8 Braves prospects who have struggled to start the 2023 season
By Eric Cole
After a really strong campaign in the Arizona Fall League, Cal Conley was getting a lot of attention from some prospect gurus. Unfortunately, 2023 has not gotten off to a great start as he has slashed .205/.303/.244 so far. Mississippi's home park is well known to suppress power numbers (except for Drew Lugbauer apparently) so that could explain some of this, but the results have not been great. He has also made 4 errors at short in 19 games which is not what you want, either.
Victor Vodnik is now officially a relief prospect after struggling to stay healthy as a starter. Vodnik's arm talent and fastball are undeniably intriguing, but he hasn't been able to put things together for a while now. He is still striking out guys at a nice rate (12 batters in 10.2 innings of work), but the walk rate isn't particularly good and it is hard to ignore that he got demoted to Double-A and currently sports an 8.44 ERA in eight appearances this year.
Brandol Mezquita looked like a guy that could break out during the first half of 2022, but he has struggled to be consistent at the plate since then and those issues have carried over to 2023 as he has slashed .200/.267/.364 so far. Again, small sample size to work with here, but his strikeout rate at high-A last year at 34.8% was already a bit of a red flag and it has gotten worse so far this year as he is getting set down at a 41% clip in 2023.
Didier Fuentes is being included here, but not because we had lofty expectations going into the season, but instead as a note to keep an eye on him as he is still a teenager making his full season debut with really intriguing stuff from a tough arm slot for hitters to pick up. However, he is very much still learning his craft (again, he is just 17) and his 8.22 ERA and six walks in 7.2 innings of work so far has reflected that. Don't let the numbers fool you too much here, Fuentes is a guy to keep an eye on.
The Braves spent big money to sign Ambioris Tavarez as their first marquee international free agent after the sanctions against them began to be lifted and things have been anything but smooth for him as a pro. After missing a lot of last season recovering from thoracic outlet surgery, Tavarez has only managed to post a .174/.305/.217 line for Augusta so far. He stance and swing are a bit funky which, combined with the delays in his development, could cause some issues going forward, but the defense at shortstop has largely been good at least.