Sunday, September 5, 2021
They say A-ball is the first step into the real world of professional baseball, usually following the mastering of one of two rookie-level leagues (or both) such as the Dominican Summer League (DSL) and Florida Coast League (FCL). As a teenager, the Braves Vaughn Grissom already paid his rookie dues, playing in 44 games with the FCL Braves in 2019 as a young 18-year-old. Evidently that was all he needed.
Coming out of that year’s MLB Draft as an 11th-round pick by Atlanta, Grissom’s performance two years ago no doubt put him on the map as an up-and-coming prospect. In 184 PA in ’19, Grissom hit .288 with 11 XBH and 23 RBI, good enough to post an above average 120 wRC+. If not for a global COVID-19 outbreak, the 6-3, 180-pound shortstop would’ve most likely made his A-ball debut last year.
But Grissom’s big promotion into the full-season ranks had to wait until 2021. To begin this season the Braves assigned him to Single-A Augusta where he was nearly 1.5 years younger than the average player. His 20- and 25-grade Hit and Power tools (given to him by FanGraphs coming out the ’19 draft) certainly didn’t seem to hold him back. Grissom’s 24 XBH (five homers) in 75 games with the GreenJackets came out of nowhere, and his .311 AVG and 13 stolen bases showed that he’s way more than just a glove-first middle-infielder. To anyone that’s been paying attention, this is a top 100 prospect in the making… and there’s no signs of him slowing down.
Finally, just as the calendar flipped to September, the Braves promoted Grissom to the highest level of A-ball… to Rome. If he can perform so well in Low-A… perhaps the same results will come in High-A. Grissom played his first game with the loaded R-Braves offense this past Thursday. In that debut, all of his tools were on display as he worked two walks, singled, scored a run and stole a base. In his second game on Friday, Grissom showcased his power by hitting his first home run with Rome. On Saturday he singled again and knocked in two more runs, pushing his AVG up to .444 while at his newest level of competition. Today, with Rome wrapping up its series versus Winston-Salem, it appears Grissom received a much-needed day off.
Grissom’s ascent this season probably isn’t the biggest storyline among the Braves minor league organization. Players like Shea Langeliers, Jesse Franklin V and the quartet of pitchers from last year’s draft are all highlights from 2021 that most likely deserve more attention once the campaign is over. But just because the Braves farm has featured a ton of success this season doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss what Grissom has accomplished in such a short time. In the span of a season, this kid has evolved from a fringy prospect into one that could potentially crack the top 10 in the near future. In my Midseason Top 30, I already have Grissom ranked 13th, just behind fellow infielder Braden Shewmake (who has been with Double-A Mississippi all season). Like Shewmake, Grissom will soon get his chance to show what he can do in the upper-minors.
So as part of a long list of success stories from the 2021 season, you can now add Grissom to the mix. Many of us maybe didn’t even really know this kid at the start of the year, but now he’s likely on everyone’s list of talented Braves prospects. The 2022 campaign will certainly be a big one for Grissom. In just his age-21 season, he’ll likely face Double-A pitching in 2022, suggesting he’s only within a couple of years of possibly debuting in the majors. That’s crazy to think about for a young player who’s just now reaching 80 total games above the rookie level. But that’s how it goes when a prospect catches fire like this. A-ball has been the first real test for this kid, and Grissom is currently passing it with flying colors. Let the hype begin!