Darius Vines was a seventh-round pick for the Atlanta Braves back in 2019 and signed for just $130,000, but he’s now advanced through the ranks to be one of the organization’s most major league-ready prospects. With an arsenal built around a pair of above-average offspeed pitches, he is a deception-first pitcher that’s knocking on the door of the show.
Preseason report card
Vines broke onto the scene in 2021, when he posted a 2.92 ERA across both A-ball levels, but the question remained on how his stuff would play against upper-level competition. Vines featured a pair of breaking balls and a changeup that all missed bats consistently, but was limited by a low-90s fastball with mediocre spin. He was able to control the zone well in 2021 and get ahead in the count to utilize his offspeed pitches effectively, but Double-A would be the first test of command that flashed plus but had little margin for error.
What we saw in 2022
Vines had a poor start to the 2022 season and for the first half of the year, posted a 5.45 ERA (4.91 FIP). It wasn’t that he missed fewer bats in 2022 — he had 86 strikeouts in 69 1⁄3 innings — or that he walked too many, but rather that when he got hit, he got hit hard. Often Vines would look good into the fourth or fifth inning but give up a big inning or a multi-run home run that tanked his overall line. He allowed 15 longballs in his first 69 1⁄3 innings in the pitcher-friendly Southern League with extremely pitcher-friendly Trustmark Park as his home field. The biggest fears about his below-average fastball seemed to be realized, but as the season progressed he became more confident in spinning breaking balls early in counts and was able to adjust his pitch arsenal to better take advantage of what worked for him. His curveball had previously been his go-to pitch, but it backed up significantly in 2022 and suddenly his changeup and slider were what worked best for him. He leaned on those in the second half and used the curveball sparingly as a pitch he just got over for strikes, and it made all the difference in his outcomes.
He broke out with seven scoreless innings on July 1 and across his next six starts, had a 1.19 ERA (2.55 FIP) with only one home run allowed in 37 2⁄3 innings. He parlayed that into a superb finish at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he allowed one home run over 33 2⁄3 innings while posting a 3.21 ERA (3.42 FIP). That being said, his strikeouts dipped and his walks increased at Triple-A with a lot of his success being attributable to sheer luck with a 2.6% HR/FB.
No player in the Braves system benefits more from the trade that sent Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok to Oakland, as it cleared out two huge obstacles to Vines making the major league roster in 2023. Vines was added to the 40-man roster in November, so he is now just a phone call away from the major leagues when the need arises. Vines has a slider and a changeup that both flash plus and has shown the ability to command the edges with both, though his fastball will limit him to being a back-end type starter. He can provide consistent innings and get high strikeout rates despite his low velocity, but he’s not yet given any indication as to a long term fix for his home run troubles. He needs to reverse the lower-strikeout, higher-walk trends that he showed in a small sample at Gwinnett last season, and if he can do so, his tendency for great peripherals will give him a better chance at sticking in a major league rotation.