Sunday, September 12, 2021
We’re back a little late with the second installment of our monthly check-in series, but today we’ll look at how several Braves prospects performed during the month of August. This column will cover nos. 20-11. Let’s get started…
For the last installment (covering nos. 30-21) click here.
*stats below are from only the month of August
20. Trey Harris (OF) ↓
AA — Mississippi
17 G, .209 AVG, 3 XBH, 56 wRC+
Harris has regressed a bit during the second-half of the 2021 season, and even further back, where he’s sported a .233 AVG since July 1. In that span, consisting of 40 games, the outfielder only has 12 XBH (six HR) to go with a .384 SLG%. Harris has never really been a power-hitter, but if he isn’t going to maintain his usual .280-.300 AVG, he’ll need to offer something to help him stand out. This year hasn’t been his best as a full season of Double-A has resulted in some struggles. However, I still believe Harris will finish with decent numbers.
19. Indigo Diaz (RHP) ↑
AA – Mississippi
5.1 IP, 2 H, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 11 K
Diaz just continues to dominate every level he pitches at, working 5.1 scoreless frames last month with the M-Braves, while striking out 50% of the batters he faced (or 18.56 K/9!!). The soon-to-be 23-year-old has come out of nowhere in 2021, but I think plenty are now aware of his incredible stuff on the mound. This is a future big league closer if I’ve ever seen one.
18. Victor Vodnik (RHP) ↓
AA – Mississippi (7-day IL)
3 starts, 10.1 IP, 8 H, 6.10, ERA, 7 BB, 13 K
Vodnik, currently on the injured list (for the second time this season), has really had a rough go since July, posting a 7.45 ERA in 19.1 innings since July 9. The transition to becoming a starting pitcher can be difficult, and it doesn’t help that he keeps missing time. But at some point, hopefully the 21-year-old will be able to consistently stay on the mound. Vodnik has always been sort of an underdog as a small-sized, hard-throwing righty with poor command. However, I’m still keeping the faith. There hasn’t been any news (that I can find) regarding Vodnik’s injury. But at this point I think it’s doubtful he pitches again in 2021.
17. Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP) ↔
As we know, Schwellenbach had to undergo Tommy John surgery not long after he was selected by the Braves in the 2021 MLB Draft, so the former second-round pick will be on the shelf until at least mid-2022.
16. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP) ↓
AAA – Gwinnett
3 starts, 7.1 IP, 14 H, 11.05 ERA, 5 BB, 3 K
So back on August 14 I was examining that day’s minor league box scores and noticed that De La Cruz had exited his start for Gwinnett in the first inning after just 19 pitches. I assumed he was injured… and I’m still assuming that – even though it’s not noted on Baseball Reference — given he hasn’t been back on the mound since. The 2021 campaign has been somewhat of a wake-up call for those of us who’ve always been high on De La Cruz as the righty has struggled mightily at the Triple-A level, posting a 6.59 ERA in 54.2 total innings this season. Who knows when he’ll return (and he’s still listed on the Braves’ 40-man), but perhaps it’s finally time to start looking at De La Cruz for what he truly is… a multi-inning reliever.
15. Joey Estes (RHP) ↑
A – Augusta
5 starts, 30.2 IP, 17 H, 2.64 ERA, 9 BB, 41 K
The 19-year-old Estes just continues to dominate the competition as he’s now down to a 2.91 ERA / 3.30 FIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine in 99 innings overall this season. He’s ready for the High-A level, but the challenge may not come until 2022. Either way, it was another successful month for Estes.
14. Ryan Cusick (RHP) ↑
A – Augusta
3 starts, 8 IP, 6 H, 1.13 ERA, 3 BB, 15 K
Nah, that’s not a typo, Cusick really did strike out 15 batters in just eight innings last month, which works out to 16.8 K/9 (or a 45.5 K%). Punch outs are exactly what this kid is known for as he came into the draft with a 70-grade fastball and 60-grade breaking ball – two offerings that’ve already allowed him to dominate his first pro assignment with the Braves. The above average command has been a bit of a surprise for Cusick, though. Hopefully the former top pick can keep it up.
13. Vaughn Grissom (3B) ↑
A+ — Rome
24 G, .312 AVG, 7 XBH, 5 SB, 123 wRC+
The stats from last month all still feature Grissom with the GreenJackets, but as of September 2 the prospect played his first game with Rome. In his final stretch at the Single-A level in August, the 20-year-old was as hot as ever at the plate as ten of those 24 contests consisted multi-hit performances for Grissom. This kid has improved his stick tremendously during the second-half of 2021, displaying some newfound power and even more contact with his new team. I can’t wait to see his end-of-season numbers.
12. Braden Shewmake (SS) ↔
AA – Mississippi
16 G, .246 AVG, 5 XBH, 85 wRC+
August wasn’t Shewmake’s best month, but it certainly wasn’t anything like the first two months of his 2021 season (which was… like… historically BAD). However, the M-Braves shortstop really needs a late-season hot streak to get his numbers in the right place. The 23-year-old is still at an 81 wRC+ overall this year, and his .225 AVG for the season also isn’t ideal. It was always going to be a challenge to crawl out of that massive hole he put himself in earlier in the season, though I was really hoping Shewmake could do it.
11. Jared Shuster (LHP) ↑
AA – Mississippi
5 starts, 22.2 IP, 22 H, 4.37 ERA, 5 BB, 28 K
Because of my lack of time lately, I failed to report on Shuster’s early September promotion to Double-A Mississippi, where he’s already made a pair of starts. However, the lefty’s month of August featured five outings with Rome, where Shuster continued to rack up the strikeouts, averaging 11.2 K/9 (or a K rate of 29.2%). Like the other three pitchers part of that 2020 draft, Shuster has mostly flourished in his first full season of pro ball, and his command has appeared much better than originally expected by most evaluators.