The Braves' aggressive promotions helped them win a title, but there was a cost

Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver is the latest prospect to make his MLB debut
Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver is the latest prospect to make his MLB debut / Joseph Rondone-USA TODAY Sports
1 of 2

The Atlanta Braves’ promotion of AJ Smith-Shawver is the latest in a series of prospect promotions designed to make the club a perennial title challenger. But every action has a reaction, and we’re seeing it now.

Last Sunday’s Atlanta Braves game highlighted the issues GM Alex Anthopoulos faces as he tries to supply the talent needed to maintain their championship challenge. 

Timeline to Trouble

When the Braves made their unexpected run at a division title in 2018, 10 pitchers and one outfielder were part of the team’s success. One of the pitchers was later part of the Kevin Gausman trade.

In 2019, the Braves saw two pitchers and a third baseman make their debut and used five pitching prospects to acquire bullpen help.

The 2020 tournament saw the arrival of three pitching prospects, a catcher and a highly routed outfielder, as the Braves reached game 7 of the NLCS.

In 2021 Alex Anthopoulos brought back Marcell Ozuna as DH on a multi-year and added depth traded for Orlando Arcia, but nothing went as planned.

Then he acquired three lottery ticket outfielders after the All-Star Break, called up a hard-throwing right-hander drafter 14 months earlier, and hit the jackpot as they led the club to a World Series championship.

Atlanta Braves' Depth Vanishes

When the Braves opened the 2022 season, 10 pitchers and an outfield prospect who debuted from 2018 through 2021 were gone. It’s not unusual for prospects to move on, teams try to fill those vacancies with Minor League free agents and newly drafted prospects, but the drafts fell short of filling the need.

The only prospects remaining from 2016 and 2017 were Anderson, Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok, and Tucker Davidson. No highly ranked prospects emerged from the 2018 selections, and Shea Langeliers was now in Oakland, leaving Braden Shewmake and Michael Harris II as the ranking players from 2019,

The shortened 2020 draft placed Shuster, Smith- Shawver, and JR Ritchie in the mix, along with 2021 selectees Cal Conley and Dylan Dodd. Davidson, Sean Newcomb, and Drew Waters left via trade, and we know what happened with Harris and Grissom.

If clearing the minors of highly-ranked, near Major-League-ready prospects is the action, what’s the reaction?