Although it may seem like it, one month is not enough time to determine much of anything in baseball. April wasn’t even technically a full month for the Braves minor league system, as the Triple-A level didn’t open its 2022 season until roughly the fifth day of the month, and the other three classifications didn’t until three days after that. Roughly 80-100 PA for hitters, and about 20ish innings for starting pitchers is about all we’ve had thus far, and I shouldn’t have to tell that neither of those numbers are big enough sample sizes to make any real assumptions about anything.
However, about a month is what we have, so let’s look at the most notable things we’ve learned about the Braves farm system so far this season…
#1. Michael Harris II is definately the future big league CF
I’ll start with the most obvious one. Michael Harris has been incredible so far this season, as entering Thursday he has reached base safely in every single Mississippi Braves game in 2022 (23 games), not to mention he kicked off the campaign by posting a 10-game hitting streak. The kid has done everything you could imagine – hit for contact and power, steal bases, play exceptional defense, hustle… everything. And for April, Harris slashed .333/.400/.531 with 10 XBH (2 HR), 17 RBI and nine stolen bases in 20 games. At the moment, he’s among the top 10 in all of Double-A in wRC+ (152), as he’s continued to rake on into May, already 4 for 14 (.286 AVG) in three games this month, highlighted by a two-homer performance back on May 1 (his eighth multi-hit game in ’22). Who knows how long he’ll have to remain in Double-A, but I have a feeling he’ll be getting the call-up real soon, which puts him on track to potentially make his MLB debut as soon as this season (albeit, there’s really no reason for him to).
#2. There’s an influx of non-prospects that’re flourishing
You could go on for a while listing just how many Braves minor leaguers that are playing well through the first month of the 2022 season. And surprisingly, you’d be naming a ton of guys many have probably never heard of. So far, this has been the year for the “non-prospect”, featuring hitters like 1B/DH Landon Stephens (who leads the ATL system with a 159 wRC+), INF Cody Milligan (149 wRC+) and INF Caleb Durbin (146 wRC+), and pitchers such as Royber Salinas (19.7 K/9), Landon Leach (2.75 ERA) and J.J. Niekro (1.47 ERA). We may think we know who the top talent is every year, but it’s these guys that prove us wrong on a yearly basis. As of Thursday, the best offensive player (per wRC+) and pitcher (per ERA) on the Braves farm was nowhere near the organization’s Top 35 prospect list heading into this season. That’s why they play the games.
#3. The hitting has gotten into form quicker than the pitching
I’ve never paid much attention, but this season it certainly feels as if the hitting is much better than the pitching in the Braves system. And I’m not just talking about pitcher workloads, as obviously the first outing or two of the season by a starting pitcher usually features a rather low pitch count. But it just seems like I’ve witnessed way more 3- or 4-hit nights at the plate than double-digit strikeout performances on the mound. As of right now, there are currently 17 qualified Braves minor league hitters sporting an above-average wRC+, including nine that are at least 20% better (120+ wRC+). Meanwhile, only four qualified pitchers are currently maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA, to go with just three who’re carrying walk rates under 3 per nine. Of course that type of hitting won’t continue, as regression will come as the sample size grows. But I do believe the disparity between hitting and pitching is larger than usual this season.