Over the past few seasons, the Braves have seen young stud after young stud come up through their farm system, leading to three straight NL East titles. Most recently, Ian Anderson announced himself to the world, posting a sub-2 ERA during the shortened season before being even better during the Braves postseason run. Amazingly, he is still considered a prospect, along with Cristian Pache, who started the entire NLCS after Adam Duvall went down with an injury. Both look to be penciled in as starters to begin next season, especially after the Braves decided to non-tender Duvall. However, who else could be ready to make an impact at the major league level as early as 2021.
Currently, MLB.com has Waters ranked as the second-best prospect in the Braves system — ahead of Ian Anderson. That shows you just how much scouts believe in this young man’s potential. As a 20-year-old, he won the MVP of the Southern League, slashing .319/.366/.481. Waters is a switch-hitter with a tremendous ability to hit the ball to all fields, and as he fills out, his power should only become more evident. Unfortunately, this past minor league season was canceled. Waters would have started the year in AAA with a legit opportunity to work his way to the majors. We will see how much he improved at the alternate training site, but there is a fantastic chance that he finds himself in Atlanta sometime next year.
The Contreras hype-train began when he was tattooing balls in exhibition games at the alternate training start before the season. However, few expected him to have an impact on the major league team, especially so early in the season. But after Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers were sidelined with symptoms of the coronavirus, the Braves had no choice but to turn to Conteras, and he delivered, going four for ten at the plate.
Contreras has still yet to even record an at-bat at the AAA level, so I doubt the plan is for the Braves to give him a chance at the majors early next season. However, if he continues to show offensive improvement with the Stripers, it shouldn’t be long before he is in Atlanta permanently.
The reports coming out of the alternate training site last season were that Muller was touching triple-digits with his fastball. The hard-throwing lefty is currently ranked the sixth-best prospect in the Braves system and posted a respectable 3.14 ERA in 2019 with AA Mississippi. Muller will likely begin next season in Gwinnett, but if he can show improvements with his control, he will most likely make his MLB debut in 2021 and could end up being a valuable piece down the stretch, whether it is as a starter or reliever.
Davidson made his MLB debut last season in the final series of the season against the Red Sox. He allowed a couple of runs over 1.2 innings, but overall, it wasn’t too shabby for his first appearance in the majors. The lefty shot up prospect lists everywhere during the 2019 season in which he posted a minuscule 2.03 ERA with Mississippi in 21 starts before being promoted to Gwinnett, where he recorded a 2.84 ERA in four starts. It shouldn’t be very long before we see him in Atlanta permanently.
De La Cruz is one of the less talked about prospects in the Braves system, but he is now ranked as their tenth-best prospect and received the call last season — even though he did not make his debut. I expect that to change in 2021. De La Cruz had a 3.25 ERA over three levels in 2019 (A, A+, AA) and should begin 2021 in Gwinnett. If he can keep his momentum churning forward, we should see him in Atlanta at some point next season.
If not for injuries, Weigel would have found himself in the majors a couple of seasons ago. He finally made his MLB debut last season; however, it’s probably an outing he would like to forget as he allowed two earned runs while recording just two outs. Still, there is a lot of reason for optimism with Weigel. During Spring Training, he was dynamite and has fantastic stuff that could make him useful as a starter or out of the bullpen. Weigel will be competing for one of the final spots on the Opening Day roster.