We have trudged through the slow winter months and into the new year, and spring training is right around the corner. Our excitement for the new season at Battery Power grows with each passing day, and my favorite time of the year is here. We are once again going to be releasing our Top 30 list, my 17th with the site, and after a year of dropping down to 25 we are back up to a full 30 prospects. It has been a tough couple of years as promotions and trades have drained the system, but it looks to be on the come up as the value has grown significantly in the past year.
To start, we’ll discuss a few key points. The list is made by compositing the individual rankings of each of our writers, as these rankings are all very subjective. We certainly welcome criticism and discussion of specific rankings, however it’s important to realize that we see the system more as a set of tiers rather than hard rankings in any spot. There isn’t much gap in the value between the 14th best prospect and 20th best prospect in the system, and getting hung up on individual rankings isn’t something we worry much about. A final point is that we have not ranked the international signings from last week. This would really only affect Jose Perdomo, who would be the only one who ranked in the top 30, however even with the information we do have on him I felt it was appropriate to let him get into the system and get some professional time under his belt before assigning him out expectations.
We are looking forward to your feedback and support for the list, and I am excited to jump into a new year.
30. Hayden Harris - LHP
How he got to the Braves: 2022 undrafted free agent
The first name on our list this year is left-handed reliever Hayden Harris, who came into Atlanta’s system as an undrafted free agent but quickly shot through the ranks to put himself in position to make a run at a major league job over the next couple of seasons. After five seasons at Georgia Southern, the Braves picked up Harris in 2022 and he had a lackluster debut as his struggled with command continued to plague his performance. Harris came into 2023 with little expectation, but dominated Single-A hitters with a 38.5% strikeout rate. A promotion to High-A only saw improvements to that performance as his strikeout rate jumped to 41.9% and his walk rate dropped to 6.5%. On a rate basis he was the most dominant arm in the Braves system, and by the middle of the season he had already risen to join Mississippi’s bullpen. His numbers took a tumble early with a 29.4% strikeout rate and 17.6% walk rate through his first five outings, but the calendar flipped to July and he turned his game up. Across his final 18 games Harris posted a 2.42 FIP, struck out 35.7% of hitters, and walked 9.8%.
Relief pitching prospects don’t tend to have much value, as the volatility you see at the major league level also extends down through all levels. Many players have had fantastic seasons and just a year later faded into obscurity. Harris faces an uphill battle, as his low arm slot makes him more susceptible to right-handed batters and with the elimination of the true LOOGY he will need to be able to continue to handle them well. Harris’s dominance this season fed from that low release, as his low arm slot, short frame, and above average extension gave him a outlier vertical attack angle. His fastball sits only in the low-90’s but the shape of the pitch allows it to play up and have an effective velocity in the mid-to-upper 90’s. He also mixes in a slider that could be above average, though his ability to locate the pitch is inconsistent. He is currently control above command, and will need to locate his fastball well to be able to continue to get right-handed batters out, however his unique release point makes it harder for all batters to see the ball out of his hand. Harris could crack the major league bullpen this season, although the stocking up of left handed arms that has been done this winter makes those prospects less likely.
29. Ambioris Tavarez - INF
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2021 International free agency
Tavarez’s debut season for the Braves was relatively average mixed with some concerning stats. At the age of 18 he hit .277 with a .385 in rookie ball which are more than respectable numbers. Although, he struck out 28 times in just 17 games which was a precursor for his 2023 season.
In just 108 games and 416 at bats, Tavarez struck out a mind numbing 196 times compared to just 44 walks. Predictably as well with those numbers he hit just .216 and his slugging fell down to a .337. Now, the arguments for Tavarez is that he is a toolsy shortstop who was just 19 for the entirety of last season, his walk rate sat at 9.2 percent and his wRC+ was 92 which is just 8 points below league average. If he can clean up the strikeouts there's talent there. The counter though is he had a strikeout rate of 40.8 percent and hit .216 despite having a BABIP of .388, a number that almost certainly will drop as he works his way up the minor league ladder.
