The Atlanta Braves top five prospects entering 2024

The Atlanta Braves farm system is ranked 28th or 29th in baseball. Sitting that close to the bottom isn’t ideal, but the news isn’t all bad. The active roster is strong and under team control, and the system has two of baseball’s top 100 prospects.

Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver made Major League debut in 2023; he'll be looking for a spot in the rotation in 2024.
Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver made Major League debut in 2023; he'll be looking for a spot in the rotation in 2024. / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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My rundown of the Atlanta Braves top ten prospects consolidates lists posted by Baseball Prospectus ($), Baseball America ($), and The Outfield Fly Rule. Those lists didn’t offer a consensus pick at any position, so I averaged the rankings to create this list.

If you didn’t read part one (why) of prospects 10 to 6, here’s what you missed; note the tie at 9th.

  • 10: Luis Guanipa 18 – OF–DSL, BA- unranked, BP – 7th, OFFR 13th. FV 45/50 Average outfielder with occasional big pop. 
  • 9: Drue Hackenberg 22 – RHP – Low A, BA 9th, BP 8th, OFFR 9th. FV/45 Back of the rotation starter. 
  • 9: Drake Baldwin 23 – C – AA, BA 7th, BP 10th, OFFR 8th. FV/45 First-division backup catcher.
  • 8: Cade Kuehler (Key-ler) 21 – RHP – Low A, BA 10, BP 8, OFFR 5. FV/45 Back of the rotation starter.
  • 7: David McCabe 2B – 3B – A/A+, BA 6, BP unrated, OFFR 10. FV/45 Likely somewhere besides third base.
  • 6: Ignacio (Nacho) Alvarez 20 – 3B/SS FV 45/55 Above-average starter who contributes in a multitude of ways

Now, go back, read my post, and learn why...please.

Macy’s has its Thanksgiving Day parade, and the Atlanta Braves have a parade of right-handed pitchers. There aren’t any floats in this parade, but there are a few big arms.

5: JR Ritchie RHP 20 BA:3 BP:6 OFFR: 6

JR Ritchie might well have topped this list. He featured a 94MPH fastball that regularly touched 98 and located it well. His slide piece had a 2500 RPM spin rate that broke hard down and away and backed it up with a mid-80s changeup.  

Through his first four starts this spring, he threw 13 1/3 innings, struck out 13 batters, walked three – yes, three as in 3 – yet somehow game up eight runs. His 5.40 ERA sounds bad, but his 0.63 FIP and 1.05 WHIP indicate it looks worse than it was. Then his UCL gave up.

Ritchie won’t pitch again until mid-2024 or later. I’m in favor of later because all data shows that the longer you give an arm to heal, the better the chance of a full and longer-lasting recovery. He’s an extremely high-risk arm, let's give him more time than he thinks he needs.

FV 50-55 Ritchie could return as a four or five starter or become a back-of-the-bullpen reliever.