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Atlanta Braves Prospects: Who is trending up and down in the system after May?

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One month into the first minor league action in over a year and a half, it’s finally time to start looking at 21 Braves prospects whose stock is on the move.

MLB: MAY 18 Mets at Braves
Tucker Davidson
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After going from early September 2019 to May 2021 with no minor league games it was a very long period for almost anyone in a minor league system to see their stock move up or down with the exception of a few reports out of the 2020 alternate site. With those reports being few and the amount of prospects being included in the alternate site being small, there really wasn’t much to go on.

Right now is really the first time we can take a look at how guys value has changed as we needed to be at least a month in to evaluate, especially when you consider some guys were shaking off the rust from a year and a half without organized baseball games.

It should be noted that players who have performed very well but were already very high in our rankings, like Michael Harris, won’t be included as their stock hasn’t really moved. Also not included will be guys who have performed well and were highly thought of, but haven’t taken things to the next level yet like Vaughn Grissom. One more type of player that will be missing, guys who are struggling a bit but nothing too serious, as they are shaking off a year and a half of rust like a Trey Harris, or doing so while making a major climb in competition like Jesse Franklin, who missed the brief 2020 college season with an injury.

This list only includes guys who still have prospect status, so if you are wondering where Orlando Arcia is, he is well beyond prospect status in his service time. It also excludes anyone who hasn’t seen action this year, so Jared Johnson for example isn’t eligible.

All stats listed are as of May 31.

Triple-A

Tucker Davidson - Stock Up

I have to admit I was the low man on Davidson for a bit as I didn’t think his fastball had enough movement on it, but he’s been having an excellent year. In 20 innings over three starts he has a 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP with a 23/4 strikeout to walk ratio. Then in his one start in the big leagues he held his own, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk over six innings against the Mets. He has done everything he could to this point to start answering any questions about him.

Jasseel De La Cruz - Stock Up

De La Cruz has dominated this year despite finding very little consistency in his job. He’s been moved from the pen to the rotation and been promoted to Atlanta then demoted two days later without appearing in a game. In five games, including three starts, Jasseel has a 3.65 ERA but a 0.73 WHIP over 12.1 innings, allowing just eight hits and a walk while striking out 15. It’s very important to call out not just how well he has pitched, but how he has done it despite being shuffled around in multiple ways all month. He has a real chance to help out of the Braves bullpen this year, and with the injuries that have hit the rotation a look there isn’t out of the question either.

Daysbel Hernandez - Stock Down

Considered one of the better pure reliever prospects in the system, Hernandez lasted all of five games in Gwinnett before being demoted with a 9.64 ERA. It may not all be bad news as he was making quite the jump after having never pitched above High-A, where he spent all of 2019. He has since moved down to Double-A and looked strong in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, and hit the 100 MPH mark with Trackman. Hernandez is a candidate to get more experience in Mississippi before getting another look in Triple-A later this season, but his stock has taken a slight hit as well as his potential ETA.

Kyle Muller - Stock Down

It’s been a tough year for Muller so far. His command has taken a step back as he shakes off the rust, leading to 15 walks and 23 hits allowed in just 20 1/3 innings. The good news is the stuff is still there, as he does have 29 strikeouts, but a guy with his stuff shouldn’t be getting hit as often as he has been let alone giving up so many walks. Command has always been an issue in part because he is a massive 6’7, 250 and bigger guys take time to get their deliveries to sync up consistently. It’s not the end of the world for him as a prospect, but you have to hope this is just early season rust that he can shake off. In a positive development he had his best start in his most recent outing allowing three hits and one run over five innings with zero walks.

Double-A

Justin Dean - Stock Up

I almost didn’t include Dean until I was talked into it by the rest of the Talking Chop Minor League team, as I had viewed Dean as a big league fourth outfielder for a few years now. What he’s done so far in Mississippi only backs that up. He’s shown off a well rounded tool set to put up a .212/.373/.364 slash line with a pair of homers and seven steals through 83 plate appearances while playing every game in center field. Dean’s biggest issue is he doesn’t have any true plus tools outside of his speed, but he also doesn’t have any huge weaknesses either.

Braden Shewmake - Stock Down

This is just a tough one to explain as Shewmake was a star in the SEC, raking at Texas A&M the day he stepped on campus. There were some questions about his power and defensive home when he was drafted, but no one questioned the hit tool. One month in and Shewmake is hitting .091/.155/.182 through 71 plate appearances with five walks and 21 strikeouts. This also isn’t his first taste of Double-A, as he had 52 plate appearances here in 2019 and hit .217/.288/.217, so the jump in competition considering the SEC background and Double-A experience isn’t an excuse. You probably remember me being particular critical of this draft pick when it happened, but I couldn’t have imagined struggles like this at the plate for Shewmake, a player who had at least a .374 OBP in each year in school and then posted a .389 mark over 226 plate appearances in Low-A after signing.

Victor Vodnik - Stock Up

Through three starts, Vodnik was excellent, but in his most recent start he suffered an injury and was immediately placed on the injured list after giving up two walks in a third of an inning with decreased velocity. If you take out the stats from the game he got hurt in, he has thrown 14 innings, allowing four runs on 11 hits and seven walks while striking out 19. As a 21-year old in Double-A for the first time it was hard to ask for more, especially when the stuff matches up with those results. Hopefully Vodnik is able to get healthy quickly and get back on the mound.

Brooks Wilson - Stock Up Atlanta’s seventh round pick in 2018 and a former two-way player from Stetson, Wilson had held his own during his first two pro seasons but didn’t really make you take notice. That’s changed this year as his stuff has taken a step forward and so has the strikeout total. Wilson has given up two runs in 10.1 innings, allowing five hits and seven walks, but has struck out 16 over that span. Wilson has looked like the guy the Braves were hoping to see and if the command is just an issue of shaking off some of the rust he could move fairly quickly.

Matt Withrow - Stock Up

The Braves sixth round pick out of Texas Tech all the way back in 2015, Withrow had become a bit of an afterthought in the system despite holding his own in every stop he made. That’s because the big Texan has battled injuries throughout his career, even before being drafted. However this year, he has been excellent posting an 0.55 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while allowing just six hits in 16 1/3 innings split between the rotation and bullpen. That’s not to say he’s been perfect, as he has walked 11 guys in those 16.1 innings, but he’s shown enough to put his name back on the prospect radar.

High-A

Bryce Ball - Stock Down

After being a 24th round pick back in 2019, Bryce Ball went on to hit 17 homers in 62 games across two levels after signing and became a popular sleeper prospect in the system. However, Ball has struggled this season across the board. As a first baseman only, Ball has to slug to keep moving, and his .424 slugging percentage in Rome just isn’t nearly enough. He has also seen a jump in his jump in strikeout rate, going from 20 in 90 plate appearances in High-A in 2019 to 27 in in 82 plate appearances this season. He has also struggled in the field, making three errors already and just not looking like a good enough defender for the position. I’m not saying to give up on Ball, but his stock should reflect what we’ve seen so far mixed with his 2019 success.

Ricky DeVito - Stock Up

If not for some regression in his junior year at Seton Hall in 2019, there is no way Ricky DeVito is available to the Braves in the eighth round of the draft. Remember this is a guy with the stuff and results to be the Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2018 and followed that up with an eye opening performance in the Cape Cod League. DeVito is starting to look more and more like the guy who was seen earlier on the second day of that 2019 draft heading into that spring.

Indigo Diaz - Stock Up

If Roddery Munoz was the biggest surprise in the system so far, Indigo Diaz is a close second. The big Canadian right hander out of Michigan State was a 27th round pick in 2019 and saw a small sample size in the GCL after signing. Fast forward a year and a half and he has been dominating High-A. Through 12 1/3 innings, he has allowed just one run on two hits and four walks to go along with 27 strikeouts. It’s safe to say Diaz is ready for a promotion, unless the Braves want to give him a chance to start

Low-A

Alec Barger - Stock Up

The Braves 17th round pick out of NC State in 2019 may not have the best numbers to start the year, but Barger has the stuff to make you take notice, particularly with his fastball. He likely isn’t a starter longterm due to his lack of command, but getting him innings after a lost year isn’t a bad thing.

Willie Carter - Stock Up

If there is one hitter in Augusta having a big season it is Willie Carter who is off to a .329/.447/.486 start with three homers and two steals. I don’t understand why he is still in Low-A, as hejust turned 24 years old and should be facing tougher competition.

Joey Estes - Stock Up

In 2019, the Braves drafted two high schoolers out of California that were still just 17 years old in the middle rounds of the draft. Mahki Backstrom was one and 16th round pick Joey Estes was the other overslot prep from the state. Estes was highly regarded and I did expect good things from him, but he’s been lights out so far in 2021. Through 17 innings he has given up five runs (three earned) on nine hits and five walks with 21 strikeouts. That’s a 1.59 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Estes has had interesting stuff with plenty of projection, but the fact that he’s still just 19 years old and is dominating Low-A tells you what type of steal the Braves got.

Roddery Munoz - Stock Up

I won’t focus too much on Roddery Munoz since Garrett Spain covered him here after his first start. Munoz hasn’t been quite as dominant since then, but he has shown flashes of what we saw in his season debut and we knew he was raw so that isn’t unexpected.

Stephen Paolini - Stock Down

When the Braves used a fifth round pick on a raw outfielder from a state without much competition (Connecticut), it was an interesting but questionable pick since there weren’t many good looks at him. He was expected to struggle with his raw background, but it goes beyond the stats as he looks like a guy that’s not going to have the bat speed to compete against high velocity in the big leagues. With Paolini only being 20 years old, being raw, in his first taste of full season ball, and having some athletic tools not all hope is lost with him, but his stock definitely takes a hit.

Cam Shepherd - Stock Down

An undrafted free agent in the weird short 2020 MLB Draft, Cam Shepherd was seen as a high floor guy without much of a ceiling. Unfortunately the University of Georgia product has only hit .141/.265/.211 in 83 plate appearances. Shepherd was in the mix for a backend of the Top 30 prospect list heading into the season, but has quickly dropped out of consideration.

Spencer Strider - Stock Up

The Braves used their fourth round pick in the shortened 2020 draft to take an arm out of Clemson who surprised a lot of people. Most weren’t sure what Spencer Strider was a starter or reliever and wondered if he still had the stuff that made him a top recruit out of high school. Strider has answered those questions and more, becoming the biggest surprise in the system and being the first significant player to be promoted when he was bumped up to Rome on Monday. His time in Augusta ends with crazy numbers. A 0.59 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, and a 32/5 strikeout to walk ratio in 15 1/3 innings. We still don’t know about how he can handle starting longterm yet, but he’s a significant piece for the Braves either way.

Ben Thompson - Stock Up

Most of you may not be familiar with Ben Thompson. The Braves 28th round pick out of a JUCO in 2019 is a 6’5, 220 reliever from New Zealand who made two brief appearances in the GCL after signing in 2019. Fast forward to this year and he’s been a force out of the bullpen making seven appearances and logging 14 innings. Thompson has put up a 1.29 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with a 19/5 strikeout to walk ratio. I’m not ready to call him a true prospect yet as a 23 year old in in Low-A but he does need to be watched.

Darius Vines - Stock Up

The final guy to make the list is Darius Vines who was Atlanta’s seventh round pick out of CSU Bakersfield. Vines always had intriguing stuff and some projection remaining on his body. He has continued to show promising stuff this season. It hasn’t been perfect, especially the command, but through 13 innings he has a 2.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with a 16/6 strikeout to walk ratio.

System’s Biggest Risers: Spencer Strider, Roddery Munoz, Indigo Diaz

System Biggest Drop: Braden Shewmake