FanGraphs ZiPS is shockingly high on Braves farm system

MLB: JUN 04 Braves at Diamondbacks

The Braves farm system is consistently ranked near the bottom of the league. The lower levels need a ton of work; there’s no denying that, but even the top prospects have been looked upon negatively by most prospect outlets. That’s not the case with FanGraphs ZiPS projections. Prior to their rankings, the most prospects I’ve seen the Braves have featured in the top 100 is two. FanGraphs ZiPS has a remarkable four Braves among the top 100, with three in the top 69.

For those wondering what FanGraphs ZiPS projections are based on, here’s an explanation:

For those wandering in who may hear “ZiPS” and think of the University of Akron or possibly the popular Cincinnati burger spot, ZiPS is a computer projection system that crunches a lot of data about players and attempts to peer through the fog that obscures the future. You can read more about the system here or in’s executive summary.

ZiPS prospect projections aren’t an attempt to supplant scouting. Rather, they try to be a supplement to scout-generated lists. There’s a lot of uncertainty in lower-level minor league stats that isn’t present at the upper levels. As such, non-statistical information about players takes on added value. ZiPS doesn’t seek to be the one-ring-to-bind-them-all-unified-field-theory-giant-Katamari-Damacy-ball of prognostication; it aims to give the very best data-generated predictions possible, for people to use, ignore, mock, or worship according to their personal tastes and worldview.

AJ Smith-Shawver is the first Braves prospect to crack the list, which is unsurprising. He’s the consensus top prospect in the organization after an unforgettable rise through the system last year, reaching the majors after beginning the season in High-A Rome.

The most shocking inclusion on the top 100 is Owen Murphy, who is FanGraphs ZiPS 38th ranked prospect. The 20th overall selection in the 2022 MLB Draft hasn’t had eye-popping numbers in the ERA department, posting a 4.69 ERA over 26 professional starts between Rookie-A+ ball. However, his strikeout numbers are impressive, averaging 11.5 punchouts per nine innings, and he does that without giving up a ton of free passes. Murphy is certainly a prospect to watch entering the 2024 season, as he could experience a quick rise through the system.

Clocking in at #69 is the Braves first-round selection from 2023, Hurston Waldrep. In my opinion, the former Florida Gator is the best prospect in the organization. He features a live fastball and one of the best off-speed offerings in the entire minor leagues. Those two pitches alone give him a high floor as a reliever, but his slider is also a plus offering. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the Braves rotation as early as this year.

Rounding out the group, as far as Braves prospects are concerned, is Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez, who clocks in at number 96 on the list. The 2022 fifth-round selection impressed in Rome last year, featuring an advanced contact bat and improved power. This year will be pivotal for him, as he aims to enter the upper level of the minors. If Alvarez continues to trend in the right direction, it will be time to start talking about him as potentially the Braves shortstop of the future.

Photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire


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