As the calendar flipped over to February, spring training month is officially here with pitchers and catchers set to report to camp on the 15th and the first games being played on the 24th.
The Atlanta Braves announced their list of non-roster invitees to big league camp earlier this week and the list features a notable amount of Braves’ farm hands as well as a glaring omission or two.
The Braves added three players to their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft and all three of them will be making their spring training debuts as part of the official roster.
Roddery Munoz, Braden Shewmake and Darius Vines will all report to camp hoping to perform well enough to garner serious consideration to making the big league club.
Munoz, 22, made his way to Double A last year, but spun a 9.82 ERA in just three games. However, the Braves see enough potential in Munoz to be added to the roster and will now get an advanced look at him in the spring.
Vines, 24, has turned some heads after an abysmal start to his pro career. He made it all the way to Triple A in 2022 and put up solid numbers in 7 appearances with a 3.21 ERA and a .228 OAA.
Drafted as a potential future starter up the middle for the Braves, Shewmake, 25, has seen his stock drop a bit since being taken in the 2019 draft.
He’ll come into camp hoping to reclaim some of the initial spark and intrigue he created when he was initially drafted and vye for a bench spot, although he figures to head back to Triple A to start the year.
Topping the list of prospects headed to big league camp is Jared Shuster. While Shuster most likely won’t make a large enough impact in the spring to merit a spot in the Braves rotation out of the gate, it will be a prime opportunity for him to show what strides he has taken and put him in a prime position for consideration when additions to the rotation are needed.
The 24-year-old lefty spun a 2.78 ERA in 17 appearances at Double A before getting the bump up to Gwinnett where he got hit around a bit and posted a 4.25 ERA in 48 ⅔ innings.
If all goes well in spring training, it could position Shuster for a spot in the major league rotation as early as the summer rolls around.
Other noteworthy non-roster invitee arms, Blake Burkhalter, Dylan Dodd, Victor Vodnik, Alan Rangel and Brooks Wilson all received invites.
Burkhalter is still a bit of an unknown at the professional level as he only appeared in 3 games in the FCL and at Augusta. In his one appearance with the Green Jackets however, the 22-year-old righthander struck out 7 across 4 ⅔ innings while only walking 1. The spring will be an interesting one for Burkhalter as it remains to be seen if the Braves prefer using him as a starter or if they view him solely as a bullpen arm.
Dodd and Vodnik arguably have the most to prove with their time in camp this year among all the Braves arms. Both figure to factor into the Braves rotation and bullpen plans at some point in the near future but yet neither have a long track record of success at the upper minors.
With a solid spring — combined with showing he can stay healthy for a majority of the season — Vodnik could force his way into the Braves bullpen plans soon.
The Braves will plan to keep Dodd as a starter for as long as he continues to put up solid numbers but could make his way into the Braves pen as a solid LHRP as a worst-case scenario.
Rangel, 25, and Wilson, 26, come into camp hoping for a chance to prove they can provide solid bullpen depth for the club.
Both righthanders were Braves farmhands in 2022 but elected free agency at the end of the season. They both signed MiLB deals with the club during the offseason and are now headed to big league camp.
Position-wise, the Braves invited six of their top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
Tyler Tolve and 2022 draftee Drake Baldwin lead the prospect group in terms of catchers while infielders Cal Conley and Luke Waddell received invites of their own. Outfielders Justin Dean and Cody Milligan received invites as well.
Out of the position players group, Conley figures to be the top guy to watch as his stock has risen significantly since being drafted in 2021. Being drafted as a light-hitting shortstop, Conley’s recent power output and above average tools have put him in a good position to give the Braves a potential solid utility piece down the road.
Perhaps the biggest name left off the list of invitees is Jesse Franklin.
The 24-year-old outfielder played in just 15 games in 2022 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, ending his season prematurely.
Franklin dominated during his time in Rome in 2021, posting an .842 OPS with 24 homers and 19 stolen bases.
His numbers dipped a bit when getting the bump up to MIssissippi, albeit in the short sample of 15 games.
While the Braves could just be overly cautious with Franklin’s rehab, it was interesting to see his name not on the list although he could be added to the roster later on in spring training.
2022 draftees such as Ignacio Alvarez and David McCabe could also see some at-bats in spring training at some point.