It doesn’t seem like these CBA negotiations between MLB and MLBPA are going to end any time soon (c’mon best reverse jinx of all time). Don’t worry, we feel your pain. To help you get your Atlanta Braves fix while we wait for SOMETHING to happen, the Talking Chop minor league team got together to put together a roundtable series about the upcoming minor league season cleverly titled Talking Prospects.
For this installment, the question was posed as to which position player and pitching prospect we each were looking forward to seeing this coming season. Predictably, answers were all over the place and everyone was trying to name more than one player each. Hope you all enjoy it!
Eric: At this point, I just want baseball of any kind to happen. For me, there are two types of players that excite me the most going into a season, players that I think could make a big jump during a given season and players that I haven’t seen before that could be exciting. Ambioris Tavarez is my position player of choice here simply because we have no information on him and he has a really interesting toolset that I want to see. I do worry that the lack of a Braves DSL team could hamper him a bit, but he tops what is a lengthy lists of position players I want to see. On the pitching side, guys I haven’t seen like AJ Smith-Shawver and Adam Shoemaker are intriguing, but I am going to go with Spencer Strider. I want to see if the Braves are going to commit to him being a starter and, if so, what their plans are for him in 2022. I want to see how the secondary pitches are coming along. However, more than anything…I just want to see that fastball again.
Garrett: There are so many players I’m excited to see next year, partly because it’s the point in the offseason I just want to watch baseball again, but I’m going to go with Freddy Tarnok and Vaughn Grissom here. Both of these players are similar in how I evaluate them as players that are on the precipice of being in the “A” group of prospects but just need to show one or two more aspects of their game to get there. For Grissom I want to see how much he can take over from his short time in Rome last season and see if he can put up a strong season at the more difficult levels. I also am interested to watch his defensive development and whether the raw power starts to come in games. Tarnok is a player that mainly concerns me whether he’ll stay healthy for a full season and if he does I think we’re going to see him take his game to another level. He has a shot to play himself into major league consideration, though that’s somewhat unlikely, and is my bet to be the system’s top pitching prospect by the end of the season.
Matt: I could go a number of ways with the hitter, but I’m going to take Cristian Pache. The gains he made over the second half of the season with the bat helped erase the bad taste that his first half left in our mouth. I’m excited to see what he can do to build off that in 2022, whether it’s in Atlanta or if he begins in Gwinnett. It’s a very important season for Pache’s future and having some momentum going into 2022 is a good stepping stone for him. The pro debut of Ambioris Tavarez would be the runner up on my list, as he is the most promising international bat the team has added(and kept) since the Cristian Pache/Derian Cruz class more than a half a dozen years ago. The pitcher is a little harder to pick someone because there are so many options as Freddy Tarnok, Joey Estes, and Spencer Strider all come to mind among others, but I’m going to go with the newest addition to the pitching stable in AJ Smith-Shawver. Remember he’s a kid who was also a high school football star in Texas, so a full offseason training program and time working with pro coaches while devoting his time solely to baseball means potential for some interesting gains for him. It’s hard to take much of anything from his 8 1/3 innings in his pro debut, but with 16 strikeouts in those 8 1/3 innings, he did at least show some ability to miss bats in a very, very short sample.
Gaurav: For pitcher ,it’s a two-player race and the only reason I will choose Freddy Tarnok is because he’s further along his progression than Joey Estes. Tarnok, was an insanely raw pitcher when he was drafted with intangibles that made you salivate, but were all straight projection. What we’ve seen him do is improve in almost every single area, every single year and he’s now become a real pitching prospect. If he continues to develop at the rate he has the last two years, 2023 is looking like a year where he challenges the Braves to make a decision with him. Hitting wise, it’s the same - with a two player mix: Michael Harris II, and Vaughn Grissom. Because Harris is more advanced, I will shift focus to Vaughn who had a fantastic 2021 campaign. My main focus on him this year is to see that raw power start to develop a bit more and those liners in the gap start carrying a little more. Even if it doesn’t, he’s got a great skillset at the plate, but that eye along with slightly more power is another top 100 prospect for the Atlanta Braves.
Wayne: I have spoken pretty frequently about the pitcher I am most excited for in 2022. It is without a doubt Joey Estes. Everything took a leap forward this past season, whether it was his stuff, his command or just his moxie on the mound. His fastball and slider made Low-A hitters look foolish and his changeup, which was somewhat non-existent prior to 2021, flashed signs of life when he was on. He led Low-A in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts and will be 20 years old for the entirety of the 2022 season. With the big college arms ready for the big leagues, the Braves can exhibit patience with their young arm and I think he develops into a top-100 prospect this year. For a hitter, Vaughn Grissom is an easy choice. He’s simply fun to watch and very good at his craft. But because I am me, I will say I am excited to see how Bryson Horne matures up the pipeline. He had a good first year all things considered (like barely playing in 2020 when he was a MLB draft free agent signing for example) and while he won’t ever be a top-10 prospect, he could provide nice depth in the future. I also want to see Year Two from Jesse Franklin V and how real that power is.