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Braves MiLB prospect recap: Freddy Tarnok

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MILB: AUG 19 Gulf Coast League - GCL Braves at GCL Yankees West Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Following his third round selection in 2017 Freddy Tarnok showed little in the way of realizing his potential as he moved through the system. The conversion to pitcher following his time spent primarily as a shortstop in high school did not go well so despite his tremendous arm talent he struggled in his career. This season started the same, but a breakout campaign following a promotion to Triple-A has revived his prospect status and taken him higher than he has been as a professional.

Midseason report card: His early struggles had dropped him all the way out of the Top 20 for Talking Chop coming into 2021, but his turnaround this season soared him right back up the list. He ranked 11th in the system for the midseason list, and his stock is up even more following the conclusion tot the season.

What we saw in 2021: As mentioned, Tarnok’s career got off to a shaky start, though his debut in Rome had many wondering if he wouldn’t have those issues. As a reliever Tarnok was a South Atlantic League All Star and posted a 1.26 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 35 ⅔ innings. He was tremendous, but a move to the starting rotation went poorly and he had a 6.26 ERA in 11 starts. He received a promotion to High-A in 2019 but his performance was tumultuous as he had a 6.49 ERA in 11 starts before going on the injured list. Following that things seemed to click a bit as he had a 2.98 ERA in 8 starts to end the season but a repeat of HIgh-A, a lost season, and an injury that kept him out of the beginning of this season caused doubts to linger. Tarnok struggled in two relief appearances after coming off of the IL in early June, but then a move to starter was the trigger for a fantastic run. In five Rome starts he had a 3.52 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 23 innings and he earned a promotion to Double-A. The 22 year old then went on to be the Double-A South Champion Mississippi Braves’s best pitcher as he had a 2.60 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched. Tarnok ranked top 10 in all of minor league baseball with a 36.5% strikeout rate and posted his lowest walk rate at any full season level in his career at 8.3%. Those peripherals added up to a 2.27 FIP which ranked fifth among Double-A pitchers with 40+ innings.

2022 Outlook: Freddy Tarnok certainly helped his stock this season and the progression is more than just statistics. He added a tick to his already above average fastball to push it to mid-to-upper 90’s with carry. His curveball has always been his go-to offspeed pitch but his changeup has also shaped into an above-average or better offering. This gives his three above-average to plus pitches and his approach has matured as well as he has begun to work up in the zone more often to allow his fastball the best chance of success. His command also took a half grade to full grade step forward, though given where he was at High-A it is still below average and will be the main determining factor in his ultimate role. He also will need to stay healthy which is something he has not done and his career high in innings is only 106. He has the look and stuff of a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he has plus athleticism that should allow him to continue to improve his command. He will need to do both of the above if he wants to reach that incredible ceiling.