A.J. Smith-Shawver finally turned his potential into results in 2023.
The 20-year-old righthander compiled a 2.76 ERA through 15 starts across three minor league levels, most of them at Triple-A Gwinnett. He struck out 79 and walked 33 through 62 innings.
Smith-Shawver also made five appearances, including four starts, in the majors, highlighted by his June 9 outing in which he pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Nationals.
Prior to the season, Smith-Shawver generated buzz because of his profile and the fact that he had struck out 103 in 68.2 innings for Low-A Augusta in 2022.
Months later, he was making spot starts for a Braves team with the best record in MLB.
The Braves drafted Smith-Shawver out of a Texas high school in the seventh round in 2021—another home run for former vice president of scouting Dana Brown—and went way over slot to sign him. Smith-Shawver was teammates with Bobby Witt Jr. at Colleyville Heritage High and was a star quarterback who could have gone to Texas Tech as a two-sport commit.
That arm talent is what separates Smith-Shawver from his peers. His fastball sits in the upper 90s with a complementary slider and changeup that have helped him rack up strikeouts. His slider could be a devastating weapon as Smith-Shawver continues maturing.
Braves manager Brian Snitker and several teammates praised Smith-Shawver’s stuff during his first MLB stint.
Smith-Shawver’s next step will be consistently pitching deeper in games. This season, he covered six innings twice—including a seven-inning outing on May 25—and reached five innings 10 times. He also exceeded five innings in three of his five big league appearances.
Smith-Shawver still needs to refine his command, but this season represents a huge step forward. If he continues progressing, he might become a key piece of the Braves’ future rotation.
— Triple-A Gwinnett shortstop Vaughn Grissom had the best performance among Braves minor league position players. The 22-year-old exhausted his prospect status in 2022 but had an outstanding season at Triple-A this year, batting .326/.415/.496 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases. The question remains: Where does Grissom fit defensively? It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Braves traded him this winter given his value.