AJ Smith-Shawver has made it clear that he is the Atlanta Braves’s top prospect, and he is quickly being recognized as such. While recent updates from Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have left him on the outside, Smith-Shawver got his first major top 100 nod as Fangraphs released an update to their list. Fangraphs upgraded Smith-Shawver’s overall value to being a 50 FV player, which pushed him up to 86th overall. They note Smith-Shawver’s recent promotion to Triple-A, improved curveball over his past few starts, and his high-end athleticism as reasons for optimism. His inconsistent fastball command and need for further development were all reasons given for him not being ranked higher.
Smith-Shawver was recently promoted to Gwinnett and will be the youngest pitcher there, a move that is a tremendous show of confidence by the Braves development staff despite its primary factor likely being Double-A’s usage of an experimental ball with a stickier surface. Fangraphs provides a fair evaluation of Smith-Shawver’s place both in the system and in baseball in general, and all indications are that for the other publications he is very close to cracking their top 100 lists.
So far in 2023 Smith-Shawver has yet to allow an earned run in 21 innings between High-A and Double-A and holds a 1.70 FIP across those levels which is top 3 in minor league baseball. Smith-Shawver has shown tremendous strikeout stuff at every level with 151 strikeouts in 98 career innings, but the latter of those numbers is the most fantastic. The Braves have pushed a 20 year old starter with less than 100 professional innings all the way to their Triple-A affiliate, a move more aggressive than any I’ve seen them make in my time here other than perhaps Vaughn Grissom’s promotion to Atlanta last season.