Luke Waddell promoted to M-Braves; Vaughn Grissom to Rome

Friday, September 3, 2021

-Clint Manry

The Braves made a few more minor league moves on Thursday, this time impacting two talented middle-infielders — shortstop Luke Waddell and shortstop/third baseman Vaughn Grissom.

Waddell — the Braves’ fifth-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft — has certainly enjoyed his first taste of pro ball. The 23-year-old, former Georgia Tech star, has hit .304 with six home runs and 13 RBI in just his first 21 games with High-A Rome — good enough for a well above average 148 wRC+. If you recall, I recently wrote about the kid following a stint earlier this week in which he slugged six homers in just six games for the R-Braves. I didn’t rank Waddell in my Midseason Braves Top 30, but at this rate he’s definitely on his way to making the next list. Either way, with prospect Braden Shewmake holding down shortstop for the M-Braves all this season, it’ll be interesting to see how the Mississippi roster is setup with Waddell in the mix. The lefty-hitter has experience at other positions in the infield as he also played both third and second base in college.

For Grissom (currently ranked 13th on my Top 30), the High-A assignment is sort of a long time coming. The 20-year-old has been one of the better Single-A hitters in 2021, and when healthy, he’s no doubt led the Augusta lineup. Grissom entered Thursday with a .311/.402/.446 slash-line, to go with 24 XBH and 13 stolen bases in 75 games with the GreenJackets. And it didn’t take long for the former 11th-round pick to make an impact for the R-Braves, either, as he finished his first High-A game last night 1 for 2 with a run, two walks and a stolen base. The sky is the limit for Grissom, who I think could easily become a top 5 prospect in the Braves system once he starts developing a bit more power with his bat. We have to remember, though, this kid is only 20.

Congrats to both players, and hopefully each of Waddell and Grissom can put a nice bow on what’s already been impressive seasons for the two.

Luke Waddell named Batter of the Week by

Monday, August 30, 2021

-Clint Manry

Well… it didn’t take long for one of the Braves recent draft picks to put himself on the map as a pro. On Monday, announced its weekly awards for Batter and Pitcher of the Week, and this time fifth-rounder Luke Waddell took home the accolade.

Waddell’s performance with High-A Rome last week (six games) — highlighted by two-homer finishes on each of Tuesday and Friday — included a 12 for 22 (.545 AVG) stretch at the plate to go with six home runs and six RBI (good for a ridiculous 365 wRC+).

All of that production this past week really catapulted Waddell out of what was a rather slow start as a professional. After beginning his pro career by hitting .190 over his first 13 games, the former Georgia Tech star is now hitting a strong .313 for the season and is already up to seven XBH (six HR) in his first 19 games overall.

I wrote about Waddell this past Sunday, following his latest two-homer performance for the R-Braves, but it’s nice to see him getting the national recognition he deserves.

Waddell will most likely finish 2021 with Rome, but if he continues to rake at the High-A level over these last few weeks it’s likely he’ll receive a Double-A assignment at some point next season, possibly taking the place of current M-Braves shortstop, Braden Shewmake. Either way, congratulations to kid as he appears to be the real deal.

Luke Waddell appears determined to rise quickly

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

I haven’t looked deep into it, but the Braves did something I don’t believe they usually do: they drafted three shortstops in the 2021 MLB Draft (four if you count two-way player Spencer Schwellenbach, although he’ll pitch as a pro).

  • Cal Conley (4th round)
  • Luke Waddell (5th round)
  • Caleb Durbin (14th round)

Each of these field generals above have experienced different results as professional ball players so far. Durbin – who’s currently playing at the rookie level with the FCL Braves – has mostly struggled, sporting a .231 AVG with no XBH in nine games. Conley, though, has been a bit better with Single-A Augusta, currently carrying a .261 AVG with four XBH in 17 games. But then there’s Waddell – a 23-year-old out of Georgia Tech. He’s playing on a totally different level.

After starting his pro debut a bit slow by hitting .167 in his first nine games with Rome, the lefty-hitting Waddell has been on a complete tear over the last week or so. Beginning with a combined 3 for 6 performance during the R-Braves doubleheader on August 20, Waddell has rarely missed, going 13 for 31 (.419 AVG) with five home runs and eight RBI in his last nine games – good for a 248 wRC+ in that span. Even more impressive, all five of those long balls have come in his last five games as the young shortstop already has two multi-homer performances during that stretch.

