2023 Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects Chat

Carlos Collazo answered questions regarding the Braves farm system at 1 p.m. ET. You can read the full transcript below.

Carlos Collazo: Hey everyone! Thanks for stopping by to chat about the Braves Top 10. This system isn’t quite what it used to be, but they’ve graduated a ton of impactful players in recent years that’s a big reason for that. Let’s get into your questions!

Wax (Scadrial):

     Where would Grissom have fallen on the list had he not graduated? Is hea viable option at SS if they don’t sign someone?

Carlos Collazo: I think it would have been a pretty easy call to make Grissom the No. 1 player on this list if he hadn’t graduated. Our piece with updated BA Grades on graduated prospects for the Easterns teams offers some good insight into this. I put a 50/Medium on Muller, who is the current No. 1 prospect (and only needs 1.1 innings to graduate) and our updated grade on Grissom is a 55/Medium. I didn’t have to think too much about this since Grissom was graduated before I started the process, but he would have been the guy if he were still prospect eligible. He was the top prospect in the organization in our June/July and August updates to the team top 30s as well. I think he is viable for the position if they Braves don’t get one of the big FA SSs or re-sign Dansby Swanson, but everything I’ve heard indicates he’s not really an everyday shortstop. I’d rather have him as an everyday regular in another position and playing SS in a pinch.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Thanks for the chat Carlos. Bryce Elder was in the Atlanta Top 10 Prospects, but has fallen out of that list. He is also not in the projected starting rotation. Did he pitch his way out of their top prospects or did others force their way in? Do you see him somewhere in the Braves starting rotation or does he not have what it takes, your opinion? Thanks.

Carlos Collazo: I had Elder slotted to rank somewhere among the top five prospects before an October 3 start where he threw five innings and exceeded our thresholds for prospect eligibility (50 innings). He’s not in the projected starting rotation, but I also think the Braves have a number of players who could be involved in a starting role who just didn’t fit into one of those five spots. As you can see by the top 10, most of the Braves best prospects currently are pitchers, and many of the most big-league ready prospects are also pitchers. They are going to have a surplus of players who could presumably start at the big league level next year, who will either have to move into a bullpen role, wait on someone in front of them to get injured, or potentially get traded away to fill other holes on the roster. It’s a good problem to have, but I am really curious to see what the starting rotation in 2023 looks like, let alone the rotation in 2026.

Wayne (Elendel):

     Assuming the Braves trade from pitching depth, who would you make sure to hang on to? Why?

Carlos Collazo: This is a good follow up from the previous question. AJ Smith-Shawver is the most obvious name to me to hand on to, because I think he has the highest upside of any prospect currently in the organization. He also wouldn’t really be an obvious trade candidate for me, because he has plenty of work to continue doing in the minors and isn’t Rule 5 eligible until 2025. So there’s no rush here and I also think the Braves would be one of the better development groups to make the most of his impressive pure stuff and athleticism. There are other arms behind him with more vanilla stuff, but higher chances to make the big leagues as soon as 2023 who I would rather trade away.

Keith H (Syracuse NY):

     Do you see the Braves being creative to rebuild their farm system? Outside of the Braves trading Waters and others for a draft pick, the Braves have not made any aggressive moves to help their farm system. Do you see this changing? Thanks

Carlos Collazo: The first big move the Braves made in terms of trading from their top prospect capital was the Matt Olson trade. At the time, the team traded away the No. 2 (Shea Langeliers), No. 3 (Cristian Pache), No. 9 (Ryan Cusick) and No. 14 (Joey Estes) prospects for Olson. I would consider that a big move and bigger than the trade that brought in the No. 35 pick (which turned into JR Ritchie, the new No. 5 prospect in the org) for Drew Waters, Andrew Hoffman and CJ Alexander. Both of those trades have shown that Alex Anthopoulos is willing to trade from some of the better names in the system. The first few years he was in charge, he didn’t do that, but he seems to have done an excellent job keeping the right names. In terms of rebuilding the system, I don’t know how creative they need to get. Being back on the international market should help, but we have barely started to see the results of that so far, and the Braves have proven to be one of the better drafting/developing teams in baseball IMO, so they should just keep on doing what they’ve been doing. It’s tough to simultaneously have one of the best big league teams in baseball while also having a top-flight farm system (Dodgers fans, say hello) and I would think the Braves are happy to have won of the worst in baseball given the quality and youth of the big league core.

