In this article we will take a look at how Braves prospects fared during the season in the complex leagues, now that those seasons have come to an end. For those not familiar with the term, the complex leagues are the lowest levels of the minor leagues. The FCL is the league where new draftees are sent along with the youngest international free agents ready to play in the United States. The DSL is a step below that, a league made up of basically only former international free agent signings, players so young and raw that they aren’t ready to be sent to the US to play yet.
This article will only cover players who were on the DSL/FCL Braves rosters, which has to be noted as one of the more significant prospects in the system was on the FCL roster all year without appearing in a game.
The big names here are the kids who the Braves signed as international free agents earlier this year. Diego Benitez is the biggest name of the group, and the 17-year old shortstop had a mixed bag of results. Benitez hit .196/.363/.283 with two homers and a team leading 27 RBI in 182 plate appearances. The average wasn’t there and the power wasn’t either, but he showed strong on base ability as he drew 29 walks to 37 strikeouts to post that .363 OBP. The lack of power isn’t an issue, it’s the league itself and just how young the Braves roster is - which is why the team hit just 17 combined homers in 60 games, but it will be something you hope he starts to show more of in the next year or two.
The second biggest name in that IFA class is 17-year old outfielder Douglas Glod, and he got off to a late start to the year but still got 128 plate appearances. Glod hit .202/.352/.356 with 2 homers and 22 walks to 36 strikeouts. Glod started slow but seemed to start to adjust and finish strong.
Two more of the bigger names in the most recent class are 17-year olds as well. Outfielder Robert Gonzalez hit .264/.342/.373 with 2 homers, 12 steals, and 26 RBI and had 25 walks to 51 strikeouts in 240 plate appearances. Catcher Alexander Martinez hit .244/.296/.335 with 2 homers and 26 RBI in 176 plate appearances with 12 walks and 33 strikeouts.
The highest OPS on the team belonged to 18-year old 3B Luis Sanchez - but note the average age of this team is 17.2 years old, so when you see an 18-year old (or older) having success in the league you have to take it with a real grain of salt. Sanchez hit .287/.432/.347 in 132 plate appearances, hitting one homer and stealing 13 bases as he walked 21 times to just 10 strikeouts.
The final player on this roster who had an OPS above .700 is 17-year old outfielder Maximo Maria, a player you can say had the most successful season of the DSL hitters on the Braves team. Maria had 180 plate appearances and hit .201/.380/.345 with a team leading 4 homers and 12 steals. Maria walked an impressive 34 times, but also struck out 58 times. Beyond the homers, he had 6 doubles and a triple to show some power, speed, and on base ability to work with. Maria wasn’t a significant signing this past winter in terms of his signing bonus (under $100k), but he is a guy we will be watching closely in 2023 because of his skill set. The strikeouts will be a concern, but there could be something here.
Among other hitters Elian Cortorreal (.663 OPS), Cristian Suarez (.644 OPS, last week received a PED suspension), Yorlis Lendor (.628 OPS), and Leiker Figueroa (.570 OPS, 17 steals) played quite a bit and at least deserved mentioning.
The star pitcher is probably 17-year old Didier Fuentes, who had a 2.25 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 50 strikeouts to 10 walks in 44 innings. Fuentes led the team with the 11 starts he made, and had the lowest ERA and WHIP on the team if you exclude overage players.
The overage players with better numbers than Fuentes are 20-year old Rolando Gutierrez (1.38 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 26 IP), 19-year old Jancarlos Lara (1.78 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 30.1 IP), and 18-year old Jose Chavez (1.91 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 33 IP). As mentioned above all of these numbers need to be taken with a real grain of salt due to being older than their competition.
Jhonly Taveras is a 17-year old with a 3.05 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 44.1 innings, and he struck out 39 but walked 30. Jhonny Martinez is a 17-year old who posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 27.1 IP with 32 strikeouts to 24 walks. The highest K/9 on the team went to 17-year old Davis Polo, who had a 5.03 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 19.2 innings, striking out 26 to just 6 walks.
The biggest stories here are probably the top prospect who debuted and the top prospect who didn’t play. We will start with 2021’s top international free agent, shortstop Ambioris Tavarez - a player making his pro debut here since the Braves weren’t participating in the DSL last year. Tavarez got a late start and only had 69 plate appearances, but hit .277/.304/.385 with four doubles, a homer, three steals, and 3 walks to 28 strikeouts. It wasn’t eye-popping, but as an 18-year old making his pro debut in a new country he more than held his own. Tavarez will need to continue to get stronger to allow his natural power to start showing up more and also will need to improve his approach - but these are normal things with kids that age who sign internationally.
