Braves: Bleacher Report ranks MLB’s top 30 farm systems

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After a slow start, the offseason should begin to explode here in the coming days following the signing of Shohei Ohtani, but I wouldn’t expect the Braves to be involved in too much more. Their payroll is much higher than it’s ever been before, which should limit them in free agency. However, a trade could still be in the cards if the Braves are willing to move one of their top prospects.

The Braves farm system isn’t as ripe with talent as it once was. There are some top end players to get excited about — like AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep — but the depth is nearly non-existent, which is why Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report had them ranked the 25th best system in baseball.

. RHP AJ Smith-Shawver (Tier 1)
2. RHP Hurston Waldrep (Tier 1)
3. RHP Spencer Schwellenbach (Tier 2)
4. RHP JR Ritchie (Tier 2)
5. RHP Owen Murphy (Tier 2)
6. SS Ignacio Alvarez (Tier 3)
7. RHP Cade Kuehler (Tier 3)
8. RHP Drue Hackenberg (Tier 3)
9. OF Luis Guanipa (Tier 3)
10. 1B/3B David McCabe (Tier 3)

—Right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver was the second-youngest player to appear in an MLB game during the 2023 season behind only Miami Marlins pitcher Eury Pérez. He had a 4.26 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and he could contend for the No. 5 starter job or a multi-inning relief role this spring.

—In a system thin on potential impact bats, David McCabe was one of the few standouts in 2023, hitting .276/.386/.450 with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 75 RBI in 123 games between Single-A and High-A. The 23-year-old also posted an .809 OPS with 20 hits and 23 walks over 21 games in the Arizona Fall League.

Reuter groups each team’s top prospects into three tiers. The first tier is made up of top 100 prospects, the second tier is the ones that were considered for the top 100, and the third tier consists of prospects that could eventually contribute at the major-league level one day.

Smith-Shawver and Waldrep are undoubtedly top 100 prospects. Smith-Shawver will even be found inside the top 50 of most lists and Waldrep may join him before long. Those are the Braves’ top two prospects in their farm system, and then there’s a fairly significant drop-off.

Schwellenbach, Murphy, and Richie were placed in Tier 2. They are all pitchers who have the potential to join the Braves rotation eventually, but they don’t have the high upside of Smith-Shawver and Waldrep. They are also not likely to contribute in 2024, especially Murphy and Ritchie, who are still at least a couple of years from even being considered major-league options.

The rest of the Braves top 10 fell into Tier 3, and you’ll get no arguments from me. It’s really too early to tell with any of these guys, but I’m glad Reuter highlighted David McCabe. He was a 2022 fourth-round pick out of UNC Charlotte, possessing incredible raw power and has experienced a lot of success at the early levels of the minors. Look out for him this year. With another step forward, we could be talking about him as an MLB player before long.

Photo: Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire


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