2022 Offseason Braves Prospect List: The fifth and final tier (nos. 27-35)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

-Clint Manry

We’ve made it to the final group of prospects in my 2022 Braves Offseason Prospect List. Nine players remain as we’re now ready to cover the fifth and final tier of the list (nos. 27-35). Be sure to check back throughout the offseason, for I plan to do more series regarding the Braves prospects.

#27. Tanner Gordon, RHP

Drafted by ATL: 6th Round, 2019 from Indiana University (IN)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
24-years-old6’5″ / 215 lbsL/R26th

The big righty pitched well in his first full season in the Braves organization. As a former sixth round pick from back in 2019, I’m sure Gordon was chomping at the bit to get back on the mound; following a strong 2.22 ERA in the Appy League during his draft year, the Braves decided to move Gordon to a starter’s role full time, and it appears to have been the right decision.

Split equally between Single-A Augusta (11 starts) and High-A Rome (10 starts / 1 relief appearance), Gordon held his own as a pro in 2021. With the GreenJackets, the righty averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine and just 1.6 walks on his way to a 3.43 ERA. He wasn’t as overpowering with the R-Braves, with his K rate falling to 7.8 K/9 there, but he still maintained a decent 4.44 ERA, and just as important, as he rose a level he continued to keep the free passes down (2 BB/9).

Despite being built like a power-pitcher, the guys at Talking Chop call Gordon more of a pitch-to-contact guy, and the drastic drop in K rate from Single-A to High-A sort of proved that this past season. The righty will pitch as a 24-year-old all year in 2022, so regardless, he’s on track to reach Mississippi at some point this coming season. I want to see how he handles the upper-minors before I get into invested, but so far I believe this could be a potential mid-rotation arm for the Braves.

#28. Brandol Mezquita, OF

Signed by ATL: 2017 from Dominican Republic

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
24-years-old6’5″ / 215 lbsL/R26th

Mezquita is a kid I’ve already wrote about this offseason and he’s someone Braves Country really needs to start paying attention to. As part of the 13 prospects originally lost due to the actions of former GM John Coppolella, Mezquita re-signed with Atlanta prior to the 2018 season and has been developing at the rookie levels ever since.

Still just 20-years-old, Mezquita will finally get his opportunity to showcase his talent in full-season ball in 2022. After parts of three seasons in instructs, the outfielder slashed .255/.367/.357 with 25 XBH (eight HR) and 27 stolen bases in 129 combined games – good for an overall 110 wRC+ as a pro hitter. Coming off a career-year at the plate in 2021 (132 wRC+) with the FCL team, Mezquita could evolve into one of the most exciting young prospects in the system. We’ll have to wait and see as he’s yet to log any meaningful games at even the Single-A level, but I believe he — and one of his outfield mates from instructs that we’ll talk about later — is the real deal.

#29. Andrew Hoffmann, RHP

Drafted by ATL: 12th Round, 2021 from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
21-years-old6’5″ / 210 lbsR/RNR

I’ve been interested in Hoffmann since he was selected in this past summer’s draft. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and still only entering his age-22 season, the righty is both a two-year college arm AND young enough to still have a decent amount of projection left. The kid spent his first pro season with Single-A Augusta in 2021, where he made seven clean starts, logging a 2.73 ERA and averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine to go with just 2.4 walks.

This kid has size, fastball velocity and a wicked secondary in his changeup. The only thing left for him to do is continue to develop the rest of his repertoire. And even if a third or fourth viable offering isn’t in the cards, the Braves will no doubt develop Hoffmann into an overpowering reliever. Like a lot of these guys on the back-end of this list, the righty just hasn’t logged enough time in the minors yet to get a good read. But I think it’s safe to believe in Hoffmann. How he handles a High-A challenge in 2022 will go a long way on determining what the Braves have in their 12th round pick.

#30. Trey Harris, OF

Drafted by ATL: 32nd Round, 2018 from University of Missouri (MO)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
25-years-old5’11” / 220 lbsR/R20th

To be a former 32nd round pick, Harris has become quite the prospect, even if his stock has declined rather sharply over the last season. Coming off a MiLB Batter of the Year campaign from 2019 (in which he raked at three different levels), the Mizzu product spent all of 2021 with Double-A Mississippi, although unfortunately he wound up having his worst season ever as a pro (89 wRC+), and as a result, I now have him barely in the top 30.

There are a few issues impacting Harris’ stock: for one, he’s now entering his age-26 season, which is really too old for a prospect. Secondly, he plays a position (outfield) that is pretty crowded in the Braves organization, making his path to the majors even more difficult. And lastly, though Harris is a mature hitter with some pop and athleticism, he’s an undersized player that doesn’t absolutely flourish at one single thing on the field. As the seasons go by, he’s looking more and more like a future fourth outfielder in the majors, though we’ll see how he does in Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022.

#31. Tyler Collins, OF

Drafted by ATL: 8th Round, 2021 from McKinney Boyd HS (TX)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
18-years-old5’11” / 180 lbsL/RNR

The guys at Talking Chop give him a Michael Bourn comp as Collins is your prototypical lead-off hitter, wielding plus speed and an above average ability to get on base. The 18-year-old was impressive with the FCL team in 2021, getting with the organization in time to play in 23 games down in Florida. In instructs, Collins slashed .347/.424/.453 with six XBH and 12 stolen bases – good for a solid 140 wRC+.

The Braves have a couple of options with Collins – they could either leave him in extended spring training and let him get a few more PA at the rookie level, or they could start him out in Single-A Augusta in 2022. With him turning only 19 in March, the organization definitely doesn’t have to rush. This kid could be a future star in center field.

#32. AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP

Drafted by ATL: 7th Round, 2021 from Colleyville Heritage HS (TX)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
19-years-old6’3″ / 205 lbsR/RNR

Shawver is a raw prep arm the Braves took a chance on in this past summer’s draft. The team really likes his mid-to-high 90s MPH fastball and wicked slider, and with his ideal size/build, there’s a solid chance he can stick it as a prospect starting pitcher. At just 19-years-old, he has plenty of time to develop more secondary offerings.

Like Collins above, the Braves could give Shawver more time in rookie ball or start him in Augusta in 2022 – either choice is a viable one and wouldn’t be surprising. The righty struggled with the FCL team this past season, posting an 8.64 ERA in four starts. Although, he did show an ability to induce a ton of swing and miss as he struck out a whopping 16 batters in just 8 1/3 innings (17.3 K/9). I’m interested to see more of this kid.

#33. Kadon Morton, OF

Drafted by ATL: 19th Round, 2019 from Seguin HS (TX)

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
21-years-old6’2″ / 195 lbsR/RNR

Morton is the outfield mate I mentioned in the above Mezquita excerpt. For a few seasons now, the two 21-year-olds have made quite the pair down in instructs. But now’s their chance to shine in full-season ball.

Mezquita and Morton seem fairly similar, though I’d say the former is a little less raw as a prospect, with the latter striking out 35% of the time with the FCL team in 2021. In fact, Morton — a former 19th round pick — really has yet to do much at all at the plate so far as a pro, with a lot of the expectations surrounding him being built from projection. Either way, the kid’s career is still in it’s beginning stages as all 77 games thus far have come in instructs. We’ll be able to tell much more about Morton this coming season when he likely joins Single-A Augusta.

#34. Greyson Jenista, OF/1B

Drafted by ATL: 2nd Round, 2018 from Wichita State University

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
25-years-old6’4″ / 210 lbsL/R25th

Other than an impressive 33-game stint in Single-A back in 2018, this past season was the best performance Jenista has put together so far, posting a 124 wRC+ with 19 homers, 42 RBI and seven stolen bases in 89 games with Double-A Mississippi. Sure, the former second round pick only hit .216 for the year, and he struck out at a 35.9% clip, but the production was still impressive as he also raised his walk-rate by 5% compared to his 74-game sample in Double-A back in 2019.

The evident issue with Jenista’s stock, other than the fact that he’ll enter his age-25 season in 2022, is that whiffs have been a problem essentially his entire career, and if it wasn’t for his breakout in the power department last year, his bat would’ve been nearly unplayable.

Given he’s logged 163 total games with the M-Braves over the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that Jenista will be in Triple-A Gwinnett this coming year, where he’ll need to show he can be more than simply a platoon hitter; in 2021, the lefty-batter hit just .147 versus southpaws, compared to a solid .242 AVG against righties. Jenista is running out of time, but if he can slug with the Stripers like he did with the M-Braves, I could definitely see some options opening for him.

#35. Alan Rangel, RHP

Signed by ATL: 2014 from Mexico

AgeHeight / WeightBats / Throws2021 Midseason rank
24-years-old6’2″ / 170 lbsR/RNR

No one wants to be the last prospect on the list, but this year I wanted to find someone both different and deserving, and Rangel certainly fits that mold. The 24-year-old righty has been in the Braves farm system for going on eight seasons now as he joined the organization as just a 17-year-old. The team must think a lot of him, too, because Atlanta protected him from the Rule 5 Draft this year, selecting his contract back in early November.

So why is his prospect stock so low? Well, it’s actually as high as its ever been for him. The Braves have always been really conservative with Rangel, letting him develop in instructs for two years before he spent parts of 3 seasons (or 327 2/3 innings) at the Single-A level, just earning his first taste of High-A in 2021. However, the promotion proved to be the right choice as Rangel averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine and just 2.7 walks, posting a 3.57 ERA with Rome this past season. By early August he was moved up to Mississippi, where he held his own there as well, managing a 4.50 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in seven starts.

Because he started his pro career so young, Rangel is still only entering his age-24 season, so he’s pretty close to following a traditional track through Double-A in 2022. An uptick in fastball velocity, and solid secondaries that include a breaking ball and a changeup, has allowed Rangel to evolve from a pitch-to-contact guy to more of a power-pitcher lately, and the ability to induce strikeouts is giving him a nice trend heading into next season. We’ll see if he can keep it up. If he’s able to… I could see him moving up the list rather quickly.