No matter what happens in this series against the Mets, I think the Braves will look to buy at the deadline. Because of injuries, they need a lot of help in their lineup, on the bench, and in the bullpen. Thankfully, the Braves should be getting Travis d’Arnaud and Huascar Ynoa back in August so that some help will be on the way even without a trade. Ian Anderson is also nearing a return. Personally, I could see Ynoa or Muller moving to a bullpen role when the rotation starts to get healthy. I’m in favor of that. Even if these guys are long-term starters, let them get some innings under their belts and pitch the best 13 guys you have. This is part one featuring pitchers. Part two will feature bats, so be on the lookout for that.
RHP Spencer Strider (AA)
Another member of the very talented 2020 draft class, Strider, embarrassed Single-A competition on his way to a Mississippi promotion. Over 30 innings between A and A+, Strider only allowed 15 hits and five earned runs while striking out an astonishing 56 batters. The Clemson product has had a bit of a learning curve in Mississippi, so I doubt there will be many suitors. Still, Braves fans should be excited about his potential.
RHP Kyle Wright (AAA)
I still think Braves fans undervalue Kyle Wright as a prospect. Yes, he has struggled in the majors, but he still has a good five-pitch mix and some of the best makeup in the entire system. Most of Wright’s problems stem from his control, and I believe many of his issues are mental. I’m not writing him off just yet. If he gets traded to the right organization, I wouldn’t be shocked if he became a quality starter one day.
RHP Jasseel De La Cruz (AAA)
De La Cruz hasn’t had the best season in Gwinnett, but the 24-year-old made a big jump after the 2020 Minor League season was canceled. He has a really hard fastball, a nasty slider, and a developing changeup. Don’t let his ERA fool you; he has some elite offerings that could entice other teams in a trade.
RHP Freddy Tarnok (AA)
Tarnok was a third-round pick by the Braves in 2017, and they were undoubtedly impressed by his athleticism and potential as a two-way player. Tarnok was raw when he was selected as an 18-year-old, and he’s still developing at only 22. He has nice velocity and throws a lot of strikes, so any team that added him in a trade would be banking on long-term potential.
5. RHP Bryce Elder (AA)
Another member of the 2020 draft class, Elder, has a nice sinker-slider combo that made him a fifth-round pick out of Texas. He has pitched well for the Braves in 2021. Over 75 innings, he has only allowed 25 earned runs and has a 1.19 WHIP. He may not ever be a premium starter in the league, but you can bet he has the potential to be a very solid third or fourth starter that eats innings and throws strikes.
4. LHP Jared Shuster (A+)
Fans and baseball pundits alike questioned Alex Anthopoulos taking Shuster in the first round of the 2020 draft out of Wake Forest, especially with his 6.49 ERA and 4.9 BB/9 in 2019. However, Shuster played well in the very competitive Cape Cod League against wood bats, and he has looked just fine in Rome so far in 2021. Shuster has always had strikeout stuff, and he has kept the walks under control, leading to a 3.16 ERA.
3. LHP Tucker Davidson (IL)
Davidson is a bit lower on this list because he’s on the 60-day IL with a forearm strain, but it shouldn’t be a concern for a trade partner with a long-term outlook. Davidson is only 25, and the former 19th round pick was dealing in the majors before his injury. Over 20 innings pitched in 2021, Davidson posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.50 WHIP — not too bad for a guy with only one Major League start before this season. Davidson dominated AA and AAA in 2019, and part of his promotion to Atlanta in 2021 was due to his minuscule 0.90 ERA in Gwinnett. If the Braves don’t move him, he could be a big part of this rotation in the future, and if they do, he could be a solid starter on a contending team now or in the future.
2. LHP Kyle Muller (MLB)
After impressing against the Mets in the doubleheader on Monday, Muller’s ERA dropped to 1.94 over five starts. He got roughed up in his first-ever career appearance out of the bullpen, but other than that, Muller has been stellar. The 6’7” Muller has been described by Chase as “effectively wild,” which is true in a sense. However, he’s a guy that has a ton of projectability and trusts his stuff. He features a hard fastball, a good slider, and his featured “get out” pitch — a wicked curveball. There is a lot of potential with Muller; he could easily be a frontline starter one day. If the Braves make a big trade, it could be for another club.
1. RHP Touki Toussaint (MLB)
If I had told you a few weeks ago that Touki would be first on this list, you would have called me insane. In reality, he has been a completely different pitcher since his return from injury. Recency bias is real, and you have to think any GM who watched him pitch over his last two starts thinks he could be the most attractive piece the Braves have to offer. While Touki’s 1.32 ERA over his past 13.2 innings is very impressive on their own, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the story.
Toussaint has been very efficient; he has challenged hitters and has only issued two walks — something that doomed him early in his career. While he has only performed to this level over two games, he has shut down two pretty good offenses in San Diego and Philadelphia. Braves fans knew Toussaint had the makeup to be a true frontline starter; all he needed to do was trust himself. Well, now he’s doing that, and the results speak for themselves. I don’t know if the Braves will make a blockbuster move involving Touki, but if they do, he’s done quite the job of driving up his value to the point that he could be the centerpiece of a big trade.