Top 10 Braves prospects to watch for in 2021

Braves Drew Waters

For true baseball nutcases, the minor-league aspect of professional baseball is just as exciting to keep up with as the major-league team. First off, there are a plethora of different leagues, giving you a ton of action to keep up with. Secondly, it’s incredible to watch most of these kids develop into men and progress from year to year. It almost gives you a sense of accomplishment when you watch a kid you’ve been keeping track of burst onto the scene and have success at the top level.

Unfortunately, baseball fans have been robbed from that experience for over a year. The 2020 minor league season was canceled because of COVID, and it has been delayed this season for the same reason. However, that will all change this week, as minor league teams are scheduled to take the field tomorrow. Here at SportsTalkATL, we will cover all the teams extensively throughout the season, but today is a perfect opportunity to break down the ten prospects I’m most excited to watch in 2021.

* I will not include Ian AndersonWilliam Contreras, or Cristian Pache on this list since they are already a part of the major-league squad. This list will focus on players who will spend the majority of the season in the minors. 

10. William Woods

Woods wasn’t even on my radar until Spring Training, but he was a non-roster invitee and impressed with a high-90s fastball and wicked slider. In 2019, he posted a more than respectable 3.15 ERA with the Rome Braves, striking out 58 batters in 51 innings. The 22-year-old will begin the season with the Mississippi Braves, where he will likely spend the entire year, but I wouldn’t count out a 2022 MLB debut if he handles the promotion well.

9. Treone Harris

Because the Braves have so many talented outfielders in the majors and minors, Treone Harris continues to get overlooked, but all he keeps doing is putting up numbers. Most recently, he was named the Braves Minor League Player of the Year after posting an OPS over 1.000 in Rome, over .800 in Florida, and earning a promotion to Mississippi at the end of the year, where he hit a respectable .281. Given his age (25-years-old), this is a critical year for Harris, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Braves eventually gave him an opportunity on the bench later in the season.

8. Tucker Davidson

We saw Davidson make his major-league debut last season. It was a bit shaky, but that’s no reason to believe he can’t contribute to the Braves as early as this year. In 2019, Davidson was downright dominant in Mississippi, and he carried that success with him once he was promoted to Gwinnett. If Davidson continues to pitch like that to begin the season in the minors, the Braves won’t be able to keep him down for long.

7. Vaughn Grissom

Grissom is one of the youngest prospects the Braves have in the organization, but he’s already cracked FanGraphs’ Top 15 prospects thanks to his plus defense at shortstop and the bat he showed in his first stint of Rookie Ball. Grissom posted a WRC+ of 120 as an 18-year-old. It’s a bummer we didn’t get to see him play last year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he rocketed through the system in 2021.

6. Braden Shewmake

It didn’t take long for Shewmake to make an impression after being taken in the first round of the 2019 draft. After just 51 games in Rome, where he hit .318 with 18 doubles, three homers, and two triples, he was promoted to Mississippi. He struggled a bit there, but the sample size was just 14 games. It might be a long shot, but I wouldn’t count out him making his major league debut this season. At the very least, he should be a staple of the Gwinnett Stripers.

5. Shea Langeliers

The other first-round pick of the 2019 draft, Langeliers is an elite defensive catching prospect, and so far, he’s actually been better with the bat than originally expected. If that continues to be the case in 2021, it won’t be long before he’s in the majors. Langeliers and Contreras may be the two catchers in Atlanta to begin the 2022 season.

4. Drew Waters

Once again, I’ll remind you that I’m not ranking these prospects. If that were the case, Drew Waters would own the top spot. However, this list is all about who I’m most excited to watch this upcoming season, and the guys ahead of him just have some untapped upside that I don’t think we’ve seen yet. As far as Waters goes, we already know what he is — an ultra-talented switch hitter that became the youngest player ever to win the Southern League MVP. There are some concerns about his high strikeout rate, but I believe he’s still part of the future in the Braves outfield, and it could happen as early as this season.

3. Bryce Ball

It’s a minuscule sample size, but to this point, all Bryce Ball has done is rake. In 2019, he recorded a 177 WRC+ in Rookie Ball before posting 163 WRC+ with the Rome Braves. I think he’s the real deal and has the potential to be the Braves DH of the future; however, 2021 will tell us a lot about whether his hot stretch in 2019 was a fluke or not.

2. Kyle Muller

As far as Braves pitching prospects (not named Ian Anderson), Kyle Muller has the most upside. His fastball has the potential to hit triple digits, and he struck out batters at a 9.67 per nine clip back in 2019 with Mississippi. However, the key to him becoming a major-league contributor this season will be his control. He walked over five batters per nine in 2019, which won’t cut it in Gwinnett, let alone the majors. If he can trim down the walks, I expect him to make his MLB debut at some point this season, and he could even blossom into a valuable bullpen piece.

1. Michael Harris

If you follow the Braves closely, you should have seen this coming. Harris is a genuine five-tool prospect that tore up Rookie Ball as an 18-year-old and was promoted to Rome. He struggled in his first stint of A-ball, but the fact that he was even promoted is a testament to what the organization thinks of him. Even though we didn’t get to see much of him last season, 2020 wasn’t a total loss for Harris. The Braves included him on their 60-man taxi squad, where he continued to turn heads, earning a non-roster invite to Spring Training and posting a .850 OPS in 20 at-bats. Harris might be the most talented prospect in the organization, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it to AAA as early as this season.

 

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