Last year’s overslot 8th round pick Tyler Collins started the opener here, missed a bunch of time, came back and continued to deal with more health stuff and played a total of four games. Collins went 2-12 with 4 walks in what ended up being a lost season for him due to injury.
Jair Casanova is an 18-year old outfielder who hit .289/.391/.356 with a homer and 24 walks to 34 strikeouts in 179 plate appearances. 20-year old outfielder Ethan Workinger hit .239/.308/.419 with 4 homers and a total of 17 extra base hits, eventually earning a callup to Augusta when the FCL season ended.
Pretty much the entire Braves draft class debuted here, though six of the bats moved up before receiving more than 12 plate appearances so we won’t get into that group of six here. Among the draftees who actually saw regular playing time in the FCL were outfielders Kevin Kilpatrick, Christian Jackson, and Noah Williams, and infielders Cory Acton and Nacho Alvarez.
Alvarez hit .279/.392/.419 with a homer and seven walks to six strikeouts in 51 plate appearances. That was the most plate appearances for any of the 2022 draftees in the FCL. Right behind him was Acton, who hit .219/.375/.281 in 40 plate appearances.
Among the outfielders Kilpatrick was the best, hitting .320/.414/.400 in 29 plate appearances, while Jackson (.392 OPS in 30 PA) and Williams (.590 OPS in 34 PA) were making the adjustment from high school to the pros.
Three more hitters who did something of note included two undrafted free agents. The undrafted free agents were outfielder Bryson Worrell, who hit .333/.455/.556 in 33 PA, and catcher Harry Owen, who hit .22/.364/.389 in 22 PA. The third is Jeremy Celedonio, who hit .177/.391/.412 with 2 homers in 46 PA.
The pitching started the year with two names on the roster that stood out. Spencer Schwellenbach is the player noted above as the guy who didn’t play, as he was rehabbing from a Tommy John surgery last summer.
The other was also a 2021 draftee, in Canadian prep lefty Adam Shoemaker. Shoemaker’s overall line wasn’t pretty (5.73 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 30 K to 19 BB in 33 IP), but he did show real flashes of why the Braves went overslot to sign him. This was always the profile of a kid who was going to take a while to develop, so he’s pretty much where you’d expect him to be right now.
Outside of Shoemaker only six other players threw 20+ innings this year. One of them (Kris Anglin) was traded to Detroit, and another is an overage kid who had an ERA of 9.86, so there are only four guys outside of Shoemaker who had a significant sized role on this team worth talking about.
19-year old Albert Rivas led the team in innings pitched with 42.2 and posted a 4.85 ERA and 1.36 WHIP with 45 strikeouts to 10 walks. 21-year old Jorge Bautista dominated with a 2.41 ERA and 0.83 WHIP and 45 strikeouts to 8 walks in 37.1 IP, but struggled after promotion to Augusta. 19-year old Miguel Hernandez had a 6.17 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, and 19-year old Giomar Diaz had a 3.63 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 21 K to 10 BB in 22.1 IP.
The others of note are the 2022 draftees. Removing Ian Mejia, Blake Burkhalter, and Landon Harper from this list as they each threw an inning or less, we saw Seth Keller, Cedric De Grandpre, JR Ritchie, Owen Murphy, William Silva, and Jason Franks debut here. Adam Maier and Cole Phillips didn’t pitch anywhere as they continue their recovery from injuries.
Murphy couldn’t have been better here. His first start saw him go two innings and give up one hit and no walks or runs while striking out four. The second outing was three scoreless innings with one hit, no walks, and three strikeouts. That was enough to earn him a trip to Augusta, as he pitched 5 scoreless innings and allowed just two hits and no walks with seven strikeouts.
Ritchie made two appearances at two innings apiece and also didn’t allow a run. The first one he gave up a hit and no walks with a strikeout. Then in the second game he gave up a hit and a walk with three strikeouts, before he also got moved up to Augusta.
Keller pitched two games and had mixed results. The first one saw him walk or hit all five batters he faced. Then the second game saw him pitch two scoreless and hitless innings with one walk and one strikeout.
De Grandpre pitched three scoreless innings, giving up a hit and no walks with four strikeouts and earned a promotion once the season ended. Silva gave up two hits and two walks while striking out two over 4 scoreless innings before a promotion to Augusta. Franks had the most innings out of the draftees in the FCL, pitching 6.2 and posting a 8.10 ERA and 1.95 WHIP.