This past January, the Braves made their first full foray back into the international free agent market after being sanctioned by MLB for three years (in addition to losing a bunch of IFA signees). The Braves did make a big splash upon their return, though, with the top signing being infielder Diego Benitez out of Venezuela. Below you will find a quick rundown of how his first season in the Braves organization went and what we think of him going forward.
Preseason Report Card
We didn’t have Benitez ranked on our preseason prospect rankings because of the timing of when those rankings came out. However, in an update to the rankings that we provided to the Mississippi Braves for their gameday program in 2022, we had him ranked as the 14th-best prospect in the Braves farm system. Looking back, that feels about right for that time period.
What we saw in 2022
Because Benitez was a teenage IFA signing, he went to the Dominican Summer League for the 2022 season and the results were honestly mixed. His slash line of .196/.363/.283 is definitely a weird one and without being able to watch his games, it is hard to parse. We love seeing him walk as much as he did, but he also didn’t really impact the ball much, with just eight extra-base hits in 43 games. Moreover, he also struck out quite a bit, which is less than ideal this early in his pro career. It’s hard to draw too many conclusions here as the Braves didn’t even have a DSL team last year, but we can say with some confidence that Benitez isn’t on the fast track to the majors at the moment.
As is the case with a few of the international guys from the last couple of years, we firmly believe that COVID put a lot of these young guys (and their teams) behind. It has been difficult over the last couple of years to put scouts and coaches in position to evaluate younger players on the field on a number of levels. That said, Benitez was a top 10 international free agent in his class with tantalizing offensive potential, even he doesn’t end up sticking at shortstop. While his numbers in the DSL weren’t awe-inspiring, we aren’t putting a ton of stock in them given the context of the last couple of years. We expect him to play Rookie ball next season with a chance to make it to full season ball by the end of the year if he performs well. He still has the ceiling to be a “top prospect in the farm system”-type of talent, and we won’t be shocked at all if he gets there, although it is fair to say that he has a ways to go.