It doesn’t seem like these CBA negotiations between MLB and MLBPA are going to end any time soon. 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 put together a roundtable series about the upcoming minor league season cleverly titled Talking Prospects.
While we have covered a lot of the big names from the Braves 2021 draft class, for this installment we focused on some of the “dark horse” prospects from the class. There is a good chance none of these will be correct and someone we didn’t name will shoot on to our radar, but that is the name of the game. Enjoy!
Eric: I don’t know if he is a dark horse per se, but I get the feeling that AJ Smith-Shawver is going to be heavily on our minds during the course of this season. He is a raw arm, but the reports on his stuff are highly encouraging and we are expecting a guy who is going to get a lot of swings and misses. I also think that for a senior sign, the Braves got a bit lucky to add Luke Waddell to their system. I don’t see much of a ceiling with him, but the guy can just hit.
Garrett: I’m going to go with Andrew Hoffman. I like the high school players that Atlanta picked up in the last draft and they are all candidates here, but they will all likely play the entire season at rookie ball or Low-A. Hoffman has the potential to move to a much higher level and still has enough potential to be an exciting arm that shows us new aspects of his game. I love the fastball and the movement on it and his offspeed stuff is only a bit of development away from making him a legitimate starting pitching prospect. I still need to see more from him, but there is a lot to like in the short glimpses I’ve gotten thus far.
Matt: It’s not a sexy profile, but Cal Conley has a chance to be a very intriguing piece similar to a Tommy Edman of the Cardinals. One of those players who isn’t the most toolsy, but he’s got some tools and gets the most out of what he does have. The other guy I really considered is Justyn Henry-Malloy, a player whose bat has intrigued me for the last 4-5 years now. He can absolutely hit and has some power, but the defensive questions will need to be answered.
Gaurav: Justyn-Henry Malloy. If he can stick it at third, and hit for average with his supreme walk rate, that is a talent you find a way to get on a roster. If he taps into his raw power, that’s an extremely gifted third baseman who looks like he can handle third, hit for a good average, walk at an elite rate, and potentially hit for power.
Wayne: The correct answer here is Andrew Hoffmann. Four of his seven starts fell on nights that I did the Talking Chop MiLB recap so I got to watch him, and he is exciting. Yes, he was a college arm pitching in Low-A, but he was more polished than I believed him to be. Now, that said, I HAVE to go with Dylan Spain here. Spain last pitched for Hawaii Hilo in DII way back in 2019, which seems like a lifetime ago. He wasn’t known as a big strikeout pitcher or even much of a command guy that gets people out. Instead, he was drafted after a workout, added some velocity, and came out of nowhere to strike out 21 batters in 17 2/3 innings without allowing a run. If he climbs the ladder as bullpen depth, this is a great story.