Sunday, November 14, 2021
The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.
#27. Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH
2021 stats: 86 G, .223 AVG, 18 HR, 117 wRC+
One of the bigger surprises for the Braves minor league system in 2021, Lugbauer caught fire during the first-half of the season and wound up on my mid-season Top 30. However, a middling second-half stunted what could have been an even more spectacular year.
It’s like once the calendar hit August everything changed. For the first 58 games of his 2021 campaign (through July 31), Lugbauer was one of the better hitters in all of Double-A. But the 6-3, 220-pound first baseman couldn’t keep it going down the stretch:
- May 7 – July 31: 58 G, .266 AVG, .890 OPS, 12 HR
- Aug. 1 – EOS: 33 G, .145 AVG, .599 OPS, 7 HR
Though even with the rough finish, I’m still a big believer in Lugbauer. He not only increased his walk rate by nearly 5% compared to 2019, but for much of the season he maintained a high average, proving that he is in fact capable of being more than simply a left-handed power-bat.
Even with the decline in his numbers since I ranked him 27th in the system back in August, I still believe there should be a place for Lugbauer in my upcoming Top 30. However, now about to enter his age-25 season, it’s now or never for the first baseman.
What will be critical is how well he adapts to Triple-A competition, which could be a challenge that presents itself as soon as the start of 2022 (although another short stint with the M-Braves wouldn’t be awful either). With the universal-DH on its way to the majors, consistent power from Lugbauer next season could continue to drastically improve his prospect stock and give the Braves an in-house option for a position it will no doubt need to fill from here on out.
Also helping Lugbauer’s stock is how well he’s hitting this fall in Arizona, where he’s teamed up with fellow Braves position-players Jesse Franklin and Luke Waddell. Playing with the AFL’s Peoria Javelinas, Lugbauer is 15 for 37 (.405 AVG) with five homers and 13 RBI in his first 11 games in the desert (through Saturday), easily leading the lineup. Given how well he hit during the regular season, a strong performance in fall ball will only help Lugbauer as he prepares to possibly open spring camp with the Braves and make his Triple-A Gwinnett debut this coming summer.