2021-22 International Reviews: Atlanta Braves
For the first time in years, the Braves were able to operate free from sanctions stemming from their international signing violations.
In the 2019-20 signing period that opened on July 2, 2019, the Braves had a bonus pool of $0, meaning the only players they could sign were for $10,000 or less, since those are exempt from the bonus pools. During the next period, originally scheduled to open on July 2, 2020 but pushed back to Jan. 15, 2021 because of the pandemic, Major League Baseball reduced Atlanta's bonus pool by 50% as part of their penalties, with another $1 million reduction in pool space from signing two players who turned down qualifying offers, Will Smith and Marcell Ozuna.
The Braves were able to sign Dominican shortstop Ambioris Tavarez for $1.5 million during that signing period, but otherwise didn't have much room to supplement with other players. They shut down their academy and didn't have a Dominican Summer League team last year, but they are back and operational at the academy again, with their new signings all expected to debut in the DSL.
Top Of The Class
The Braves signed shortstop Diego Benitez, one of the top offensive threats out of Venezuela in the 2021-22 class and the most advanced player the Braves have signed out of Latin America in years. With a wide back on a strong frame, Benitez has excellent bat speed on a smooth swing that stays on plane through the hitting zone for a long time. He's a patient hitter who will take his walks, typically swinging at good pitches with the plate coverage to square up pitches throughout the zone. Benitez has gap power now, with the bat speed and strength projection to grow into average or better power, with some of it already starting to show up now as he has learned to get his legs more engaged in his swing. He's an above-average runner, though with his body type he might slow down as he packs on more weight. He's a sound enough defender to handle shortstop now with the arm for the left side of the infield, but with his range and size he might slide over to third base.
A second big signing for the Braves from Venezuela was Douglas Glod, an offensive-minded center fielder with a strong track record at the plate. He has a medium, compact frame that's relatively mature already, so while he doesn't have a lot of physical projection remaining, he's already a skilled player with explosiveness to his game. He has the raw power to drive the ball out from center field over to the pull side, with an adjustable swing that leads to good plate coverage. Depending on his physical development, Glod could end up in right field if he slows down. For now he's a plus runner whose underway speed is better than his first-step quickness with a solid-average arm to start his career in center.
Names To Know
Alexander Martinez, C, Venezuela: Martinez stands out for his work behind the plate, where he's a heady player who works well with pitchers. He's loose and flexible with a plus arm, showing the qualities to develop into a plus defender. Defense is Martinez's calling card, though his bat has trended in the right direction. There's still some length to his swing, but he has been able to get himself into a better position to lift the ball with more extension.
Dominican shortstop Elian Cortorreal was a higher profile name early on in the scouting process. He showed good bat speed and contact skills from both sides of the plate in games with doubles power and a chance to stick in the middle infield.