This is the Braves best minor league storyline of 2024

Braves David Fletcher

The Braves have a number of success stories currently going on in the minor leagues. Spencer Schwellenbach has already made it to the majors after beginning the season in High-A Rome. Owen Murphy, who was Schwellenbach’s teammate with the Emperors, flashed some incredible stuff before going down with Tommy John surgery. And, of course, 2023 first-round pick Hurston Waldrep is eyeing his potential MLB debut soon after a recent promotion to Gwinnett. That’s all very exciting news, but the most intriguing storyline of the Braves farm system this year has nothing to do with top prospects, and everything to do with David Fletcher.

The 3o-year-old utility man was acquired in a trade with the Angels and expected to compete for a spot on the Atlanta bench. However, the Braves originally decided to stash him in Gwinnett in case of emergency, which did arrive earlier this season when Ozzie Albies hit the IL. David Fletcher appeared in five games for the major-league squad and made some winning plays in a short amount of time. He’s a more than capable major-league utility infielder, but perhaps his future holds something much more entertaining.

After re-joining the Gwinnett Stripers, Fletcher found himself being used as an emergency pitcher at times, which is when he began flashing a somewhat filthy knuckleball. The offering impressed so much that he got his first career professional start last week and actually pitched pretty well, allowing just two runs and three hits over five innings with six punchouts.

At first, it was up for debate whether or not the Braves were serious about this experiment. However, something happened over the weekend that proved this is no joke. When Hurston Waldrep was promoted, David Fletcher was actually sent down to Mississippi so he could continue to work as a pitcher. He made his first AA start last night, which was even more impressive than his first outing, as he finished six innings and allowed only one run on two hits.

What makes Fletcher’s 2024 campaign even more intriguing is that he’s also under investigation for violating MLB’s gambling policy, accused of betting with the same illegal bookmaker as Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter. 

“David Fletcher, a former Los Angeles Angels infielder currently playing for the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, and his friend, who also played in the minor leagues, both bet on sports with the Southern California bookmaker who took wagers from Shohei Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, according to multiple sources detailing the activities,” reports Trisha Thompson for ESPN. 

Fletcher may no longer be in Hollywood, but this is more like a movie script than real life. If, somehow, he ends up working his way to The Show as a knuckleballer and has any semblance of success, it will be one of the oddest career developments the sport has ever seen. Something I will very much be rooting for every time he toes the rubber.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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