Vin (Luthadel):

     The Covid draft for the Braves seems like a ridiculous hit rate so far. How does it compare to other elite drafts that season?

Carlos Collazo: I would say it’s an exceptional draft. Especially once you remember the Braves didn’t even have a second round pick that year. There are currently nine players who have made the majors from the 2020 draft and seven of those players were selected among the top 70 picks: Spencer Torkelson (Tigers, 1), Max Meyer (Marlins, 3), Reid Detmers (Angels, 10), Garrett Crochet (White Sox, 11), Garrett Mitchell (Brewers, 20), Cade Cavalli (Nationals, 22) and Alec Burleson (Cardinals, 70). The other two are Spencer Strider (126, fourth round) and Bryce Elder (156, fifth round). I thought the Elder pick was a good one at the time. We ranked him No. 83 in the class and I thought he was a safe sort of pick with a high chance to provide big league value, but we didn’t even rank Strider on the BA 500 and he’s turned out to be a massive steal. No other team has multiple big leaguers so far from that draft, and there’s a chance the Braves wind up going 4-for-4 which is obviously an exceptional, exceptional hit rate for a draft–even if we’re going to be judging 2020 differently than any other year.

Scott (Boston):

     What are the odds Salinas can stick in the rotation long term?

Carlos Collazo: Quite low, I would think. He has never posted a walk rate better than the 5.4 BB/9 over a full season and didn’t throw any of his pitches for strikes more than 63% of the time this year. There are some scouts I have heard from who think he can get to average control because they like the athleticism, delivery and arm action, but he will need to maintain his body moving forward and I don’t see many starts available for him at the major league level on this Braves team any time soon. His stuff fits for a bullpen role and his control fits better for that right now as well. I didn’t hear the same sort of starter odds for Salinas that I heard about Spencer Strider (who still got split-feedback) last year. And Strider had a much better minor league walk rate.

Tom (Medfield, MA):

     What’s Bryce Elder’s role going forward?

Carlos Collazo: I think he can be a solid No. 5 sort of starter on a competitive team. He would have to add more velocity or show better swing-and-miss stuff to profile much better than that I think. The value of No. 4/5 starters seems to have trended down over the last few years, but it’s still pretty important to have a guy who you can roll out over a 162 game season who is going to keep you in most games I would think. Solid player.

Sazed (Fadrax):

     Better for development for guys like Muller and Elder next year: AAA starts every 5 days or frequent middle relief multi inning outings in Atlanta.

Carlos Collazo: I am not sure what either of these guys has to prove in the minors at this point, so I would say the latter, but I am not a development expert. Muller could very well wind up better as a reliever than a starter anyways, but I still would give him a chance to make the Kyle Wright sort of adjustment after finding success in Triple-A but having a tougher time immediately translating that to the majors. I think if he just puts his stuff over the plate he’s going to get good outcomes. If there’s a place for him to start with Atlanta, then great. If not I think he could be quality reliever as well. Probably the same sort of thinking for Elder, though I would think there’s some team out there who would value his innings as a starter if he’s forced out of the mix for an Atlanta rotation-spot. And even after saying that, I think it’s true that you can never have enough arms. Someone’s going to get hurt at some point.

Buck (Huntsville AL):

     I know we’re not supposed to overthink the projected lineups, but what’s the rationale behind Ian Anderson as the #3 SP in 2026, ahead of Spencer Strider at #4?

Carlos Collazo: I wouldn’t fight you over that if you wanted to flip them.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Augusta had three outfielders ranked in BaseballAmerica’s top 35 at some point – can you comment on the expected progression of this trio? I’m referring to Branol Mezquita, Stephen Paolini, and Kadon Morton.

Carlos Collazo: Stephen Paolini has looked entirely overmatched in pro ball and hasn’t really made an adjustment. I guess he had his best year in 2022, but that was a .218/.331/.333 slash line and 91 wRC+ as a 21 year old repeating Low-A. I haven’t heard much about him and wouldn’t consider him a prospect at this point. I know there are scouts who don’t have Brandol Mezquita in the “prospect” category either, but he is more interesting to me thanks to his performance at the same level in his age-20 season and the fact that he was promoted to High-A. There are a lot of questions with his approach and contact ability, though. Kadon Morton is the best of the group for me, as you will see when the full list drops. Again, he has questions about barrel adjustability and contact, though his approach seems quite a bit better than Mezquita’s at the moment.

dopt (S TExas):

     Has Cal Conley bypassed Shewmake as a prospect? is Conley ready to challenge Grissom as SS at MLB level? or will the Braves sign a FA until these guys are ready?

Carlos Collazo: It’s close. I heard mixed feedback from scouts I talked to about this exact question. We’ll have them right beside each other on the top 30 with Shewmake just ahead, but he’s trending down and Conley is trending up, if you look at our top 30 from a year ago. Some scouts like Shewmake because he has a better chance to provide power than Conley (even if both should be below-average), while others like Conley’s defensive ability and speed more and so give him the edge. Going from Dansby Swanson to either Shewmake or Conley would be a pretty significant downgrade. You would hope the Braves find a more impactful everyday shortstop for the position. I would much rather them try and improve Grissom’s defensive ability to handle the role than rely on either Shewmake or Conley given the competitive window Atlanta is in. They both currently look more like backups on a first-division team than everyday guys. We’ll see what happens though.

Dave (Grayson, Ga):

     Any hope for the Braves remaining 2019 over-slot HS picks? Can Kadon Morton, Jared Johnson, Makhi Backstrom, and Tyler Owens provide any value?

Carlos Collazo: It’s not looking great for any of them. Morton does a lot defensively and runs well, but has real bat questions as I mentioned. Backstrom has legitimately stupid raw power but also never makes any contact. Johnson missed the 2022 season with TJ and has been passed over by many other players, though could still come back and be interesting. Tyler Owens is now a two-pitch reliever repeating Low-A as a 21 year old.

Dave (Grayson, Ga):

     This is my yearly have the Braves considered converting Beau Philip to pitching question

Carlos Collazo: Not yet, but he just posted a 92 wRC+ as a 23-year-old repeating High-A, so maybe they should? I’d love to see it happen. He was behind a few players in the SS pecking order on that Rome team as well.

JID (A-T-L Georgia):

     Carlos, the Braves have quietly collected a nice cache of arms. Who among the top ten has the highest upside as a starter? Thanks!

Carlos Collazo: Easily, AJ Smith-Shawver. He’s the only player who earned a 60 BA Grade and has some of the best pure stuff in the system, as you can see by the best tools list, where he was named best athlete, best fastball and best slider. It’s a pair of 70s at best and there are scouts who think he has top-of-the-rotation stuff. He’s a physical athlete who at times overmatched hitters with both his fastball and his slider. He needs to develop more feel for both pitches and potentially improve his changeup (they can’t all be Spencer Strider, right?) and in general get more reps throwing. But if we’re talking about 99th percentile outcomes, I don’t see anyone in the system being better than him. In general for questions like this as well, the BA Grade should be a good thumbnail indicator as to who we think has the highest upside. Muller ranks above him despite lower upside (50/Medium) because of proximity and risk. I gave Smith-Shawver a 60/Extreme grade.

John (Alabama):

     Dylan Dodd went from unranked midseason to #10. What changed for him?

Carlos Collazo: We were probably a bit light on him in-season, and I think maybe early on especially it was easy to overlook the results he was getting given his age and level. But he ended the season at Triple-A and has some of the best control in the system, with solid stuff to go along with it. He establishes the fastball for strikes at a high level and has the ability to move it around the zone and use it to set up a solid slider and changeup. The fact that he was able to keep missing bats as he progressed up the minor league ladder was a great sign, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make his major league debut in 2023. He has one of the highest odds to stick as a starter compared to other pitchers in Atlanta’s top 10.

Buff (Colorado):

     I see you have Vaughn Grissom listed at shortstop for 2025. I assume that’s if the Braves don’t sign Swanson or another top shortstop. Talking to Braves’ officials, how likely is it that Grissom actually has that position in 2025, and how well do you expect him to perform? If not a shortstop, is he still a big part of their future plans?

