Welcome back to the second installment of our Atlanta Braves 2022 Preseason Top 30 Prospect List! We appreciate all of the support on the list so far. If you happened to miss the first couple of articles, fear not...here are some links to get you caught up. If you are unclear on how we create our list and want some general tips on how to digest our thinking, the 25-30 article has an extensive explanation right at the top.
Talking Chop 2022 Preseason Top 30 Braves Prospects: Honorable Mentions
Talking Chop 2022 Preseason Top 30 Braves Prospects: 25-30
For prospects 19-24, we have a nice mix of pitchers and hitters, new faces and old ones, as well as higher upside/risk as well as higher floors. Without further delay, here are prospects 19-24.
24) AJ Smith-Shawver - RHP
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: AJ Smith-Shawver
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: The 7th round of the 2021 MLB Draft
There seems to be a lot of helium rising around Smith-Shawver this offseason, and rightfully so. MLB.com recently named him the best young pitching prospect in the system (which is certainly debatable), and naturally, people flocked to the intrawebs to find out more about the exciting, 19-year-old righty.
So, what do we know about Smith-Shawver? Considering he has 8 1/3 innings of pro ball to his name, let’s start our look at this career pre-MLB draft. Simply put, Smith-Shawver is an athlete. He threw for 29 touchdowns in nine games as a senior quarterback at Colleyville Heritage high school and was lighting up the radar gun with mid-90s heat the same spring. Now, on the bump, it was his velocity that attracted much of the attention because he was still very raw having just begun his journey as a full-time pitcher this past year.
He was headed to Texas Tech with the potential to play both sports, so this wasn’t some podunk school in the middle of nowhere that believed in his two-way athletic ability. That’s why it took an overslot deal for the Braves to keep him from heading to the Red Raiders, a perennial Men’s College World Series contender.
Smith-Shawver is big, listed at 6’3 and 205 pounds. He’s also young and still very raw. He has two pitches that work well for him. A mid-90s fastball that has hit higher and a curveball that is a work in progress, but shows much potential hitting anywhere from 71 to 78 in his showcase appearances. There is also a changeup he is working on, but that has not yet been ready for in-game use. There have been reports of a sharp slider as well, but without a lot of video or footage of FCL play, it is tough to tell.
Smith-Shawver made four starts in the FCL. Of course starts in the FCL are typically two innings. There, he threw 8 1/3 innings, allowed eight runs and two home runs and struck out 16 while walking 10 for an 8.64 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. He ended his first stint as a pro on a high note, tossing three hitless innings while striking out five and walking just one.
You can see the issue with Smith-Shawver is consistency, but that isn’t surprising for a prep arm that wasn’t pitching full time until about a year ago. From this clip, it’s clear he likes pumping the fastball high and armside and though his velocity seems to come relatively easy, refining his mechanics to consistently release the ball at the same point and pound the zone will take time. Expect Smith-Shawver to eventually see plenty of mound time in Augusta in 2022, but that doesn’t necessarily put him on a fast track. Patience is best when it comes to young arms, and Smith-Shawver will be an interesting one to watch.
23) Trey Harris - OF
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: Trey Harris
How he got to the Braves:
It’s been quite a wild ride for Trey Harris. The local kid went from former senior signing 32nd round pick in 2018 out of Missouri, to a breakout in 2019 when he posted an OPS of .887 while advancing three levels from Low-A to Double-A.
The Powder Springs product hasn’t had an easy time since the 2019 breakout. He experienced a lost year in 2020 as he wasn’t included in group working at the alternate training site despite his 2019 breakout. He then came back and struggled this year back in Double-A. Harris went on to hit .247/.317/.354 with 15 doubles, eight homers, 26 walks and 72 strikeouts over 405 plate appearances. For reference Harris spent 41 games there in Double-A in 2019 and had a .729 OPS, compared to just .671 this past year.
2022 will be a big year for Harris who has to prove that last year was a fluke due to the layoff of 2020. He could start in either Double-A or move up to Triple-A since he already has 559 plate appearances in Mississippi. Harris is a prospect who potentially brings an average bat with average power and average speed to the table along with a little bit of defensive versatility. If he is able to rebound with the bat, he could still fulfill a role as a bat first bench piece at the big league level.
22) Dylan Dodd - LHP
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: Dylan Dodd
How he got to the Braves:
Dylan Dodd may have been a senior sign by the Braves as a third round pick this past year, but make no mistake, he is an intriguing prospect that has positioned himself to rise quickly through the system. Dodd’s college career at Southeast Missouri State saw him show steady improvement statistically and ended with a senior season in which he excited scouts and positioned himself as one of the top senior signs. The Braves got him and put him immediately in Low-A where he had a decent performance in a small sample although the ERA does not show that. His High-A debut for the final game of the year unfortunately came in Asheville, and he was greeted rudely as he allowed four home runs in the hitter-friendly venue. All in all, he struck out 20 batters and only walked three in 14 professional innings.
Dodd’s fastball doesn’t immediately strike you as it sits just 92-94 in games, but it’s a surprisingly effective offering that gets better as you dig into the metrics. His high spin rates and above average command of the pitch help it play up, and his abnormal delivery gives deception to make the ball even tougher to pick up. His best secondary is an above average to plus changeup with a fantastic velocity separation that plays tremendously off of his fastball. His curveball command is a bit behind that of the other two pitches but he should be able to feature it as another average offering that can get strikeouts from left handed batters. Overall Dodd’s profile is intriguing and his stuff will likely play at the major league level as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
21) Darius Vines - RHP
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: Darius Vines
How he got to the Braves: 7th round pick in 2019
Darius Vines is almost a retro type of pitching prospect where his top pitches are his changeup and curveball. At his best, Darius has a low 90s fastball with good command to go with a mid-70s curveball that he will throw for strikes and a devastating change-up that will completely neutralize left and right handed hitters.
In 2021 we saw the beginnings of that as he appeared in eight games in A-ball where he put up a line of 12 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, 2.25 ERA, and 3.23 FIP. He got the quick promotion to A+ Rome where he sustained quality numbers: 9.72 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 3.24 ERA, 4.45 FIP. He struggled with the long ball in Rome as he saw his HR/9 rate spike all the way to 1.44. If he’s able to avoid the middle of the zone with his fastball while throwing his curveball and changeup for strikes, 2022 could be a big year for Vines.
20) Tyler Collins - OF
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: Tyler Collins
How he got to the Braves: 8th round pick in 2021
The speedy outfielder out of McKinney, Texas, Tyler Collins was an extremely intriguing pick by the Braves. Collins was comped by Braves Vice President of Scouting, Dana Brown, to former 17-year big leaguer Kenny Lofton.
Collins isn’t going to be blasting homers, but he knows that and has a short swing that’s intended to make contact and let his athletic ability take care of the rest. His current hit tool is a lot better than expected because of his fantastic ability to make contact with the ball. If his complex ball walk rate of 8.2% continues into full-season ball, you’re looking at someone with real playmaking ability.
Collins will likely start 2022 at Low-A Augusta and stay there for a full season.
19) Ambioris Tavarez - SS/3B
Braves MiLB Prospect Review: Ambioris Tavarez
How he got to the Braves: 2020/2021 International Signee
One of the most intriguing prospects on the list slots in at No. 19 as Ambioris Tavarez looks to make his long awaited state side arrival. The Braves used virtually their entire signing pool on Tavarez during their final use under sanctions.
There’s a lot to potentially like. While video is limited, scouts have rated him with a good hit tool, above average power, slightly above average speed and a fantastic arm. He’s got size that will likely push him to third, but good enough athletic ability to play it well.