We wrap up our roundtable series with the question of which Atlanta Braves prospect will be the first to make their debut in 2020? Despite a growing number of players who have graduated from prospect status, the Braves still have a good farm system, particularly at the upper levels, and several that could see their first action in the majors this season.
Which Braves prospect will make their MLB debut first this season?
Kris Willis: I think the safest bet will be Ian Anderson. Anderson isn’t on the 40-man yet but I think with a strong start at Gwinnett, we could see him at some point during the first half. I also think we will see Cristian Pache and Drew Waters at some point in 2020 but not until late in the season.
Scott Coleman: I’ll say Ian Anderson. It’s going to be tough for Pache or Waters to crack the outfield rotation barring multiple injuries, and I’d rather them play every day in Gwinnett than split time in Atlanta. There is zero rush with either guy. Anderson is also batting others on the depth chart but there tends to be more fluidity in the rotation than elsewhere. This is a tough one to pick.
Eric Cole: Ian Anderson is going to be a popular answer which makes some sense, but in terms of actually playing in a game, I’ll say Patrick Weigel as he is on the 40 man and has been called up, but hasn’t actually played in a game yet. I don’t see Waters and Pache debuting for a while given the Braves’ crowded outfield unless someone gets hurt and I am not invoking that voodoo.
Ivan: reading “debut” as “first major league appearance” rather than “first major league appearance of 2020,” I just don’t see how it could be anyone else but Ian Anderson, especially as he very well may just get a spot start due to an injury or something. But hey, wait a second: is Philip Pfeifer a prospect? He hasn’t actually appeared in the majors yet, and he’s on the 40-man. If he is, let’s go with Pfeifer, as the Braves seem more likely to do a reliever shuffle than a spot start shuffle early on.
Daniel H-K: I’ll take Tucker Davidson for this one. He doesn’t have the same pedigree as Anderson, but he should also start the season in Gwinnett, and given that Davidson is already on the 40 man (which is full right now), while Anderson is not, Davidson would be an easy choice to make a spot start at some point in the season.
AB: I will go with Patrick Weigel here. He has a better chance of making his debut before Pache, Waters, or Anderson. I could see one or more of the big three in the second half. But Weigel has a better chance of appearing first. He could appear as a reliever or as a spot starter.
Shawn Coleman: I will also guess Patrick Weigel as the option simply due to his versatility. Whether it be in a spot start or as an extra arm out of the pen, Weigel seems to be a decent bet. The stability the Braves have hopefully created amongst their relief options is wonderful; however, injuries always seem to develop. As a result, Weigel’s ability to pitch out of the rotation or the pen means he could stick with Braves for a decent amount of time if a need arises.
Anthony Traurig: I think it’ll be Phil Pfeifer or Tucker Davidson, as it’ll be more about who will likely have an opportunity first and both are already on the 40-man roster. I could see a scenario in which Newcomb moves into the rotation and the team wants another lefty for the pen. Davidson had an impressive 2019 campaign that elevated him to Triple-A, and he worked at Driveline this offseason, so I think momentum is on his side. My money is on Davidson.
Cory McCartney: I’ll go with Patrick Weigel. Last spring, when he was still trying to get his strength back after Tommy John surgery, I was talking with the right-hander about his journey back. Grant Dayton, who had already made his comeback from the procedure, came by and asked Weigel what he’d hit on the radar gun. Weigel told him he was already back in the 90s. Dayton said he’d definitely be back into the triple digits. Weigel was living in the mid-90s last season in posting a 2.73 ERA with 71 strikeouts over 79 combined innings for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. Add in that potential to hit 100 mph with a breaking ball that dips into the high 70s and he’s a weapon that will be in Atlanta sooner rather than later.
Brent Blackwell: I’m just trying to find someone that won’t be targeted by service time shenanigans and has a relatively simple path to a big league job, so I’ll go with Phil Pfeifer, especially if Newk makes the rotation.
Demetrius Bell: Phillip Pfeifer makes the most sense. He isn’t going to come up with all the hype that accompanied other prospects to the majors. Instead, he’ll probably end up being used similar to other young arms who have been brought up — they’ll either give him a spot start or he’ll come in for relief duty if the bullpen is either in the grasp of an injury bug or if they just need an extra arm to fill in. Either way, it makes sense if he’s the next guy to go from being on prospect lists to being considered an active major leaguer.
Dillon Cloud: Tucker Davidson makes a lot of sense, given that he throws 100 MPH as a left-hander and could be a real weapon out of the bullpen immediately. Phil Pfeifer would offer a similar set of skills, though Davidson feels like a more likely choice in the event that Atlanta need a left-hander.
Wayne Cavadi: Dark horse pick: Trey Harris! He climbed the ladder, showed decently enough in the Arizona Fall League, is a mature bat and has the swagger not to be intimidated by big league pitching. That said, there are too many outfielders as it is, so Patrick Weigel deserves his day.