With so much talent graduating to the majors in recent seasons, the Braves are consistently ranked near the bottom regarding farm system rankings. Oddly, however, they still seem to produce elite rookies every season. A couple of nights ago, Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider finished first and second in the NL Rookie of the Year race, respectively. Both of them have already inked long-term extensions with the team, and while it’s unrealistic to expect the Braves to have another pair of first-year players come in and perform at the same level as Harris and Strider, this is an organization that has proven to be elite at developing talent throughout their minor-league system. Who knows who could be the next star to make an impact in Atlanta?
My personal favorite prospect at the moment is Justyn-Henry Malloy, out of Georgia Tech. He has the best hit tool in the Braves farm system and made it all the way from High-A to AAA last year. His plate discipline is second to none, and it’s possible that he ends up being the Braves left fielder of the future. I’ve already dubbed him the top prospect in the system, but Baseball America sees it a little differently. Malloy came in at #6 on their list of the Braves top 10 prospects, which featured a couple of surprises.
- Kyle Muller
- AJ Smith-Shawver
- Owen Murphy
- Jared Shuster
- JR Ritchie
- Justyn-Henry Malloy
- Royber Salinas
- Darius Vines
- Freddy Tarnok
- Dylan Dodd
This list is a lot different than what you’ll find at a lot of outlets, but there’s a reason why Baseball America is one of my favorite places to read about prospects. They usually do their homework.
Dylan Dodd is another player that rocketed up the farm system this past season, ending the year in AAA and finishing the year with a 3.36 ERA across three levels. Freddy Tarnok actually received a cup of coffee in the majors this year; he’ll have an opportunity to win the final spot in the rotation in Spring Training, but there is some stiff competition.
Vines is another player we could see in Atlanta at some point next season. He also ended the year in Gwinnett, appearing seven times (five starts) and boasting a 3.21 ERA for the Stripers.
Salinas is the first prospect on this list that caught me by surprise. He’s a 21-year-old out of Venezuela that began last season in low-A ball, but he was promoted to Rome after just five starts in which he struck out 52 batters in just 23.2 innings. That’s absolutely silly, and Salinas continued striking out batters at a high clip in Rome, recording 123 over 85.2 innings. As far as exciting arms go in the system, he’s at the top of the list.
Malloy is the only position player on the list, as the top five players are all pitchers. Murphy and Ritchie were both taken within the top 35 picks in the 2022 draft out of high school. It will be a while before we ever see them in the majors. Shuster was a first-round pick back in 2020 out of Wake Forrest. There’s a chance we see him in Atlanta sometime next season. By now, everyone should be familiar with Kyle Muller, who is likely the favorite to win the final spot in the rotation come Opening Day. However, the most shocking name on this entire list is AJ Smith-Shawver, ringing in at #2.
Smith-Shawver was a seventh-round pick out of high school in 2021, and statistically, his numbers weren’t eye-popping, as he posted a 5.11 ERA for Augusta last season. However, he did strike out a ton of batters — 103 over 63.2 innings — so this ranking must be about his projectability. He’s a prospect I will have a close eye on heading into 2023.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire