Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List: Honorable Mentions
By Eric Cole
Hello everyone and welcome to our Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Some of you may not be aware, but I headed up Battery Power’s Braves minor league coverage for a number of years before taking over Tomahawk Take. One thing that I wanted to make sure became an important part of our coverage here is information on Braves prospects. We’ll share more about those plans later on, but it starts with making sure we have our own prospects list here.
Thankfully, we didn’t start putting this together officially until AFTER the Braves traded away Justyn-Henry Malloy for Joe Jimenez and a whole slew of prospects in the deal that brought Sean Murphy into the fold. While the system is obviously worse overall after this deal, at least I didn’t have to do a bunch of rewriting.
Prospect rankings are, at their core, a very qualitative and subjective thought exercise and nothing more. I do take a lot of data and information from scouts into account, but at the end of the day, a lot of who gets ranked above or below who is based on feel. I take into account proximity to the majors, upside, floors, reliever risk, future defensive homes, available information, and a whole lot of other things.
Saying all of that, it is extraordinarily likely that we will get a whole lot of things wrong and/or change our minds as all positions on the list are fluid. Prospects surprise us in good and bad ways all the time and that is okay. As a general rule of thumb, I wouldn’t get too hung up on small differences in rankings as it is like that the #12 and #13 (for example) players are very similar in value.
Before we get into the top 30, I did want to mention a few prospects that didn’t quite make the cut for the top 30. On any given day, you could convince me that any of these players are top 30 prospects especially in a system as thin as the Braves’ is at the moment. Below are four players that didn’t quite make the cut in no particular order.
Atlanta Braves 2023 Top Prospects – Honorable Mentions
Mahki Backstrom – 1B/DH
18th Round Pick – 2019 MLB Draft
I want to believe in Mahki and his massive power potential….I really do. When he makes contact, he can send a baseball into a neighboring county and his time at low-A Augusta saw him drawing walks at a really high rate. Part of that is that low-A pitching is historically bad, but it also shows that he does have some patience at the plate and that opposing pitchers respect what he can do. The issue is that I don’t think that that walk rate will stay that high as pitchers with better stuff challenge him and he is already striking out at nearly a 40% clip in the low minors. That combined with the fact that he is strictly a first base or DH option leave me very skeptical that he will ever hit enough as badly as I want to be wrong.
Caleb Durbin – INF
14th Round Pick – 2021 MLB Draft
Durbin was drafted out of a really small college in the Midwest where he had put up some silly numbers. Durbin does not have much in the way of power (although he does have a little pop especially for a smaller guy), but he has a good knowledge of the strike zone, he can and will run (31 steals in 2022), and he saw time at every infield position in 2022 other than first base. Small guys that don’t impact the ball with regularity are a very tough profile in the long-term and Durbin’s middling offensive performance (particularly after he got promoted to high-A Rome) kept him off the top 30, but we wouldn’t be shocked if he had a strong 2023 season to put him right in the conversation again.
Adam Shoemaker – LHP
11th Round Pick – 2021 MLB Draft
The Braves selected the 6’6 lefty Shoemaker as an overslot pick at the beginning of day three of the 2021 draft out of the Canadian prep ranks thanks to his tantalizing physical projection and present ability to throw in the low to mid 90’s despite being very raw even for a prep prospect. Shoemaker’s first full season as a pro, though, went decidedly poorly as he dealt with injuries and pretty real command issues on his way to a 6.87 ERA with a high walk rate. With his long levers, it is going to take him gaining some strength and control over his body to repeat his delivery and hit spots, but he has real upside. However, there is enough concern about his reliever risk combined with the injuries that kept him out of the top 30…although he is another name here that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he came out and pitched really well in 2023 after a normal offseason.
Justin Janas – 1B/DH
12th Round Pick – 2022 MLB Draft
The Braves picked Janas in this year’s draft and he is a weird one. Typically, with a 1B/DH type, you would expect that player to profile to hit for power, but Janas is much more a hit over power guy going back to his college days at Illinois. His numbers during his pro debut this year weren’t exactly exciting as he had just a .629 OPS in 27 games, but drawing too many conclusions from a player’s draft year debut is usually unwise. However, given the profile’s limitations when it comes to power and defensive value, he is going to really have to hit to justify a top 30 ranking and we just haven’t seen that.