28. Jesse Franklin - OF
How he got to the Braves: 2020 Amateur Draft, 3rd round
Despite being a 2020 draftee for the Braves, Franklin V has only played in 210 games for the organization thus far. He lost his 2020 minor league season due to Covid-19 and in 2022 he needed Tommy John Surgery which resulted in him playing just 15 games that season. in 2023 he only appeared in 94 games and the problems that were in his game in 2021 were still present.
Franklin V struggled to hit for average as he hit just .232 in Double-A compared to the .244 he had in High-A in 2021. Additionally, his swing and miss concerns continued as he struck out 115 times in 94 games, which is the same number of K’s he had in 2021, in 7 fewer games. The appeal with Franklin V as a prospect is his power which is the reason the Braves drafted him. In 2021 he posted a slugging percentage of .522 whilst hitting 24 doubles and 24 homers. In 2023 though, that number dipped to .419 as he hit 7 fewer doubles and 9 fewer home runs. Since Franklin V is an older prospect at 25 years old, 2024 feels like a bit of a make or break season for him. If he can’t clean up the swing and miss in his game, it is difficult to ever see him being a big league contributor.
27. Lucas Braun - RHP
How he got to the Braves: 2023 Amateur Draft, 6th round
After being selected in the sixth round of the draft by the Braves last season, Braun made his professional debut on August 6th. He pitched three scoreless frames where he allowed two hits and struck out one. Braun made four appearances at Single-A level where he allowed two earned runs across 17 1⁄3 innings and struck out 19 batters. His results at High-A were far less stellar though as he had an ERA of 5.59 across his two starts, but he still showed off his swing and miss stuff striking out 13 batters.
Braun is a pitcher who carries the undersized tag as he stands at 6 feet tall, meaning there will be some concerns as to how he will hold up as a starter. Although, as things stand the Braves do intend to allow him to continue to be a starter rather than moving him to the bullpen like we see with so many smaller pitchers.
26. Tyler Owens - RHP
How he got to the Braves: 2019 Amateur Draft, 13th round
The Braves usage of Owens has been a bit confusing. After throwing just 41 1⁄3 innings from 2019 through 2021 as a result of arm injuries and Covid-19, the Braves largely used him as a reliever as he started just 4 of his 32 appearances in 2022. His numbers were less than sparkling as pitched to a 5.20 ERA, walked 28 batters and then struck out 67 across 62 1⁄3 innings. His 5’10 frame, four seam fastball which had the ability to touch 98 MPH and average slider gives him a traditional reliever profile.
But in 2023 from April 26th through August 6th, every single one of his minor league appearance came as a starter with all but three of them going fewer than three innings. All in all on the season he appeared in 29 games with 15 of those being starts. He struck out 67 batters and walked 22, although importantly his ERA fell all the way down to a 3.03. How the Braves decide to use Owens in 2024 remains to be seen. It is possible he was used as a reliever at times to limit the amount of innings he threw due to his injury history. If I had to guess I would say they will follow a similar usage trajectory in using him as a reliever at first before ramping him up to be a starter around May.
25. Mario Baez - INF
How he got to the Braves: 2021 International free agency
The Braves 2023 class of international free agents was headlined by Luis Guanipa, but just one calendar year after they signed another lesser known name has climbed into the Top 30 - Mario Baez. Baez, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic that doesn’t turn 18 until late-August, made such an impression with his bat in the DSL that we couldn’t keep him off this list despite DSL statistics normally being extremely tough to give any weight to.
Baez played in 47 games with 206 plate appearances and went on to slash .311/.393/.422 with seven doubles, two triples, and three homers along with 24 steals in 29 attempts. The thing that really stood out for a kid playing most of the season at the age of 16 was his plate discipline, as he drew 20 walks to 25 strikeouts.
It’s only been 206 plate appearances and against the lowest level of competition imaginable, but Baez is already looking like a steal for a guy who received a $240k bonus one year ago. He’s just 5’9” and 175 pounds, so the overall power profile isn’t super high, but he made a lot of good contact, has good plate discipline, and runs well. That tool set is enough to make him someone to start really tracking as he makes his US debut this summer. Baez will likely start out in the FCL this summer, especially considering he still won’t turn 18 until the season is almost over - but there could be a window to hit his way to A ball and a chance to face more advanced pitchers at some point this season.