We pick our Atlanta Braves prospect series back up looking at a promising young pitching prospect in right-hander Joey Estes.
The Atlanta Braves continue to have a steady influx of solid arms in the system and Joey Estes looks to be a big part of that next wave.
Joey Estes was a 16th round pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Lancaster, Calif. Atlanta spent nearly $500,000 to keep him from going to Long Beach State.
It wasn’t a great first showing for Estes in 2019 giving up 9 earned runs on 10 hits and 7 walks in 10 innings with 8 strikeouts at the Gulf Coast League.
But he came back in 2021 and showed everyone why the Braves were willing to spend big on him.
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound righty posted a 2.91 ERA at Single-A in 2021 with 127 strikeouts in 99 innings, while only allowing 66 hits and 29 walks for a WHIP of 0.960.
He certainly raised his stock in 2021 and has a lot of fans excited about his potential going forward.
Joey Estes — The Pitch Mix
Fastball (91-95), slider (83-87), change-up (84-87), curveball (77-79)
Right now he’s primarily fastball-slider and will throw his fastball 60-70 percent of the time. Like Spencer Strider and Jared Shuster, his fastball really excels when he’s able to throw it up in the zone with some rise.
However, when it’s down in the zone at 91-93 MPH it gets squared up — said the same with Shuster.
I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but his velocity does go up-and-down drastically a good bit. If he’s able to mix the speed like that it will be very beneficial for how he can manipulate his fastball.
But it’s also possible that it’s just inconsistency with his arm action and release point.
The slider has very good horizontal movement and sharp break — it looks to be his best secondary offering.
The change-up can be good at times when he keeps it down, breaking out of the bottom of the zone with some late fade moving in on righties at times.
But it is a very inconsistent pitch that I saw him leave up just floating over the middle of the zone too often.
You can really say the same for his curveball as well, which looks to have very little break and is often left up.
Joey Estes — The Delivery
I really like his frame and delivery on the mound. The only thing worrisome is the arm action.
He hides the ball behind him, which is great for deception, but the arm action is very short and that can put a lot of stress on the elbow — especially throwing it at the three-quarters slot.
Joey Estes — The Ceiling and Projection
He just turned 20 in October and will play all of 2022 at that age, so there is certainly some room for growth with Joey.
I’d place his ceiling at a number two starter right now. If he can consistently keep that velocity at 93-95 at the top of the zone and improve that change-up with an already good slider, I don’t see why he can’t be a number two starter with an ERA in the low-to-mid-threes.
As he is right now, he’s more like a fringe third or fourth starter. He does pound the zone with the fastball, which I love, and hope he’s able to continue that as he moves up.
But until he becomes more consistent with that change-up I worry about his ability to get through a lineup for a second and third time.
If he doesn’t make it as a starter, it seems like a safe bet that he’ll be a high leverage reliever.
But I do like his upside as a starter and he’ll certainly continue to develop as one.
Joey Estes — Timetable
Again, he’s only 20 and spent his entire first season as a professional at Single-A.
I would not be surprised at all if he spends all or most of 2022 at High-A Rome. There’s really no need to rush him, and he does have quite a bit he needs to work on.
Maybe at the end of 2023, he gets a shot to debut in the Braves bullpen. But as a starter, I don’t see him getting a chance until at least the 2024 season.