Luke Waddell is one of the system’s forgotten prospects and in all of the excitement of the 2022 season, he was hit with an injury and stayed on the backburner all season. Despite good performance at the Double-A level, Waddell hasn’t gotten much mention in any conversation about the Braves system and that isn’t wholly fair to him.
Preseason report card
The Atlanta Braves drafted Luke Waddell out of Georgia Tech with their fifth-round pick in 2021, and he made a solid professional debut with Rome that season. Mostly, he was carried by the most absurd week of his career in which he won Player of the Week for the entirety of minor league baseball with a 1.924 OPS and six home runs in six games. Despite that little outburst, Waddell was not known, at all, as a power hitter, but an OBP-focused middle infielder with versatility and experience. He was a player the team thought could progress quickly and likely become a valuable bench piece in the near future.
What we saw in 2022
The answer to the above question is, unfortunately, not much. Waddell played two months for the Mississippi Braves before going on the Injured List at the end of May and not appearing in another game. Waddell was characteristically shy on power, which was especially unsurprising given the offensive environment he played in, but his other traits were impressive. He drew more walks than he had strikeouts while putting up a .272/.364/.370 line for the M-Braves. He also showed off good defensive actions, though his arm is his ultimate limiter and makes him more of an emergency option on the left side of the infield.
30-grade power limits Waddell’s ceiling and fringe average defense at shortstop eliminates the opportunity to create substantial value in other ways, but there is still a high-probability major league player in him somewhere. In some capacity, teams can find a way to use a player who can play reasonably well at all three infield positions while showing a double-plus hit tool. Waddell’s power is limited, but he’s not a guy who just beats the ball into the ground, rather seeking out line drives and hitting the ball hard on a consistent basis, just without the top-end raw power to hit home runs. He should be able to carve out a role with the Braves as a utility bat off of the bench, and while blocked by Ozzie Albies could be a low-end starter at second base in a weaker organization.