Atlanta Braves: Braves prospect Spencer Schwellenbach could break out this season
By Eric Cole
When the Atlanta Braves selected Spencer Schwellenbach in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft, they felt as though they were handed a gift. The Braves' interest in Schwellenbach was very well-documented in the lead up to the draft, but the issue was that the health of his elbow and the potential need for Tommy John surgery even after a UCL brace repair meant that the Braves (and others) weren't comfortable selecting him in the first round as much as they loved the arm talent.
As the picks ticked down, the Braves realized that they could still get there man and despite some interest from teams ahead of them, Schwellenbach did indeed fall to them at the 59th pick in the draft. At first glance, its hard to really to fully grasp why the Braves coveted him as much as they, but in Schwellenbach's case...it was about his potential over his numbers in college.
Once a starter and reliever, the Braves hope to convert Schwellenbach into a starter
During his time at Nebraska, Spencer Schwellenbach did not pitch out of the rotation. Instead, he was the team's starting shortstop who would also come in and throw out of the bullpen. The stuff on the mound was tantalizing as he had a mid-90's fastball that had touched the upper 90's, a promising slider and changeup (the better of the two pitches is up for debate at the moment), and he could throw all of his pitches for strikes.
The athleticism of a shortstop combined with elite arm talent got the Braves thinking big. Sure, as a fallback option, Spencer is a guy that could pitch out of a big league bullpen pretty quickly even as he recovered from the Tommy John surgery that he did end up having to have or even go back to be a shortstop, but the Braves think they can convert him to being a starter.
As of now, that is still the plan. Schwellenbach is in Florida at camp with the Braves very interested in seeing where he is at. Early reports on him are startlingly glowing as his velocity is already back, it sounds like his stuff looks crisp, and he is in incredible shape. He is listed as a 6'1, 200 pound guy, but we have heard that he has put on even more muscle and has geared his offseason program to help him withstand the rigors of starting over a long season.
Now with a fully repaired elbow, there is genuine frontline starter upside in Schwellenbach, although his transition to being a starting pitching while also coming back from major surgery means it could be a couple years before we know exactly what the Braves have in him. It is certain there will be some bumps and rust along the way, but do not be the least bit surprised if he jumps up prospect rankings in a hurry. Our expectation is that he will probably start the 2023 season at high-A Rome given that he is a college arm.
Assuming the start of his 2023 season goes well, he is most certainly a guy that could move up to Double-A and beyond quickly.