Welcome back to Battery Power’s top 25 Atlanta Braves preseason prospect list, as we now enter the home stretch of this series. We’ve already put together four articles of prospects which you can catch up with below and we’re now entering the top 10 of the system.
- 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
- Battery Power 2022 Preseason Top 25 prospects: 11-15
This is the first list that hints at how pitcher-heavy the system is, with each of the top nine prospects on our list being pitchers. This part of the list also has the highest variance in prospect status, with three players with little to no professional experience along with two pitchers who could make their major league debuts in 2023.
10. Ambioris Tavarez - SS
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2021 international free agency
All eyes will be on Ambioris Tavarez who surprised us all last Spring Training by coming into a couple of games with the big league team. The marquee signing from two years ago, Tavarez has just 65 AB (17 games) of professional experience so far in his career because he needed thoracic outlet surgery on his non-throwing arm. Following the trade of Justyn-Henry Malloy, Tavarez is our top rated positional prospect in the Braves farm system so while nothing relies on him, him taking a huge step forward in his first full season would be a very welcome event for the organization.
Tavarez’s calling card is his offense. While the Braves will try everything they can to keep him at short, because of his size he could transition to third and he certainly has the arm for it as can be seen by his 60 graded arm. With special bat speed and tons of raw power he has a chance to be an elite offensive prospect that can provide more than adequate defense.
9. Dylan Dodd - LHP (Garrett)
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2021 draft, 3rd round
When Atlanta selected left handed pitcher Dylan Dodd with their third round pick last season there was an expectation that he could follow a similar path to 2020 5th rounder Bryce Elder. While Dodd’s early season struggles dampened those hopes a bit, he turned his season around and put himself in the conversation for a major league spot in 2023. Dodd posted a 6.44 ERA and allowed four home runs over his first six starts before rampaging across three levels with a 2.56 ERA the remainder of the season. He had a 1.96 ERA and 2.59 FIP in his final ten starts at High-A Rome before that stretch earned him a promotion to Mississippi on July 17th. In nine starts there, he saw his strikeout rate increase as he whiffed 55 batters in 46 1⁄3 innings while putting up a 2.89 FIP. This earned Dodd a one game taste of Triple-A, where he showed no problems adjusting as he posted seven strikeouts over five one-run innings.
Far from the prototype of a soft-tossing college lefty, Dodd’s best pitch is his four seam fastball. Featuring spin rates pushing into elite range and velocity he can ramp up to 96 mph, Dodd is perhaps not a flame-thrower, but still possesses an above average fastball. This comes together with a deceptive delivery that makes his fastball a pitch that can produce high level whiff rates. Dodd’s best secondary is a fading changeup that is built off of the action of his fastball and has been the source of yet more strikeouts at the minor league level. Dodd is making strides with a slider but as of now it projects more as a fringe average, third offering and will need continued development for him to reach his full potential. With a three-pitch mix, above average command, and success at the upper levels Dodd has positioned himself as a name to watch in 2023.
8. Adam Maier - RHP
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2022 draft, 7th round
The Braves seventh round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft was a bit of a surprise to some, as Adam Maier was fully expected to return to Oregon for 2023. Maier transferred into UO from University of British Columbia in Canada and got off to a hot start, following a very strong 2021 Cape Cod League stint. However Maier suffered an injury just three starts in, and would miss the rest of the season. Shortly after the injury, an internal brace stabilization surgery, he and his coach, publicly stated that Maier would be coming back next season.
The Braves came calling and offered a well above slot bonus for a kid who showed glimpses of being a Top 50 pick last summer had he not been injured. Maier has a plus slider that can get swings and misses, an average to slightly above fastball, and an above-average change to go with solid command and good spin rates. He is also young for his draft class, not turning 21 until late-November.