Carlos Collazo: Yep, the reason he’s there is because Swanson is a free agent and we can’t exactly pencil him into a lineup for a team years down the road. If Grissom is the team’s starting shortstop in 2025 I would imagine he has significantly improved his defensive ability by then, while being the hitter we expected or better. I think he has a better chance to be an everyday regular at another position, but with Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Michael Harris and Ronald Acuña on the same team, the only options are really SS or LF right now. I would think he still is part of their plans even if he doesn’t play SS, yes. That might be the most likely outcome. Maybe he bounces around at a number of positions while getting ABs as a DH as well? Not sure.

Greg (ATL):

     Did Diego Benitez get any consideration for the top 10? Any other international prospects considered now that the Braves are actually allowed to sign them again?

Carlos Collazo: Not yet, especially given his 2022 season. If we’re balancing proximity, upside and risk you would want a player like him to have had a significantly better offensive season in the DSL to make a top 10 I would think. He only turns 18 in a few days, which is the same age as many of the 2023 high school players who have not been drafted yet. We can be patient with him. All of the players on the top 10 have significantly higher odds to provide big league value or have higher upside potential or both.

Ty (Silver Spring, MD):

     Hard to have much fault in any order of prospects here but I think Malloy is number 1. His hit tool should play anywhere. Do you know how come he could not hit for two years at Vanderbilt?

Carlos Collazo: I struggled to place Malloy, in part because of the fact that every other player on the top 10 is a pitcher, but also because of his profile. The feedback on his defensive ability at third base was not good, and that (plus the existence of Austin Riley) prompted his move to the outfield one he was promoted to Double-A. He does have the best bat in the system, but that’s a very low bar to clear given the current makeup of this farm and the helped by Grissom and Michael Harris quickly graduating. His power numbers are impressive considering the home parks he played in, but some scouts think he’s going to be more of a hit > power bat and when you are a left field profile it’s a high offensive bar to clear. He might be a platoon bat. Those are the reasons I couldn’t push him higher or to No. 1, but I do think he has a real case for either direction for a few spots if you wanted to make it. I could probably see him as high as No. 3 if you wanted to get him above the two recently drafted pitching prospects, but beyond that it would feel a bit aggressive given the information I have currently.

John (Alabama):

     Do you see the potential of Dylan Dodd filling in a role similar to Bryce Elder this past season?

Carlos Collazo: Yep. I think that could be a realistic outcome for Dodd.

Dave (Grayson, Ga):

     Any sleepers from the FCL/DSL teams?

Carlos Collazo: Ignacio Alvarez is one of the most intriguing players in the system and will probably be one of the players I give a “breakout” tag to for next year. Last year I used that on AJ Smith-Shawver, Freddy Tarnok and Brandol Mezquita. I at best went 1-for-3 on those if you want to give me Smith-Shawver, but I still don’t think he’s really “broken out.” Ambioris Tavarez, Diego Benitez and Douglas Glod are the other names I would mention here. Although given their IFA signing status I guess their “sleeper eligibility” depends more on how much you read BA.

Doug (Atlanta):

     Was wondering what the reports on Diego Benitez were like. Touted as an advanced hitter and had a pretty uninspiring trip to the DSL, but seemed pretty common with this J2 class?

Carlos Collazo: Yeah, I am hoping to learn more about him (in addition to the other prominent IFA signings previously mentioned) in the next year or so as they get more time and make state side debuts. Hard to fully evaluate them at the moment, though Tavarez sounds better with the glove than I expected.

Buff (Colorado):

     What are the chances Grissom gets sent down for further seasoning?

Carlos Collazo: He was pretty good for a 21-year-old in the big leagues who needs more seasoning. If he’s not going to get at-bats regularly, then yes, just because you want him to get those everyday reps but that depends on what the Braves do in the offseason. Tough for me to say.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Of the pitchers moving to full season Augusta from the FCL and the Latin leagues in 2023, who are your favorites?

Carlos Collazo: Do Owen Murphy and JR Ritchie count? Because those two if so. If not, I guess Seth Keller would be my pick.

Carlos Collazo: OK everyone, that’s going to do it for me today. Thank you all for your questions and thank you for supporting and subscribing! Everything we do is powered by you guys and we very much appreciate it. Hope y’all have a good week!

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