This is a continuation of our minor league roster previews, so make sure to check our our other installments to get caught up on the other levels. The short version of the story here is get out to Rome quickly, because three of my top players to watch this season will feature on that team.
#Braves top prospects No. 7 @JaredS_14 & No. 10 @MoneyyyMikeee headline our 2021 Opening Day Roster! 7 of the @Braves top 30 prospects open their 2021 season with new High-A affiliate! #BaseballIsBack— Rome Braves (@TheRomeBraves) May 3, 2021
FULL ROSTER: https://t.co/ELfWFf4TfW pic.twitter.com/Xvzwh1dSOK
The headliner of the pitching staff will be 2020 first round pick Jared Shuster. This will be Shuster’s professional debut and there will absolutely be a ton of questions for him to answer right out of the gate. First and foremost will be whether he can still get up to 96/97 like he had in his junior season, then to see how the slider has developed and whether it gets to the point of being a reliable third pitch. He also needs to prove his control improvement was real. If all of these things come together he won’t stay in Rome long, but if they don’t then it’s going to be a very interesting season.
Jared Shuster was the Braves’ 1st round pick in the 2020 draft and this will be our first look at him as a pro. The lefty out of Wake Forest caught folks’ attention before the draft with an improved fastball and plus changeup and the Braves snagged him on an underslot deal that allowed them to grab his draft classmate, Bryce Elder.
Bryce Elder has been marvelous in extended spring training, and he is very likely to make his way up to Double-A by the end of the season. Elder has fantastic pitchability and four pitches that can play at the major league level, though his ceiling is lower than some of our other top prospects. He’ll be an interesting guy to watch and isn’t far from being major league ready.
Ricky DeVito is a name you probably haven’t heard much, but you may want to pay attention. He saw a bump in velocity as a pro and now can get into the mid 90’s, along with a breaking ball that can be an MLB average pitch and a deadly splitter. His command leaves far too much to be desired and is likely to prevent him from being a major league starter, but he has the potential if he can reign it in and if not he could find himself as a middle relief option.
Trey Riley has real potential to be a late inning reliever, but he’ll have to get past a brutal start to his professional career to get on track. He has a 7.71 career ERA and more walks than strikeouts, but the raw stuff is enticing. He has a mid 90’s fastball that can drift up to 97 and a wipeout slider that can get swings and misses. But he has to keep the ball in the zone or he’ll have little chance of success.
The Rome bullpen is going to be awash with talent including the two top relief prospects in the system. Kasey Kalich is going to be an interesting case, because he was a very good relief prospect despite pitching with a broken wrist on his throwing hand for literal years. Depending on how well he recovers from the injury, he may only be a year or so away from the major leagues. William Woods should end up at Rome as well, but it sounds like he may be doing a bit of rehab before he makes the trip to high-A.
Michael Harris will be the top prospect on this Rome Braves team and is the player we’re all the most excited to see play this season. Harris has a chance to be the kind of player that impacts every facet of the game and has an extremely advanced feel for the game. He’s held his own against major league arms and I doubt High-A will be much any different. This will be our first extended look at a potential star prospect and I expect he’ll be on Top 100 prospect lists by the end of the season.
Bryce Ball could be the DH of the future for the Braves, showing light tower power that is hard to find in any organization. If he hits, and he has better contact ability than most of you big power/low floor players, he could be a fantastic piece in a lineup. He has to draw more walks than he did in Rome in 2019, but he’s got as much helium as anyone in the system.
Jesse Franklin is a nice piece in the outfield for the Braves, though his defense will put a lot of pressure on him to hit. We haven’t seen him in action since the Cape Cod League following his sophomore year so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the back. Franklin can rake when he is hot and combines that with decent power, so the ability is there with the bat to make him playable as a corner outfielder.
Logan Brown really struggled in High-A in 2019 and it’s looks like they will leave him there to see what he can do, but I expect him to get to Double-A if not on opening day fairly early in 2021.