We are now at the halfway point towards finishing up the midseason top 25 Atlanta Braves prospects, and we’re now getting into a few players that should be closer to contributing at the major league level. Overall it’s no secret that it’s been a down year for the system, and while in prior years there are often players who have separated themselves falling into this range that really isn’t the case so far in 2023. We appreciate the support you’ve given the list so far, and look forward to your feedback and questions in the comments. Here are our previous installments to the list.
15. Drake Baldwin - C
How the Braves acquired him: 2022 MLB Draft, 3rd round, 96th overall pick
Preseason rank: 15th
Baldwin was the Braves highest drafted position player in the 2022 draft, but so far he has not been the best performer as he’s been slightly surpassed by 4th rounder David McCabe and well-passed by 5th rounder Ignacio Alvarez. Baldwin hasn’t necessarily struggled as a professional but he’s yet to set himself apart in any way that gives confidence in a future role. Baldwin has posted a 111 wRC+ this season at High-A Rome, certainly a solid performance especially for a catcher, with above league average isolated power and walk rates. On base skill has been the calling card as he has a .358 OBP this season and a walk rate of 15.3%.
Baldwin’s peripheral numbers are certainly not bad, but there is more swing and miss in his game than you would want especially from a college player. What’s more, he has a very low line drive rate, indicative of the struggles he has had producing consistent good contact. His eye at the plate certainly is a benefit to his profile, but there still isn’t huge confidence in him being an above average hitter. His raw strength at the plate could produce above average power, though again that inconsistency with barreling balls has impacted his home run production. Defensively Baldwin looks like he should stick at catcher with his athleticism and receiving, although he’s not really better than average at any of those things and his glove isn’t going to carry him. His arm strength is plus but he is a bit slow getting the ball released which has impacted stolen base rates against him
14. David McCabe - 3B
How the Braves acquired him: 2022 MLB Draft, 4th round, 125th overall pick
Preseason rank: 19th
David McCabe was a small school player who attended UNC Charlotte for his three years of college. He had an OPS of 1.131, which as impressive as that is on the surface it is not abnormal for an MLB draft pick. McCabe was a prospect who did not display prestigious power, was not a flashy athlete and he wasn’t even ranked in MLBPipeline’s top 250 MLB Draft prospects in 2022. As a result, McCabe was not a sexy pick for the Braves and went largely under the radar. He did not do anything to build any hype around himself last season as he hit just one homer and had a .260 batting in A ball last season. But he has quieted a lot of doubters this season as he has a triple slash line of .276/.378/.465 across A/A+ with 13 homers in 81 games.
McCabe’s mini breakout this season has caused for there to be some hype around the 23-year-old and opened the door for an obtainable MLB ceiling. Some scouts give McCabe plus power meaning he has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs in the MLB at his peak. However, whether or not he will be able to hit for average in the majors is a question surrounding him. His strikeout rate is a hair under 30 percent this season which certainly is not an encouraging number for a player who is older than the average player in both leagues he has played in 2023. If McCabe is able to bring that down in the future, he projects as a corner infielder with some considerable pop. If not, it is difficult to see him making it to the MLB.
13. Darius Vines - RHP
How the Braves acquired him: 2019 MLB Draft, 7th round
Preseason rank: 7th
Darius Vines came into this season with a massive opportunity, as there were question marks on the back end of Atlanta’s rotation, he already had a 40 man spot, and further injuries have continued to open up chances for starters to make their debuts. Unfortunately throughout all of this Vines has been out with a shoulder injury suffered in spring training, and as the team has gotten guys close to returning and AJ Smith-Shawver has blazed through the system there is less of a chance for Vines to make his debut this year. Vines has been a fantastic player at every level, posting solid peripherals and overall numbers while being a steady hand on the mound and capable of posting huge games. His biggest flaw has been home runs, as his fastball isn’t capable of missing bats and thus tends to get hard when left over the plate. Often last season he would go four, five, or six innings into a dominant start before giving up a multi-run home run in those later innings that inflated his final line.
Those problems just mentioned hint at what Vines’s role should be once he gets a chance in the major leagues. As a classic starter expected to pitch three times through he may struggle as he is particularly prone to the penalty for pitching the third time through the order. His changeup and slider both flash plus, so when he can pitch as a junk-ball type with his above average command he is perfectly capable of getting hitters out, but can also be easy to figure out once his fastball command slips as he gets tired. Overall Vines is a victim on this list of not being healthy at the wrong time, and it’s a wonder if he is one whose chance will come with another organization.
12. Adam Maier - RHP
How the Braves acquired him: 2022 MLB Draft, 7th round
Preseason rank: 8th
The Braves rolled the dice on an overslot injured college arm in the seventh round of the 2022 MLB Draft when they took Adam Maier from Oregon. Maier comes with a unique story, where he was undrafted out of high school and went to the University of British Columbia as a two-way player. At UBC he played as a freshman in 2020, but got 19 innings and 68 plate appearances before the season was shut down. Then UBC cancelled their season in 2021, so Maier didn’t play a single game at the college level that year. He went on to surface in the Cape Cod League that summer and opened a lot of eyes with 25.2 strong innings. That led to many larger colleges being interested in him, and he eventually transferred to Oregon for the 2022 season.
At Oregon Maier turned in three very strong starts, leading to some first round talk when combined with his performance in the Cape - but then he went down with an injury that put an internal brace on his elbow instead of a Tommy John surgery. He still hasn’t made his pro debut yet because of this, though is throwing on the side.
Maier is a kid with 19 innings pitched in a Canadian college league, plus 24 in the Cape and another 15 at Oregon. So the former two-way player is as low-mileage as it gets for a college arm, and that’s something that drew the Braves to him as they’ve been successful with former two-way guys.
Maier has a plus slider as his best pitch, and an above average fastball and change. He also has the potential for average or better command. When you add that three pitch mix and command to his fairly raw background, he is an exciting prospect - but also one with plenty of risk.
Maier has legitimate middle of the rotation upside, if not slightly more because of just how raw he is giving him some untapped potential. He’s still just 21-years-old, and whether or not he actually appears in a game this season or follows the same path as Spencer Schwellenbach did last year, he is still working with the Braves coaching staff this summer.
11. Diego Benitez - SS
How the Braves acquired him: 2022 International free agent
Preseason rank: 11th
Until this past offseason Benitez was the highest-caliber international signee since the ill-fated 2016 class, but so far his career has been off to a rocky start. There have been good reports about the potential he has shown, but the development hasn’t shown in his performances as he has a 65 wRC+ in the Florida Complex League this season. Benitez got off to a solid start this season, but since late June has fallen off of a cliff as his strikeout rate has skyrocketed to over 30%. While Benitez is young and does have the raw pop to hit for power he is expected to be a hit over power player so this development is concerning. Strikeout rate is effectively the only meaningful basic statistic at the rookie level and Benitez hasn’t been able to maintain what was a good early start. Benitez’s basic batted ball profile is also concerning, with a line drive rate of just 13% and a ground ball rate over 60%.
Benitez hasn’t dropped in our rankings at all, but it’s not really for anything he himself has done rather a lack of performance anywhere in the system has kept him at 11th. He was always going to be a raw player, but the rate of guys striking out 30+% of the time in rookie ball and then turning into good MLB hitters is incredibly low. Benitez hasn’t really answered any questions defensively, opening up concerns over whether he can stay up the middle. Benitez has good high end exit velocities and may need to hit for more power as he advances if sticking at shortstop doesn’t work out. It’s hard for us to really judge Benitez too harshly given his age and that underlying data looks stronger than basic numbers, but if he makes the leap to Augusta next year he will need to start performing.