Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List: 6-10
By Eric Cole
We are in the home stretch of our Atlanta Braves 2023 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Apologies for the delay in this update as I have been traveling to visit family over the last week. During the latter part of the trip, a combination of traffic delays and some very suspect hotel wifi conspired against me. Hopefully this update finds you reasonably warm and safe.
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
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.
Below you will find our Braves prospects 6-10. Over 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: 6-10
10. Ambioris Tavarez – SS/3B
2020-21 IFA Signee
As a bit of a spoiler for you all, our #10 prospect, Ambioris Tavarez, is the highest ranked position player prospect on our rankings (at least for this update). While that distinction alone may not mean much given that the Braves’ position ranks in the minors are at all-time lows at the moment, Tavarez has a ton of upside that should excite Braves fans. Tavarez has real raw power to the entire field and excellent bat speed to go along with some feel for hitting despite the fact that his swing is a little raw and funky at the moment. He absolutely has the arm to stick at shortstop, but there is a chance that he fills in enough that he ends up losing some quickness that would necessitate a move to third base.
The biggest issue with Tavarez at the moment is that we just haven’t gotten the chance to see him play very much. The Braves didn’t field a Dominican Summer League team the year he was signed because, well, they had been able to sign international prospects for a long time. Last year, he needed thoracic outlet surgery in his non-throwing arm which meant we didn’t get to see him play until August where he slashed a very reasonable, if unexciting, .277/.304/.385. All of that lost development time is not ideal whatsoever, but assuming he can catch up reasonably quicker and he is past the injury…he could open some eyes pretty quickly even though his is still a ways away.
9. Adam Maier – RHP
7th Round Pick – 2022 MLB Draft
This is probably going to be the highest you see Adam Maier ranked this early, but I am a firm believer that this dude could be a stud. With the Braves’ 7th round pick in last year’s draft, they went WAY over slot to sign Maier, despite him being injured and recovering from elbow surgery, for $1.2 million. A strong showing in the Cape Cod League helped his cause and the Braves clearly saw enough out of him even with the injury to nab him before he got back to school at Oregon and potentially pitched his way to being even more expensive than what he was. Maier features a low to mid-90’s fastball that he commands well and has solid movement, a changeup that has a very good chance to be a plus pitch that plays well off of his fastball, and a legit plus slider that he can really spin the crap out of and his is best out pitch at the moment.
Taking injured players is always risky business which is why the Braves waited this deep in the draft to take a shot on Maier. You never really know how a guy is going to look coming back from it. However, the Braves love guys that used to play in the field and given Maier’s background as a two-way player before he transferred to Oregon, well…he was right up their alley. Injury aside (he had surgery to brace the ligaments in his elbow fwiw…not full Tommy John), he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm and he has some real projection despite not having a huge frame. This Braves scouting department doesn’t give $1.2 million out in dumb, uninformed ways and they know pitching, so Maier could be exciting and we should see him pretty early this year barring no setbacks.
8. Darius Vines – RHP
7th Round Pick – 2019 MLB Draft
Coming in at #8 on our list is righty Darius Vines who has continued to impress us at each level despite having some things about his profile that initially concerned us. The Braves drafted Vines thanks to his extensive array of pitches and its his offspeed stuff that has done the best work for him so far. His fastball is generally a low 90’s pitch that can go a little higher, but not very often. He has two breaking balls that get a lot of bad swings thanks to his ability to locate them as well as change speeds with them. Finally, we have his changeup which we think is going to end up being a plus pitch for him in the big leagues as it has nice fade and is very deceptive coming out of his hand.
This biggest problem we had was his vulnerability to the long ball, especially early on in his career as a pro. He COULD throw all of his pitches for strikes, but he relied too much on having his breaking stuff dive out of the zone and he would throw his fastball in the zone too much. The end result was that hitters started sitting on that fastball in the zone and given that it isn’t anything unique or special, it would get hit a long way if he wasn’t careful. However, Vines has gotten better and better about trusting his offspeed offerings to get him outs in the strike zone and has been more careful about his fastball usage which helped him put together a really nice 2022 season with 156 strikeouts in 140.2 innings with a 3.77 ERA. His ceiling may be somewhat because his fastball isn’t exciting, but his command and his secondaries make us feel good about him making it to the big leagues as a starter.
7. Dylan Dodd – LHP
3rd Round Pick – 2021 MLB Draft
It isn’t very often that you see a player who was signed in the draft as a college senior moving up the prospect ranks, but that is exactly what Dylan Dodd is doing right now and this ranking, frankly, could be soft. Dodd features four pitches that could be considered above average including a mid 90’s fastball with nice life to it, two breaking balls in a slider that is filthy against lefty batters and a curveball that is a nice change of pace pitch against righties, and a changeup which is his best pitch as the bottom can drop out of it and he will throw it in any count to any batter. It sure doesn’t hurt his cause, either, that he throws with his left hand as lefties with this kind of arsenal are hard to come by.
Dodd pitched his way through three levels of the minors all the way to Gwinnett last season and appears to be on the cusp of a major league call-up. The Braves absolutely love this guy and it wouldn’t be a shocker if we saw him early in the 2023 season in the big leagues either as a starter or a reliever depending on the needs of the club as Dodd has experience with both. He doesn’t walk guys, he is tough to both lefties and righties, and he has a legit battery of pitches to miss big league bats. Circle Dodd’s name, he could be something and quickly.
6. Jared Shuster – LHP
1st Round Pick – 2020 MLB Draft
Finally for this update and just outside the top 5 is Jared Shuster who the Braves picked with their first round pick back in the 2020 MLB Draft. Yes, I know that there are some national outlets led by some very smart people that have Shuster as the top ranked prospect in the Braves system, but I don’t buy it. First, the good news: Shuster’s changeup is legitimately insane and is among the best pitches period in the Braves’ system….you will not get an argument from me otherwise. Also, his slider has improved each year in the pros and while it still isn’t a consistently plus pitch, it does good work for him.
The primary reason we only have him at number 6 here is his fastball as it is a low 90’s offering that, at present anyways, does not have a ton of movement. He usually commands it well, but that pitch is super dangerous for him against guys that have good pitch recognition and patience which most big league hitters have. On top of the fact that it being a meh fastball means that it doesn’t have the separation you would prefer with his changeup, but he HAS to command it basically perfectly to do its job. If he misses the zone significantly, guys just spit on it. If he misses in the zone, that thing is going to get launched into orbit. There is a real chance that he commands the pitch well enough and picks his spots in his sequences that he could be a serviceable big league starter, but I think folks need to adjust their expectations of Shuster a bit until we see him excel more than he really has.