What role will this young and talented prospect play for the Braves in 2024?

The Braves have made a lot of moves to improve pitching. What does this mean for Top 100 prospect AJ Smith-Shawver? 

Atlanta Braves Workouts
Atlanta Braves Workouts / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

A.J.. Smith-Shawver ranks at #35 in FanGraphs ZiPS Top 100 prospects. Based on his performance in six appearances for the Atlanta Braves last season, he still may not be ready for the MLB. However, he could be fighting for a big league roster spot during Spring Training.

Of his six appearances last season, five of those were starts for Smith-Shawver. The Atlanta Braves see the 21-year-old as someone who can hold down a rotation spot one day. Heading into Spring Training we know that Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Chris Sale, and Charlie Morton will get the ball every fifth game when healthy. The fifth spot in the starting rotation seems to be a battle between All-Star Bryce Elder and new addition, Reynaldo Lopez. 

A.J. Smith Shawver’s name has not come up much regarding the last rotation spot because of the ability/experience Elder and Lopez have. However, this seems to be the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of a similar situation heading into 2023. 

Last season it seemed like there was no doubt either Vaughn Grissom or Braden Shewmake would be named Atlanta’s every day shortstop. After Spring Training, a surprise player in Orlando Arcia out performed both of the youngsters and took the starting job out from under them. 

Smith-Shawver has tremendous upside and seems mature beyond his years. Do not be shocked if he keeps grinding and comes away with the responsibility of starting games in 2024 for the Atlanta Braves. Even if he does not win a starting job, he could even be plugged into the bullpen with the opportunity to contribute to the big league club. 

The likelihood of Smith-Shawver on the Opening Day roster is slim but at the end of the day, it is also a possibility. Realistically, we expect Smith-Shawver to spend another full season in Triple-A to prepare and take a rotation spot in 2025 if Fried leaves in free agency or Charlie Morton retires. 

There's no reason to rush the youngster into action if the team doesn't have to. He showed flashes of brilliance last season but there were also signs that he wasn't ready for a full-time role in the big leagues yet. 2024 could be the season Smith-Shawver learns how to take the next big step.

More Braves News from House That Hank Built