Sure, the Braves may be struggling a bit on the field for their standards, but there has been plenty of excitement for fans over the last few days. Michael Soroka made his first major-league start in over 1,000 days, and while the Braves couldn’t get a win, he showed a lot of promise and is hopefully here to stay. But perhaps in an even more exciting move, the Braves have decided to call up their top prospect–hard throwing 20-year-old AJ Smith-Shawver–to the major-league club after just 110 minor-league innings.
To say this is unprecedented is an understatement. This young man was in high school just a couple of years ago and started out this season in high-A Rome. Now, after just 33 innings in 2023, he’s set to make his major-league debut six months before his 21st birthday.
The Braves don’t mess around with their young talent. If they believe a player can help contribute, they are going to bring him up, and they think Smith-Shawver can be the remedy to their recent bullpen woes.
“The plan is for AJ Smith-Shawver to pitch out of the bullpen,” Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. “He would be the next man up if the Braves needed a starter, but it’s easier to break guys into the majors via the bullpen than in the rotation. The Braves had an opening by DFA’ing Luetge, so they were able to do this.”
Typically, messing with a pitcher’s progression as a starter–especially one so young–isn’t the preferred course of action, but the Braves had success doing this with Spencer Strider, so it’s no surprise that they aren’t hesitant in going that route again. They have another need for a reliever, and their eyes are on winning at all costs right now, but it shouldn’t shock anyone if Smith-Shawver follows the same path as Strider and ends up in the rotation at some point.
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