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Checking in on how the Atlanta Braves’ Top 30 prospects have performed so far in 2021

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Lets take a look at how our top 30 is looking through 20 games of the season.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While there is still a multitude of games left, and there’s no reason to base anything off of sample sizes this small, it’s still fun to take a look around the system and see how the Atlanta Braves organization's top prospects are doing. With three players potentially graduating from the list, two in other organizations, and another one no longer playing baseball right now, there is already going to be a lot of shuffling around before accounting for player's performances. So let us grab a cup of coffee, or your favorite beverage, and take a look at how the top 30 has performed so far.

  1. Ian Anderson - MLB
    9 games | 2.82 ERA | 3.31 FIP | 9.35 K/9 | 3.71 BB/9 | 1.1 fWAR
    To say Ian Anderson has exceeded expectations would be putting it lightly. At one point Ian was considered a bit of an overdraft that the Braves were able to sign $2.5M below slot, which enabled them to also draft and sign the likes of Kyle Muller and Joey Wentz, but the Braves loved what they saw from him and knew that was the route they were going to go take in the draft. Ian has rewarded the organization with an incredible start to his career showcasing a mid-90s fastball, that beautiful curveball, and a changeup that flashes double-plus throughout outings. On the season, Ian is battling with Trevor Rogers for the top rookie pitcher in the NL and both are making quite the case for the award. The Braves really struck gold with Ian.

2. Cristian Pache - MLB
.111/.152/.206 | -3 wRC | -0.7 fWAR | 2.9% BB% | 36.8% K%
Pache’s struggles with the bat have been well documented in the minors, with him starting to take a step forward over the past couple of years. Unfortunately for Pache the struggles returned in Atlanta and he got off to a horrendous start that was also coupled with an injury that has had him sit for a while now. Using just my own eye, you could start to see the old tendencies starting to creep back up for Pache and that was being unbalanced at the plate which would lead him to lunge at the ball and hit it straight into the ground. Between that, and his mounting K-rate which was approaching 40%, some time away was almost needed for Pache - who also had only 26 games in Triple-A, a move the Braves will almost certainly make to get him some reps before trying to bring him back to Atlanta.

3. Drew Waters - Triple-A
.250/.346/.441 | 114 wRC+ | 7.7% BB% | 29.5% K%
Garrett had a lovely piece on Waters just two days ago that can be seen here. While the numbers might not be eye-popping, Drew has shown much-improved discipline at the plate, and a propensity to make contact. He’s put up a 114 wRC+, in a league filled with MLB-to-fringe-MLB talent, where he’s almost FIVE years younger than the average player. We won’t be talking about Drew in the minors for much longer if he continues to develop this season at the rate that he has to start.

4. William Contreras - MLB
.237/.346/.542 | 137 wRC+ | 11.4% BB% | 31.4% %K | 0.5 fWAR
At the beginning of the season, I wrote about how William should be in Triple-A this season, despite showing he’s ready for the majors, because of how he’s never played in it. The Braves seemed to agree with that until the injury to Travis d’Arnaud and now William is the starting catcher for the big league team, and while there have been some complaints about defense behind the plate - again not a single game in Triple-A, the bat has been absolutely absurd. A twenty-three-year-old catcher, making his MLB debut, has a 137 wRC+, and 0.5 fWAR in just 19 games. The Braves have found their catcher of the present and future in William.

5. Michael Harris - High-A
.347/.368/.514 | 148 wRC+ | 3.9% BB% | 22.4% K%
If you follow me on Twitter, if you’ve listened to one episode of Road 2 Atlanta, you know about my prospect crush on Michael Harris and he has gotten off to a superb start of the season. Michael is three years younger than the average player in A-ball, and yet he is crushing the ball to the tune of a 148 wRC+, and a .514 slugging percentage. At the start of the season, you saw him utilize the opposite field a ton and trying to get on base with his speed but he’s started to rip the cover off of the ball now and is emerging as a huge threat for that Rome Braves team. You look at the walk rate and want to say something about it but as Garrett pointed out he’s not walking much because he’s getting a ridiculous amount of strikes thrown his way - an astounding 73.1% so he’s not walking because pitchers aren’t throwing balls. We will see how long that walk rate stays under 5% as the season progresses - chances are it won’t.

