As the 2023 season gets underway in the coming days, there are multiple prospects for the Atlanta Braves who are names to watch for as potential breakout candidates across the next couple of months. Here are five of those names, each of which could be set to breakout this minor league season, as well as potentially rise up the club's prospect ranks. (Prospect rankings according to MLB Pipeline)
5 Atlanta Braves' prospects who could breakout during 2023 season
RHP Owen Murphy
There are a few 2022 draft picks who could potentially be on this list for obvious reasons, with the biggest name being that of Murphy, a 19-year-old right-hander whom Atlanta selected in the first round a year ago at No. 20 overall. The Braves No. 2 overall prospect, Murphy made his professional debut in a limited sample size a year ago with 12 IP between Rookie Ball and Low-A to post a 4.50 ERA and 17:6 K:BB ratio, and is likely to see High-A Rome at some point this season.
RHP JR Ritchie
Another prominent 2022 draft pick in addition to Murphy is Ritchie, who is also a 19-year-old right-hander who was selected early in the 2022 MLB Draft, taken at pick No. 35 overall. Atlanta's No. 3 prospect, Ritchie impressed during his limited professional debut a year ago by owning a 1.88 ERA and 14:5 K:BB ratio across 14.1 IP between Rookie Ball and Low-A, and similar to Murphy, is likely to see High-A Rome at some point this season.
RHP AJ Smith-Shawver
Arguably the Atlanta Braves most prominent name in the prospect breakout conversation entering the 2023 season is that of Smith-Shawver, who is currently the organization's No. 4 prospect. A 20-year-old right-hander, Smith-Shawver held a 5.11 ERA with a 103:39 K:BB ratio across 68.2 IP a year ago in Low-A, and could be set for a big 2023, a year that could potentially see the former seventh rounder put his name in the Braves top prospect conversation, if he's not there already.
RHP Spencer Schwellenbach
A former second round pick by Atlanta in the 2021 MLB Draft, the 2023 season will mark the first in-game action of Schwellenbach's professional career due to injury. The former two-way collegiate star at Nebraska could very easily have a breakout season in year one, one in which Schwellenbach, the Braves No. 7 prospect, could make some noise in the lower classifications of Atlanta's system.
SS Diego Benitez
As for the final name on this list, there are obviously multiple other options to choose from, but why not Benitez? Atlanta's No. 18 prospect, Benitez struggled at times in his initial professional debut in the DSL a year ago, slashing .196/.363/.283 across 43 games, but could undoubtedly be a name to watch for in 2023, a year that could see the former 2022 international signing begin to rise up the prospect ranks.