The 2022 Minor League Baseball season has gotten off to a middling start for the Braves. With a combined 41-42 record through the top 4 levels of the system, the Braves’ will hope for some more wins to be added to the win column. The High-A Rome Braves are off to a great 13-7 start, which is currently good enough to be tied for 1st in the South Atlantic League’s South division. Taking a closer look at the box scores, we are beginning to have enough data points to highlight and showcase a select group of players that have started the season in a great fashion.
I present to you, the Braves April 2022 Prospects of the Month!
Pitcher of the Month:
Royber Salinas, RHP, Low-A Augusta
18.2 IP, 1.45 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, 11 BB, 43K
Mr. Salinas was not part of our Top 50 Prospects list in January, however, he was taken under consideration. The biggest concern I had was his less-than-stellar walk rate, which came in at 5.5 BB/9 last year. That concern is still present, as he had only reduced that mark to 5.3 BB/9 so far in 2022. The reason he is getting all kinds of buzz throughout the prospect world is the strikeouts. Of the 56 outs he has recorded, 43 have come via strikeout. Not many pitchers produce a strikeout rate of over 20 K/9, and I wouldn’t expect him to maintain that all season. Royber possesses a fastball that has reached 97 mph, with a decent curveball. The slider isn’t a pitch that he utilizes all that much, as he is still developing that part of his arsenal. The elevated walk rates will bring some long-term starting potential concerns, but it’s clear the fastball will play, even if that means he settles in as a high-leverage reliever.
Royber Salinas seems to have a knack for striking out his opponents. All of the 12 outs he recorded on Tuesday were punch-outs!
He’s averaging a cool 16.9 K/9 innings through 4 starts this season🤯🤯
— Augusta GreenJackets (@GreenJackets) April 26, 2022
Hitter of the Month:
Michael Harris, OF, AA Mississippi
14 R, 27 H, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 9 SB, .333/.400/.531
We ranked Money Mike at the top of our list back in January, and all signs point to the fast-rising outfielder proving us right. Harris has top-notch speed and has been a terror on the basepaths in the first month, with 9 swipes thus far in 20 games. Unsurprisingly, he bats leadoff for Mississippi, which is where I also see him slotting into a big-league lineup. 15-20 home runs with 30 stolen bases, a good batting average, and excellent OBP is what I would expect from Harris over a full season. Should he continue to display dominance, I’d look for the Braves to move him up to Triple-A at some point in June, with a potential late-season call-up to Atlanta not out of the question.
20 straight games!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 30, 2022
Other Performances of Note:
Nolan Kingham, RHP, AAA Gwinnett
15.2 IP, 1.15 ERA, 0.574 WHIP, 2BB, 11 K
Jared Shuster, LHP, AA Mississippi
24 IP, 1.88 ERA, 0.833 WHIP, 5 BB, 28 K
Tanner Gordon, RHP, High-A Rome
22 IP, 1.64 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, 0 BB, 36K, 14.7 K/9
J.J. Niekro, RHP, Low-A Augusta
14.2 IP, 0.61 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 5 BB, 18 K
Shuster is showcasing his skillset, which no doubt helps ease the pain of the front office trading away Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes to Oakland in the Matt Olson deal. Gordon has simply been unbelievable, with an unfathomable ZERO walks so far through 22 innings. He is pitching at an age-appropriate level currently and I’m not surprised they just promoted him to AA to challenge him a bit.
Pat Valaika, UTIL, AAA Gwinnett
11 R, 21 H, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB, .276/.349/.434
Drew Lugbauer, 1B, AA Mississippi
16 R, 19 H, 6 HR, 14 RBI, .260/.372/.562
Landon Stephens, OF, High-A Rome
15 R, 17 H, 7 HR, 19 RBI, .262/.392/.615
Caleb Durbin, 2B, Low-A Augusta
18 R, 22 H, 1 Hr, 15 RBI, .344/.456/.500
Valaika is organizational depth, having spent multiple years in the Majors already. I can envision Lugbauer as a pinch-hitting bat off the bench and an occasional start. Durbin is a 2021 draft selection out of Washington University in St. Louis. There’s not much power in the bat, but the hit tool is developed and will carry him through the minors as a defensively sound second baseman that knows how to get on base.
From a fantasy baseball perspective, Harris is nearly universally owned in leagues that roster prospects. Shuster may be available in your league as an under-the-radar starter. For deep leagues, I’d recommend taking a chance on Salinas. If he can work on cutting down the walks, the sky is the limit for him.
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.