The Braves don’t have a lot of star prospects in the upper levels of the minors, which is why they are widely regarded as one of the worst farm systems in baseball. However, there are a few arms with incredible potential in the lower levels of the minors worth keeping a close eye on.
I talked about 2022 first-round pick JR Ritchie yesterday. He shined in his season debut for the Augusta Green Jackets, striking out seven over three perfect innings. MLB Pipeline currently has Ritchie ranked as the Braves #3 prospect in the system. Right behind him is the hard-throwing righty A.J. Smith-Shawver, but I have a feeling he won’t be the fourth ranked prospect for long.
Smith-Shawver made his season debut on Sunday, and he might have been even more impressive than Ritchie. He tossed 4.1 scoreless shutout innings, surrendering just three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
And there it is!
The first High-A K for @Braves No.4 prospect AJ Smith-Shawver. #RaisedInRome | #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/yKcJA03e1U
— Rome Braves (@TheRomeBraves) April 16, 2023
Smith-Shawver might not have the numbers of a top prospect. In his first full season, he recorded a 5.18 ERA in A-ball, but the stuff is what makes him so exciting. He had a 103 strikeouts in just 68.2 innings last year. It’s very easy to imagine him as a guy that could lead a major-league rotation one day because of all the bats he misses.
At 20-years-old in High-A ball, Smith-Shawver is still a long way from reaching Atlanta. With that being said, the Braves have shown no hesitancy in moving their best arms through the system quickly. The biggest issue to this point in his professional career has been his control, which is the case for most young pitchers. Once he begins to harness that, I’m not sure there’s anything that can stop him. With a good start to the season, he could find himself in AA ball before the end of the year, and I think he will be widely regarded as the Braves top prospect before long.
Photo: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire
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