As Eric reported earlier, the Atlanta Braves shocked everyone this afternoon when they selected the contract of AJ Smith-Shawver, who threw only 12 innings in AAA after his promotion less than two weeks ago.
Most Atlanta Braves fans expected lefty Lucas Luetge would either go back on the IL or be designated for assignment after a series of rough outings. Luetge’s obvious replacement was fellow lefty Danny Young, but instead of the usual suspects, Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos decided on Smith-Shawver.
After Smith-Shaver’s promotion, I wrote that the Braves might give Allan Winans a shot since he’s older, more experienced, and has pitched well for the Stripers this year. But the Braves needed something Winans and Tanner Gordon don’t possess, a fastball that averages 95 and has touched 98.
Who is AJ Smith-Shawver?
The Braves selected AJ in the seventh round of the 2021 Rule 4 Amateur Draft out of Colleyville Heritage HS (Colleyville, TX). Here’s how I described him when the Braves selected him on day two of the draft.
". . . a 6’-3 205 pound righty out of Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas, ranked number 321 nationwide and number 25 in Texas by Baseball America."
"Smith-Shawver is a wanted man; recruited by NCAA Division I schools as a three-star quarterback and a two-way player between the foul lines where Texas Tech suggested he could play third base as well as pitch. However, his future in baseball appears to lie on that raised bump between home plate and second base."
The Braves told AJ they wanted him as a pitcher and coaxed him to sign for $997,500. After signing, AJ made four. two-inning starts for the FCL Braves( Rookie League/)
He pitched for Augusta in 2022, making 17 starts and throwing 68 1/3 innings at a 5.11 ERA. The Braves ignored the ERA and Moved him to High A Rome to start 2023; it was a short visit.