Braves News: Atlanta's top prospect suffers injury much worse than we thought

AJ Smith-Shawver had a fantastic start against the Cubs on Thursday for his first start of the 2024 season. Unfortunately, it will be the last we see of the top prospect for a while.
Atlanta Braves v Chicago Cubs
Atlanta Braves v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

When Atlanta Braves top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver was placed on the 15-day IL on Friday afternoon, Braves fans thought it would be a quick trip to the injured list. After all, the pitcher had pitched fantastically on Thursday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs and hadn't been removed for an injury. Some fans even thought it was a phantom IL trip to get Friday's starter, Ray Kerr, on the active roster.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case. A day after his scoreless outing in his first big league start in the 2024 season, AJ Smith-Shawver was diagnosed with a Grade 2 oblique strain.

How much time could AJ Smith-Shawver miss with his oblique injury?

Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the top prospect's diagnosis, saying that typically players with this injury miss six to eight weeks. He did note that the Braves do not give timelines for player injuries.

This is an unfortunate development, not only for AJ Smith-Shawver but also for the Braves. The 21-year-old, the Braves top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had made eight starts in AAA, with a 6.10 ERA and 6.85 FIP. However, he was dominant in his first big league start this year against the Cubs, going 4.1 innings, allowing five base runners, and striking out four batters.

The rookie apparently noticed some discomfort in the third inning, but didn't notify the staff and would pitch into the fifth inning.

Since Spencer Strider went on the IL at the beginning of April, the Braves haven't been able to lock down the fifth spot in the rotation. Darius Vines, Allan Winans, and Bryce Elder all made starts, but have failed to hold the spot.

It looked like Smith-Shawver would at least get another shot at the rotation, but now, the Braves likely wouldn't have him back until at least mid-July.

With their top prospect out for the foreseeable future, the fifth starter spot remains open for the taking. Although the Braves pitching has actually been a strength so far, the team would certainly love stability from the rotation spot. Unfortunately for the team, it won't be Smith-Shawver.

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