This continues our list of the Braves top 20 prospects. If you want to check out the previous editions, click the link below:
- Braves: SportsTalkATL’s Top 20 Prospect Rankings — 20-16
- Braves: SportsTalkATL’s Top 20 Prospect Rankings — 15-11
10. SS Braden Shewmake (AA)
Shewmake had a down 2021 season, but there’s still a lot to like about the 2019 first-round pick. He has considerable power for an infielder from the left side, and if he can continue to harness that power and hit to the gaps, he’ll become a solid contributor in Atlanta.
9. OF Jesse Franklin V (A+)
Franklin burst onto the scene after being selected by the Braves in the 2020 MLB draft. He missed time with injury in college, but in his first full season in Rome in 2021, he belted 24 home runs, 24 doubles, and two triples while stealing 19 bases. Franklin has the makeup of a true five-tool star, and if he can continue that same type of production in Mississippi, he’s going to start turning a lot of heads.
8. RHP Bryce Elder (AAA)
Elder may be the next member of the 2020 draft class to make the bigs, as he has been solid at every level of the minors. In 2021, Elder posted a 2.75 ERA over 137.2 innings pitched and climbed all the way from Rome to Gwinnett. Gwinnett was where he did his best work, only allowing a 2.21 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 36.2 innings. If injuries strike the Braves, don’t be shocked if Elder gets the call to Atlanta.
7. RHP Ryan Cusick (A)
Chase did a good breakdown on Cusick, so I’ll defer to him here:
It’s still too early to judge, but the Braves looked to have nailed several of their 2020 draft picks, which is even more impressive when you consider they only had four picks because the draft was shortened to just five rounds. Alex Anthopoulos appears to have a knack for this whole GM thing, and his first-round pick from 2021 is another high-upside arm that could be a staple in the Braves rotation of the future.
The first thing you’ll notice about Ryan Cusick is his size. At 6’6″ and 235 pounds, his mound presence is much like Kyle Muller‘s, but he throws from the right side. Like Muller, Cusick also sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, but he was clocked as high as 102 during his time at Wake Forest.
With that high velocity comes a lot of strikeouts, and Cusick was a punchout machine at Wake Forrest. He only made four starts in 2020 because the season was cut short due to COVID, but he averaged 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings. In 12 starts last season for the Demon Deacons, he punched out 108 batters in just 70 innings (13.9 K/9). Like they do with a lot of their young arms, the Braves took things slowly with Cusick once he got to their organization. He ended up making six starts for the Augusta Green Jackets but pitched only 16.1 innings. Still, Cusick was impressive, recording a 2.76 ERA and striking out a ridiculous 34 batters.
The amount of success Cusick has will come down to two things — control and the development of his secondary offerings — as it does with most young arms. Cusick did walk his fair share of batters while he was at Wake Forrest. As far as his pitch mix, he currently has four offerings, with his curveball being his best secondary pitch. If he can develop one more go-to pitch to go along with his fastball-curveball combination, Cusick should have a lengthy career as a major-league starter.
6. RHP Spencer Strider (MLB)
Hopefully, the Braves get more of the Spencer Strider they got in 2021 next season. Strider is an absolute weapon; after dominating the minors, he earned a September call-up and showed some nasty stuff with the Braves. He has a missile of a fastball and is only improving his secondary offerings. Strider may start 2022 in Gwinnett, but if he keeps mowing down batters, he won’t be there for long. I expect him to be a high leverage reliever in Atlanta for a long time.
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