What Atlanta Braves prospect should fans keep an eye on in 2024?

It's no secret the Atlanta Braves have a talented prospect pool but which ones should be on fans radar this season?

Atlanta Braves v Minnesota Twins
Atlanta Braves v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

Welcome back to another edition of our roundtable here at House that Hank Built. Today, we are going to discuss a few Atlanta Braves prospects to watch for in 2024. Of course, there are several names to keep an eye on but today we narrow that down to just one name.

You can find previous editions of this series here.

Those participating are Chase Owens, Eric Cole, Fred Owens, Gaurav Vedak, Mitchell Barbee, Sage Broda, Shayne Nissen, Steven Teal, and myself Trent Dickeson.

We could choose the prospect for any reason. Whether it was someone we expect to make an impact in 2024 or just someone who could rise through the minor league ranks. Of course, we are allowed to break the rules and talk about a second (or third) prospect if we choose to. Let's jump right in.

Atlanta Braves prospects that should be on your radar

Chase: For this, you could go a couple of directions. I’m not going to make my choice based on a player I expect to see in Atlanta by the end of 2024. Instead, I’m picking Owen Murphy, the Braves 2022 first-round pick, to keep an eye on as he attempts to climb the minor league ranks. He’s currently ranked as the Braves' fifth-best prospect, but I think by season's end he could be near the top. He has three plus pitches and has improved his command since entering the system. There’s a lot to like from a kid that’s still just 20 years old.

Eric: There are a number of guys worth keeping an eye on in the minor leagues this year. The obvious name is Hurston Waldrep given the trajectory he is on, but I’m going with Drue Hackenberg. The Braves went off script when they picked Drue in the second round in last year’s draft and he has a nice mix with a power sinker/slider combo. Definitely a guy that could go either way but color me intrigued. I also want to see where Adam Maier is given that he didn’t pitch at all last season while recovering from surgery, because that is a big arm when he is healthy.

Mitchell:  Making the big leagues with three years of total pitching experience shouldn’t be a thing, and somehow, AJ Smith-Shawver did it. Even with a stacked rotation that has a 2023 All-Star fighting for a spot, and even though I think Hurston Waldrep might ultimately be the better pitcher, I can’t stop thinking about how high the ceiling is for a guy who made the bigs at 20 years old while still learning how to pitch. 

Sage: While he probably won't play much at the top level this season, new international signing Jose Perdomo will be an interesting watch. After signing the largest bonus in the international class, the Braves will be watching his hitting continue to get better. Perdomo was labeled as the purest hitter in his class according to Baseball America, having a direct swing and good hand-eye coordination. Originally labeled to play at second or third base, his defense has become markedly better, providing a hopeful sight to translate to the shortstop position. Common player comparisons include Gleyber Torres. 

Steven: While Hurston Waldrep is rightfully the talk of the town, I think there is another prospect to keep an eye on and that is Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez. Nacho is just 20 years old but has a lot of potential to be an offensive force for the Braves in the next couple of years. He was a 5th-round pick by Atlanta in the 2022 draft and is currently the 7th-ranked prospect in the system. He performed well in 2023 with a .284/.395/.391 line over 116 games with High-A Rome. 107 of those games were at the shortstop position but it’s unclear if he will be a shortstop at the big league level. Alvarez has more power than his numbers suggest but he needs to work on lifting the ball more to tap into that. Regardless, he is an above-average bat with good defense. He likely won’t reach the MLB level until 2025 so keep an eye on his performance during the 2024 season.

Gaurav: I will preface this by saying I don’t believe he will show up in Atlanta during 2024, but Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez had an extremely solid year in 2023 with a .284/.395/.391 slash line, good enough for a 123 wRC+. He’s got a great approach at the plate, knows the zone very well, and has great ball-to-bat skills. Combine that with elite shortstop OR third base defense and you have an extremely interesting prospect. I fully believe Nacho will be in the top 100 by mid-season, and is on the verge of battling for a spot on the big league roster by 2025. 

Fred: AJ Smith-Shawver is going to jump - probably leap- ahead of Elder in the pecking order. Elder’s slider is better but the AJSS’ breaker looks a lot better this spring and everything else is a push. One morning he’ll pick up the ball and everything will fall into place. When it does, batters have a fight on their hands. 

Shayne: The Braves farm system is loaded with quality pitchers that can come up and help the Braves if need be this year. But if there is one player to watch it’s AJ Smith-Shawver. We’ve already seen that he has the capability to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter and if injuries happen or players underperform, he could, and I believe, be the answer. His stuff is electric and a 4.26 ERA in 25 innings as a 20-year-old still learning how to pitch is very encouraging for what we could see this season and beyond.

Trent: I would like to start by saying that if JR Ritchie did not get injured, he would probably be the guy I would go with here as I am really high on him. I could also talk about Nacho Alvarez, Waldrep, or AJSS but the guys above have you covered there. As the guy writing the article, I could write about several names because I am the one in control but I will narrow it down to one guy that nobody has mentioned yet and that is Jhancarlos Lara. He was relatively unknown in the system coming into 2023 and is still mostly unknown. However, I think that should change.

At Low-A Augusta, he pitched in 18 games, including 13 starts with 72 innings pitched, a 4.00 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, a 3.47 xFIP, a 31.4% K rate, and a 12.4% walk rate. Over his last 8 starts for Augusta (June 22-August 23), he threw 38.1 innings with a 2.58 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 34.6% K rate, and 9.8% walk rate. The performance earned him two starts in High-A Rome by year's end. The arsenal is impressive despite being primarily two pitches right now. His fastball can sit in the 96-99 mph range. He will need to figure out how to add more spin as he advances but that velocity can make up for it now.

The impressive pitch to watch is his slider that gets the majority of the swings and misses and he started effectively throwing it last year. He is an athletic kid who needs to figure out the command, which is common for young flamethrowers. There is a shot he ends up a reliever but he is an interesting name to watch. If he figures out his command and starts developing a third pitch, the sky is the limit for Lara. He could easily end up in the top 5 of the system by the end of 2024. He could also fizzle out like many pitching prospects and remain relatively unknown. I am pulling for him though.

The Braves future is bright!

The Braves' future is obviously very bright given the core the team has together. While the farm system is still really thin, the Braves have done a great job of developing the talent within the system. Allowing those guys to complement the major league roster.

In recent years, there would only be one or two, maybe three, names being mentioned in this type of discussion. As you can see, we named several prospects that we are excited about in 2024. It is a great time to be a Braves fan!

You can catch number of these prospects on Saturday March 16 during the Braves Spring Breakout game.

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