SportsTalkATL’s 2021 Midseason Braves Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 20-11

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Last Friday, I started releasing a midseason update to my Braves Top 30, covering nos. 30-21 of the list. Today, I’ll move onto the next installment, this time looking at nos. 20-11. The table below features those players plus the ten covered last week, and I’ll release the entire list once this series is concluded (although if you don’t want to wait, you can find the entire list of 30 at my personal blog, Braves Farm.) As usual, below the table, I’ve written a paragraph on each prospect.

Let’s get to it…

 

Braves 2021 Midseason Prospects (nos. 30-21)
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA

 

Braves 2021 Midseason Prospects (nos. 20-11)
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
20Trey Harris (OF)AA
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA
15Joey Estes (RHP)A
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)A
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+

 

*all stats are through this past Sunday

20. Trey Harris (OF)

Summer rank – 11th

AA – Mississippi

Dropping Harris nine spots is less to do with his actual performance and more to do with the fact that there appear to be more viable outfield options in the Braves organization right now. Don’t get me wrong, the 25-year-old certainly hasn’t played as well this season, now sporting an 84 wRC+ in 84 games so far with the M-Braves; but in terms of rate stats, Harris has mostly remained the same — in fact, he’s even better in regards to his plate discipline. The fact of the matter is: Harris is 25 and still hasn’t mastered the Double-A level, and though I still feel he’s a potential fourth outfielder in the majors, I no longer look at him as a fringy top 10 prospect in the system. If you disagree with me, FanGraphs has Harris ranked 14th in the Atlanta system.

 

19. Indigo Diaz (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

AA – Mississippi

Two years ago — when the Braves drafted Diaz in the 27th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Michigan St. — Tomahawk Take’s Fred Owens provided some hard-to-find stats on the righty while he was a JUCO star, featuring a stretch of 36 consecutive wins and a World Series title. Still, though, Owens stated that Diaz’s fastball was below-average and that (and I quote) “he reminded him of Dan Winkler (which, these days, is sort of a compliment). Boy, has the 22-year-old came a long way since being selected 817th overall. Consider the dominance Diaz has displayed so far in 2021…

High-A Rome: 27 IP, 18 K/9, 1.00 ERA, 0.67 FIP

Double-A Miss.: 13 IP, 15.9 K/9, 0.00 ERA, 1.74 FIP

The kid is literally unhittable right now, which has led to his quick ascent to the Double-A level. That used-to-be below-average fastball is now a dangerous weapon, and Diaz looks like a true home-grown closer for the Braves. We’ll see how he does the rest of the season, but this appears to be a slam dunk… and one that pretty much came out of nowhere.

 

18. Victor Vodnik (RHP)

Summer rank – 13th

AA – Mississippi

This is the first season the Braves began using Vodnik as a full-time starting pitcher, and though he’s shown flashes of brilliance on the mound, the kid just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Vodnik is currently on the injured list (for the second time this season) and hasn’t thrown a pitch for the M-Braves since August 13, when he tossed a no-hitter over five innings that featured nine strikeouts. It really is unfortunate, but hopefully, Vodnik gets a chance to finish the year strong and give him some much-needed momentum for 2022. Obviously, he needs a bit more time in Double-A, but I still believe in the under-sized Vodnik.

 

17. Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

Inactive

Placing Schwellenbach on the list was a bit of a challenge simply because we now know it’ll be at least next season before we see the right-hander (Tommy John surgery). However, the 2021 second-round pick put together quite a collegiate career with Nebraska, and his two-way stardom pretty much speaks for itself. In three seasons with the Huskers, Schwellenbach hit .282 and posted an .829 OPS as a hitter. Then as a pitcher, in his final year, he posted a 0.57 ERA in 31.2 innings. I think it’s safe to say that this is at least a top 20 prospect in the Braves system. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how talented he is once he finally takes the field next year.

 

16. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)

Summer rank – 9th

AAA – Gwinnett

When it was announced that De La Cruz was getting a Triple-A assignment to begin the 2021 season, I immediately went all-in on the righty, ranking him inside the top 10 this past June in my Summer list. However, I’ve had to re-evaluate my opinion of De La Cruz as his time in Gwinnett hasn’t gone anything as I expected. In 54.2 innings for the Stripers so far in 2021, the 24-year-old has pitched to a 6.59 ERA / 5.13 FIP to go with 4.94 walks per nine. I had the opportunity to watch him in person in Memphis about a month ago, and he just didn’t appear to have the stuff to get opposing batters out. Hopefully, he can turn things around soon, but I see De La Cruz as more of a multi-inning reliever right now. Regardless, he definitely needs to work on his secondary pitches.

 

15. Joey Estes (RHP)

Summer rank – 23rd

A – Augusta

Estes continues to mow down Single-A batters as he leads the South League in practically every pitching category, including strikeouts and ERA. You wouldn’t think it would be possible, but the 19-year-old has been even better during the month of August, maintaining an ERA even lower than his 2.76 for the 2021 season. Estes seems to have everything you’d want in a prospect pitcher: strikeouts, above-average run prevention, and lately, he’s even lasting longer into starts, tossing his first complete-game back on August 14. He’ll continue to soar on this list.

 

14. Ryan Cusick (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A – Augusta

The Braves have understandably been extremely careful with Cusick, keeping his pitch count around 50-60 pitches in each of the three starts he’s made so far for Augusta. The results have been about as good as you can hope for given the short leash, as Cusick has given up just one earned run in eight innings thus far, which pairs nicely with his 15 strikeouts and three walks. There’s no doubt this kid has the stuff to generate a ton of punch outs as a pro, but it’ll probably be next season before we see him face any real competition. FanGraphs already has Cusick in the top 10 in the Braves system, at no. 7, which is probably close to where he’ll likely end up in my rankings by the start of 2022.

 

13. Vaughn Grissom (SS)

Summer rank – 21st

A – Augusta

Since returning from an injury in mid-July, Grissom has been one of the best performing prospects in the Braves system, hitting .351 with 14 XBH and eight stolen bases in 35 games (good for a 166 wRC+ in that span). Grissom will end the 2021 campaign as one of the top hitters in Single-A, which means he’s looking at a High-A assignment to begin next season. At just 20-years-old, Grissom could see a Michael Harris-type rise among national evaluators next offseason.

 

12. Braden Shewmake (SS)

Summer rank – 8th

AA – Mississippi

I’ll give him props; Shewmake definitely pulled off a remarkable turnaround to what was a horrid start to the 2021 season. But unfortunately, after posting a 178 wRC+ in 14 games in July, the shortstop’s play has regressed again in August. Still, Shewmake is playing much better than he did during the first few months of the year, and he’s even showcased some surprising pop with the bat. I had to dock him for the early-season struggles, but make no mistake, this is still a future big leaguer.

 

11. Jared Shuster (LHP)

Summer rank – 12th

A+ — Rome

Like the other three prospect pitchers from the 2021 class (Bryce Elder, Spencer Strider, and Joey Estes), Shuster has flourished in his first pro season. The 23-year-old is probably ready for the Double-A level at this point as he’s spent all season mowing down High-A batters to the tune of 11.2 strikeouts per nine. But the Braves are in no hurry… and they shouldn’t be. I could’ve bumped Shuster up into the top-10 of this list; he’s certainly deserving. But the only reason I didn’t is that I’d still like to see what he does once with the M-Braves. He’s currently running a FIP nearly a run higher than his 3.70 ERA, so it might be wise to wait before getting too carried away. Regardless, FanGraphs is a believer as they have Shuster ranked seventh in the Braves system.

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