Welcome back to the third installment of the top 25 prospects in the Atlanta Braves system, presented by Battery Power. As always we’ve been receiving a lot of support for the list, and we appreciate your comments and attention. If you haven’t been following along the links below will give you a chance to catch up on where we are at.
- Battery Power 2022 Preseason Top 25 prospects: Honorable Mentions
- Battery Power 2022 Preseason Top 25 prospects: 21-25
- Battery Power 2022 Preseason Top 25 prospects: 16-20
We now jump into the top 15 of the list, which is another collection that favors offensive talent. Four of the five names on this list have debuted with the organization over the past two years, and it includes our biggest under-the-radar name for the 2023 season.
15. Drake Baldwin - C
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2022 draft, 3rd round
After taking pitchers with their first four picks of the 2022 draft, the Braves deviated and selected catcher Drake Baldwin out of Missouri State with their third round pick. Playing in just 60 games total during his first two years at Missouri State while splitting time behind the plate and at DH, Baldwin matched his career number of games played in the 2022 season and made the most of it. In his junior campaign, Baldwin slashed .341/.448/.647 with 19 homers and 70 RBI while making 55 starts at catcher.
Baldwin only played three games at the Rookie-ball level — posting an OPS of 1.025 — and quickly found himself at Augusta where things tapered off a bit. But over his last ten games of the season, he started to put things together at the plate, slashing .376/.430/.546. Swinging it from the left side, Baldwin has an easy approach and has shown the ability to use his swing to hit to all areas of the field. While he’s certainly shown that the potential with the bat is there, questions still remain as to whether or not Baldwin can stick behind the plate.
His receiving and game calling made strides in both his collegiate and pro stints in 2022, but little was done to address the concerns about his arm strength and quickness in getting the ball out from behind the dish. While those are concerning factors for Baldwin realizing his full potential as a prospect, the Braves will certainly try to develop Baldwin as a full-time catcher and harness that potential. If things don’t work out behind the plate, Baldwin’s bat is enough to keep him in the running as a solid DH or first baseman long-term. Baldwin will be 22 by the time the 2023 season rolls around and is slated to start the year with Augusta but due to his age and position could find himself all the way up to Mississippi by season’s end if all breaks right.
14. Ignacio Alvarez - 3B
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2022 draft, 5th round
One of the more intriguing draftees of the 2022 class for Atlanta was Ignacio Alvarez, who makes his debut on our list at No. 14. Listed at 6-feet, 190-pounds, Alvarez was a fifth-round pick out of Riverside Community College in California. The 19-year-old Alvarez was profiled as a power-hitting third baseman but was unranked — and virtually unknown to most — by most prospect outlets at the time. But the Braves apparently saw enough athleticism and potential to knab the young bat in the fifth round and the early, albeit small, samples show that selection could pay dividends.
At Riverside CC, Alvarez hit .370 with five homers and 44 RBI across the 2022 season while posting a 1.076 OPS and swiping nine bags. Kicking off his pro career in the FCL, Alvarez posted an .811 OPS through 15 games. He then got the promotion to Augusta where he continued to post great numbers while still trying to find that power stroke that had him soar up the Braves draft board. In 15 games at Augusta, Alvarez slashed .294/.493/.373 to pair with a 160 wRC+, but failed to swat a long ball during his brief stint. While only playing in 30 games in 2022, those numbers show the kind of potential the Braves believe they got with their fifth round selection.
Alvarez has shown early on in his pro career that he has a great eye and a good feel for the zone, often working deep counts while being able to use the entire field. Defensively, Alvarez possesses a strong arm and has shown a good amount of range for his position, leading some to believe he has the potential to get more reps as a shortstop in the future and he did suit up at the position in 10 games for Augusta. Alvarez, who goes by the nickname ‘Nacho’, will turn 20 in April and figures to spend a lot of early time in Augusta but could earn the bump to Rome relatively soon if last year’s numbers were any indication of the type of player Alvarez can become.