Now we knew going into the draft that Waddell could hit. His 55-grade Hit tool was one of his best grades on draft day, which compliments well with his above-average speed. But the power-stroke is admittedly a bit of a surprise, given Waddell received a 30-grade for Power and only tallied 12 homers in 172 career games in college, spanning across four seasons. But blasts like these don’t just come from good luck…

Waddell’s outlook in the system

It’s reasonable to believe, as Braves Journal managing editor Ryan Cothran opined on Sunday, that if Waddell can keep this up he’ll most likely see a Double-A assignment next season. Braden Shewmake has looked much better of late and with his age he’ll need to see Triple-A pitching soon, opening a spot for the Braves latest star at shortstop in Waddell. However, we also shouldn’t generate too high of expectations. We’ve seen this before where first-year players go crazy at the plate only to regress drastically in Year 2. If you recall, first baseman Bryce Ball hit the pro ranks by storm when he was drafted in 2019 but struggled mightily with Rome earlier this season (leading to him being traded to the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Joc Pederson).

Either way, though, it’s great to see some middle-infield talent developing in the Braves system. This organization hasn’t had this much depth at the shortstop position in a long time, which leads me to believe that the draft strategy this year was intentional. We’ll see how he develops through the rest of this season, but it appears the Braves have a potential top-tier prospect in Waddell. If nothing else, he sure is putting together an incredible debut as a pro.

Braves drop Game 2 to Giants; Rome’s Luke Waddell stays scorching hot

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Unfortunately the Braves offense just couldn’t figure out the Giants’ Logan Webb last night as the 24-year-old righty tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out six. Webb allowed just five hits, all of which were just singles, and San Francisco cruised to a shut-out win (5-0) on Saturday.

For Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa, it was only his third start since coming off the injured list, and overall he pitched really well. The righty totaled 96 pitches over six innings, allowing two runs from just three hits to go with three walks and three strikeouts. Ynoa did allow a homer to the second batter of the game, Tommy La Stella, but other than that the 23-year-old pitcher limited the damage. Relievers Richard Rodriguez and Chris Martin allowed three runs combined as the former allowed a homer to Mike Yastrzemski in the seventh and the latter surrendered both an RBI single (by Darin Ruf) and an RBI double (by Yastrzemski) in the ninth.

The Braves division lead has now shrunken to just 4.5 as both the Phillies and Mets won on Saturday. Philly and New York are currently in the midst of some pretty easy series, with the former facing the D’Backs and the latter going up against the Nationals. However, given the news regarding a special somebody in the starting rotation, Atlanta has a chance to push that NL East advantage back to 5.5 games. It was reported on Friday that righty Ian Anderson would be back with the Braves on Sunday. And today Anderson will start Atlanta’s day game (1:20 PM) against the Giants, facing a solid righty in Anthony DeSclafani.

With how great Anderson has thrown the ball in Triple-A Gwinnett, he should be able to keep the Giants contained so that hopefully the Atlanta lineup can get going.

And I didn’t plan on doing any writing on the Braves minor league action from yesterday. However, I have to say something about one of the Braves 2021 draft picks, fifth-round shortstop Luke Waddell.

Waddell homered again for Rome on Saturday night, giving him five long balls in the last five games. Thanks to a current five-game stretch in which he’s hitting .526 with a 1.316 OPS, Waddell is hitting .245 in 15 total games as a pro this season, and looks like a damn good-hitting shortstop. I didn’t include Waddell in my latest Braves 2021 Top 30 earlier this month, but now I’m wondering if I should have. Keep an eye on this kid.

But anyways, here are scores and stats from Saturday’s Braves action down on the farm…

(69-59) Atlanta Braves

L, 5-0 vs. Giants

SP, H, Ynoa – (L), 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, HR

2B, O. Albies – 2 for 4, SB

3B, A. Riley – 2 for 4

1B, F. Freeman – 2 for 4

(58-43) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 2-1 vs. Nashville

SP, J. Rodriguez – 7 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K

C, W. Contreras – 1 for 3, 2B

CF, C. Pache – 2 for 3, BB

1B, J. Camargo – 2 for 4, RBI

(58-39) Mississippi Braves

Cancelled (COVID-19)

(45-55) Rome Braves

W, 4-3 vs. Bowling Green

SP, D. Vines – (W), 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K, HR

SS, L. Waddell – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI

LF, A. Moritz – 2 for 5

DH, C. Milligan – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

RF, D. Campbell – 1 for 4, HR, RBI, SB

(42-59) Augusta GreenJackets

L, 6-2 vs. Charleston

SP, D. Dodd – (L), 3.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, BB, 7 K

3B, C. Bunnell – 2 for 5, R

C, A. Zebrowski – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

RF, L. Stephens – 1 for 2, RBI, BB

(21-20) FCL Braves

PPD vs. FCL Rays