Ranking the Braves most untouchable prospects

AJ Smith-Shawver, Braves

The trade deadline is going to be the talk of the town around Braves Country over the next seven weeks because moves must be made if this team wants to find itself back in the World Series at the end of ¬†October. They don’t have to be of the blockbuster variety, as we saw back in 2021, when Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler led the Braves to the World Series, but something has to change if Atlanta wants to be viewed as a legitimate contender in 2024.

I’m not a big believer in untouchable players, especially prospects. The Braves don’t have a very strong farm system, so absolutely everything should be on the table in an attempt to win now. However, there are definitely guys Alex Anthopulos would prefer to hang onto if possible.

5. Spencer Schwellenbach

Spencer Schwellenbach has been the fastest riser among Braves prospects this year. He began the year in High-A Rome, skipped AAA completely, and is now a part of the Braves rotation. Schwellenbach has taken his lumps in his first two MLB starts, but the potential is evident. He has a legit five-pitch mix, some good swing-and-miss, and perhaps most importantly, great control. Schwellenbach could be a permanent fixture in Atlanta’s rotation for years to come, but prospect pitchers are incredibly volatile. If the right deal comes across the table, I’m sure Alex Anthopolous would consider it.

4. Owen Murphy

I was very close to putting Owen Murphy higher on this list because nobody was having a more impressive start to the 2024 season on the farm. In his first seven starts, he recorded a 1.54 ERA with 60 strikeouts over just 41 innings. It was downright dominant stuff from the 20-year-old, and he looked to be in line for a promotion to AA. However, Tommy John surgery has ended his year prematurely. It’s an unfortunate end to a year that looked to have so much promise, but given his age, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Murphy should have no problem working his way back, and the Braves would certainly like to hold onto him if they can.

3. Nacho Alvarez

I went in a little different direction with #3 on this list. Nacho Alvarez is the only position player ranked, and he’s really the only position player worth talking about in the Braves farm system right now. Alvarez is proving that he can handle the shortstop position, which is a position of need when looking at the future in Atlanta, and he has an elite contact bat. If the power can come along, he could end up being a huge piece of the Braves future. I’m not sure Alvarez is a top-five prospect in the organization right now, but because Alex Anthopoulos has a lot more arms at his disposal compared to position players, he probably wouldn’t be eager to deal the 21-year-old former fifth-round selection.

2. AJ Smith-Shawver

According to most prospect outlets, AJ Smith-Shawver was the top prospect in the Braves organization coming into the season. That varies now, but he still has a bright future ahead of him, and the development we’ve seen from his changeup this season is exciting. Unfortunately, after his first start of the season with the Braves in which he looked very impressive, he hit the IL with an oblique strain. However, he’s still the most MLB ready of all the pitching prospects and could play a huge role down the stretch in Atlanta.

1. Hurston Waldrep

One forgetful outing in his MLB debut shouldn’t change anyone’s mind about Hurston Waldrep. He still has incredible potential; he just needs some more seasoning in Gwinnett before he’s ready. Not many guys can throw fewer than 100 innings in the minors and be ready to contribute at the major-league level. I don’t think anyone in the Braves system is 100% untouchable, but if Hurston Waldrep is to be included in the deal, it would have to be for an All-Star caliber talent with multiple years of control.

Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

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