Thursday, November 18, 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.
- Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
- Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
- Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
- Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
- Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)
- Greyson Jenista, OF/1B (link)
- William Woods, RHP (link)
#23. Darius Vines, RHP
2021 stats (A / A+): 111 IP, 2.92 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 15 HR
It’s not as if Vines was some unheard-of player in Atlanta’s system, though his struggles in 2019 has perhaps kept him on the outside looking in. But in 2021, the kid sort of came out of nowhere, going from unranked this past summer to 23rd on my Midseason Braves Top 30. Posting a 2.25 ERA in 36 innings with Single-A Augusta before logging a 3.24 ERA in 75 frames with High-A Rome, Vines not only put himself on the map in Braves Country but also among national evaluators.
The 23-year-old won Pitcher of the Week back in early August, thanks to a seven-inning no-hitter with Rome that featured nine strikeouts, and the righty just continued to mow down the opposition on into September, posting a season-best 1.80 ERA during the final month of the campaign. As a 7th-round pick from 2019, Vines has developed into a potential mid-rotation starter for the Braves, who already has multiple offerings at his disposal; even on draft day, he had a low-90s MPH fastball to go with a power curveball, a changeup AND a slider. Vines is a sneaky prospect in the Braves system, and one that could really rise up the ranks in 2022.
I have no doubt that at some point in 2022 we’ll see Vines with Double-A Mississippi. It may not come at the start of the season (though it very well could), but given he performed so well in over 70 innings of work with Rome in 2020, I’m pretty confident the Braves will give him an opportunity next year to showcase his skills in the upper-minors.
My rough draft for the new Braves Top 30 is still rather rough, but I can already almost guarantee that Vines will move into the top 20 as he could even become the system’s top pitcher, in terms of lower-level arms currently on the cusp of gaining more attention (such as guys like Victor Vodnik and Indigo Diaz). There must be something said for how well Vines pitched in 2021, and even if there’s a bit of regression as he moves up through Double-A and even Triple-A, he’s improved his stock tremendously by practically cruising through his first taste of High-A.
As long as those secondary pitches continue to improve, Vines will no doubt remain a legit prospect starter in the organization.