We’ve recently been lucky enough to have a number of the Braves rising prospects on our Podcast such as Drew Waters, C.J. Alexander, Kyle Muller, Bryce Ball, Trey Harris, and, most recently, Tucker Davidson. One question we always like to sneak in there is: Who is the most underrated prospect in the system?
I have to say, most of them name the same guy — Jeremy Walker — who rocketed through levels of the minor leagues last season to make his Major League debut, and he did a pretty damn good job in six appearances, posting a 1.93 ERA. Knowing that; Davidson decided to go way off the radar and name two older relievers who could surprise some people in the near future — Bradley Roney and Brandon White.
Roney is a 27-year-old that has been in the Braves system since 2014, but injuries have slowed down his career path considerably. The 8th-round pick out of Southern Mississippi has only thrown more than 50 innings once in his career and actually missed all of 2018. This has resulted in a drop in velocity. Once a guy who sat in the high-90s, he now tops out at around 95 but still has some above-average secondary offerings. Roney may no longer have late-inning relief potential — like the Braves might have initially hoped — but he has the stuff to make it to the majors. And given his age, it could be soon if he can stay healthy.
In 2019, Roney threw 41.2 innings between High-A Florida and AA Mississippi. He didn’t allow a run in eight appearances for the Fire Frogs (14.1 innings) before his promotion to AA where he posted a 2.96 ERA in 20 outings (27.1 innings) while striking out batters at a 13.83 K/9 clip.
Brandon White is a 25-year-old that was selected in the 12th round of the 2016 Draft by the Braves. Things haven’t been quite as smooth for him as they’ve been for Roney throughout his minor league career, but lately, White has been nearly unhittable. After posting a 7.77 ERA for the Florida Fire Frogs to end 2018, he bounced back at the same level in 2019, recording a minuscule 1.40 ERA in 33 appearances (53.1 innings). White also posted the best K/9 of his career (10.34) since rookie-ball. He ended the year in Mississippi, where he pitched once, tossing two shutout innings and striking out two. That is likely where he will begin in 2020.
If last year taught us one thing, it’s just how volatile relief pitching can be. GM Alex Anthopoulos made sure that would not be a problem again in 2020, filling out not only the Major-League roster, but also stockpiling depth in the minor leagues. Things would have to go to hell for either of these players to reach the bigs this season, but in a year or two, Roney or White could be tossing 50 innings in relief for the Braves.