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Braves have two prospects eligible for prospect promotion incentive

The Atlanta Braves have two chances to claim extra draft capital if either AJ Smith-Shawver or Hurston Waldrep were to win the 2024 Rookie of the Year Award. Looking at the big picture, that seems unlikely given that neither have a clear path to a meaty enough role in the majors at this juncture, but as they say, there is a chance.

This is part of the system that was put in place in 2022 as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to incentivize teams to carry prospects on Opening Day rosters. If you are unfamiliar, Baseball America has a nice breakdown and a list of the prospects that are eligible.

To qualify, a player must be rookie-eligible and have fewer than 60 days of prior MLB service time. Players must also accrue at least one-year of service time which requires 172 days on an active roster. Preseason Top 100 prospect lists also play a factor, as players must appear on two of the Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline lists in order to be eligible. They also must win Rookie of the Year or finish in the top three of MVP or Cy Young award voting.

So far, the Diamondbacks (Corbin Carroll), Orioles (Gunnar Henderson) and Mariners (Julio Rodriguez) have gained picks and bonus pool money under the system.

It is a strange system and isn’t without controversy. We love prospect lists around here, but there is a subjectivity that is involved and tying actual draft compensation to them is a strange choice. You can see exactly why the system is fairly strange when you consider that the Braves netted no draft capital in 2022, even though Michael Harris II won the Rookie of the Year Award and Spencer Strider finished second in the voting. Neither Harris nor Strider appeared on two of the Top 100 preseason lists that would have made them eligible, and while you can say that Harris didn’t quite meet the criteria for the incentive since he didn’t start the season in the majors (nor was he called up within the first two weeks of the season), Strider did but was omitted from a list and hence was not eligible.

Flawed or not, this is the system that’s in place. The Braves have a couple of chances to benefit from said system this year, even if they are remote. Smith-Shawver made his major league debut as a 20-year old in 2023, but is likely going to spend at least part of the season at Triple-A. Of the two, he seems the more-likely Braves prospect to have an impact on the 2024 season, but probably won’t garner a full year of service time unless a major injury were to occur or he just completely rolls all the way through the season. Even then, the Braves may want to take advantage of his options status to give him a breather midseason or something, which might mess up his service time accumulation.

Waldrep was fast-tracked by the Braves after being drafted and advanced through four levels while finishing the season with one appearance at Gwinnett. He has received the most prospect list buzz this offseason, but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him start the season back at Double-A, where he made just three appearances last season. Depending on how the 2024 season plays out, Waldrep could retain his eligibility for 2025, but again would need to meet all of the requirements.

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