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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What to Expect from Smith-Shawver

I expect the Atlanta Braves to use Smith-Shawver out of the bullpen unless an emergency start is required. In case you weren’t counting, he’s thrown only 110 innings since the Braves signed him. He's not stretched enough to throw 120 Major League innings this year, and the Braves will do nothing to risk injuring his arm.

As a reliever, he can rely on his fastball/slider combination and work on his third and fourth pitches – he has a big curve that could be a huge weapon if controlled - during side sessions.

Joining the Braves and sitting in the bullpen allows him to learn from Raisel Iglesias, A J Minter, Collin McHugh, and Jesse Chavez and spend time with Spencer Strider. Iglesias has a big arm and similar delivery, and Strider learned a great deal about simplifying his delivery while recovering from UCL replacement surgery.

That’s a Wrap

I didn’t expect the Atlanta Braves to dip this deeply into their system so early in the year, and I suspect they’d have preferred a different option because there’s a considerable risk that comes with early promotions such as this. There’s little doubt Smith-Shawver has middle-to-top-of-the-rotation potential, the challenge is to keep grooming him for that role without setting him back.

The bullpen needed a kick in the . . . shot in the arm. Smith-Shaver’s arrival tells them the Braves are doing what it takes to win, regardless of the contract involved.