Since there was no minor league season in 2020, prospect rankings entering the 2021 campaign are extremely fluid. Frankly, we don’t really know what to expect when these guys get back on the diamond for the first time in over two years, so there will be a ton of movement among the Braves Top 30 prospects and the Top 100 prospects overall. Sticking with Atlanta, though, here are the young guns I could see making their way well up prospect lists quickly.
* All prospect rankings will be coming from our SportsTalkATL Top 30 prospects list
Jesse Franklin (OF)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 25
Franklin was a member of the Braves’ much smaller 2020 MLB draft class. The third-round selection is a plus-athlete capable of playing all over the outfield that hit for average and power in his two seasons at Michigan. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2020 campaign with a broken collarbone, but there’s plenty of upside with him for Braves fans to get excited about.
Mahki Backstrom (1B/OF)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 23
We are already higher than most on Backstrom, but that’s because we like to be ahead of the curve. As an 18-year-old, he hit .300 with an OPS of .860 in 23 games of Rookie Ball. The year off is obviously disappointing, but with all of his plus-traits, we could see him explode in 2021, potentially cracking Atlanta’s Top 15 prospects. The 6’5″ lefty has incredible power and a sweet stroke to go with it.
Vaughn Grissom (SS)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 21
Another young stud in the Braves farm system; Grissom was fantastic in his first year of Rookie Ball, showing off some impressive power as he smashed three homers and drove in 23 runs in just 44 games. Unfortunately, that is all the sample size we have, but given his defense, power, and athleticism; there is a ton to like about the newly turned 20-year-old. FanGraphs already had Grissom as the Braves 15th ranked prospect to begin 2020 so do not be surprised to see him rise a lot in our rankings throughout this season.
Victor Vodnik (RHP)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 18
In his first full professional season, Vodnik did not disappoint with the Rome Braves, posting a 2.94 ERA over 67.1 innings and averaging over a strikeout per frame. The 21-year-old former ninth-round pick throws absolute gas from the right-side, and he’s still filling into his frame. Like most young arms, control and his secondary offerings must be improved, but Vodnik enters 2021 with a lot of hype. We could see him shoot up the ranks of the minors.
Bryce Elder (RHP)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 14
By all accounts, Elder was one of the steals of the 2020 MLB draft. He was selected in the fifth-round, and Atlanta offered him a signing bonus of $850,000 — well above slot value. At Texas, he became the team’s number one starter last year and was pitching like it before the season came to a halt. In four starts, Elder boasted a minuscule 2.08 ERA and 0.962 WHIP to go along with his 11.1 K/9. He’s someone every Braves fan should be excited for in 2021.
Bryce Ball (1B)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 12
If you have followed this site for a while, you know we have been huge on friend of the podcast Bryce Ball for a couple of years now, and people are just now starting to catch on. As a 20-year-old back in 2019, he dominated Rookie and A-Ball, smacking 17 homers and 18 doubles in just 62 games — good for a 1.023 OPS. Ball was so impressive; the Braves opted to carry him apart of their 60-man taxi squad this past season. The sweet-swinging lefty first baseman was even named Atlanta’s most underrated prospect earlier this month in a piece by Jim Bowden on The Athletic. Ball has legitimate 70-grade power, and if he picks up where he left off in 2019, he will break the Braves Top 10 prospects.
Michael Harris (OF)
Current SportsTalkATL prospect rank: 9
Given that Harris is already apart of our Top 10 Braves prospects, it will be more difficult for him to move up, but I wouldn’t put anything past him. The Stockbridge, Georgia native was unstoppable as an 18-year-old in Rookie Ball, earning a quick promotion to Rome. He struggled a bit in A-Ball, but that is to be expected at such a young age. It was also a minuscule sample size. Like Ball, Harris was a member of the Braves 60-man taxi squad last season, which is a testament to what the organization thinks about their 2019 third-round pick. With so many prospects in the Braves system expected to graduate this year, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for Harris to crack the organizations Top 5 prospects by the end of the season.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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