The Braves have one of the thinnest farm systems in all of baseball, mainly because they have been graduating and trading away talent for the sake of the big league club. That’s not a bad thing, especially when you have a championship to show for it. However, they will need some depth in the minors for trades or injuries. The Braves wisely targeted some younger talent in the draft, shying away from their usual strategy of adding college arms in favor of guys they can develop. The Braves don’t need a ton of MLB-ready pieces on a good roster, so they gambled on some upside. How are the returns on those investments looking halfway into the 2023 season?
Round 2, Pick 57: RHP Cole Phillips (N/A)
Round 7, Pick 215: RHP Adam Maier (N/A)
Two of the highest-upside arms in this class, the Braves still haven’t gotten a look at either of these guys due to injury. That’s the main reason they were able to get them at the spots they got them in the draft; sometimes, the juice is worth the squeeze. I expect both guys to be big factors when they are healthy.
Top 10 Rounds:
Round 1, Pick 20: RHP Owen Murphy (A)
Murphy was Atlanta’s first pick in the draft out of Riverside-Brookfield High School in Illinois, and he has had a solid showing to start the year. Over 26.1 innings, he has a 3.08 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP. He has gotten touched up a bit in the month of May, but he’s still only 19 years old.
Round 1, Pick 35: RHP JR Ritchie (A)
Unfortunately, Ritchie will undergo Tommy John Surgery and will miss some time. Before that, he was showing some serious flashes. In his first start of 2023, Ritchie threw three perfect innings with seven strikeouts. He got blown up in his next start, but outside of that, he had been pretty solid. I still like his upside going forward.
Round 2, Pick 76: RHP Blake Burkhalter (A)
Burkhalter was posting some solid numbers before he also had to go under the knife, but he still profiles as a future bullpen weapon. The former Auburn Tiger struck out seven over 4.1 innings in 2023, only allowing a .071 batting average and posting a 0.23 WHIP.
Round 3, Pick 96: C Drake Baldwin (A+)
While he isn’t hitting for average at a high rate, Baldwin has looked pretty promising so far, clubbing seven home runs and six doubles for the Rome Braves. He has a .822 OPS on the season, and if his defense comes along, he could be a solid backup catcher in a few seasons.
Round 4, Pick 125: 3B David McCabe (A)
McCabe is having a great start to the season in Augusta with eight home runs and an .874 OPS. He could absolutely earn a promotion to Rome soon.
Round 5, Pick 155: 3B Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez (A+)
One of the breakout stars of 2022, Nacho Alvarez is continuing his strong play in 2023. He currently sports a .765 OPS in Rome with eight stolen bases — pretty rare for a third baseman.
Round 6, Pick 185: RHP Seth Keller (A)
One of my favorite under-the-radar pickups in the draft, Keller is making a lot of noise in this class. He has dominated the Carolina league over 23 innings with a 1.17 ERA, 22 strikeouts, and a 0.74 WHIP. Watch out for this kid, he’s not even 20 years old yet.
Round 8, Pick 245: RHP Jason Franks (A)
Franks has had a rough 2023 season on paper, putting up an 8.31 ERA over 13 innings in Augusta at 24 years old. However, it’s a small sample size, and his ERA is a bit bloated from two bad outings out of the bullpen in which he gave up three and six runs, respectively. He’ll get back on track.
Round 9, Pick 275: 2B Cory Acton (A+)
Acton has struggled to find his footing so far during his pro career, only posting a .574 OPS in Rome. However, it’s a long season, so there’s no need to panic yet.
Round 10, Pick 205: C Andrew Keck (A)
Keck was drafted as a catcher, but the Braves are experimenting with him in the outfield. He has a bit of a learning curve, and his .688 OPS makes his .217 batting average look much better on paper.
Other Notable Performers:
Round 13, Pick 395: RHP Cedric De Grandpre (A)
Possibly the biggest sleeper in this group, De Grandpre is lighting up Augusta to the tune of a 1.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 40 strikeouts over 32.1 innings pitched. He’s a guy to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Round 14, Pick 425: RHP Landon Harper (A)
Harper was a pick I really liked in the 14th round out of Southern Miss, and he’s having a solid season in Augusta with a 3.72 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 29 innings pitched.
Round 17, Pick 515: OF Kevin Kilpatrick (A+)
The hometown kid Kilpatrick is becoming a fan favorite in Rome and for good reason. He’s playing solid defense and has clubbed four home runs while swiping 11 bases. His contact will need to improve, but his upside is noteworthy.
Round 20, Pick 605: SS Keshawn Ogans (A+)
The last pick of the draft for the Braves, Ogans is sporting a .806 OPS in Rome with five stolen bases. Here’s to hoping he keeps that pace up, a 20th-round gem would be really nice.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire