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A first glance at the 2022 FCL and DSL Braves

With the FCL (former GCL) and DSL underway, here is a look at how the Braves prospects at the lowest levels have fared so far.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The seasons for the Florida Complex League Braves (the former Gulf Coast League before MILB changes) and the Dominican Summer League Braves got started back on June 6th. Our current plan is to give semi-regular updates on how the kids in complex ball are doing although how regular these updates come is going to depend a bit on who is playing and, well, how much there is to update.

The rosters aren’t exactly loaded with a ton of talent right now, at least not until the draft which will help to restock the lower levels of the farm system. However, there are three very significant prospects down at these levels in Ambioris Tavarez, Diego Benitez, and Tyler Collins.

It is worth noting before we get any further that the Braves did not participate in DSL games last season and with the missed minor league season of 2020, there is going to be some level of newness to being pros for some of these guys as well as shaking off some rust for others. The other thing to remember is that these leagues are bare bones with no video and very little information coming in or out from them.

FCL Braves

Roster

The biggest names here are Tavarez and Collins, but unfortunately there isn’t much to report with them. Tavarez, the top international signing back in what would normally be considered the 2021 July 2 class and the first big Braves IFA since they faced significant sanctions for the actions of the former front office, has yet to play a game. This is likely due to an injury or setback of some sort as he has yet to make his pro debut and there isn’t really any reason for him to not be playing games here or at the very least in the DSL.

With Collins, the Braves overslot eighth round pick last year out of a Texas high school, he started the first game and went 1-for-4 with a walk, but left the game early. He hasn’t played since missing the last week of action. It is very likely he is dealing with some sort of injury although we don’t have confirmation on what has held him out.

Braves 2021 second round pick Spencer Schwellenbach is also listed on the roster, but he is a guy on a rehab assignment instead of actually being assigned here. He has yet to make his debut as he returns from the Tommy John surgery that ended his 2021 season. Schwellenbach is expected to debut this season and it appears that he will at least start out in the FCL, though it is unclear how long he will remain once he gets into action.

The final notable prospect that most fans will recognize the name of is Adam Shoemaker, the projectable Canadian lefty that the Braves went overslot to grab in the 11th round last year. Shoemaker has appeared in four games (three starts) giving up eight runs over 6.2 innings as he has struck out nine and walked seven. As a taller pitcher at 6’6, who is still filling out his 205-pound body the command issues we’ve seen over the short sample size aren’t exactly a surprise.

One of the top performers so far is 18-year old outfielder Jair Casanova who is hitting .318/.423/.409 with a pair of doubles and four walks in his first 26 plate appearances. Casanova isn’t as big of a name as some of these other prospects, but he is a guy who we will be monitoring.

Antonio Barranca, a 20-year old catcher who signed as an undrafted free agent out of high school in 2020, is hitting .135/.347/.270 with a homer and a pair of doubles through 49 plate appearances. His high on base percentage is boosted by the fact that he’s already up to 10 walks on the short season. Barranca isn’t the biggest prospect, but is a guy with some potential.

The top pitcher on the staff has been 21-year old Rainiery Rodriguez, who did appear in 10 games with Augusta last season. Rodriguez has pitched nine innings between two starts this year and has posted a 0.00 ERA and 0.33 WHIP with eight strikeouts.

Other hitters who have performed well would be 20-year old 2021 undrafted free agent outfielder Ethan Workinger (.280/.333/.520 with 2 2B, 2 3B) and 27-year old catcher Arden Pabst (.771 OPS and 2 HR), a former Pirates draft pick out of Georgia Tech.

The only other pitcher who has achieved solid results so far has been 30-year old Jason Creasy (0.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP with 6 K in 3 IP), a former eighth round pick by the Pirates back in 2011.

DSL Braves

Roster

The two biggest names here are the two biggest international free agents from what would normally be the July 2 class of 2021, Diego Benitez and Douglas Glod. Both were among the Top 30 prospects in the international class according to Baseball America.

The pro debut by Benitez has gone well so far. In 24 plate appearances, the shortstop has hit .235/.458/.412 with a homer and a stolen base. He has also drawn seven walks to just five strikeouts. Obviously this is just the DSL and stats and competition are always major question marks, but for a 17-year old top prospect it is hard to ask for much more in the first handful of pro at bats.

Glod has yet to appear yet in a game at this point, so he may be dealing with an injury or the team may not think the 17-year old is ready just yet.

A third member of this most recent IFA class has actually stood out even more than Benitez so far is 17-year old catcher Alexander Martinez. Martinez wasn’t quite as hyped as Benitez or even Glod at the time of his signing, but he was seen as a pretty good prospect on his own. So far he is hitting .429/.500/.714 with three doubles and a homer through 24 plate appearances.

A fourth member of this recent IFA class has also hit well, 17-year old outfielder Robert Gonzalez. Through 24 plate appearances Gonzalez is hitting .364/.417/.636 with a double, triple, and homer. He gives the Braves another interesting bat to watch from this most recent group that has a chance to be a group to remember.

Other hitters who have done well include 17-year old shortstop Elian Cortorreal (.278/.364/.333), 18-year old shortstop Luis Sanchez (.294/.455/.471), and 17-year old catcher Alen Pineda (.300/.533/.500 with 2 2B). Each of this trio also just signed in January with the most recent IFA class.

Among the pitchers who have had success are 18-year old Jose Chavez (0.00 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with five strikeouts and 3 saves in 5.2 IP), 16-year old Didier Fuentes (2.2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 4 K), and 17-year old Jhonny Martinez (4 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K).

Obviously all of these stats, both the good and bad, are extremely small sample size and no real judgements can be made at this time. However this should give you a look at what has been going on at the lowest levels of the Braves farm system at a time when it has as much high end talent as we’ve seen since the 2017 class (the one that was since freed as a sanction).