Spring Training is under way and that means baseball is closing in on Opening Day. Of course, the World Baseball Classic is also giving baseball fans a nice taste of medicine to get them through March. However, while the major league players are getting ramped up, the minor league guys are trying to make a lasting impression.
Now, unfortunately, there is not many spots to be one by the young guys. Shortstop is a two man race between Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom and it is Grissom's to win as long as he is serviceable this Spring. Left field is a crowded competition between guys like Eddie Rosario, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, Eli White, and Jordan Luplow. The only real spot that could potentially be one by a prospect is the 5th starter spot. However, guys like Ian Anderson, Michael Soroka, and Bryce Elder stand in the way. While it might be tough, the prospects are still trying to win over the coaching staff and front office, so maybe they can get a shot at the big leagues sometime in the near future.
We are going to take a look at the prospects currently during Spring Training. We will go in order starting based on MLB's top prospect list starting with Jared Shuster.
Jared Shuster is doing a swell job early in Spring Training. Through two appearances and five innings, with 1 hit, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 0 runs. He has been everything you want to see from the team's top pitching prospect. There is still some concerns about his fastball but the changeup has been exquisite. Which of course, will help the fastball play. He keeps this up, and we will see Shuster hit the mound in Atlanta soon during 2023.
Braden Shewmake has felt like a forgotten guy in the Braves system. Still, he comes in as the sixth ranked prospect in the Braves organization. The defense for Shewmake has become his bread and butter, the complete opposite originally thought of Shewmake when he was drafted. The bat, which was supposed to be his best asset, has not come around.
Through 13 plate appearances though, he is hitting .333/.385/.417 with 1 double and 1 RBI. The defense has looked exceptional. He may not be anything special, but this is a big spring for Shewmake. If Grissom (and Arcia) struggle, the Braves will need to find an answer at shortstop. If Shewmake can be serviceable at the plate, the defense could be very valuable for the Braves should they need to turn that way. At the very least, there is potential for him to serve as a utility option off the bench for the big league club in 2023.
The 8th ranked prospect in the Braves system, Darius Vines, has a real shot to be the first prospect to debut with the Braves during the 2023 season. He does have an outside shot to get some starts from that 5th rotation spot, however, most believe the long term outlook for Vines could be in the bullpen. Which could help the fastball and elite changeup combo play even better.
He has seen limited action so far, but in 3 innings, he has looked electric. He has allowed 3 hits but 0 runs and 3 strikeouts. The future for Vines may be murky, but he still has a shot to force his way into the Braves rotation. At the very least, if Vines can impress, he will be in line to pitch innings in Truist Park in 2023.
If there is anyone that has raised eyebrows this Spring, it is Dylan Dodd. The 10th ranked prospect is quickly rising up the charts (and hearts) of Braves country. Now before a rough inning against the Dominican Republic's WBC lineup, Dodd was having a near flawless Spring.
Dodd fills the strike zone up and does not play around. A 60 grade control might be generous. Dodd has the potential to have a solid 4 pitch mix and is showing that they all might be average to plus offerings, which gives him a shot to have a long major league career. Currently, Dodd is lining up to be the guy that Braves fans get upset does not break camp with the team. However, some seasoning in Gwinnett could do him well and set him up to contribute in Atlanta, sooner rather than later.
While it has been a good spring for our other prospects, Victor Vodnik has not got off to a good start. Through 3.2 innings, Vodnik has a 17.17 ERA. Yuck.
No reason to toss Vodnik aside though, this kind of thing happens to the best during Spring Training. It is a very small sample size, plus he could be working on something specific, rather than focusing soley on results on a stat sheet. The 11th ranked prospect is purely a relief pitching prospect at this point in his career, meaning he is a risky prospect. He was always going to start in Gwinnett due to the Braves depth in the arm barn. The slow start should be of no concern, as he will have plenty of time to get things right. He could be needed at some point in the bullpen in 2023.
Much like Shewmake, the Braves 13th ranked prospect Cal Conley had an opportunity coming into Spring Training. If the shortstop situation was not won by Grissom, Conley could have given himself a shot to potentially get a look there. Unfortunately, in 13 plate appearances, he only has 1 hit.
Now it is a very small sample, and everyone is ramping up, but he has gotten off to a slower start. He is projected more as a utility player at the major league level but I am sure Conley would like to give himself a shot at a more prominent role.
Another guy that's future is probably spent in the bullpen, Roddery Munoz has a shot in Spring Training to make a solid impression. The 21st ranked prospect has only pitched 2 innings but has pitched well in that limited action. Allowing only 1 hit, 1 walk, striking out 1, with 0 runs allowed. He is a long shot to reach Atlanta in 2023 but he can change that with a great Spring showing.
Another guy that has ugly spring training numbers early is the 26th ranked prospect, Alan Rangel. In 2.1 innings, he has a 11.57 ERA. A tough outing really inflates the numbers. Meaning we should not overreact. Rangel at his peak is a backend of the rotation guy but will most likely need to transition to the bullpen at some point in his career to have the best shot to stick in the big leagues.