Atlanta Braves Top 50 Prospects (2023)

Atlanta Braves Top 50 graphic design by Michael Packard, @CollectingPack on Twitter

The 2022 Major League Baseball season did not end in fairy-tale fashion for the Braves, despite a 13-win total improvement over their 2021 World Series title season. The Braves did complete a ferocious comeback to edge out the New York Mets for their 5th consecutive NL East division banner. However, on the minor league front, the Braves compiled a 330-328 record across their six minor league teams, with High-A Rome (74-54) and their rookie level Dominican Summer League team (36-24) leading the way. Given the lack of quality in the minor leagues, I find it quite surprising the collective record was as good as it was. That said, the Braves still have some intriguing future big leaguers. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Here is a quick explanation of the tier system we use here at Prospects1500:

Prospects1500 Tiers:

Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors, but provide minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making a team’s 40-man roster.

Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022

Tier 1


Tier 2

1. Owen Murphy, RHP, 19, Single-A
The Braves selected Murphy with the 20th overall selection in the draft. Despite being a two-way player in high school, all signs point to him being a pitcher full time for the Braves. Currently, he fits the profile of a mid-rotation starter, albeit one that can throw 5 different pitches for strikes. I’m not certain that he’ll end up as the best player on this list, but I’d still project his chances of being a very solid pitcher in a long line of Braves pitching prospects.

2. JR Ritchie, RHP, 19, Single-A
UCLA would have loved to have been able to bring Ritchie on board in the City of Angels. The Braves gave him 2.4 million reasons why it would be better to get started on a pro career. Like Murphy, Ritchie is a strike-thrower with some serious mid-nineties heat. He possesses a fastball-slider-changeup combo, and got off to a very promising start in his 5 starts after being signed. The Braves should challenge him at Single-A Augusta, with a promotion to Double-A Mississippi not out of the question.

3. Jared Shuster, LHP, 24, Triple-A
The old adage that you can never have enough pitching rings true. Shuster finds himself on the cusp of the big league rotation and is only a few injuries or spans of ineffectiveness away from that becoming reality. With the trade of Kyle Muller to Oakland in the Sean Murphy deal, he’ll be vying for playing time at the #5 starting position alongside Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder.

4. Cole Phillips, RHP, 19, Rookie (FCL)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Texas high school flamethrower wows scouts! Phillips fits that mold to a T, with an electric fastball. His success will be in his ability to combine premium velocity with a sharp breaking ball and quality changeup. At 19, he has plenty of time to show the Braves his ability to develop. Phillips has a higher ceiling than any of the guys ahead of him on this list, with the floor of a late-inning reliever.

Tier 3
5. Victor Vodnik, RHP, 23, Triple-A
Prior to the 2022 season, the jury was still out on Vodnik as to whether he would be a starter or reliever. He appeared in 31 games this past season, and none of them were starts. It’s clear the Braves view him as a reliever, likely in part due to his elevated walk rates of 4-5 BB/9 over the course of his career. Frankly, that’s too many free passes to be an effective starter at the highest level. Instead, he’s being deployed as a strikeout-inducing reliever, with an excellent 12.2 K/9 mark last season.

6. Braden Shewmake, SS, 25, Triple-A
With the Braves locking up their core of young stars, and Vaughn Grissom in the driver’s seat at the 6, it doesn’t look like there is room on the dance floor for Shewmake to entrench himself in the starting lineup. He has the makings of a spot-start utility player with decent defense and enough ability to do most things well. He’s not a useful fantasy baseball player, but he will fit well on the bench of a big-league team.

7. Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/RHP, 22, DNP (TJS)
It is not known yet how well Schwellenbach’s elbow has responded to Tommy John surgery. It is also not known whether the rigors of professional pitching will allow him to remain a starter, or if he’ll be better positioned to be a relief pitcher. He possesses three plus pitches, and there aren’t a lot of innings of wear on the arm, so it’s likely the Braves will give him every opportunity to regain his health and display his arsenal.

8. Brandol Mezquita, OF, 21, High-A
You likely won’t see Mezquita higher on prospect lists than where I have him, but I feel he has a decent amount of untapped potential, that he is deserving of this spot. He possesses great bat speed and has posted enticing exit velocities in the minors.  If he can bring down his strikeouts and establish more contact, balls will start to fly over the fence. He’s not the second coming of Ronald Acuna, but he could force his way into a 4th outfielder with pinch hitting power role.

9. AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, 20, Single-A
What a meteoric rise for the kid from Texas, who just happened to play high school ball with a kid by the name of Bobby Witt Jr.  He had an elevated ERA (5.11) last season propelled by a 1.35 WHIP, however the .215 batting average against and 103 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings has the front office dreaming of him realizing his potential. Formerly a highly-sought-after quarterback, I’d expect some additional growing pains as he continues his transition away from football. With an impressive showing this season, I think we’d see Smith-Shawver on the back side of top 100 lists going into next offseason.

