Opening day for the 2023 minor league season is so close one can almost taste it. Or that might just be this morning’s breakfast, but I digress.
With just a few weeks away from the first MiLB recap to hit our site for the season, Atlanta’s top prospects have continued to show out and be active thus far in spring training.
This will be our second of four installments of updates on Braves minor leaguers in big league camp combined with notable news and notes from the past week.
Top Prospects Performance
As we inch closer and closer to the start of the regular season, the Braves are attempting to get more at-bats for their regulars and guys most-likely to be in Atlanta on opening day, therefore cutting down on the amount of time prospects are seeing the field.
But over the past week, some prospects have continued to put up some good outings in limited samples.
Pitching-wise, Jared Shuster continued to dominate Grapefruit League hitters in two starts last week. Against Boston, the 24-year-old southpaw went three innings while allowing just one walk and striking out four. Fast-forward to Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh and Shuster doubled down on his stellar performances on the week. Across 3 ⅔ innings, Shuster’s only blemish was a mistake to Bryan Reynolds which resulted in a home run. Other than that, Shuster whiffed 5 more batters on the day and has cemented himself as a legitimate candidate to reach Atlanta in the first half of the season if he continues to build.
As Garrett Spain wrote last week, Dodd had been excellent through two starts this spring, before running into a buzzsaw of a lineup in an exhibition match against the Dominican Republic. Heading into the matchup last Wednesday, Dodd had spun 4 ⅓ innings with seven strikeouts and no runs or walks allowed. Those numbers took a turn as in just 2 ⅔ innings against the D.R., Dodd allowed five runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2. While those numbers aren’t encouraging, it’s important to note the potency of the D.R. lineup and will likely be the best lineup Dodd faces for quite a while. At the very least it serves as a great learning experience for the young lefty.
Out of the bullpen, the Braves also got to see more from their youngsters. Victor Vodnik had a few noteworthy outings in relief. Against Boston, the hard-throwing righty allowed just one hit across ⅔ of an inning. However, against Tampa just a few days later, he allowed one run on one hit while striking out two in one inning. In 5 games, Vodnik has 6 strikeouts with an ERA of 15.43 in just 4 ⅔ innings.
Also out of the pen, Alan Rangel spun 1 ⅔ innings against the D.R. while preventing a single batter to reach.
One of the more intriguing arms who did not make an appearance last week was Roddery Munoz, who had appeared in two games while not allowing a run and striking out one batter. Thus far. Munoz would be optioned to Triple-A on Friday.
Offensively, Braden Shewmake has continued to see an uptick in playing time, mostly at shortstop. In two games last week, Shewmake went 2-6 with a run scored and an RBI against Detroit in Saturday’s matchup. After starting slow in February, Shewmake has turned things around in March to the tune of an OPS of 1.000. He will start today’s game against Baltimore batting leadoff and playing shortstop.
Meanwhile Cal Conley continues to have a spring to forget. Appearing in just one game against Toronto on Thursday, Conley went hitless, dropping him down to a .100 average in March.
Behind the plate, Drake Baldwin continued to see most of the playing time for Braves farmhands, getting into Sunday’s game against the Pirates.
Elsewhere in the field, Justin Dean, Cade Bunnell, KeShawn Ogans and Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. all got playing time last week. Meanwhile, Cody Milligan saw the most action among Braves positional prospects, appearing in 3 games, all of which were in the outfield.
Minor League News
The Braves continue to trim down their total number of players in big league camp after last week’s performances.
Victor Vodnik, Cal Conley and Luke Waddell were all reassigned to minor league camp on Friday as Seth Elledge, Darius Vines and the aforementioned Roddery Munoz were all optioned to Triple-A. Yacksel Rios was also assigned to minor league camp early last week as well.
As it currently stands, Atlanta has 52 total players in big league camp after the latest reshuffling with more movement expected during this coming week.