Atlanta Braves 2023 season review: AJ Smith-Shawver debuts at just 20 years-old

AJ Smith-Shawver began the season in High-A and ended up on the postseason roster. We take a look at the production during his debut big-league season with the Atlanta Braves.

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Coming into 2023, AJ Smith-Shawver had a lot of hype around him as one of the few Braves prospects with real upside. He began by dominating the lower levels, thus resulting in a fast ascension through the Braves system. Here, we review AJ Smith-Shawver's numbers from last season, his short stints in Atlanta, and what to expect in 2024.

AJ Smith-Shawver 2023 Pitch Breakdown

AJSS primarily relied on his four-seam fastball in 2023, throwing it 54.0% of the time and averaging 94.5 mph. Opposing hitters had a .196 batting average against it with a .482 slugging percentage.

He threw his slider 23.3% of the time as his top secondary option. He averaged 84.9 mph on the slider and opposing hitters had a .133 batting average against it with a .333 slugging percentage. He threw it 106 times last year.

He mixed in two other off-speed pitches in 2023 with a curveball 12.1% of the time and a changeup 10.6% of the time. Opposing hitters averaged .364 against the curve and .000 against the changeup. Keep in mind, that these are very small major-league sample sizes. We are talking about four hits on the curveball to 0 hits on the changeup.

AJ Smith-Shawver's 2023 MLB Stats

AJ Smith-Shawver only pitched 25.1 innings with the big-league club last year. In that time, he made five starts and six total appearances. He struck out 20 and walked 11 batters. He allowed 12 earned runs good for a 4.26 ERA. His 4.26 ERA gave him a 105 ERA+ (five percent better than league average after adjustments). he allowed just 6.0 hits per nine innings.

AJ Smith-Shawver's 2023 Minor League Stats

AJ Smith-Shawver's rise through the minor-league system was meteoric and well documented. You may have heard by now about how this kid didn't start pitching until he was 17, prior to his senior year in high school. Last year at age 20, he worked his way through four different levels of the Braves organization, finishing the year on the Braves postseason roster. It's a truly incredible journey.

In High-A Rome, he started three games and pitched 14.0 innings. he allowed no runs and just six hits. He struck out 23 hitters. Moving on...

He started just two games in Double-A Mississippi and pitched just seven innings. He allowed no runs and struck out nine.

He spent the majority of his time in Triple-A. There he started 10 games and posted a 4.17 ERA, striking out 47 batters and walking 26. Those numbers break down to 5.7 walks per nine and 10.3 SO/9.

Across three minor-league levels, Smith-Shawver totaled 15 starts and struck out 11.5 batters per nine. He walked 4.8 per nine and had a total ERA of 2.76.

What to expect from AJ Smith-Shawver in 2024

The Braves think very highly of his talent or he wouldn't have found himself on the big-league roster last season. He needs to get his control tightened up but it's important to remember that he hasn't been pitching all that long. He has a ton of talent and potential to keep growing. The Braves have traded for and extended Chris Sale, giving them four solid rotation pieces for 2024. The fifth spot could be up in the air with Bryce Elder's poor second half.

Also Read: Why AJ Smith-Shawver could be a rotation candidate in 2024

Regardless of how many spots are available now, injuries always happen and you can never have enough starting pitching. AJ Smith-Shawver will likely get plenty of opportunities to showcase his progress at the big-league level.