The Braves have done very well with finding value in the later rounds of the draft, particularly from the high school ranks. While we have already covered some of the more recent examples of these efforts during these reviews, one guy that has been around for a while that continues to tantalize is right-handed pitcher Victor Vodnik.
Midseason Report Card: On our midseason Top 30 Braves prospects list, we ranked Victor Vodnik as the No. 13 prospect in the Braves farm system. Based on what we saw in 2021 and some lingering concerns we have had, the best guess right now is that he will likely drop down on our next list a bit.
Victor Vodnik 2021 MiLB Stats: 11 G, 33.2 IP, 5.35 ERA, 41 K, 22 BB
What we saw in 2021: Vodnik has a ton of talent and his best pitch by a significant margin is his fastball which can threaten triple digits and, when he is on, gets swings and misses. He also has a slider and changeup that lag behind the fastball, but are good change of pace pitches. In Double-A, we saw flashes of that potential as he had stretches where he was absolutely dominant.
However, two problems were also readily apparent in 2021. First, Vodnik’s command can absolutely disappear at times. He can look great for a couple innings before losing the ability to throw strikes with any of his pitches which got him in trouble. Second, Vodnik has not demonstrated the ability to stay healthy. When he was at low-A Rome in 2019, he missed a month of the season on the injured list and in 2021, he had two lengthy stints on the IL as well.
What to expect in the future: We are not convinced that the Braves are done trying Vodnik as a starter and we respect the effort. If he pans out as a starter, the upside is significant so we expect him to at least start 2022 in the rotation. However, given his injury history and physical profile, many of us expect him to be headed for the bullpen before too long. There is a real chance he ends up being an excellent reliever as that fastball will play up in shorter stints and the command issues will be less pronounced in one inning spurts. The first thing he has to do is get healthy, so hopefully 2022 will be a season that will be a full one for him.