8 Braves prospects who have struggled to start the 2023 season
By Eric Cole
The Atlanta Braves' farm system has seen better days. This is hardly news to anyone who has followed the minors closely over the last couple of years. Between lower draft picks, not being able to sign international free agents of note until recently, a series of successful promotions, some high profile trades, and the usual attrition, the depth in the Braves' farm system is decidedly lacking.
However, that isn't to say that there are not really interesting prospects in the system because that is just not true. AJ Smith-Shawver is well on his way to being a top 100 prospect in all of baseball as he is striking out everybody with a retooled delivery and just got promoted to Double-A. Most of the Braves' pitching draft class from 2022 has impressed including Owen Murphy, JR Ritchie, and Seth Keller. Again, there is real talent down on the farm especially on the pitching side.
Then we have the class of prospect that we thought would have been better to start the season and has instead struggled for one reason or another. These struggles could easily be temporary, but its important to make note of them to keep an eye on them going forward. Here are some Braves prospects that have not gotten off to banner starts to the 2023 season.
There are some positives that can be taken away from Braden Shewmake's start to the season. He is still a strong defender at shortstop and his five home runs during the first month of 2023 or so is a welcome sight for a guy who has struggled to consistently impact the ball as a pro. The downsides? He is only hitting .250 while repeating at Triple-A and his .283 OBP thanks to just 5 walks to start the season points to some issues with his approach at the plate right now. Shewmake was a fun story this spring, but his offensive profile remains pretty murky right now.
The former Georgia Tech star missed a big chunk of time last year with an injury, so a slow start to the season isn't a huge surprise. Waddell was actually raking in his first few games at Double-A Mississippi before getting promoted to Gwinnett and struggling there so far. His current line through 15 games at Triple-A currently sits at .193/.314/.246. While the batting average can be explained away a bit by a small sample size and the walk rate is encouraging, the lack of power is not new and it is hard to see a path for him to the big leagues without impacting the ball more even if he is never a home run threat.
Both Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster have had their struggles since being sent back down to Gwinnett, but we are pointing out Shuster here for a couple reasons. One, Dodd has still been striking out batters at a high clip (16 strikeouts in 14.2 innings) while Shuster (12 in 13 innings) hasn't been missing as many bats which isn't that surprising given the disparity in stuff. Second, while Dodd hasn't exactly been filling the strike zone either, Shuster has walked 10 guys in 13 innings of work. A fringe fastball, not missing bats, and struggling to find the zone is not a great combination.