30. Philip Pfeifer (LHP)
Yes, in case you were wondering, 28-year-old Philip Pfeifer is still considered a prospect. The southpaw has been in the Braves system since 2017 and put together a really productive 2019 campaign over three levels (A+, AA, AAA), finishing the season with a 2.97 ERA over 133.1 innings. I was a bit surprised that we never got to see him at any point last season. Pfeifer pitched well in Spring Training and has plenty of starting experience in the minors. Given the Braves rotation woes in 2020, you would have thought we would have seen him at least once. But even though it never ended up happening, his major league debut looks to be just around the corner.
29. Logan Brown (C, L/R)
Brown was pretty impressive for Rome in 2019, boasting a healthy .301 average, which resulted in a promotion to the Florida Fire Frogs. He wasn’t as successful in 48 games of A+ ball, but for a 23-year-old that was in his first full season of professional ball, he turned some heads in the organization. Enough so, that the Braves even had him be apart of their 60-man taxi squad.
28. Thomas Burrows (LHP)
Burrows put together a fantastic 2018 in which he recorded a 2.66 ERA over three levels (A,A+,AA). He followed that up with a so-so 2019 between Mississippi and Gwinnett. Like pretty much all minor leaguers, he didn’t get to see any action last year, but there’s a chance he makes his major league debut in 2021, especially if the Braves have multiple injuries. The burly, 230-pound lefty out of the University of Alabama has the potential to be a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen in the future.
27. Ricky DeVito (P)
DeVito is an 8th round pick out of Seton Hall that pitched very well in his first half-season of pro-ball back in 2019, recording 35 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. He was so impressive that he was already in Rome by season’s end. It’s disappointing he didn’t get to build off of that in 2020, but the Braves are still high on his projectability.
26. Tyler Owens (RHP)
Owens is a 19-year-old that turned some heads in his first stint of Rookie ball. The 13th round pick struck out 32 batters in 27.1 innings and held opponents to a .184 batting average against. Owens is a long way from the majors, but he could end up being a late-round gem for the Braves. It would have been nice to see how he developed in 2020, but hopefully, the time off doesn’t end up hurting his progression.
25. Jesse Franklin (OF, L/L)
In the third round of this year’s five-round MLB draft, the Braves took Michigan outfielder Jesse Franklin. Franklin’s a plus-athlete that thrived during his freshman and sophomore seasons in Anne Arbor, tallying 23 homers and hitting for a healthy .287 average — good for a .905 OPS. His power-bat gives him plenty of upside, and the Braves may have gotten a steal here, given he didn’t participate in the 2020 season because of a broken collarbone.
24. Alex Jackson (C)
Jackson is as boom or bust of a prospect in the entire system. In 2019, he slugged 28 homers in just 85 games for Gwinnett, but he also struck out 118 times over that span. That’s discouraging when attempting to project a prospect’s success at the next level, and in his brief stints with the Braves thus far, he’s looked lost at the plate. I still think he can figure it out with time, but he’s running out of chances with William Contreras and Shea Langeliers on the horizon.
23. Mahki Backstrom (1B/OF)
Backstrom doesn’t have the experience to make many the Braves top prospect lists; however, while Atlanta has a lot of high-quality talent at the top of their farm system, the lower levels are pretty barren. Backstrom is one of those guys that will start to get talked about more this season. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to play in 2020 — like most lower-level prospects — but he impressed in his first stint of pro-ball, hitting over .300 with a couple of homers and five doubles in just 23 games.
22. Greyson Jenista (OF)
Once a second-round pick, Jenista just hasn’t shown enough consistency with the bat to move up the prospect rankings. He only managed to hit .233 in 2019 and struck out 144 times in just 130 games. There is still hope that he can become a power bat at the major league level, but he’ll never get the chance if he can’t cut down on the strikeouts.
21. Vaughn Grissom (SS)
19-year-old Vaughn Grissom cracks the Braves Top 20 prospects after an extremely impressive stint in rookie ball back in 2019, smacking three homers and seven doubles to the tune of a .288 average in 44 games. Obviously, it is way too early in his career to really tell what he might be as a major-leaguer, but his power, defense, and athleticism are all something to like so far.
20. C.J. Alexander (3B)
In 2018, C.J. Alexander was Bryce Ball before Bryce Ball. He hit a ridiculous .352 with a .429 on-base percentage in 52 games between three levels (Rookie, A, A+). Unfortunately, Tommy John Surgery cut his 2018 campaign short, and he didn’t look like himself when he returned, hitting just .117 in 43 games. Now, he’s missed an entire year of development because of the coronavirus. It’s safe to say the hype has passed, but there is clearly still some talent here. We’ll have to see if he can bounce back in 2021.