Maier has a ton of potential, but is also a bit of a wildcard as he has made three college starts in the US plus 26 innings in the Cape. He also lacks innings at his Canadian college, as he threw just 19 innings in 2020 before the shutdown, and they didn’t play ball there last spring. His big league ETA is a bit of a question mark considering the lack of college innings and return from injury. It isn’t out of the question to say he could become a No 2 or 3 starter, and he may take until some time in 2025 before we see him in Atlanta, but he is a guy worth following closely.
7. Darius Vines - RHP
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2019 draft, 7th round
Darius Vines had a sneakily good 2022 season, putting up some of the top individual starts in the system. Vines’s overall numbers weren’t much to write home about with a 3.95 ERA and 4.08 FIP as an older pitcher in Double-A, but he was deceptively effective and was often hurt late in starts by home runs. Vines had three double-digit strikeout games and 127 total strikeouts in 107 innings with his biggest statistical flaw being the 16 home runs he allowed. When he finally did manage to avoid the long ball, he went on a tear with a 1.48 ERA and 2.64 FIP across his final eight starts at Mississippi. Vines earned a late season promotion to Gwinnett and made seven appearances with a 3.21 ERA and only one home run allowed, but suffered a distinct regression in his other peripherals. Vines struck out only 20.3% of Triple-A batters while walking 9.8%, both of those being career worsts for him at any level.
Vines has an atypical profile especially for a right handed pitcher, and he is built around utilizing his secondary pitches as often as possible. HIs best is a devastating vertical slider seen more commonly with power pitchers, but he is able to locate it well in the lower part of the zone and get some ugly swings-and-misses. He also features a second plus offspeed pitch with his changeup and this combination allows him to pitch effectively to both left and right-handed batters. He also features a slow curveball as a change of pace pitch to steal strikes, but its utilization dropped throughout the season to being nearly non-existent by the time he hit Gwinnett. This secondary profile is as good as any in the Braves system, but his fastball sits at just 88-92 mph with mediocre spin rates and that has consistently gotten him in trouble at every level. The home run problems are a result of him not being able to make mistakes in the zone without it being hit hard, and it limits what would otherwise be a fantastic profile. He also saw a bit of regression with his command last season, though as his pitch mix evolved, he seemed to find a grip that helped him avoid fastball counts and center-cut mistakes with more regularity. Vines is now on the 40-man roster which gives him a leg up on earning a spot in the starting rotation, but it is unclear whether his fastball is going to be good enough to allow him to be a consistent performer. Right now Vines profiles as a high-floor number five/swing man who can turn in dazzling performances on the occasions he keeps the ball in the yard.
6. Spencer Schwellenbach - RHP
How he got to the Atlanta Braves: 2021 draft, 2nd round
Spencer Schwellenbach is arguably the hardest player in the system to place on the list. The organization, Dana Brown in particular, adore Schwellenbach’s pitch metrics, makeup, and lack of mileage on his arm. The problem with projecting Schwellenbach, who will turn 23 this season, is that he hasn’t pitched at the professional level due to Tommy John surgery. When he did pitch at the amateur level it was only 18 games in relief for Nebraska. Ranking Schwellenbach at six is, one, an indictment of the system, but also a test of faith in the Braves scouting department and the utility of metric-based scouting.
Make no mistake here, had the elbow injury not popped up on his medicals Schwellenbach would have been the Braves first round pick in 2021. They loved him that much. There is certainly reason to trust them there as well. Under Brown, the Braves have been better than anyone at turning athletic and under-valued players into top prospects. Schwellenbach was also quite good at Nebraska with a 0.57 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 2⁄3 innings. Schwellenbach generates easy mid 90’s heat that tops out at 99 mph, mixes in the vertical slider the Braves love to teach their pitchers, and has shown feel for a changeup as an average to above average pitch. He has top tier athleticism that gives the team confidence he will command his pitches well, and if he returns to being that player after Tommy John surgery, he will be in the conversation for the top prospect in the system. There are a lot of “ifs” regarding Schwellenbach, but barring any set backs, we should finally get answers when he debuts in a Braves uniform in 2023.