6. Shea langeliers - Double-A
.213/.373/.447 | 135 wRC+ | 18.6% BB% | 27.1% K%
Poor Shea, nobody wants to throw to him. Anytime you can put up a 135 wRC+, while playing at Trustmark Park, while playing catcher - you’re going to open some eyes and Shea is doing just that. Shea has a .250 BABIP, which isn’t crazy for a catcher, is hitting groundballs too often (41.9%), has had his line drive percentage drop to 12.9% - but is hitting for legit power which has been a very promising development. His ability behind the plate will never be questioned but if Shea starts to barrel the ball more and make more contact you could see his top-100 stock skyrocket because the Braves may have a legit 2-way catcher. Oh yeah, he’s thrown out 7 of 15 would-be basestealers.

7. Kyle Muller - Triple-A
4 Games | 12.33 K/9 | 8.80 BB/9 | 7.63 ERA | 7.81 FIP
It’s been a rough start to the season for Kyle who is still showcasing the elite arsenal with an absurd 12.3 K/9, but has struggled mightily with his command. Hitters are hitting .303 off of him, that combined with his 8.80 BB/9 rate have him with one of the leagues top WHIPs (2.28). His line drive rate has jumped to 27%, the groundball rate has dropped from 39.1% to 34.1%, and his HR/FB rate is an abysmal 29.4% which is sure to regress. There is still a lot to like about Kyle, but there is still work to do.

8. Jared Shuster - High-A
2 Games | 10.5 K/9 | 3.00 BB/9 | 3.00 ERA | 4.49 FIP
Jared has had an interesting season because he’s had just two games to work with so far due to the sheer amount of pitchers the organization has. In those two starts, Jared has been sitting mid-90s with his fastball and has shown that elite changeup. Based on his age, and college experience, you figure the Braves will be aggressive with him but they also need to get him in more games to build up that arm strength - he didn’t pitch in a game after being drafted until this season.

9. Braden Shewmake - Double-A
.086/.159/.190 | -1 wRC | 7.9% BB% | 33.3% K%
Braden was the talk of the town in spring training, showing up with a much more filled-out body and by all accounts was performing well, but once the season started everything fell apart. Braden is having one of the worst seasons in the league - seen by his sub .100 batting average, and a K-rate that’s closer to 40% than 20%. There’s still lots to like about Braden but right now he is lost at the plate.

10. Jasseel de la Cruz - Triple-A
5 Games, 3 Starts | 10.95 K/9 | 0.73 BB/9 | 3.65 ERA | 3.29 FIP
Getting my frustrations about having him also work as a reliever in the same season aside, seriously pick one path and keep him there, Jasseel has looked like an absolute stud that is going to see his stock rise. While looking wild on the mound at times with his command - he has just a 0.73 BB/9 rate and has also looked absolutely overwhelming on the mound, a league where he’s three years younger than the average player. He has shown a 4-seam fastball with arm side run in the high-90s consistently, and that devastating slider. He has yet to really throw the changeup - an interesting note because there might be some reliever risk but he’s done it with just two pitches and excelled. I personally love the idea of JLDC coming onto the mound in a high leverage situation and just hitting 100 with his slider, especially if he doesn’t have confidence with the changeup, but if Ynoa can dominate with two, well three, pitches - Jasseel de la Cruz does have an absolutely devastating two-pitch combo that could see him earn success in the majors sooner than later.

11. Tucker Davidson - Triple-A
Triple-A | 3 Games | 10.35 K/9 | 1.80 BB/9 | 0.90 ERA | 2.97 FIP
MLB | 1 Game | 7.50 K/9 | 1.50 BB/9 | 4.50 ERA | 4.13 FIP
Tucker is off to a great season both in Triple-A and his spot start in Atlanta and has earned the opportunity for more. He’s shown a greatly reduced walk rate and is heavily leaning on a two-pitch mix of 4-seam and slider.

12. Mahki Backstrom - Extended Spring Training
Mahki has yet to be assigned to a team but is all smiles. He’s currently putting in work in extended spring training and has given us some footage to excited about - highlighted by his 110 exit velocity, 480’ homerun.

13. Vaughn Grissom - Low-A
.286/.368/.306 | 102 wRC+ | 6.9% BB% | 13.8% K%
A TalkingChop breakout candidate, Vaughn is off to a great start showing a much-improved hit tool. He hasn’t hit for much power, but there is so much to like about him and to get excited over.