19. Patrick Weigel (RHP)
Arm injuries have held Weigel back. If it weren’t for them, he would likely already be in Atlanta by now. The righty put together an impressive 2019 in his return, posting a 2.73 ERA between Mississippi and Gwinnett, and followed that up with an electric Spring Training. I was a little surprised the Braves didn’t turn to him sooner, given all of their pitching woes, but eventually, Weigel made his MLB debut in 2020; however, it’s one he would probably like to forget, as he surrendered two runs on two hits and three walks and failed to get out of his first major league inning. Still, there’s a lot to like about Weigel’s stuff, and he could end up spending most of 2021 in Atlanta.
18. Victor Vodnik (RHP)
Vodnik was electric in 2019 with Rome, recording a 2.93 ERA in 67.1 innings with 69 strikeouts. He’ll need to work on his secondary pitches if he wants to have a lot of success at the top level, but his high-90s fastball makes him a high upside prospect from the right side.
17. Freddy Tarnok (RHP)
Tarnok was a third-round pick out of high school by the Braves in 2017. He’s yet to have a ton of success in the minors and did not get to play in 2020, but he has three-plus pitches and could project as a back of the rotation starter as he matures, which is nothing to scoff at.
16. Jeremy Walker (RHP)
Walker is a guy I was super excited to see in 2020. He was electric in his short stint with the Braves in 2019, boasting a minuscule 1.93 ERA over 9.1 innings. Unfortunately, an arm injury prevented him from making an appearance last season, but his filthy two-seam fastball is something few pitchers in this league have. If Walker can come back healthy in 2021, he should be a critical piece to Atlanta’s bullpen.
15. Daysbel Hernandez (RHP)
Hernandez is a 24-year-old out of Cuba that followed up an unremarkable 2018 campaign with a stellar 2019 that featured a 1.71 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. Given his high-powered stuff and age, I would expect the Braves to push him up the farm system pretty quickly in 2021, especially after a lost 2020. If he thrives, don’t be surprised if he makes his MLB debut as early as next season.
14. Bryce Elder (RHP)
Pretty much every outlet you can imagine pegged Elder as a steal in the fifth round of this year’s MLB Draft, and the Braves signed him well above slot value, giving him a signing bonus of $850,000. By the time Elder was a senior for the Texas Longhorns, he was their ace and performing exactly as expected, boasting a 2.08 ERA in his first four starts before the season was shut down. He’s a prospect to watch in 2021 as he gets his first taste of professional baseball.
13. Jared Shuster (LHP)
This is going to be way lower than where Chase has him slotted, but I need to see more out of Jared Shuster before moving him up any higher. This pick was puzzling to me, but I trust Alex Anthopoulos. His box score is… ugly, but he’s a power lefty that was much better in the highly competitive Cape Cod League than he was in college. It is no shock that he was picked below slot, but he could make a substantial impact early in the lower levels of Atlanta’s minor league system.
12. Bryce Ball (1B/OF, L/R)
I have Ball higher than almost every outlet I’ve seen, but I have to admit I still feel like I could be selling him a bit short. Because all we’ve seen the kid do is ball since being drafted in the 24th round. He hit .324 with a ridiculous 13 homers and 12 doubles in just 41 games of Rookie ball, earning a promotion to Rome, where he played the last 21 games, smacking another four homers and six doubles while maintaining a .337 batting average. He was so impressive that the Braves even decided to carry him on their 60-man taxi squad. I can’t wait to see what this kid does in 2021.
11. Trey Harris (OF, R/R)
Harris was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2019. He began that season in Rome, where he raked at a .366 clip before being promoted to Florida. Harris ended his 2019 campaign in Mississippi, smacking a couple of home runs and hitting .281 in 41 games. For a 32nd round pick, he’s already exceeded all expectations, but it’ll be interesting to see what the Braves will do with him, considering they already have Ronald Acuña locked in for the next decade with Cristian Pache and Drew Waters nearing their opportunity in the bigs.
10. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)
De La Cruz isn’t as hyped up as the other prospects you’ll find crack Atlanta’s top-ten, but he’s done more than enough to earn a spot this high up the rankings. He has electric stuff and has been effective at every stop so far in his minor league career. The last time we saw him, he posted a 3.25 ERA in 24 starts over three levels of the minors (A, A+, AA). De La Cruz was actually called up to the active roster last season but did not make his major league debut.
