A pair of Atlanta Braves prospects crack another Top 100 prospect list

The accolades continue for a pair of Braves arms that look to make a name for themselves in 2024

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Spring is right around the corner and nothing says it best quite like pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. With several position players in camp, making statements such as "World Series or bust" there is a ton of buzz around not just the city, but the team itself. As Atlanta begins its division defense once again and has its sites on the ultimate prize, it's a pair of their minor league arms that are getting a call out today.

The wonderful people over at Fangraphs, and more specifically Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin, released their comprehensive Top 100 prospect list and two Braves players have made the list.

Despite being considered near the bottom, the Atlanta Braves farm system is starting to rebound from mass promotion - seriously, who can imagine being able to graduate the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr., Max Fried, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, and more - right around the same time? Add in extremely tough international sanctions following the Coppolella saga, and regression was due for the system. So let's take a quick look at the pair of Braves prospects who made the list!

63. AJ-Smith Shawver

Coming in at #63 overall is Braves pitcher AJ-Smith Shawver. At just 20 years of age, Shawver's career took off last season moving from A+ ball all the way to the big league team - something nearly unheard of. Even crazier to think about, the young pitcher hadn't solely focused on baseball until he was drafted by the Braves and it just took one full season to get scouts to fall in love with what he can become.

Heading into the draft AJSS was more of a fastball/slider pitcher with a changeup to keep hitters honest, though it wasn't quite polished enough. As Longenhan and Taruskin point out, the Braves came in and changed his mechanics a bit, while also having him incorporate a curveball for four pitches.

The results speak for themselves as AJ-Smith Shawver dazzled in A+ ball, in 2023, to the tune of a 14.79 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 in 3 games before being promoted to Double-A Mississippi, again just at the age of 20. The stop in Mississippi was short as it took just 7 innings, over two starts, before the Braves decided to move him up to Triple-A Gwinnett before making his MLB debut on June 4th against the soon-to-be World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Shawver struck out 3, walked 1, and gave up 0 hits over 2.1 innings.

There is a tremendous amount to like about AJ-Smith Shawver. He possesses relatively few innings in his arm, has great mechanics, and easy velocity that can touch up to 99 MPH. With relatively low experience it is expected that AJ-Smith Shawver begins the year at Triple-A Gwinnett to continue to refine his pitches, build up his arm strength, and ultimately showcase why he belongs in Atlanta. The future is extremely bright for him, and people around the industry are watching him closely.

85. Hurston Waldrep

I have been at House That Hank Built for just a few weeks now and have written a total of three articles (including this one) and yet again Hurston Waldrep entered one of my articles. Hurston comes in at 85 on Fangraphs Top 100. Hurston rapidly rose in Atlanta's farm system last year after being drafted out of the University of Florida and going from college to Triple-A in the same season.

The question is not "does Hurston have the stuff to be a big league pitcher?" as he possesses four above-average to plus pitches, with a double-plus slider. The question is "Can Hurston keep it in the strike zone?"

During his quick rise last season, Hurston did struggle with walks - putting up a 6.30 BB/9 rate in Mississippi, and a 6.23 BB/9 rate in Gwinnett. He also put up a 9.90 K/9, and 10.38 K/9 across those two stays so no matter where he goes, it's clear he's got strikeout stuff. A full spring with Atlanta coaches, and a full season in Gwinnett with coach Mike McCarthy seems to be the most logical choice for Hurston but given the overall history of pitching - anything is possible. The future is extremely bright for Hurston and taking that next step with his command this upcoming season could make it meteoric.

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