While starting pitchers and position players (or lack thereof) get a lot of the headlines when talking about Atlanta Braves, having reliever depth in the minor leagues has been important as well. A.J. Minter is probably the best current Braves example of a reliever working their way through the minor leagues and becoming an important cog in the big league bullpen. One bullpen piece that is currently on the Braves’ 40-man roster that was also set to potentially contribute in 2022, Brooks Wilson, unfortunately had injury derail his season, although he very well could still factor into the Braves’ plans in the near term.
Preseason Report Card
Going into the 2022 season, we did not have Brooks Wilson among the Braves’ top 30 prospects in the system although we did have him listed amongst our honorable mentions. While he was added to the 40-man roster last offseason to lend some credence to his candidacy, we are somewhat notoriously reluctant to rank relief prospects just because of their volatility.
What we saw in 2022
The short answer here is that we didn’t see anything out of Wilson, and with good reason. It was reported before the minor league season that the 26-year-old righty had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which ended up costing the 2018 seventh round pick out of Stetson his entire season. Again, it is worth mentioning that the Braves did add Wilson to their 40-man roster before the season to understand his trajectory, but ultimately that transaction and his injury were the only 2022 notes on Wilson.
While most observers agree that most guys recover from Tommy John without too many long-term problems these days, we are still tempering our optimism about Wilson until we see both when he returns to the field and how he looks on the mound. Given that he doesn’t necessarily have eye-popping stuff, Wilson’s ability to command his fastball/breaking ball combo is going to dictate a lot. He will also be 27 when the season starts next year, so he doesn’t have all the time in the world to recover and knock off the rust.
However, assuming his rehab continues to go well (and we have no info to suggest otherwise), Wilson is a guy that could pitch in the back half of a big league bullpen even though we don’t think he will be a guy that a team uses in the highest-leverage spots. He gets a lot of movement on his mid-90s fastball to both sides of the plate and his breaking ball dives out of the zone to get swings and misses to both lefties and righties. The injury layoff combined with his age are genuine concerns, but if he gets back to form quickly, he is a surefire big league arm in some capacity.