The Braves are an elite team, but the injury bug has hit them hard since the All-Star Break. Many of the concerns from before the trade deadline have not been addressed. The starting pitching is average, the bullpen has been abysmal, and they have three positional starters on the IL. Unfortunately, there is nothing they can do about it now. But there are a few players down on the farm that have a chance of earning a spot on a potential playoff roster. I’ve divided them into two separate categories: Prospects with a decent shot, and others that are on the outside looking in.
The guys with a decent shot
For starters, Alex Jackson could begin breathing down the neck of Tyler Flowers. Flowers has been ineffective both at, and behind the plate as of late. Jackson is certainly not the highest-ranked prospect in the farm, but there is a great chance he will be brought up as a third catcher. He has become a solid defender, and brings pop, as evidenced by his 24 home runs this season. Jackson won’t provide much in terms of batting average, but nowadays no catcher is perfect. If Flowers remains in this slump, Jackson could earn the nod.
Another prospect who I think the Braves have to start considering calling up is Drew Waters. Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall have flashed at times in their returns to Atlanta, but are they capable of leading the Braves deep in a playoff run? The timetables for Nick Markakis and Austin Riley remain up in the air, so we do not know their statuses yet for the postseason. If they are without their services, the Braves will need a big boost offensively, even if that means having to option Matt Joyce. It’s a small sample size, but Waters has responded well to a promotion to AAA and has hit .321 between there and AA. A prospect with talent like Waters can – in itself – justify an earlier than expected promotion. The team could then focus on using Ender as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner when the postseason approaches.
The guys with a shot, but not a great one
For one, I think Cristian Pache has a slight edge over Drew Waters in talent. He has had a fantastic season of his own, but me choosing Waters is more of a hot-hand approach. Pache could be a real difference-maker if the Braves are desperate for one in a pinch, and I expect him to start in our outfield in a calendar year from now.
Ian Anderson and Tucker Davidson were also recently promoted to AAA. Mike Foltynewicz has not been perfect in his return, but he has looked promising, which lowers the chances of them taking the fifth starter spot. But it is not out of the realm of possibilities. Even then, they would be banking on the Braves opting to use Max Fried similar to how they did last year against the Dodgers in more of a swingman role when they condense down to four starters. The only way I see these guys on the roster is for bullpen help, but that is even a stretch.
The Braves need a bit more firepower for L.A., and bringing up some of these guys could pay dividends. Obviously, a lot of that boils down to whether they are ready. But I think a couple of them could be a whole lot closer to the big leagues than many think. It will be interesting to see if Alex Anthopoulos has a surprise in store for Braves Country.