Entering 2024, we’re examining multiple Braves prospects on the verge of a breakout season. To qualify as a breakout prospect for this exercise, a player must rank outside the Top 10 Prospects in his organization entering the year.
We rank the top players in Atlanta’s system entering the season complete with new scouting reports, tools, grades & more.
Jhancarlos Lara, RHP
Preseason rank: 13
BA Grade: 50. Risk: Very High.
TRACK RECORD: Lara signed with the Braves out of the Dominican Republic in 2021, and he pitched well as a 19-year-old in the Dominican Summer League in 2022. He made a strong domestic debut in 2023, where he posted a 4.09 ERA in 81.1 innings between Low-A Augusta and High-A Rome. His 33.1% strikeout rate was the second-best in Atlanta’s system among pitchers who threw at least 30 innings.
SCOUTING REPORT: A powerfully built righthander with a well-developed frame and strong lower half, Lara attacks hitters from a fairly clean and simple delivery that includes a balanced finish. Lara averaged 95-96 mph and touched 99 with his fastball. While the pitch has above-average velocity, its life is just average and he also needs to sharpen its command, though he did improve his overall walk rate from 19% to 12.2% year-over-year. Lara’s main weapon is a nasty, upper-80s slider that is among the better breaking balls in Atlanta’s system. It’s a hard and tight breaking ball that elicits chases out of the zone and misses bats within it at strong rates, and he throws it hard enough to get to 90-91 mph at top-end velocities. Lara has thrown an occasional mid-80s changeup, but his fastball/slider usage accounted for more than 90% of his pitches in 2023.
THE FUTURE: Lara’s fastball/slider combination gives him exciting upside, and his 2023 performance was among the best in Atlanta’s system. In 2024, he should get tested in the upper minors and continue to develop a starter’s arsenal.
Fastball: 55. Slider: 60. Changeup: 40. Control: 50.
Luis Guanipa, OF
Preseason rank: 17
BA Grade: 50. Risk: Extreme.
TRACK RECORD: Signing Guanipa was another sign of a return to normalcy in the international market for the Braves, whose penalties from international signing violations set back the lower levels of the system for several years. Atlanta signed Guanipa for $2.5 million as one of the toolsiest players in the 2023 class, and he had a respectable Dominican Summer League debut, where he slashed .238/.361/.384 with four home runs and 20 stolen bases.
SCOUTING REPORT: In terms of pure tools, Guanipa likely has the highest upside of any prospect in the Braves system. He’s a double-plus runner, who explodes out of the box and can cover plenty of ground in center field, and he also has twitchy hands in the box that leads to great bat speed and plus raw power. Guanipa’s exit velocity data for a 17-year-old is impressive, and he has significant home run potential as he continues to refine his offensive approach. In the DSL, he made a solid amount of contact with good swing decisions, though he might have to continue quieting some of the moving parts in his swing—which he’s already done to an extent. Guanipa’s arm strength is fringy now but could get to average.
THE FUTURE: Guanipa’s talent is enticing, but he has a long way to go before scouts have conviction in his ultimate role or his pure hitting ability.
Hitting: 45. Power: 55. Run: 70. Fielding: 50. Arm: 45.
Garrett Baumann, RHP
Preseason rank: 18
BA Grade: 45. Risk: Extreme.
TRACK RECORD: Baumann was one of the most physically imposing players in the 2023 draft class as a high schooler, and ranked as the No. 263 prospect in the class. He signed an over-slot, $747,500 deal with the Braves in the fourth round and then threw one brief, two-inning outing with Low-A Augusta before the season ended. Baumann hails from the same Hagerty High program as current Brave Vaughn Grissom.
SCOUTING REPORT: Baumann stands out for his massive, 6-foot-8, 245-pound frame and the easy velocity that he’s able to generate. In high school, he mostly pitched in the 91-93 mph range and touched 96, and he flashed that same velocity in his pro debut, but he still has room to add strength to his extra-large frame and could shortly be pitching regularly in the mid 90s. Baumann’s fastball has more of a sinker profile than a high-riding pitch, and he also throws from a lower release point than you might expect given his size. His changeup is ahead of his slider currently, and it could become an above-average offering. Baumann’s breaking ball has been slurvy and inconsistent in the past, but he showed some glimpses of adding more power to the pitch. It remains a work in progress for now.
THE FUTURE: The Braves are hoping to help Baumann improve the shape of his fastball and add more bite to his breaking ball, but they are excited about his raw talent, size and athleticism. He’s far away, but has a chance to develop into a workhorse starter.
Fastball: 55. Slider: 45. Changeup: 55. Control: 50.