10. Dylan Dodd, LHP, 24, Triple-A
If you’re a pitcher, and a good athlete, there’s a good chance the Braves want you in their system. Dodd is another athletic pitcher in a system full of athletes. He doesn’t possess high velocity pitches, but he has the ability to throw any pitch in any count. This allows him to keep batters off balance and rack up strikeouts in the process. His best pitch is a plus changeup that he throws in the low 80’s.  This allows his low 90’s fastball to play up more than it otherwise would. I view him as back-end rotation starter with enough command to stick in a rotation for several years.

11. Adam Maier, RHP, 21, Rookie (FCL)
There are a wide variety of outcomes in play for Maier, as he makes his way back from injury that shortened his college season at Oregon in 2022. The Braves are clearly intrigued, as evidenced by the over-slot seven-figure bonus they gave him. He has a strong, athletic frame to pitch with, he just needs to build up innings and durability to maximize his already given strike throwing ability.

12. Darius Vines, RHP, 24, Triple A
Vines is on my short list of guys that will help the Braves this season, whether it be for a spot start or for a few innings at a time in a lopsided game. He has been a starter in the minors, but I see him more as multi-inning reliever that will keep his team in the ballgame and allow the offense to mount a comeback.

13. Jesse Franklin V, OF, 24, Double-A
Striking out over once per game generally doesn’t bode well for most prospects. The clock is ticking on the “F5 Tornado”, as my baseball card hobby group likes to call him. Franklin still has the nice power + speed skillset, but there is too much swing-and-miss in the profile to wonder if he’ll be able to fully display those tools. 2023 will be a crucial season for him.

Tier 4

14. Ambioris Tavarez, SS, 19, Rookie (FCL)
15. Geraldo Quintero, 2B, 21, High-A
16. Cal Conley, SS, 23, High-A
17. Seth Keller, RHP, 18, High-A
18. Drake Baldwin, C, 21, Single-A
19. Blake Burkhalter, RHP, 22, High-A
20. Diego Benitez, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
21. David McCabe, 1B, 22, Single-A
22. Tanner Gordon, RHP, 25, Double-A
23. Roddery Munoz, RHP, 22, Double-A
24. Ignacio Alvarez, 3B, 19, Single-A
25. Adam Shoemaker, LHP, 20, High-A
26. Brooks Wilson, RHP, 26, Triple-A
27. Douglas Glod, OF, 17, Rookie (DSL)
28. Cody Milligan, 2B, 23, Double-A
29. Luke Waddell, SS, 24, Double-A
30. Daysbel Hernandez, RHP, 26, Triple-A
31. Landon Stephens, OF, 24, Double-A
32. Tyler Tolve, C, 22, High-A
33. Adam Zebrowski, C, 22, High-A
34. J.J. Niekro, RHP, 24, High-A
35. Cedric De Grandpre, RHP, 20, Single-A
36. Tyler Collins, OF, 19, Rookie (FCL)

Tavarez is a tooled up international prospect with a lot of development time ahead. Baldwin leads with bat, drafted from an underrated Missouri State program. Munoz has been promoted to the 40 man roster and is likely a talented bullpen piece. Alvarez was taken in the 2022 draft, with power in his bat. Glod is one to watch, as he possesses a well-rounded toolset, but with a wide variety of outcomes at this point. De Grandpre played alongside Cam Collier at powerhouse Chipola Junior College, with a powerful fastball-curveball combo.

Tier 5
37. Mahki Backstrom, 1B, 21, Single-A
38. Jared Johnson, RHP, 21, Single-A
39. Kadon Morton, OF, 22, High-A
40. Justin Dean, OF, 26, Triple-A
41. Nolan Kingham, RHP, 26, Triple-A
42. Hayden Deal, LHP, 28, Double-A
43. Alan Rangel, RHP, 25, Triple-A
44. Jorge Bautista, RHP, 22, Single-A
45. Miguel Pena, RHP, 24, High-A
46. Didier Fuentes, RHP, 17, Rookie (DSL)
47. Robert Gonzalez, OF, 18, Rookie (DSL)
48. Maximo Maria, OF, 18, Rookie (DSL)
49. Eliezel Stevens, 2B, 22, Single-A
50. Albert Rivas, RHP, 19, Rookie (FCL)

The back end of the Braves Top 50 finds many players that would not stand a chance of making most of the other teams’ top 50 rankings.  This is due, in part, to the Braves trading away assets for players that will help them win now. Also, the Braves are still recovering from the international signing penalties handed down by the Commissioner’s Office for past signing bonus violations. Fuentes and Gonzalez showed promising signs in the Dominican Summer League and would be the ones to watch from this tier.

Born in Arizona. Raised in the Midwest, and with lots of baseball. When I’m not writing about baseball or purchasing my next baseball card, I can be seen coasting down the highway to yet another travel baseball tournament with my wife and son. I love the Braves, bat flips and outfield assists.

1 Comment

  1. Victor Vodnik is too high. The Braves didn’t even put him on the 40 man roster. And nobody selected him in the Rule5 draft.

    But I really enjoy your work and it shows an extensive knowledge of the Braves system all the down to the Dominican Summer League.

    Look forward to your mid-season update

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