Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List: 11-15

FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 22: Braden Shewmake #83 of the Atlanta Braves throws during a spring training game against the Minnesota Twins on March 22, 2021 at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 22: Braden Shewmake #83 of the Atlanta Braves throws during a spring training game against the Minnesota Twins on March 22, 2021 at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Welcome again everyone to our Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Ever since I began covering the Braves, the minor leagues have been a labor of love. While the Braves’ system isn’t in the best state after several trades and successful promotions in addition to the usual attrition, there are still a ton of interesting prospects throughout the minors. In case you missed it, here is the list so far

Honorable Mentions

Braves Prospects 26-30

Braves Prospects 21-25

Braves Prospects 16-20

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 likely that the #12 and #13 (for example) players are very similar in value.

Below you will find our Braves prospects 11-15. Of the course of the next several days, we will be rolling out the entire list. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure to include links to the previous installments in each post so you can catch up if need be. Enjoy!

Atlanta Braves 2023 Top Prospects: 11-15

15. Blake Burkhalter – RHP

2nd Round Pick – 2022 MLB Draft

At number 15 on our preseason rankings is Blake Burkhalter, a righty out of Auburn that Atlanta selected in the 2022 draft with the pick that they were compensated with when Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers last offseason. Auburn coach Tim Hudson gave his highest seal of approval when it came to Burkhalter’s stuff which features a mid-90’s fastball that has gone higher, a changeup, and a cutter that helped him tremendously against lefty batters last year. While Burkhalter never started at Auburn, the Braves seem to be entertaining the idea of trying him as a starter as a pro with those in the organization comparing the transition to the one that Spencer Strider made.

There is a lot to like with Burkhalter (and I am a sucker for a cutter assuming it has a good tunnel), but there are causes for concern. A smaller 6’0 pitcher with no history of starting and a history of command issues doesn’t necessarily scream “starter”, but the Braves have had a good eye for guys that show promise with atypical pitch and/or physical profiles. The reliever risk keeps us from going too hard on Burkhalter to begin with, but we aren’t going to be shocked if he overperforms this ranking in 2023.

14. Jesse Franklin V – OF

3rd Round Pick – 2020 MLB Draft

With our #14 spot, we went with outfielder Jesse Franklin who has some of the best raw power in the system. Coming into the 2022 season, Franklin was already in a weird spot. Injuries had cost him time when he was at Michigan and he certainly looked rusty/out of sync at times when he was at Rome. However, he also had stretches where he looked like Babe Ruth when Babe could run a little bit. His approach leaves something to be desired and can get into funks where he is pressing, but the strikeouts were at a level one could live with given the kind of power he has. Franklin has seen time at center field in the past, but he projects as a corner outfielder with left field maybe more likely in the wake of his elbow injury.

Speaking of that injury, its an important thing to note with Franklin as he underwent Tommy John surgery after playing just 15 games in 2022. Tommy John doesn’t have the same downtime for position players as it does for pitchers, but it did cost the 24 year old Franklin basically a full season of plate appearances and development overall. For a guy that had some hit tool questions already, this is less than ideal. We expect he will likely repeat Double-A in 2023 with a good bit of the early part of his season being him at DH. We’ll know more about how much his downtime impacted him then, but there is enough upside here that we feel comfortable keeping him in the early teens despite the risk.

13. Roddery Munoz – RHP

2018 IFA Signee

At 13, we have righthander Roddery Munoz who was recently protected from the Rule 5 draft when the Braves added him to the 40 man roster. Roddery’s high octane fastball that can hit the upper 90’s and swing and miss breaking ball would have been enough for a team (probably) to steal him in the Rule 5 and stash him in their bullpen, but as a starter he still has some work to do. His command can get away from him at times, especially if an inning drags on, and his changeup is not consistent whatsoever.

Based on pure stuff, Roddery should be higher on this list as both his fastball and slider could be plus pitches in the big leagues if he can refine his command of them a bit. However, the lack of a third pitch right now and the idea that his stuff could tempt the Braves to move him into the bullpen gives us some pause in terms of ranking him higher. We have confidence that he will be valuable wherever he ends up, but the reality is that relievers (despite being a very important part of a big league roster), in terms of overall value, just don’t carry the same weight as starters.

12. Braden Shewmake – SS

1st Round Pick – 2019 MLB Draft

Coming in at 12 on our list is shortstop and former 1st round pick Braden Shewmake and yes, we are aware that other publications have him ranked higher. The good news with Shewmake is that one major question (for us anyways) after he was drafted was whether he could stick at short and the answer to that is yes. He can also run well and he has a good sense of the zone although it doesn’t translate so much into walks as much as not striking out at a high rate.

The downsides here despite his prospect pedigree and draft position are real, though. Braden’s game power has been a concern since the day he was drafted and he has not added much to his very slender frame since his Texas A&M days. Moreover, the one thing that we felt good about when he was drafted, his hit tool, has regressed significantly since he was drafted in 2019 as he has posted back to back seasons with sub 90 wRC+ campaigns. Shewmake has also struggled to stay on the field the last two seasons with a PCL tear in his knee on a nasty outfield collision that ended his 2022 season being the worst of the bunch. He has real talent and was in demand during the draft, so we aren’t going to write him off as an option at short completely going forward, but we aren’t going to ignore his obvious shortcomings so far as a pro, either.

11. Diego Benitez – SS

2021/22 IFA Signee

The last prospect before we get to our top 10 is recent IFA signee shortstop Diego Benitez who was the jewel of the Braves’ international class. Benitez just oozes potential with a 6’1-6’2 projectable frame with real athleticism that can allow you two dream on his offensive potential and all the makings, especially a strong throwing arm, of a good shortstop. As with all IFA guys, he is quite raw and a ways away, but there are a number of reasons why the Braves gave him a healthy seven figure bonus.

That said, we can only bank on his potential so much at this point. Yes, he was a premium IFA signing, but there is a significant amount of attrition with players this young and his DSL debut this year didn’t exactly jump off the page. We are willing to be a bit aggressive in ranking Diego, but pumping the brakes before he ends up in the top 10 seems wise until we seem him play in person stateside.