The Braves did the unthinkable yesterday, calling up 20-year-old top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver to the majors. The right-hander has been nearly unhittable on the farm, but he also began the season in high-A Rome, pitching only 19 innings between AA-AAA before receiving the call.
To say that’s unprecedented doesn’t even do it justice. There have been a few players that have made the jump straight from the draft to the majors, but those players played in college and were generally top draft picks. Smith-Shawver just committed to pitching full time three years ago and was drafted straight out of high school.
At 20 years old, AJ Smith-Shawver actually won’t be the youngest player in baseball. That title belongs to Eury Pérez, a top prospect for the Marlins who was also just recently called up. However, Peréz had 205 minor league innings under his belt, including 106 in AA alone. Even Julio Urías, who made his debut with the Dodgers back in 2016 at 19 years old, had been in Los Angeles’ farm system since he was 16 and accumulated several hundred innings in the minors before making his MLB debut.
What the Braves have done with Smith-Shawver just doesn’t happen, and while some might say they are desperate because of their recent bullpen woes, I couldn’t disagree more. They believe this kid can contribute to their next World Series right now, and that should excite all of Braves Country.
On the latest episode of SportsTalkATL, we discuss AJ Smith-Shawver‘s wild ride up the minor league system, the Braves ability to develop their young talent, and what we can expect from him in his major-league debut.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire