Hey fellow Braves fans. It's the end of the year and time to give my thoughts on how players progressed. I didn't watch as much baseball this year, but I did try to catch some players I was high on multiple times. It was a fun season and I think there was more good than bad.
Let's start with some positives.
1. Spencer Strider - I liked the pick at the time, but didn't love it. I liked it for the fact that the Braves could be setting themselves up with a potential draft day steal. However, he was coming off TJS and he's undersized at 6'0", so this could easily just not work out. So what surprised me? His ability to throw conistent strikes and his slider/slurve was better than I would have thought. Now you just want to see the change-up develop so he can try to stay as a starter. I still worry about his height, but his tree trunk legs might give Mike Soroka a run for his money.
Key stats: 5 games with 10+ strikeouts. Only 2 games with more than 3 walks. Consistently hit 99 mph in games.
2. Freddy Tarnok - I kinda wrote him off. He started out in the pen back in 2018 (his first full season), but he didn't look good as a starter. His second full year wasn't good either and I just wasn't seeing any progression. I can push results to the side if there was some clear improvement in something. I just wasn't seeing it. Maybe that was motivation, because Tarnok looked completely different this year. He was throwing his fastball for more strikes, and he was holding his mid 90's velocity deeper into games. I thought his curveball looked better too, though the secondaries need more work. Pitching in Mississippi helped curb his alarming HR rate, so something to watch for.
Key stats: Only pitched into the 6th inning 4 times in 14 starts.
3. Vaughn Grissom - I honestly didn't know what to expect from Grissom coming into the season. However, his growth this season was really eye opening. I noted the lack of power early in the season as really the only thing lacking. Only 2 XBH in the first 17 games. He had another stretch of just 2 XBH over a 14 game period, but he really turned a gear after 7/14 where he would produce 19 of his 28 XBH. Just a 28% XBH%, so still not great, but the improvement throughout the year is noted. He made some very nice defensive plays at 3B and showed versatility by playing 2B/SS/3B.
Key stats: BB rate over 10% and K rate under 15%, .882 OPS
4. Joey Estes - I think more than anything was how good the slider was and it flashes plus at times. He's still more of a thrower than a pitcher, but he got great results this season. Held the fastball constently deeper into games, and he can also flirt with 99 mph.
Key stats: 2.64 BB rate; pitched 6+ innings 9 times in 20 starts which included a 9 inning CG 14 K performance.
5. Jesse Franklin - I knew what he was capable of, but he really showed out this season. When I talk about players that are XB hitting machines, Franklin is right up there. He carried a massive 56% XBH% on the season. I'm putting the key stat here cause that number is insane. For reference, I think Ozzie Albies only hits XB, but he is only at 47% XBH%. The only concern is the high strikeout rate and a somewhat underwhelming walk rate. If he keeps mashing, I'd expect that walk rate to spike cause who is going to want to pitch to him?
Key stats: Insane 56% XBH%, 8% BB rate, 28% K rate, 19 steals
Indigo Diaz - I still don't get how he gets so many whiffs on a 94 mph fastball
Shea Langeliers - 22 HRs, 42% CS% (how were there 72 SB attempts on this guy?), .995 FLD%, not to mention MS was one of the best pitching clubs
Bryce Elder - Innings eater.
Victor Vodknik - when healthy, there was clear growth. His change-up was one of the best I saw in the system. His breaker has not improved. Can he stay healthy though? He already flashes 100 mph, so a that fastball with a good change-up could work out of the pen.
Kyle Muller - He showed some brilliant flashes at times. Now, if he can put it all together more consistently.
Alan Rangel - Finally went up a level. The uptick in velocity helped drive solid results.
Cade Bunnell - Struggle with this one. He strikes out too much and he's old for the level. But he also walked 91 times and hit a ton of XBH.
Darius Vines - Low 90's FB with change-up. Could be the new Kris Medlen.
1. Jared Shuster - 1st round pick. I should expect more. Could be a due to the late start (was he injured or just held back out to work on things). I don't know. The results, imo, were not good. Giving up 15 HRs in just 73 innings is major yikes (1.8 HR/9). I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
2. Drew Waters - The high strikeout rate for Waters has been a concern for awhile. It's only gotten worse since he's gotten to AAA where it's been well above 30%. On the flip side, his BB rate has steadily increased and is in elite territory now. It could be a product of him working counts more, but I've seen a few games and he just doesn't look comfortable out there. When he's not whiffing, Waters is just beating the ball into the ground with an awful 56% GB rate. That has to be around 40-45% if he wants to succeed.
3. Trey Harris - He's 25 and in AA. This should have been a quick promotion to AAA. It just comes down to the quality of contact. Like Waters, his GB% rate shot up this season (up from 45% to 52%). Need to turn that around.
4. Braden Shewmake - Another first round pick that's struggling. Just seems to roll over on pitches for weak ground outs - 48% GB%. Yet it's the 5% BB rate that really stands out. He never walked at an elite rate, but this is the lowest walk rate of his career. He's willing to use the entire field, so that usually benefits a player, but he's been all sorts of awful this year. I truly hope it's a fluke. Either that or the Braves need to stop punting on their 1st round picks.
5. Stephen Paolini - I really don't know why the Braves kept him in Augusta the entire season. He was awful from start to finish. I hope this doesn't hurt his development. 43% K-rate!!!!!!!!! A positive key stat is that he had a great 40% GB%, so more contact means more balls in the air. ;)
Justin Dean - I'm not sorry. I never trust prospects with only elite speed and weak hitting tools. Stop with Dean and Anfernee Syemour, Derian Cruz, Matt Lipka, Todd Cunningham, etc. Although I did like Mallex Smith since I thought he had a decent hit tool.
Drew Lugbauer - Thought he was turning it around and then he went stone cold to end the season.
Greyson Jenista - He turned into Braxton Davidson somehow.
CJ Alexander - I believed in the hit tool. He was healthy. Neither mattered.
Cam Shepherd - 23 years old and put up a .500 OPS in Low-A.
Slap hitters - Beau Phillip, Riley Delgado, Cody Milligan and Andrew Moritz
Who to keep an eye on for 2022:
International players - Rolddy (2018) and Roddery Munuz (2019), Royber Salinas (2018), Francisco Floyd (2018), Yoansy Moreno & Deivy Castro (2019), Ambioris Tavarez (2020), Yorlis Lendor (2020 - 6'6" switch hitting OF he's gangly awkward in the video as he doesn't seem to used to his height yet)
2019 prep players (c'mon Mahki Backstrom!)
2021 draft class - Austin Smith (Wild Thing), prep guys like Collins, Smith-Shawver and Shoemaker