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

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The updated prospect list continues today, this time featuring the middle group of Braves prospects, nos. 20-11. If you missed the previous installments, here’s what has been covered so far…

As I did in the first group, included in the player excerpts that follow the table below, I’ve also provided a ‘trend’ symbol to symbolize which current direction I believe each player’s stock as a prospect is.

 

 

SportsTalkATL’s 2021 Summer Top 30 Prospect List (Nos. 20-11)

RANK PLAYER LEVEL
11 Trey Harris, OF AA
12 Jared Shuster, LHP A+
13 Victor Vodnik, RHP AA
14 Bryce Ball, 1B/DH A+
15 Daysbel Hernandez, RHP AA
16 Freddy Tarnok, RHP A+
17 CJ Alexander, 3B AA
18 Spencer Strider, RHP A+
19 Jesse Franklin V, OF A+
20 Ricky DeVito, RHP A+

 

20. Ricky DeVito, RHP  ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-3, 195lb
  • 8th RD / 2019 MLB Draft

I’m just a tad higher on DeVito than perhaps most. FanGraphs ranked the 22-year-old 24th in the Braves system, while SportsTalkATL had him at no. 27 back in January. However, given his absolute dominance in High-A Rome this season, his first stint at that level, I believe my current placing is rather appropriate. DeVito, who wields a mid-90s MPH fastball and two effective secondaries, has already racked up 27 strikeouts in his first 20.1 innings down in Rome, which comes out to a rate of 12+ strikeouts per nine. And even better, all of that swing-and-miss has come without a ton of free passes as his walk-rate sits at a strong 3.1 BB/9. DeVito has the ability to become a rare three-pitch reliever, which should allow him to make a very good living as a high-leverage major league bullpen piece in the future.

 

19. Jesse Franklin V, OF  ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-1, 215lb
  • 3rd RD / 2020 MLB Draft

Franklin very well could’ve gone higher in the 2020 draft if not for a broken collarbone during a skiing accident in January of that year. Evaluators at the cusp of the draft also criticized his most recent summer league performance, where his power had slipped pretty dramatically. However, I find it ridiculous to critique a kid that hit .282 versus the top college talent in the country. Regardless, Franklin has been solid so far during his pro debut with Rome, even though he is, in fact, looking like the potential platoon player some projected a year ago. The lefty-hitter currently has a .274 AVG against right-handed pitching but a .174 mark versus southpaws; however, the sample size is small.

 

18. Spencer Strider, RHP ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-0, 195lb
  • 4th RD / 2020 MLB Draft

Strider is quickly making a name for himself within the Braves system this season, and it only took him four starts to show the org’s brass that Single-A was simply too easy for him as he struck out 32 batters in just 15 ⅓ innings. He’s only made two starts with High-A Rome so far, but he dazzled in his first showing.

 

Because of a Tommy John surgery forcing him to miss all of 2019 at Clemson, the Braves didn’t have a ton to go on when they picked Strider in the 4th round last year. But, so far, it doesn’t appear to matter. 

 

17. CJ Alexander, 3B ⇔

  • 24-years-old
  • 6-5, 215lb
  • 20th RD / 2018 MLB Draft

The canceled 2020 season really impacted Alexander, given last year he was already a 23-year-old corner player coming off a bad campaign from 2019 — albeit an injury-filled one. The Indiana native turns 25 next month, so this season is crucial for his stock as a Braves prospect. The power has been nice, but Alexander is still whiffing too much as he owned a 33.6% K rate. Simply being healthy in 2021 is a welcoming sign, and I even have him a bit higher than where he was back in January, but know this… Alexander is running out of time.

 

16. Freddy Tarnok, RHP ⇔

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-3, 185lb
  • 3rd RD / 2017 MLB Draft

Tarnok just made his 2021 debut pitching out of the bullpen for Rome, which was an impressive first impression. Tarnok struck out eight batters in four hitless innings, suggesting this could be a big year for the 22-year-old. However, much of this kid’s stock is still primarily built upon projected upside given Tarnok really hasn’t done much in Atlanta’s system yet, currently sporting a 4.20 ERA in 201 ⅓ career innings down on the farm, though at least a considerable portion of those innings have been while with a full-season affiliate (which is pretty impressive considering his age). 

 

15. Daysbel Hernandez, RHP ⇔

  • 24-years-old
  • 5-10, 220lb
  • INT signee / September 2017

Because he’s nearly 25-years-old and has never been looked at as a potential starter, most don’t even consider Hernandez a prospect. But given just how great he was in 2019, I thought perhaps he could sneak himself into the Braves big league bullpen soon, and evidently, so did the organization since they started him in Triple-A Gwinnett this season. Unfortunately, Hernandez didn’t perform too well when given his opportunity with the Stripers. After allowing five runs in 4 ⅔ innings at the highest minor league level, he was demoted back to Double-A Mississippi in late May — his first time there. However, Hernandez has been solid since moving down a level. 

 

14. Bryce Ball, 1B/DH ⇔

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-6, 240lb
  • 24th RD / 2019 MLB Draft

Ball was always going to regress a tad since he basically began his pro career as a minor league version of David Ortiz two years ago. He has, in fact, moved down a couple of spots since January, but as essentially a bat-only player taken in the 24th round, a top-15 ranking still illustrates just how prolific this kid really is. We’re probably just going to have to learn to live with strikeouts when it comes to a player like Ball, but his 10% surge in K rate in 2021 — compared to 2019 — is still a bit concerning. Still, a 108 wRC+ to go with 8 XBH in 25 games as of Tuesday is pretty strong. 

 

13. Victor Vodnik, RHP ↑

  • 21-years-old
  • 6-0, 200lb
  • 14th RD / 2018 MLB Draft

Injured

Given he skipped the High-A level and has still managed to dominate opposing batters this season — before getting injured back on May 27 — is one reason I have Vodnik several spots higher than most. The other reason is that the Braves are deploying him as a starter after logging his first 70ish innings as a pro primarily out of the bullpen. Along with Jassel De La Cruz, I believe Vodnik is among what’s now a rather depleted second wave of up-and-coming top-tier starters in Atlanta’s system. Given the indicators from 2021 so far, I may even go as far as to say that he could be the leader of that unofficial group. Vodnik’s current injury doesn’t seem to be too serious since he’s listed on the 7-day, so we should see him again soon. 

 

12. Jared Shuster, LHP ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-3, 210lb
  • 1st RD / 2020 MLB Draft

I’ll admit, I was very skeptical of the Braves decision to go with Shuster as its top pick last year, given his underwhelming numbers in college ball at Wake Forest. But boy, was I wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as FanGraphs, who has him ranked higher than fellow southpaw Tucker Davidson in its latest top 30, but Shuster is a kid that could be a quick riser over the next season or two. So far, the Braves are being cautious with him in terms of pitch count and days of rest, but once the training wheels come off for Shuster… watch out. 

 

11. Trey Harris, OF ⇔

  • 25-years-old
  • 5-11, 220lb
  • 32nd RD / 2018 MLB Draft

I have 2019’s Braves Minor League Player of the Year exactly where he was back in January, just outside the top 10, and I believe he’s the only 25-year-old player included on my list. Given that incredible 2019 campaign, in which Harris rose three minor league levels and was invited to the Arizona Fall League, raking at all four leagues, I believed he had enough momentum and stock as a prospect perhaps to earn a cup of coffee in the big leagues. However, the Braves have him repeating Double-A in 2021, which is probably for the best considering he only logged 41 games there two years ago and hasn’t really hit well there so far this season — .229 AVG.

The top 10 will be next!

 

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