I hope I’m not treading on Clint Manry’s turf here, but if the Braves are going to make a push to the playoffs, this team needs a spark. It’s getting to the point in the season in which the service clock can be manipulated, which would give the Braves an extra year of control if they call up a guy after a specific date. Time ranges can vary, but July is usually a safe bet. The Braves have to do SOMETHING, either by way of a trade or calling up a prospect to improve this team. Here are a few guys who could be playing in Truist Park before the trade deadline.
LHP Thomas Burrows
Burrows may be the top candidate here. While the Braves have sent players like Bryse Wilson and Tucker Davidson up and down, Burrows is a guy who won’t start but could play a vital role in the bullpen. The left side of the bullpen has been a problem for the Braves. AJ Minter has a so-so 3.97 ERA and is shaky in leverage situations. Will Smith has not been the answer, and Grant Dayton and Sean Newcomb both had a very bad night against the Dodgers. Enter Thomas Burrows.
Burrows was a former fourth-round pick by the Braves in 2016 out of the University of Alabama. He has been solid for the Gwinnett Stripers in 2021, only surrendering four earned runs in 10.1 innings pitched. His 1.26 WHIP is a bit concerning, and while the sample size is small, he’s 26 years old. The Braves have to see what they have in him eventually, and at this point, it couldn’t hurt.
Although De La Cruz is mostly a starter in AAA, he would come up and serve out of Atlanta’s bullpen. De La Cruz has been pretty good for Gwinnett, recording a 0.97 WHIP over 21.2 innings while striking out 27. With guys like Jacob Webb and Josh Tomlin not playing up to their billing in 2021, he could serve as a long or middle relief pitcher. De La Cruz is only 23, but this is a good opportunity for Atlanta to see what he has out of the ‘pen before giving up a ton of prospects for a right-handed relief arm.
OF Drew Waters
Cristian Pache is the obvious candidate to come back up if he can improve offensively while in Gwinnett, but there is an undeniable bit of worry with his poor start in 2021. I think he will figure things out; still, he has been one of the bigger disappointments of the season. Even with Pache in the fold, there remains a massive hole in left field. It’s a bit too early to call him up now, but if Drew Waters keeps playing as he has, the Braves must consider bringing him up.
Waters’ strikeout rate has always been a concern, but the 22-year-old switch hitter has been fantastic despite his 29% K-rate. He has a solid .779 OPS this season to go along with six doubles, three home runs, and seven stolen bases. I don’t think he is the answer right now, but if he stays hot, he may force the Braves to call him up and show off the five tools that he has displayed in Gwinnett. Waters is oozing with potential, but I’d be shocked if he’s in Atlanta before the end of July.