9. Michael Harris (OF, L/L)
It was so disappointing that we were unable to watch Michael Harris in 2020. He could easily become a top prospect in all of the majors if 2021 is anything like 2019. Harris is a freak athlete, and the homegrown Georgia product has all of the tools to be great. He has a cannon arm, speed, and raw power that will be deadly if he can tap into it. Harris had a .917 OPS in Rookie Ball with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, and 5 steals in 31 games. He is as toolsy as they come and could be the next elite Atlanta outfield prospect in line.
8. Tucker Davidson (LHP)
I must admit, I may have been a little too high on Davidson after his marvelous 2019 campaign, which saw him dominate in Mississippi and Gwinnett. I actually thought there was a good chance he would contribute to the major league team last season; however, he never received much of an opportunity, which is pretty telling given all of the Braves rotation problems. Davidson obviously wasn’t ready, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up on the major league roster permanently in 2021 — whether it be as a part of the rotation or the bullpen.
7. Braden Shewmake (INF, L/R)
Shewmake is a prospect that I was giddy to watch in 2020. Of course, 2020 made that impossible, but at least he spent the season apart of the 60-man taxi squad. Shemake hit the ground running after the Braves selected him in the first round of the 2019 draft, hitting .318 with a .389 OBP in Rome and earning a quick promotion to Mississippi. It shouldn’t be long before we see him manning the infield in Atlanta.
6. Shea Langeliers (C, R/R)
The other one of the Braves first-round picks from the 2019 draft barely misses out on cracking the top-five. Langeliers was selected ninth overall and hit a respectable .255 with two home runs in 54 games for Rome. He’s also looked very comfortable at the plate during spring training. If he can continue to improve in that area, the Braves will have their catcher of the future. Langeliers was drafted for his defense and is probably already good enough behind the plate to be in the majors.
5. William Contreras (C, R/R)
If you keep up with prospects from year-to-year, you might have been slightly low on William Contreras entering 2020 after a disappointing 2019. However, even though the sample size was minuscule, he showed enough last season to warrant top-five prospect consideration. The younger brother of Willson Contreras was impressing in spring training, but little did we know the Braves would need him so early in the season after Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers showed symptoms of the coronavirus. Contreras split time with Alex Jackson while he was up, going 4-10 with a double. I expect him to begin the year with the Stripers, but it may not be long before he is in Atlanta permanently.
4. Kyle Muller (LHP)
Muller may not have the minor league track record of a pitcher like Tucker Davidson, but the lumbering lefty’s upside is what earns him the fourth spot on this list. In 2019, he posted a 3.14 ERA in AA Mississippi, striking out 120 batters in 111.1 innings. We didn’t get to see him in 2020, but apparently, he was hitting triple digits with his fastball. If Muller can find some more control this season, he could definitely become apart of Atlanta’s roster down the stretch.
3. Drew Waters (OF, S/R)
It’s crazy that the last time we saw Drew Waters, he became the first Braves prospect to win the Southern League MVP since Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez did it in back-to-back seasons, yet somehow it almost feels like we’re a little down on him entering the 2021 campaign. I guess that’s what COVID will do to you. Waters experienced a bit of trouble making contact when he was promoted to AAA at the end of the 2019 campaign, but the sample size was tiny. Right now, he is the Braves best hitting prospect and could contribute in Atlanta as early as this season.
2. Cristian Pache (OF, R/R)
For the first time in a while, the Braves have a new top prospect because that is a spot Pache has owned for a couple of years now. Moving Pache down isn’t a knock on his performance last season, but we just barely got to see him. Meanwhile, Ian Anderson became one of the Braves top pitchers. More on Anderson in a second; Pache remains the best defensive prospect in all of baseball. That alone will make him extremely valuable, and he looks to be growing into his frame and developing more power. It shouldn’t be done often, but Pache is deserving of the comparisons to Andruw Jones.
1. Ian Anderson (RHP)
After what Anderson did last year in the shortened season and into the playoffs, it almost seems unfair to call him a rookie. But since he’s still technically a prospect, he has to be atop the list and should be the favorite to take home the NL Rookie of the Year award. Anderson had a 1.95 ERA for the Braves in six regular-season starts, which paled in comparison to his postseason performance — 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four starts. He may still be considered a rookie, but he very well could be the best pitcher on the Braves staff entering 2021.