The Braves feature arguably the greatest core of young talent in all of sports, not just baseball.
The collection of Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Michael Harris II, Sean Murphy, and Spencer Strider can go toe-to-toe with any of the major four leagues. It’s a testament to the work Alex Anthopoulos and Atlanta’s front office have done scouting, developing, and extending those pieces.
The club just clinched their sixth straight division title, and with that young core locked up for the better part of the next decade, the reign looks nowhere close to being over.
Unlike last year, the Braves didn’t get a ton of contributions from their rookies. In 2022, the club had the Rookie of the Year and runner-up in Michael Harris and Spencer Strider; this year, the biggest first-year contributors were Jared Shuster and AJ Smith-Shawver, according to The Athletic, who ranked Atlanta’s rookies the least impactful of the 2023 season.
30. Atlanta Braves
Notable rookies: Jared Shuster, LHP (0.3 WAR); AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (0.0 WAR)
The Braves have the best team in MLB this year but have done it with minimal contributions from rookies. Their roster is loaded with young homegrown players who were promoted over the past several years, and they’ve also strategically used their farm system over that span to trade for star players such as former A’s Matt Olson and Sean Murphy and closer Raisel Iglesias. The Braves are high on Smith-Shawver, who has pitched only 21 2/3 innings this season in the majors but is expected to get more opportunities in future years.
AJ Smith-Shawver didn’t establish a permanent role in the starting rotation, but everyone around the organization is extremely high on the hard-throwing youngster. As far as stuff goes, he’s among the most exciting pitchers we’ve seen come through the Braves farm system.
No, Smith-Shawver didn’t contribute in a big way this year, but the Braves didn’t need him, Shuster, or any other rookie for anything other than a few spot starts. Moving forward, I expect AJSS to be a staple of Atlanta’s rotation.
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