14. Terone “Trey” Harris - Double-A
.238/.333/.270 | 77 wRC+ | 9.7 BB% | 13.9% K%
Trey hasn’t gotten off to the greatest start of the season - registering a mere 77 wRC+ but he is coming off of a day where he reached base four times. He doesn’t necessarily profile as an elite player, a lot having to do with his defense in the outfield, but he’s someone to watch for the Atlanta bench. He’s got a promising bat, he doesn’t strike out much and walks at a nearly 10% clip.

15. Victor Vodnik - Double-A
3 Games | 12.21 K/9 | 4.50 BB/9 | 2.57 ERA | 2.14 FIP
There might not be a higher riser on this list by midseason than Victor Vodnik who is absolutely blowing away double-A despite being four years younger than the average player. Look for him to skyrocket up top prospect lists this season.

16. Tyler Owens - Low-A
4 Games, 2 Starts | 10.13 K/9 | 2.25 BB/9 | 6.75 ERA | 4.46 FIP
Tyler has flashed, multiple times, why the Braves drafted him out of high school. Despite not having pitched much since 2019 Tyler has reigned in the walks (2.25 BB/9), while keeping the strikeouts (10.13). The main thing for him this year will be getting through a full season healthy. Promising young arm.

17. Bryce Elder - High-A
4 Games | 11.90 K/9 | 4.58 BB/9 | 3.66 ERA | 3.50 FIP
Bryce has done quite well despite a lengthy layoff after being drafted. He’s shown he can be overpowering at times in a league where he should overpower. He won’t be in Rome much longer.

18. Jesse Franklin V - High-A
.235/.254/.297 | 60 wRC+ | 3.0 BB% | 19.4 K%
Like Bryce, Jesse has had a long layoff since being drafted. He’s struggled out of the gates and hasn’t walked much but has shown promise at the plate.

19. Justin Dean - Double-A
.237/.400/.407 | 137 wRC+ | 14.7% BB% | 30.7% K%
Dean is off to a roaring start - 137 wRC+, hitting for power while playing a great defensive outfield - thanks to that truly elite speed. He’s looked fantastic to start the season.

20. Bryce Ball - High-A
.189/.362/.415 | 127 wRC+ | 21.7% BB% | 33.3% K%
One thing is clear - Bryce knows the strike zone as his 21.7% walk rate isn’t a mirage because it’s almost as if pitchers also don’t want to pitch to him. The K’s are ramping up, but he’s too talented for that to stay. The main problem has been his defense. He’s been very poor at first.

21. Freddy Tarnok
Freddy has yet to make his debut and is believed to be rehabbing right now.

22. Philip Pfeifer
Philip now pitches in the Giants organization after clearing waivers following being designated for assignment.

23. Patrick Weigel
Patrick was a part of the trade, along with Chad Sobotka, to Milwaukee for Orlando Arcia.

24. Jeremy Walker
Is currently un-signed and it is believed to be due to injury.

25. Stephen Paolini - Low-A
.107/.275/.161 | 47 wRC+ | 15.9% BB% | 43.5 K%
Has shown a nice walk rate, but looks overwhelmed at the plate.

26. Joey Estes - Low-A
4 Games | 11.12 K/9 | 2.65 BB/9 | 1.59 ERA | 3.31 FIP
Joey has looked dominating with an 11.12 K/9, 0.82 WHIP, and limiting opponents to a .153 batting average against.

27. Hayden Deal - Double-A
4 Games | 8.47 K/9 | 4.76 BB/9 | 4.24 ERA | 3.59 FIP
Hayden has pitched better than his numbers but is struggling with the walks to start the season.

28. William Woods - Low-A
William is currently rehabbing and has not made his season debut yet.

29. Cam Shepherd - Low-A
.133/.268/.217 | 52 wRC+ | 15.5% BB% | 35.2% K%
Cam has struggled to hit in Low-A so far and is off to a rather poor start with a 52 wRC+. At 23, you wanted to see him perform better at this level but likely just needs reps.

30. Thomas Burrows - Triple-A
6 Games | 13.50 K/9 | 3.86 BB/9 | 1.93 ERA | 3.05 FIP
Thomas has been on these lists for quite a few years now. He’s performing admirably for Triple-A Gwinnett and is a candidate to sneak into the Braves bullpen should there be a need.