Checking in on the Braves prospects for May: Nos. 30-21

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We’ve completed three weeks of the 2021 minor league season and by the end of this weekend all four of the Braves full-season affiliates will have played roughly 23 of its 120 regular season games, or nearly 20% of the schedule. With Memorial Day coming up and serving as MLB’s unofficial period for evaluating performances, this seems like an appropriate time to also check in on Atlanta’s top 30 prospects.

To avoid writing a novel, I’ll provide three installments over the next week or so, with each covering ten prospects — from SportsTalkATL’s 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List — per column. And to give a little context, I’ll also provide a trend symbol representing which direction each player is currently headed in regards to his performance thus far. (⇑) means the player is obviously trending ‘up’, while (⇓) symbolizes ‘down’. The symbol (⇔) means the player has neither progressed or declined.

Just remember, it’s still really early in the season, so there’s still plenty of time for those that are struggling to turn things around, and the same goes for those currently off to a hot start.

Today we’ll kick off the series with nos. 30-21 from our Braves 2021 Top 30…

30. Philip Pfeifer, LHP ⇓

AAA – Sacramento (SFG)

If you haven’t already, you should definitely read up on Pfeifer’s story. This is a guy that battled drug addiction and still managed to become an exciting pitching prospect during his mid-20s. However, his ascent development-wise just came a bit too late, and after the Braves DFA’d Pfeifer to Triple-A Gwinnett this past February, the Giants signed the southpaw to a minor league contract. Pfeifer has struggled in San Fran’s system this season, having allowed 15 runs (eight earned) from 14 hits in eight innings of relief for the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. 

29. Logan Brown, C ⇔

A+ – Rome

Brown started 2021 scorching hot with a .344 AVG and .994 OPS in his first eight games with Rome, but since then has cooled dramatically with just two hits in his last 27 AB entering Thursday. Regardless, the 24-year-old’s stock as a prospect is essentially the same. William Contreras and Shea Langeliers continue to sit above Brown in the organization’s catcher depth chart, and that won’t change any time soon.

 

28. Thomas Burrows, LHP ⇑

AAA – Gwinnett

Many of us forget about Burrows but this was a 4th round pick out of the University of Alabama back in 2016 and a guy that has posted a 2.93 ERA in 224 ⅓ career minor league innings so far. Burrows is off to a strong start in 2021 as well, currently sporting a 2.16 ERA in his first 8 ⅓ frames with the Stripers. If the Braves didn’t have so many lefties in its big league bullpen this season, Burrows would’ve most likely already received a look in Atlanta. 

 

27. Ricky DeVito, RHP ⇑

A+ – Rome

Save for DeVito’s most-recent outing, the former 8th round pick has been lights out in his first stint at the High-A level. Up until this past Wednesday’s start, DeVito hadn’t allowed more than one run in any of his three previous outings and so far sports a 3.12 ERA this season while holding opposing batters to a .250 AVG. At just 22-years-old and with plenty of upside, DeVito is still a strong under-the-radar prospect. 

 

26. Tyler Owens, RHP ⇓

A – Augusta 

As a former 13th round pick, Owens was supposed to be the ace of the Braves new Single-A club in Augusta, but so far this season that hasn’t been the case. In four starts and one relief appearance in 2021, the righty has been rocked to the tune of a 9.28 ERA, thanks primarily to the fact that he just had his worst outing of the season on Thursday, when Columbia knocked him around for six runs (five earned). 

 

25. Jesse Franklin V, OF ⇔

A+ – Rome

Franklin has mostly been what we thought he’d be so far, though the running aspect of his game is probably a bit better than originally expected. The 3rd round pick from last year’s draft already has six stolen bases this season, and though his .221 AVG and .519 OPS in 17 games so far is far from ideal, Franklin has had flashes of hot hitting. The 13-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a bit concerning, but I’m still pretty high on the 22-year-old outfielder.

 

24. Alex Jackson, C ⇓

MLB – Braves

As of Thursday, Jackson was still down in Triple-A Gwinnett for his rehab assignment and has been since May 21 after suffering a hamstring injury while with the Braves. Now I know it may seem inaccurate to give him the down symbol after what he did Thursday night with the Stripers (hitting three homers), but let’s be real… Jackson has been nearly unplayable as a big league hitter this season. In 23 MLB at-bats in 2021, the 25-year-old catcher has just one hit (.043 AVG), to go with 13 strikeouts and two walks. Jackson needed to prove that he could adjust his approach this season to remain an exciting prospect, but it’s evident he still has a ways to go with the bat.

 

23. Mahki Backstrom, OF ⇔

Extended spring 

Following a .300 AVG in 23 games in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2019, Backstrom wasn’t assigned to full-season baseball this spring, which isn’t too surprising given he’s still just 19-years-old. We’ll hold off on any analysis until he actually plays in 2021. 

 

22. Greyson Jenista, 1B ⇓

AA – Mississippi 

Jenista is a former 3rd round pick (2018) currently playing in his age-24 season so the bar is already set high for him, simply given the baked-in expectations to start with. But other than his pro debut year, Jenista really hasn’t lived up to his draft selection. And despite three home runs already in 17 games for Mississippi, he hasn’t turned the corner this season either. Additionally, given the organizational surplus in the outfield, it appears the Braves are more interested in Jenista at first base, which moves the bar even higher as he’ll definitely need to produce at the plate to provide any value. So far in 2021 that hasn’t happened, for Jenista currently sports a .180 AVG and .700 OPS through Thursday. 

 

21. Vaughn Grissom, SS ⇑

A – Augusta

There’s not much power in his swing right now (.315 SLG in 2021), but Grissom is holding his own nicely down at Single-A Augusta this season, sporting a .296 AVG and a K rate below 15%. Considering he was the 337th overall pick (11th round) in the 2019 draft and is still just 20-years-old, there’s no reason to not love what Grissom’s doing in his first taste of full-season ball. 

 

Be sure to check back for the next installment, covering nos. 20-11 from our 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List.

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