For those that may have been more focused on the Atlanta Braves at the major league level over the last year or so, it is fair to say that the Braves’ minor league system has seen better days. Other than the glaring “not being able to sign international free agents for years” problem as well as some trades, the main reason the farm system is so thin these days is due to just being too successful at developing and graduating major league talent.
Just in the last couple of years, we have seen Spencer Strider, Michael Harris, Vaughn Grissom, William Contreras, and Kyle Wright among others make meaningful contributions in the big leagues and that doesn’t include the huge youth wave that brought Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson into the fold.
In short, it is genuinely hard to maintain a high level of talent in your minor league system when you are constantly both picking near the bottom of each round of the draft AND graduating players at a high rate. However, the Braves have been among the absolute best at getting great value from unlikely sources and despite the system looking rough at first glance, there are still plenty of interesting prospects to talk about.
So who are the Braves prospects that could break out in 2023?
Below are six Braves prospects to keep an eye as “breakout” candidates for 2023. I use the term “breakout” here pretty loosely and that is by design. Some of these guys are coming off injuries and we haven’t seen them on the field much if at all yet, some are more middle tier prospects that we think have a good chance of taking the next step (or two), and some are lower ranked guys with big time potential.
The usual disclaimers with prospects apply here. Yes, there is almost certainly going to be someone that isn’t currently ranked as a “top 30 Braves prospect” that isn’t on this list that is going to turn out to be good. No, not all of these players are going to become fixtures on the major league roster for the Braves (or anywhere for that matter). There is also a good chance that the Braves make a trade that involves one or more of these players this offseason. Projecting prospects is an exercise in humility and disappointment, but we still think you should keep an eye on these guys anyways.
Adam Maier – RHP
Normally, targeting a 7th round pick in a draft, especially an injured college arm, isn’t the wisest decision as most of those guys are signed in that range to save draft bonus pool monies. However, Maier is far from the normal case here as the Braves went way overslot (nearly $1.2 million in total bonus) to sign him in last year’s draft. Maier underwent a procedure to brace his UCL this past year which has a shorter timetable of recovery than full on Tommy John surgery. He also had one of the best breaking balls in the draft class in his slider, a fastball that gets a bunch of movement although he isn’t a fireballer, and a changeup that is good enough to keep hitters honest. If he got back to school, he seemed like a prime candidate to be at least a Day One pick in the 2023 draft. The Braves may have gotten a steal here.
Spencer Schwellenbach – RHP
This one feels a little cheap because Schwellenbach was a second round pick in 2021 and was in line to be a first round pick before his medicals got in the way. However, Spencer had to undergo Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted and people seem to forget that he 1.) exists and 2.) is a really high upside player. Our reports are that his rehab has gone very well and his fastball is hitting the upper 90’s. He should be good to go for a stint in full season ball after a normal offseason. Spencer is uniquely tricky to project because he is going to be switching from shortstop/reliever to starting pitcher, but the Braves love this guy and he has a chance to jump up prospect rankings (and minor league levels) in a hurry if things go according to plan.
Dylan Dodd – LHP
You will struggle to find another senior sign that has the kind of helium and repertoire that Dylan Dodd has. It took him a little while to figure out what kind of starter he wanted to be, but once he settled in, he quickly became one of the better performing pitching prospects in the Braves’ system. His changeup is tremendous, the fastball velo is good and plays up because of how well he spins it, and his breaking balls get swings and misses when he locates and sequences them properly. He is a name I have circled for a while as a player teams will try to be sneaky about trying to get included in trades, but it seems like the Braves know what they have in him.
Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez – 3B (maybe SS?)
I have an irrational love of Nacho ever since I learned a bit more about his game after he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2022 MLB Draft. Nacho is a plus defender at third base who also saw some action in his first pro season at shortstop which was more than interesting. He hits the ball hard, but his swing is more geared for hitting the ball on the ground. If he can get some loft in his swing more consistently, the power should come and Braves could have a complete hitter on their hands.
Douglas Glod – OF
While Diego Benitez was the crown jewel of the Braves’ most recent international free agent class, Douglas Glod was a highly rated IFA prospect in his own right. It took $1.3 million to sign him back in January 2022 and while he is more physically maxed out than your typical teenage signee, he can hit and has a chance to be able to play all three outfield spots even though a corner seems more likely. His .706 OPS in the Dominican Summer League wasn’t a great line, but wasn’t atypical amongst really talented offensive players in the DSL this year (including Benitez). Don’t be shocked if he shows out in rookie ball next year.
Tyler Collins – OF
This is one of the more speculative picks here as Collins wasn’t able to take the field much in 2022. The speedy outfielder was an overslot signing from the eighth round of the 2021 MLB Draft and looked great in rookie ball that year with an .877 OPS in 23 games. Unfortunately, an unknown injury/issue limited him to just four games in 2022. Collins can flat out fly on the basepaths and if he can hit at a decent rate, he could be one of the more entertaining players to watch in the system.