt Powers returns as well, and has been with Battery since 2016 with a heavy focus on our draft coverage each season. To beef up the staff we also have two new writers who joined the site this offseason in Brady Petree and Devin Csigi.
Breakout Picks: Which prospect do you think will see his stock soar the most this season? Which player from outside our top 30 do you think will end up ranking (highly) on next year’s list?
Matt: I can actually see a bunch of breakouts in the system - but that’s a side effect of so much of the talent being young guys who haven’t proven themselves yet as pros. Nacho Alvarez is a clear front runner, but Ambioris Tavarez is a candidate, as are most of the pitchers from the 2022 draft(Owen Murphy, JR Ritchie, Cole Phillips, Adam Maier, Seth Keller). None has shown much, Alvarez and the pitchers due to being drafted last summer, while Tavarez was dealing with injury in his pro debut last year and has had time to get healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of those guys move up by next year. As for guys outside the Top 30, I’d say this could finally be the year for Makhi Backstrom, especially after he finished last year much better than he started it. Don’t forget even though he was a 2019 draftee that he was young for the class, and as a guy who was still young and far away didn’t get a chance to go to the alternate site in 2020, so he’s been behind in his development for the past two years because of it.
Devin: The prospect that will see his stock soar the most this season for me is J.R. Ritchie. Ritchie has a fastball that at times can reach up to 99 MPH but has been unable to do it with much consistency in his high school and early professional career. If he is able to harness around even 96-97, paired with average to plus secondary pitches, becoming a breakout player this season is certainly not out of the question him. Besides Ritchie, if 2023 international signing Luis Guanipa can get off to a quick start in rookie ball he certainly can move up some on the teams top 30 rankings. A dark horse as well is Roddery Munoz, he has two above average pitches in his fastball/slider combo but he has yet to figure out how to consistently locate either pitch. If he can finally get his control to at least average he has a shot to move up a few sports and maybe debut with the Braves this season. Outside of the top 30, there is nobody that jumps out to me but I will go with Daysbel Hernandez. He is 26 and underwent Tommy John very early in 2022 so he is projected to return at some point this year. If he is able to maintain his pre-surgery stuff which was a fastball that was a plus pitch and slider that was a bit above average, he can certainly work his way into the low 20s of the Braves system.
Brady: There are honestly a plethora of guys in the system capable of increasing their stock in the coming year due to a combination of inexperience and raw potential. I debated on choosing one of the young guns in Murphy, Ritchie or Phillips, which you honestly can’t go wrong with. Instead, I’ll opt to go with one of the international guys, seeing as though it’s been a solid minute since the Braves were such large players in that market.
For me, Luis Guanipa is the guy who stands out the most in terms of players capable of seeing their stock increase tremendously this season. The headline guy in last year’s international class for the Braves, Guanipa will start off his pro career in the DSL. But if he can get off to a hot start and make his way up the ladder this year, that $2.5 million signing bonus the Braves handed him may start to look like a solid deal for Atlanta.
In terms of guys who failed to make our Top 30, I love Matt’s pick of Mahki Backstrom. But to bring some assortment to our roundtable here, I’m going to go with Tyler Collins. We didn’t see much at all from Collins in 2022 as he only appeared in 4 games. While that certainly doesn’t help his stock at all, he got off to such a great start in 2021 by posting a .877 OPS in 23 games that there’s still plenty of time for him to right the ship.
Garrett: The Braves have done such a great job of scouting players in the draft that it feels likely the breakout star is going to come from those ranks, however I am going to go away from the names mentioned above even if I do think highly of all of them. Going down to number 17 on our preseason list is Roddery Munoz, and he is a player that was clearly ready to take the next step after the end of last season. His spot on the 40 man roster gives the Braves a reason to be aggressive with him and his high velocity and spin combined with a slider that improved dramatically has me believing he’s ready to improve on a season that saw him post a 26.9% strikeout rate. The command improvement have been coming slowly and it’s time for those to click into place and help him become a more hyped prospect. The system drops off pretty heavily after that top 25 players in the system, and of that group I do think it’s between Backstrom and Collins as mentioned above. I would lean towards Collins as he was a player well on his way to advancing up the list but just couldn’t get on the field enough last year due to injuries. If he can have a healthy 2023 season he should fairly safely earn his way back into the top 25 of the system.