Braves seem to have unique plan for AJ Smith-Shawver

MLB: JUN 09 Nationals at Braves

The first week of AAA baseball is coming to a close, and one name that has yet to appear is top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver. However, it appears there is a reason for that, and it’s not injury-related.

According to’s Mark Bowman, AJ Smith-Shawver is slated to make his first start for the Stripers tomorrow. The plan is for him to only throw a couple of innings (30-40 pitches), and the reason for that is because the Braves know how important Smith-Shawver could be down the stretch.

The Braves want to keep Smith-Shawver as fresh as possible for the second half of the season, which is wise for a plethora of reasons.

Reynaldo Lopez looked about as good as possible in his first start in more than two years. However, he hasn’t pitched more than 100 innings since 2019. Expecting him to make 30+ starts and flirt with 200 innings would be foolish. It’s much more likely he will be moved back to a bullpen role later in the season, which is when we could potentially see AJ Smith-Shawver.

Having a fresh arm with immense upside ready at a moment’s notice later in the year is incredibly beneficial, so ramping up Smith-Shawver’s workload slowly is the right idea. He’s still just 21-years-old and has never pitched more than 100 innings in his career. That’s something that takes some getting used to, as we saw last season with Bryce Elder.

For the first half of last year, Elder was among the best pitchers in baseball, making the All-Star team. But his production fell off a cliff in the second half, and that can be largely attributed to the workload. He even talked about the toll it took on his body coming into the season, and how he’s preparing differently to pitch the best he can throughout a grueling 6+ month season.

If the Braves didn’t have so many starting pitchers, perhaps they would take an alternate approach to Smith-Shawver’s development, pushing him a little bit more. But pitching depth is a luxury this organization has in spades. It’s better to have Smith-Shawver locked and loaded by September than it is having him at his best in the summer months.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: