The Atlanta Braves' minor league system has seen better days, there is no question about that. However, the reasons for that are largely good as the Braves have had an abnormally high success rate in turning their top level talent into regular contributors at the major league level. Whether it was in the form of trades or promotions, Atlanta has gotten a lot of value out of what they have had in their farm system over the last 5-6 years.
However, when you combine all of that turnover with picking nearly the bottom of every round AND not being able to make meaningful international signings for a few years, the organization's prospect depth is very low. It would be a mistake, though, to suggest that there isn't any talent that could help the Braves coming. In fact, we already highlighted six prospects that could debut in the big leagues in 2023 just a few months ago.
For this article, we are going to look at a few prospects that you really should keep an eye on in 2023. Some are better than people give them credit for, others are guys who used to be highly regarded and now need to bounce back for whatever reason, and others are just flat out interesting.
Braden Shewmake - SS
There is no question that Braden Shewmake's star has faded over the last couple of years. He was decisively passed on the shortstop depth chart last year by Vaughn Grissom and he has struggled to consistently impact the ball at the plate while also seeing his vaunted hit tool regress a bit. However, his defense at shortstop has turned out to be quite good and this is still a former first round pick that performed well in college.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Shewmake is coming off a pretty brutal knee injury he received after a collision in the outfield last season. In short, Shewmake has a lot to prove in 2023 and has some real talent. If he can stay on the field and take a step forward at the plate, he could make the competition at shortstop interesting especially if Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia struggle. Remember, Braden is already on the 40 man roster, so improvement out of him could allow things to change pretty quickly. If not, Shewmake may not get many more chances, especially with Atlanta.
Adam Maier - RHP
Adam Maier was one of the most interesting picks the Braves made in the 2022 MLB Draft. Despite the fact that Maier had to have surgery on his elbow in 2022, the Braves still saw enough out of him to give him an overslot bonus in the seventh round of nearly $1.2 million. Before he went under the knife, Maier had what some were calling the best breaking ball in the draft class which is a pretty bold claim.
It will be curious both how the Braves handle Maier in 2023 as well as what he looks like upon his return. The surgery he had wasn't Tommy John, but instead a brace procedure which has a shorter recovery time which means we should see him throwing relatively early in 2023 with the most recent word being that Maier believed he would be ready to face hitters by March. How aggressive the Braves are with Maier (both in terms of minor league level as well as playing time) will tell us a lot about how they are feeling about his recovery.
Spencer Schwellenbach - RHP
I already wrote a longer piece specifically on Schwellenbach and why he could be THE breakout prospect for the Braves in 2023, so I won't linger for long here. A guy coming off Tommy John surgery who is also converting from shortstop/reliever to a starting pitcher as a pro who also can throw in the upper 90's with two other potential plus pitches is fascinating on so many levels. He probably won't move as fast as most college arms would given the injury and his conversion, but there is loads of potential here.
Ambioris Tavarez - SS
For a guy that was a highly ranked international prospect at the time he was signed by the Braves, we know decidedly little about Ambioris Tavarez as a pro. He wasn't able to play very much in rookie ball for some reason and when he did play, he was reasonably productive at the plate, but also struck out way too much and only drew three walks in 17 games.
The toughest thing about projecting Ambioris is because of the lack of playing time last year and the Braves not fielding a Dominican Summer League team the year before, Ambioris clearly had to be rusty. However, without actually seeing him, we don't really have a reference for where he is at and what he is capable of. Our best guess is that he makes his full season debut at low-A Augusta this year and we will be watching closely.
Ignacio "Nacho" Alvarez - 3B/SS
I have made no secret that Nacho may be my favorite prospects in the Braves' farm system. For starters, Nacho's defense is a carrying tool as he can really pick it over at third. He even saw some time at shortstop down in low-A in 2022 which would certainly add to his value if he could be an option over there. He also hit well in his pro debut season and is most certainly not afraid to draw a walk which we appreciate.
Aside from the fact that Alvarez is seemingly a real prospect that the Braves got in the fifth round of the 2022 draft out of a community college program, what intrigues us the most is whether or not he will develop meaningful power. He is a strong dude, but his swing leads to a lot of groundballs. We see some potential adjustments that could improve his swing plane as well as involving his lower half more that could lead to at least more line drives. If he can impact the ball more with his defense and approach, he could get on folks' radars in a hurry.
Victor Vodnik - RHP
I have been lower on Victor Vodnik than others in recent years because I have very little faith at this point that he can stay healthy. Small framed fireballers are already a tough profile from a longevity standpoint and Vodnik has battled various injuries as a pro leading to missing significant time over the last few seasons.
However, no one can deny that Vodnik has elite arm talent. His fastball threatens triple digits and he pairs it with a hard slider and surprisingly good changeup. There was a time not that long ago that Vodnik was considered a really interesting starting pitching prospect, although it does seem like that ship as sailed. As a non-roster invite to camp, the Braves clearly know how good Vodnik can be when he is healthy. If he can stay on the field, don't be shocked if he ends up making his debut in the Braves' bullpen and opening some eyes while doing so.
Tyler Collins - OF
With the rules changes being put in place that are presumably going to increase the number of stolen bases in MLB, having at least some guys with good speed tools is going to be a must. Tyler Collins has a good speed tool and then some, plus he has a good chance to stick in center field. There is a reason why the Braves gave Collins an overslot bonus and hopefully we get a chance to actually see that in in 2023.
However, Collins hasn't been able to make his way to full season ball yet not because of struggles on the field, but because of injury as he only played four games in 2022 and that was in rookie ball. We suspect he is healthy again and if so, we could see him debut in Augusta. If that is the case, his development is going to be one of the bigger storylines in the early part of the 2023 minor league season.