Atlanta Braves: Introducing Atlanta's latest promoted top prospect, AJ Smith-Shawver

Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shaver graduated Colleyville Heritage High School a year before  Bobby Witt, Jr.
Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shaver graduated Colleyville Heritage High School a year before Bobby Witt, Jr. / Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News
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Moving On Up - Double Time

After three starts for Rome totaling 14 innings Smith-Shawver had faced 52 batters, given up six (yes 6) hits, struck out 23, and walked four without allowing a run, and at the end of April, the Braves gave him a ticket to Pearl.

Smith-Shawver’s stay with the M-Braves lasted long enough for him to make two starts, throw seven innings, face 29 batters, strike out nine, and walk three without giving up a run, and the Braves gave him a ticket to Gwinnett. It’s a tiny sample size, but I’m sensing a trend.

AJ made two starts for the Stripers, throwing 12 innings, facing 47 batters, striking out 12, and walking five while pitching to a 3.00 ERA. 1.083 WHIP. AAA uses a different baseball and has better players, so it wasn’t a surprise when his 0.00 ERA ended, but I doubt anyone predicted today’s move, and if you did, buy a lottery ticket now.

Scouting Report

MLB Pipeline ranked Smith-Shaver the Braves number four prospect to start the year. Baseball America liked him better than Pipeline, making him the Atlanta Braves number-one prospect. Here’s how BA described him at that time (subscription required.) 

"Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 Slider: 70 Changeup: 45 Control: 50"

"…a powerful and athletic righthander (with) legitimate frontline starter stuff. . . It all starts with his four-seam fastball, a beast … that averaged nearly 95 mph and peaked at 98 …(with) excellent life, with 20 inches of induced vertical break and both cutting and running action . . . He’s still developing his command . . . but when he’s hitting the zone, it can be overpowering. . . . (his) slider has the potential to be a wipeout offering. It’s an upper-80s pitch with short and hard biting action that disappears at the bottom of the strike zone . . .(he) throws a changeup in the same velocity range that . . . flashes solid fading life, but he has below-average feel for it. . ."

The biggest issue facing Smith-Shawver is keeping his body in synch. BA calls his arm speed electric, but he faces the same dilemma as most pitchers with long levers and a cross-fire delivery, repeating his mechanics. As a result, he can lose the zone and walk batters or be wild over the plate.