Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Braves Top 30 Prospect List: The top 10 and full list

Today we’ll wrap this series up by discussing the top 10. Below you’ll find tables for each group of ten covered so far, with the final ten at the bottom. If you click on the title of each table it will direct you to that particular post regarding those ten players. You can also find a list of all 30 players here. This final update to the Top 30 will likely serve as my rankings until pre-season 2022, though I’ll continue to provide monthly check-ins on these players for the rest of the current season (currently underway for August), as well as any updates regarding promotions, trades… etc.

Let’s get to it…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
20Trey Harris (OF)AA
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA
15Joey Estes (RHP)A
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)A
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
10Jesse Franklin V (OF)A+
9Freddy Tarnok (RHP)AA
8Bryce Elder (RHP)AAA
7Spencer Strider (RHP)AA
6Tucker Davidson (LHP)MLB
5Michael Harris II (OF)A+
4Shea Langeliers (C)AA
3Drew Waters (OF)AAA
2Kyle Muller (LHP)AAA
1Cristian Pache (OF)AAA

10. Jesse Frankilin V (OF) ↑

Summer rank — 19th

A+ — Rome

I’ve really been impressed with just how fast Franklin has made a name for himself as a pro. This is a kid that was given a 30-grade for his Hit tool coming into the 2020 draft, not to mention a 35-grade Game Power by FanGraphs. Boy they couldn’t have been wrong. The 22-year-old Franklin has been a dangerous power-hitter all year long for High-A Rome, shown by his 22 homers and 56 RBI in 93 games so far this season. He’s certainly cooled off a bit since the beginning of August (86 wRC+ from Aug. 1 to this past Friday), but right now I have no problem saying that Franklin is this organization’s fourth-best outfielder, behind Cristian Pache, Drew Waters and Michael Harris II.

9. Freddy Tarnok (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 16th

AA — Mississippi

For me, Tarnok has become the new Jasseel De La Cruz as I have him ranked right where De La Cruz was this past summer. The two young pitchers are actually a lot alike, though De La Cruz is two years older and has damaged his stock a bit with his struggles in Triple-A. Right now Tarnok seems to have the brighter future as a traditional starter, having managed to mostly dominate the Double-A level by pitching to a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings this season. Even better, the 22-year-old Tarnok appears to have the better secondary pitches, which is something that has plagued De La Cruz in 2021. Basically, I have Tarnok as the fourth-best pitcher in the system right now. This kid got a late start to the year, but he’s certainly on the rise.

8. Bryce Elder (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 10th

AAA — Gwinnett

What a year its been for the Braves fifth-round pick from back in 2020. Elder has flew through the system, starting the year in Rome and now currently pitching in Triple-A Gwinnett. The 22-year-old has regressed just a tiny bit with each promotion, but given this is just his first pro season, his performance has been nothing but extraordinary:

A+ Rome — 45 IP, 2.60 ERA, 11 K/9

AA Mississippi — 56 IP, 3.21 ERA, 9.6 K/9

AAA Gwinnett — 11.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 8.4 K/9

At this rate, Elder is making a strong case to earn an MLB debut sometime next season, which is pretty incredible for a guy with only 112.2 pro innings so far. A lot of other sites have been a bit slow to move Elder up on their lists. Hell, FanGraphs has the righty ranked 21st in the Braves system. But I believe this is one of the org’s most talented pitchers right now.

7. Spencer Strider (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 18th

AA — Mississippi

Strider hit a rough patch during July, but make no mistake, 2021 has been a complete success for him. The 22-year-old righty is one of the most dangerous strikeout artists in this system as he averaged 18.7 K/9 in Single-A this year, 14.7 in High-A and now 13.3 with the M-Braves. Strider has just as much talent as Elder above, although I believe the former’s stuff will play better in the majors. Either way, it’s unreal to have these two in the top 10 so soon. Sure, they’re both former college arms… but no one expected them to produce like this so quickly.

6. Tucker Davidson (LHP) ↔

Summer rank — 4th

MLB — Atlanta (60-day IL)

This was supposed to be Davidson’s year, but a forearm/elbow injury has spoiled the 2021 season for the 25-year-old and he’s currently on the 60-day injured list. With it being September, it’s very unlikely the kid makes it back in time to make any sort of contributions to the big league team, but it’s still worth mentioning how well he pitched when he was healthy. Davidson was nearly unhittable in Triple-A this year, posting a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings with Gwinnett, to go with 10.3 strikeouts per nine. With the Braves, Tucker was nearly just as impressive, sporting a 3.60 ERA in the same amount of innings. Given his experience, age and track record, I don’t really even look at Davidson as a prospect any more. However, until he can consistently remain active and pitching with Atlanta, he’ll stay ranked on this list. Hopefully next year he pulls an Ian Anderson and graduates as that would mean he’s providing innings for the big league team.

5. Michael Harris II (OF) ↑

Summer rank — 6th

A+ — Rome

Harris has played up the hype this season, displaying plenty of tools while starring at Rome. At just 20-years-old, the prospect outfielder currently sports a 115 wRC+ and has stolen 23 bases in 90 games so far. He’s heated up even more over the last month or so too, hitting .316 with seven XBH (137 wRC+) since August 1. Given he’s still so young, the Braves will most likely stay pretty conservative with Harris, but at this point it’s probably safe to assume a Double-A assignment is in the cards for the start of 2022. Hell, he may even earn a promotion before 2021 is over with. The outfield depth chart is deep in this system, but Harris is right up there with Pache and Waters. He just needs more ABs.

4. Shea Langeliers (C) ↑

Summer rank — 5th

AA — Mississippi 

Lately the power has all but disappeared as Langeliers has been stuck on 19 home runs since August 11. But the bat remains hot for the star catcher, shown by his .286 AVG since the beginning of last month. Langeliers has been a success story like no other this season, performing well beyond his expectations as he’s quickly evolved into a complete player behind the plate and at the plate. We always believed William Contreras would eventually take over the reigns as the next Braves catcher, but at this rate I’m not so sure. Hopefully the universal-DH really does come soon and both Contreras and Langeliers can contribute at the big league level. If not, GM Alex Anthopoulos may eventually have to choose between the two. This kid is not someone to keep off the roster, and if he continues to improve with the bat the Braves won’t have a choice but to give him an opportunity. The next test is to see whether Langeliers can perform so well versus Triple-A pitchers as that’s currently the only advantage Contrereas holds.

3. Drew Waters (OF) ↔

Summer rank — 2nd

AAA — Gwinnett

It’s been sort of a quiet season for Waters as he’s mainly just been hanging in there with the Stripers, hitting .236 with eight homers and 22 stolen bases in 81 games so far (95 wRC+). Don’t get me wrong, the kid has improved, making nice gains regarding his patience at the plate. But I think we all expected the 22-year-old to sort of take off now deep into his second stint at the Triple-A level. I’d still like to see Waters cut his K rate to below 30% as the lack of consistent game power isn’t something I’m too concerned with (hell, eight homers is pretty good anyways). Many presume that he’ll get his MLB debut in 2022, and that seems pretty accurate; however, unless he wants to end up like Pache, the extra whiffs will need to be corrected. I’m still a believer in Waters. I just really want him to stick it whenever he does make it to the majors.

2. Kyle Muller (LHP) ↑

Summer rank — 7th

AAA — Gwinnett

Muller takes Waters spot on the Top 30, and honestly I almost put the lefty at no. 1. Take away Muller’s first and last major league appearance from this season, and the kid posted a 2.43 ERA in 33.1 innings with Atlanta in 2021, to go with 9.4 strikeouts per nine. I know those other two games count, but what Muller did for a seven-start stretch was amazing, and his performance really helped the Braves turn its season around. Since being demoted back down to Triple-A, the southpaw hasn’t let up a bit, having produced a 1.00 ERA in three starts with Gwinnett so far. I thought Muller was no doubt going to be part of Atlanta’s September roster, but I guess the big league starting rotation is finally all healthy enough. Either way, Muller certainly showed he’s prepared to be a mainstay in the major league rotation. And hopefully he will be to begin 2022.

1. Cristian Pache (OF) ↓

Summer rank — 1st

AAA — Gwinnett

This was the closest I’ve ever come to moving Pache off the no. 1 spot. His horrid big league performance, coupled with some more middling play in the minors just hasn’t made me feel as confident about him leading this system. However, the kid might’ve saved his spot in the rankings by actually playing really well over the last month. Since August 1, Pache was hit .321 with 9 XBH and has generated an 11% walk-rate in the last 21 games, good for a 143 wRC+ in that span. He may not be able to fix his major league numbers, but this newfound momentum with Gwinnett may just save his season totals in the minors. Pache really just needs a fresh start, so hopefully the spring of 2022 will allow him to get on track. I think we’re all ready to see him in the Braves outfield.

Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 20-11

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

-Clint Manry

In early August, I released a midseason update to my Braves Top 30, but last week I began explaining my list. Last Friday’s installment covered nos. 30-21, and today’s looks at nos. 20-11. You can find the entire list of 30 at my personal blog, Braves Farm.) As usual, below the table I’ve written a paragraph on each prospect.

Let’s get to it…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
20Trey Harris (OF)AA
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA
15Joey Estes (RHP)A
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)A
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+

*all stats are through this past Sunday

20. Trey Harris (OF)

Summer rank – 11th

AA – Mississippi

That I dropped Harris nine spots is less to do with his actual performance and more to do with the fact that there just appears to be more viable outfield options in the Braves organization right now. Don’t get me wrong, the 25-year-old certainly hasn’t played as well this season, now sporting an 84 wRC+ in 84 games so far with the M-Braves; but in terms of rate stats Harris has mostly remained the same (in fact, he’s even better in regards to his plate discipline). The fact of the matter is: Harris is 25 and still hasn’t mastered the Double-A level, and though I still feel he’s a potential fourth outfielder in the majors, I no longer look at him as a fringy top 10 prospect in the system. If you don’t agree with me, FanGraphs has Harris ranked 14th in the Atlanta system.

19. Indigo Diaz (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

AA – Mississippi

Two years ago — when Diaz was drafted by the Braves in the 27th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Michigan St. — Tomahawk Take’s Fred Owens provided some hard-to-find stats on the righty while he was a JUCO star, featuring a stretch of 36 consecutive wins and a World Series title. Still, though, Owens stated that Diaz’s fastball was below-average and that (and I quote) “he reminded him of Dan Winkler” (which, these days, is sort of a compliment). Boy has the 22-year-old came a long way since being selected 817th overall. Consider the dominance Diaz has displayed so far in 2021…

High-A Rome: 27 IP, 18 K/9, 1.00 ERA, 0.67 FIP

Double-A Miss.: 13 IP, 15.9 K/9, 0.00 ERA, 1.74 FIP

The kid is literally unhittable right now, which has led to his quick ascent to the Double-A level. That used-to-be below average fastball is now a dangerous weapon and Diaz looks like a true home-grown closer for the Braves. We’ll see how he does the rest of the season, but this appears to be a slam dunk… and one that pretty much came out of nowhere.

18. Victor Vodnik (RHP)

Summer rank – 13th

AA – Mississippi

This is the first season the Braves began using Vodnik as a full-time starting pitcher, and though he’s shown flashes of brilliance on the mound, the kid just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Vodnik is currently on the injured list (for the second time this season) and hasn’t thrown a pitch for the M-Braves since August 13, when he tossed a no-hitter over five innings that featured nine strikeouts. It really is unfortunate, but hopefully Vodnik gets a chance to finish the year strong and give him some much-needed momentum for 2022. It’s evident he needs a bit more time in Double-A, but I still believe in the under-sized Vodnik.

17. Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

Inactive

Placing Schwellenbach on the list was a bit of a challenge simply because we now know it’ll be at least on into next season before we see the right-hander (Tommy John surgery). However, the 2021 second-round pick put together quite a collegiate career with Nebraska, and his two-way stardom pretty much speaks for itself. In three seasons with the Huskies, Schwellenbach hit .282 and posted an .829 OPS as a hitter. Then as a pitcher, in his final year, he posted a 0.57 ERA in 31.2 innings. I think it’s safe to say that this is at least a top 20 prospect in the Braves system. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how talented he is once he finally takes the field next year.

16. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)

Summer rank – 9th

AAA – Gwinnett

When it was announced that De La Cruz was getting a Triple-A assignment to begin the 2021 season, I immediately went all in on the righty, ranking him inside the top 10 this past June in my Summer list. However, I’ve had to reevaluate my opinion of De La Cruz as his time in Gwinnett hasn’t gone anything like I expected. In 54.2 innings for the Stripers so far in 2021, the 24-year-old has pitched to a 6.59 ERA / 5.13 FIP to go with 4.94 walks per nine. I had the opportunity to watch him in-person in Memphis about a month ago, and he just didn’t appear to have the stuff to get opposing batters out. Hopefully he can turn things around soon, but right now I see De La Cruz as more of a multi-inning reliever. Regardless, he definitely needs to work on his secondary pitches.

15. Joey Estes (RHP)

Summer rank – 23rd

A – Augusta

Estes continues to mow down Single-A batters as he leads the South League in practically every pitching category, including strikeouts and ERA. You wouldn’t think it would be possible, but the 19-year-old has been even better during the month of August, maintaining an ERA even lower than his 2.76 for the 2021 season. Estes seems to have everything you’d want in a prospect pitcher: strikeouts, above-average run prevention; and lately he’s even lasting longer into starts, tossing his first complete-game back on August 14. He’ll continue to soar in on this list.

14. Ryan Cusick (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A – Augusta

The Braves have understandably been extremely careful with Cusick, keeping his pitch count around 50-60 pitches in each of the three starts he’s made so far for Augusta. The results have been about as good as you can hope for given the short leash as Cusick has given up just one earned run in eight innings thus far, which pairs nicely with his 15 strikeouts and three walks. There’s no doubt this kid has the stuff to generate a ton of punch outs as a pro, but it’ll probably be next season before we see him face any real competition. FanGraphs already has Cusick in the top 10 in the Braves system, at no. 7, which is probably close to where he’ll likely end up in my rankings by the start of 2022.

13. Vaughn Grissom (SS)

Summer rank – 21st

A – Augusta

Since returning from an injury back in mid-July, Grissom has been one of the best performing prospect in the Braves system, hitting .351 with 14 XBH and eight stolen bases in 35 games (good for a 166 wRC+ in that span). Grissom will end the 2021 campaign as one of the top hitters in Single-A, which means he’s looking at a High-A assignment to begin next season. At just 20-years-old, Grissom could see a Michael Harris-type rise among national evaluators next offseason.

12. Braden Shewmake (SS)

Summer rank – 8th

AA – Mississippi

I’ll give him props, Shewmake definitely pulled off a remarkable turnaround to what was a horrid start to the 2021 season. But unfortunately, after posting a 178 wRC+ in 14 games in July, the shortstop’s play has regressed again in August. Still, Shewmake is playing much better than he did during the first few months of the year, and he’s even showcased some surprising pop with the bat. I had to dock him for the early-season struggles, but make no mistake, this is still a future big leaguer.

11. Jared Shuster (LHP)

Summer rank – 12th

A+ — Rome

Like the other three prospect pitchers from the 2021 class (Bryce Elder, Spencer Strider and Joey Estes), Shuster has flourished in his first pro season. The 23-year-old is probably ready for the Double-A level at this point as he’s spent all season mowing down High-A batters to the tune of 11.2 strikeouts per nine. But the Braves are in no hurry… and they shouldn’t be. I could’ve bumped Shuster up into the top-10 of this list; he’s certainly deserving. But the only reason I didn’t is because I’d still like to see what he does once with the M-Braves. He’s currently running a FIP nearly a run higher than his 3.70 ERA, so it might be wise to wait before getting to carried away. Regardless, FanGraphs is a believer as they have Shuster ranked seventh in the Braves system.

Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 30-21

Thursday, August 26, 2021

-Clint Manry

This past weekend I covered the eight players no longer included in my new Midseason Top 30, so now it’s time to start discussing the ones actually on the list. This group of ten will feature several newcomers, including those who’ve played their way onto the list, as well as a few 2021 draftees. Regarding the latter, we still don’t know a whole lot about these guys, so look at their ranking as more of a starting point based on the scout evaluations currently available.

Let’s get started. Here are nos. 30-21…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA

*all stats below are through this past Monday

30. Jefrey Ramos (OF)

Summer rank – 28th

AA – Mississippi

I really struggled with Ramos as I’ve always been a bit higher on the outfielder than most. But this season just hasn’t gone well for the 22-year-old, evident by his overall 55 wRC+ in 52 games so far with the M-Braves. Strikeouts have really plagued Ramos as he’s currently sporting a K rate roughly 10% higher relative to 2019 (28.9% / 19.9%), when he posted a career year with High-A Rome. The month of August has been even worse in regards to his whiff issues, and even with a strong finish, it doesn’t appear likely that Ramos will get himself out of this hole.

29. Brandol Mezquita (OF)

Summer rank – N/A

RK – FCL Braves

At just 20-years-old, Mezquita is still a rather raw prospect, even though he’s been in the Braves system for several seasons now. We knew this kid was talented coming into the 2021 campaign, but his play has surpassed expectations as he’s currently maintaining a 148 wRC+ down in rookie ball, to go with a .437 OBP and a .333 AVG in 25 games so far for the FCL Braves. A lot still depends on how he approaches full-season ball, which will likely come in 2022, but at the moment I see Mezquita as another talented prospect outfielder in the Atlanta system.

28. Cody Milligan (2B)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

This isn’t the first season Milligan has impressed as he posted 104 wRC+ in 59 games in rookie ball two years ago, which as a middle-infielder, is nothing to scoff at. Jumping up to the High-A level this year, the 22-year-old hasn’t lost much at all. In 76 games with the R-Braves, Milligan is hitting .248 with 12 XBH and 14 stolen bases, good for a solid 81 wRC+. There’s not much power in his swing, but as a second baseman with some speed, Milligan’s bat only needs to be average for him to continue his ascent within the organization.

27. Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)

Summer rank – N/A

AA – Mississippi

Lugbauer showed signs of an above-average hitter back during his draft year in 2017, when he posted a 141 and 131 wRC+ in both rookie ball and Single-A, respectively. But his next two seasons (2018-19) just didn’t match, and the big first baseman struggled with strikeouts. Now into 2021, the whiffs are still there, but Lugbauer has also developed some patience, nearly doubling his walk-rate from four years ago. Plus, the 24-year-old still has that power stroke as he now has 16 home runs in 72 games with the M-Braves, which is as many as he had in 2019 (in a span of 127 games). I’ve already written about Lugbauer recently, but this is a guy the Braves should be paying attention to when it comes time to fill the DH spot.

26. Tanner Gordon (LHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

Gordon began 2021 in Rome but struggled to the tune of a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings as opposing batters slashed .303/.370/.539 (.909 OPS), causing his first stint in High-A this year to only last about a month. However, with Single-A Augusta, Gordon really made some impressive strides, and following his first two outings there, he had a stretch in which he only allowed one run over 24.2 frames (or four starts). The 23-year-old southpaw hasn’t been as dominant lately, although earlier this month he earned himself another shot with the R-Braves. In his first outing back with Rome, Gordon struck out five in six innings, allowing just one run from three hits. This kid has the size (6’5”, 215 lbs) and the track record (sixth-round pick) to become a top-tier prospect pitcher, and he’s certainly shown flashes this season.

25. Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)

Summer rank – 22nd

AA – Mississippi

A strong July dug Jenista out a pretty deep early-season hole as the 24-year-old hit .243 with six homers in 23 games last month – good for a 153 wRC+. However, one solid month isn’t going to cut it, and as a result, I dropped the outfielder three spots on the Top 30 (and I still think I was a bit too generous). Jenista’s problem from Day 1 has been too many strikeouts, and those swing-and-miss issues have continued on into 2021. The former second-round pick sports a 37.4% K rate through Monday, which is by far a career-high for him. Fortunately, he’s also maintaining a career-high walk-rate (16.1%), and his 13 home runs so far is eight more than he had back in 2019 in roughly the same amount of games. If Jenista can ever cut down on the whiffs, he could easily become a top 10 prospect in the Braves system. Although it just hasn’t happened yet.

24. William Woods (RHP)

Summer rank – 24th

RK – FCL Braves

Woods remains at no. 24 given he just now got started this season. The 22-year-old righty is currently active with the rookie level Braves and has made just one start so far, facing only four batters in a one-inning outing. There’s still a ton of excitement regarding Woods, so I’m going to wait and see.

23. Darius Vines (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

With the June and July he put together, I had no choice but to include Vines in my latest Top 30, especially given the fact that he was pitching so well despite moving up from Single-A to High-A. The 23-year-old has adjusted nicely to the new challenge in Rome, currently sporting a 3.67 ERA in 10 starts thus far, including a recent two-outing stretch in which he’s allowed just four runs in his last 13 innings (2.77 ERA). This kid’s repertoire has developed really well this season and he has a chance to put a nice finish to a productive 2021 campaign, giving him some momentum for next year.

22. Cal Conley (SS)

Summer rank – N/A

A — Augusta

I have Conley about where most — somewhere in the no. 20 range (FanGraphs has him 20th). And so far the fourth-round pick has adjusted beautifully to pro baseball, currently hitting .274 with a pair of homers in 15 games for Augusta (good for a 105 wRC+). The 22-year-old Conley is a switch-hitting middle-infielder with 55-grade Raw Power. But the question is whether his glove and bat can catch up with that power stroke. If so, this could be a big time prospect in the Braves system.

21. Daysbel Hernández (RHP)

Summer rank – 15th

AA – Mississippi

I’ve been a big Hernández fan for quite some time now, but unfortunately his initial stint with Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the 2021 season hurt his stock a bit. I discussed his struggles in some of my Month Prospect Check-in posts, but the 24-year-old righty was surprisingly beat up while with the Stripers. Ever since returning to the Double-A level, Hernández has been fine, and he’s coming off a damn good month of July in which he averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine and finished with a 1.64 ERA. He’s also pitching really well in August, now up to 5.2 scoreless frames. We’ll wait and see how Hernández performs in his second stint with Gwinnett, but I still think he’s a future big league reliever.

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment, covering nos. 20-11. To see my Braves 2021 Midseason Top 30 list in its entirety, check out my personal blog, Braves Farm.

Braves 2021 Top 30 Prospects (Midseason)

Friday, August 6, 2021

-Clint Manry

RANKPLAYERLEVELSUMMER RANKTREND
1Cristian Pache (OF)AAA(1)
2Kyle Muller (LHP)MLB(7)
3Drew Waters (OF)AAA(2)
4Shea Langeliers (C)A+(5)
5Michael Harris II (OF)AA(6)
6Tucker Davidson (LHP)AAA(4)
7Spencer Strider (RHP)AA(18)
8Bryce Elder (RHP)AA(10)
9Freddy Tarnok (RHP)AA(16)
10Jesse Franklin V (OF)A+(19)
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+(12)
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA(8)
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A(21)
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)’21 draftee
15Joey Estes (RHP)A(23)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA(9)
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)’21 draftee
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA(13)
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA(NR)
20Trey Harris (OF)AA(11)
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA(15)
22Cal Conley (SS)A’21 draftee
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+(NR)
24William Woods (RHP)A(24)
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA(22)
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A(NR)
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA(NR)
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+(NR)
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK(NR)
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA(28)

Braves 2021 Top 30 Prospects (Summer)

RKNameCurrent LevelPositionTrend
1Cristian Pache AAA GwinnettOF
2Drew WatersAAA GwinnettOF
3William ContrerasMLBC
4Tucker DavidsonAAA GwinnettLHP
5Shea LangeliersAA MississippiC
6Michael HarrisA+ RomeOF
7Kyle MullerMLBLHP
8Braden ShewmakeAA MississippiSS
9Jasseel De La CruzAAA GwinnettRHP
10Bryce ElderAA MississippiRHP
11Trey HarrisAA MississippiOF
12Jared ShusterA+ RomeLHP
13Victor VodnikAA MississippiRHP
14Bryce BallA+ Rome1B/DHtraded to CHC
15Daysbel HernandezAA MississippiRHP
16Freddy TarnokA+ RomeRHP
17 CJ Alexander AA Mississippi 3B
18Spencer StriderAA MississippiRHP
19Jesse Franklin VA+ RomeOF
20Ricky DeVitoA+ RomeRHPtraded to PIT
21Vaughn GrissomA AugustaSS
22Greyson JenistaAA Mississippi1B/OF
23Joey EstesA AugustaRHP
24William WoodsExtended springRHP
25Justin DeanAA MississippiOF
26Willie CarterA AugustaOF
27Roddery MunozA AugustaRHP
28Jefrey RamosAA MississippiOF
29Kasey KalichA+ RomeRHPtraded to KCR
30Nolan KinghamAAA GwinnettRHP
All trend symbols represent each prospect’s “trend” in terms of prospect stock based on current performance. Arrows are NOT necessarily meant to display player’s actual movement within the Top 30. List was compiled in June.

#1. Cristian Pache, OF

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 215lb
  • INT signee / July 2015

Pache started 2021 in the majors, but he was very much overmatched at the plate. A hamstring injury sort of provided a bit of a blessing in disguise as it allowed him some time off and a chance to rebuild his confidence in Gwinnett before trying again with the Braves. The star outfielder was activated back on June 1, and entering this past weekend he had logged six games with the Stripers, sporting a .348 AVG and coming off a two-homer, four RBI game from last Thursday night. I don’t know how exactly you approach Pache’s situation. It’s evident the Braves need outfield help at the big league level as the team’s outfield has been below-average all season and over the last week has collectively hit just .224 overall. But I tend to lean towards it being more beneficial for him as a prospect to maybe log a month or so worth of games in the minors before they decide to start Round 2 with Pache. This is still the org’s top prospect, no doubt, but he really doesn’t need to be exposed like that again if the Braves can help it.


#2. Drew Waters, OF

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 185lb
  • 2nd RD / 2017 MLB Draft

Waters’ first month in Gwinnett was respectable for sure, but entering June he hadn’t made the strides we were hoping he’d make with his approach at the plate, and through those 20 games in May his .253 AVG really seemed a bit underwhelming. Well, since the calendar turned over to June the former 2nd round pick has noticeably made some improvements on offense, and though his K rate has still been higher than ideal, Waters so far in June is slashing .344/.417/.406 (130 wRC+) to go with a walk-rate in the double-digits (11.1 BB%) during the month’s first eight games (through last Thursday). Obviously he needs to sustain this success for a longer period of time, but entering this past weekend the 22-year-old was in the midst of a four-game hitting streak and had recorded a hit in eight of his last nine (including five multi-hit games in that span). I still believe he needs a lot more seasoning in Triple-A, but if Waters is still hitting like this next month, perhaps it’s time to give him an opportunity to translate his success at the MLB level.


#3. William Contreras, C

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-0, 180lb
  • INT signee / February 2015

We had Contreras at no. 5 back in January and we knew the 2021 campaign would be a huge one for him, though perhaps for different reasons. Little did we know the 23-year-old — who had played just 60 games above the High-A level, and none in Triple-A — would wind up Atlanta’s starting catcher, due to injuries and ineffectiveness to both Travis d’Arnaud and Alex Jackson. Simply the hands-on experience alone is invaluable for Contreras, but what’s incredible is how well he has held his own with the bat, entering this past weekend with a 126 wRC+ and six home runs in his first 29 big league games this season. Yes, Contreras’ defense behind the plate has been costly at times, and base runners have ran on him fairly easily so far (9 for 13 on stolen base attempts). But it’s all a learning process, and one that he’s been able to go through all while still being a solid producer for the Braves.


#4. Tucker Davidson, LHP

  • 25-years-old 
  • 6-2, 215lb
  • 19th RD / 2016 MLB Draft

I lied in my first installment of this series. Willie Carter isn’t my only 25-year-old prospect on this list as Tuck Davidson hit the quarter-century mark a couple of months ago. But which Davidson should we discuss? The one that has dominated Triple-A batters to the tune of a 0.90 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine?… or the one that has held MLB lineups to a cool 1.53 ERA? Both performances have come over a three-start sample and both are certainly impressive. We already knew Davidson was the top lefty-arm in the system, but with Ian Anderson a recent graduate he’s now the top pitcher altogether. 


#5. Shea Langeliers, C

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-0, 205lb
  • 1st RD / 2019 MLB Draft

There for roughly a week or so back in late-May and early June, I wasn’t sure if Langeliers would ever stop hitting. During that stint he hit four home runs in a six-game span, including three in one game on June 2, and though he isn’t operating on THAT sort of level now, the prospect catcher has still been a consistent performer at the plate AND behind it. Beyond all of the talent and tools that come with Langeliers, this kid has demolished same-handed pitchers this season. As a righty batter he’s hitting .298 against right-handed pitchers, including six of his eight total homers (compared to a .188 AVG vs. southpaws). It’s not necessarily a big deal with such a small sample, but it’s cool nonetheless


#6. Michael Harris, OF

  • 20-years-old
  • 6-0, 195lb
  • 3rd RD / 2019 MLB Draft

I really wanted to reward Harris by ranking him in the top 5 as there’s no doubt he deserves it. But still, the kid moved up several spots since our last list (from ninth). The thing that’s so incredible about Harris — other than the obvious accomplishment of doing what he’s doing while just 20-years-old — is that he entered 2021 with a level of hype not seen since Ronald Acuna… and he managed to actually exceed expectations. That doesn’t hardly ever happen. I have a Harris post still in the works that goes into much more detail about his current season. Hell, I already did one here last month. But for now we’ll just keep it simple: this dude is the REAL DEAL.


#7. Kyle Muller, LHP

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-7, 250lb
  • 2nd RD / 2016 MLB Draft

Don’t let Muller’s current numbers in Double-A Mississippi mislead you, for the big bodied southpaw is blowing by opposing batters right now. His six-inning gem back on Wednesday gives him three consecutive outings with one earned run or less and four of his last six, resulting in a 3.18 ERA with 37 strikeouts in his last 28 ⅓ innings since that poor season-opening start. The turn-around in June has truly been remarkable; in May opposing batters were OPSing .924 versus Muller… so far in June (as of Friday), that OPS is currently .368. It’s definitely not time to hop off the Muller train. 


#8. Braden Shewmake, SS

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-4, 190lb
  • 1st RD / 2019 MLB Draft

What? Did you expect me to push Shewmake out of the Top 30 because of his 2021 season so far? While I’ll certainly admit his performance has been disappointing this year (hence the down symbol), I’m afraid that’s not how this works. We had Shewmake ranked seventh on our January list, and I’m not prepared to move him outside of the top 10 unless his poor streak extends much longer. Sure, a .126 AVG in Double-A, especially for a college bat set to turn 24 in the offseason, is far from ideal. But if there’s any constellation, Shewmake has at least started turning this catastrophe around; as of Friday, he was in the midst of a four-game hitting streak — a span featuring a .278 AVG, a home run and three RBI.


#9. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-1, 195lb
  • INT signee / June 2015

It’s still hard to believe the Braves signed De La Cruz for just $55K back in 2015, especially considering what he’s developed into — which, to me, is one of the top prospects among the org’s next wave of starting pitchers. I think some of the problem with De La Cruz right now is that there seems to be a bit of prospect fatigue aimed his way. The righty has been in the system for so long now and he hasn’t necessarily dominated Triple-A this season. So for some evaluators, De La Cruz’s stock has perhaps declined. I’m still a firm believer in his talent. 


#10. Bryce Elder, RHP

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 220lb
  • 5th RD / 2020 MLB Draft

Elder was looked at as an ultra-high floor type, though with perhaps less upside than some of the other Braves 2020 picks. Of the major sites within the industry, only Baseball America thought of him as a top 100 prospect entering last year’s draft and ESPN had him as low as 150. Still, as Chase opined back in January, for $850K this kid was an absolute steal for Atlanta, and therefore we had him pegged at no. 14 before he ever threw a professional pitch. The four-spot jump today stems from the fact that he’s done everything you could’ve hoped for so far with Single-A Augusta, and entering this past weekend he sports a 2.65 ERA through his first seven starts.