13. Cal Conley - SS
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2021 draft, 4th round
Going into 2022, Conley was viewed solely as a light-hitting shortstop with an average glove and above average speed. A 4th round pick in 2021, the switch-hitting Conley produced a dismal .611 OPS over 35 games with Augusta in his first taste of pro ball. But Conley tapped into quite a bit more power in 2022. Across Low-A and High-A, Conley swatted 16 homers while posting an OPS of .738 across the two levels. He also managed a 108 wRC+ in his 44 games at High-A while seeing his walk rate tick up (9.5%). However, strikeouts were also on the rise for Conley to the tune of a 25.1% clip. Because of his production levels, Conley was selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League, which is where he began to make a bit of a name for himself to those unfamiliar with him among the prospect ranks. In 23 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions, Conley slashed .267/.376/.465 with 10 extra-base hits and 17 RBI. Conley was in the running for one of the final spots in the AFL all-star game, but ultimately lost out to teammate Justin Henry-Malloy, who has since been traded to Detroit in the Joe Jiminez deal.
Conley has good value due to his tools and his ability to play up the middle and can provide some depth for the Braves if he manages to put it all together. Conley figures to start his 2023 campaign back in Rome with the ability to quickly move up to Mississippi if his production continues to rise. While he still has the potential to be a quality utility piece for the Braves in the future, Conley will be 23-years-old at High-A for a majority of the season — depending on how long he’s there — so he will need to continue to build on his 2022 season or else he could find himself aged out of the Braves future plans.
12. Victor Vodnik - RHP
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2018 draft, 14th round
In terms of prospects on this list with the potential to make a significant impact at Truist in 2023, Vodnik is at or near the top of that list. Since being drafted in 2018, Vodnik has possessed some of the most tantalizing, yet raw potential throughout the Braves farm system. But, the injury bug has prevented him from realizing that full potential for the most part. Across four seasons, Vodnik has only logged 140.1 innings pitched in 69 games. With his smaller frame — standing at 6-feet, 200-pounds — injury concerns will continue to plague him until he shows he can stay on the mound for a significant portion of a full season.
After he made 11 starts in 2021 for Mississippi — while pitching to a 5.35 ERA across 33.2 innings — the decision was made to move Vodnik to the pen full-time, one which paid dividends. Making just seven appearances for Mississippi, Vodnik struck out 14 batters while only walking three without allowing a run, quickly getting promoted to Gwinnett. At Triple A, Vodnik pitched to the tune of a 2.93 ERA across 24 appearances while striking out 33.
While Vodnik’s fastball and offspeed pitches are among the best in the system when they’re at their peak, his control issues tend to get him in trouble. While at Gwinnett, Vodnik walked 16 batters over just 27.2 innings and in his professional career, is averaging 4.2 walks per nine innings. His fastball consistently sits in the upper 90’s and he flashes a good slider with a good amount of bite on it. He also utilized his changeup a good bit more in 2022, with it showing a good amount of life on it from time to time, giving him a potentially lethal three-pitch mix coming out of the pen if he can harness all of them.
The Braves elected to not protect Vodnik when the Rule 5 draft rolled around this offseason and no team took a flier on the righty, meaning he will remain in the Braves system for at least one more season. If Vodnik can continue to build upon his string of success at Triple A from a season ago, it’s within reason that the flame throwing right hander could join Atlanta’s pen at some point as the tools are too good to ignore, even if they come with a few concerns.
11. Diego Benitez - SS
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2022 international free agency
The Braves first big international signee since signing restrictions were lifted, we finally got our first pro stats for Diego Benitez on a professional level. And the early returns were… interesting. Signed out of Venezuela for $2.5 million, the 18-year-old spent his first summer in pro ball with the Dominican Summer League in 2022. We’ll preface this by saying Benitez still has a LOT of potential to be a future top prospect in the system. With that said, 2022 left more questions than answers for the young Venezuelan shortstop. In 43 games, Benitez flashed a great eye at the plate, drawing 29 walks in 182 plate appearances — good for a 15.2% BB rate — to help give him a .363 OBP for the year. Benitez managed to add a pair of homers to his credit.
A big, strong player for his age, the power and hit tools didn’t exactly pop off the screen in his first season as Benitez slashed .196/.363.283. Without being able to watch Benitez, it’s difficult to pinpoint just where he needs to make mechanical improvements. But with his age and ceiling, there’s still plenty of time for him to get his footing under him. Defensively, while he currently suits up at shortstop, most scouts believe third base is his future home given his plus arm. Benitez figures to start at rookie ball and pending results, he could get the bump up to full season at some point.