Offseason Prospect Review: Victor Vodnik

Thursday, November 25, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
  • Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)
  • Greyson Jenista, OF/1B (link)
  • William Woods, RHP (link)
  • Darius Vines, RHP (link)
  • Cal Conley, SS/2B (link)
  • Daysbel Hernandez, RHP (link)
  • Trey Harris, OF (link)
  • Indigo Diaz, RHP (link)

#18. VICTOR VODNIK, RHP

22-years-old

2021 stats (AA):  33.2 IP, 5.35 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, 5 HR

Trend:  Down

It’s been a rough year for Vodnik, who, in his first real opportunity to be a starter as a pro, only managed 11 starts in 2021, due to two separate IL stints (one in June and one in September).

Entering the year, I had the righty ranked 13th on my Braves Top 30, and during the season’s first month it looked as if he was headed for a top 10 spot as he put together a strong May, pitching to a 2.51 ERA in four starts. But unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for Vodnik. He would go on to post a 9.00 ERA in July and a 6.10 ERA in August. The kid not only struggled mightily versus opposite-handed batters (lefties), but he also routinely failed to get off the mound when base runners began to pile up; his OPS allowed raised by nearly 200 points, compared to bases empty and runners on in 2021 (.709 to .904). And these righty-lefty splits… ouch…

vs. RHB:  70 PA, .159 AVG, 38.5 K%, .486 OPS

vs. LHB:  59 PA, .326 AVG, 16.9 K%, .996 OPS

2022 outlook

It’s a shame, because it appeared Vodnik was headed for a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League this fall. The righty was included on the Fall Stars team, and up to the last month of the season out in the desert, he was one of the league’s best pitchers, sporting a 2.77 ERA with 9.7 strikeouts per nine. However, that final month or so of play must have been rough on Vodnik, because he wound up finishing his AFL stint this year with a 5.70 ERA across four starts overall and two relief appearances.

I’m certainly not giving up on Vodnik. This is still a kid with a 65 FV fastball (reaches upper-90s MPH) and two solid secondaries in a changeup and slider. He definitely has the stuff to stick it as a starter, it’s just his command (currently a 30-grade, per FanGraphs) and consistency that’s holding him back. I look for the Braves to continue allowing him to work on his command and secondary offerings in Double-A in 2022, and simply go from there. As a former 14th rounder, Vodnik has already worked out as a draft pick. But I do still think there’s more to unlock.

Offseason Prospect Review: Indigo Diaz

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
  • Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)
  • Greyson Jenista, OF/1B (link)
  • William Woods, RHP (link)
  • Darius Vines, RHP (link)
  • Cal Conley, SS/2B (link)
  • Daysbel Hernandez, RHP (link)
  • Trey Harris, OF (link)

#19. INDIGO DIAZ, RHP

23-years-old

2021 stats (A+ / AA):  45 IP, 1.20 ERA, 16.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, HR

Trend:  Up

Maybe you hadn’t heard of Diaz prior to the 2021 season. As a 27th round pick out of Michigan State in 2019, the kid only pitched 10.1 pro innings in the Braves system during his draft year and his 3.48 ERA with the GCL Braves wasn’t anything extraordinary. However, after the season he just had, I’m sure you’ve heard of him now.

Diaz did more than dominate in 2021 – the kid almost looked bored out there. First it was High-A Rome, where he averaged a ridiculous 18 strikeouts per nine and pitched to a 1.00 ERA over a 27-inning stretch. Then, it was Double-A Mississippi, where he not only continued with the incredibly-stingy numbers but also finished up the campaign by holding opposing left-handed batters to a .372 OPS. Platoon advantage or disadvantage, bases empty or runners on, Diaz was the same overpowering guy on the mound, which is why in the span of a few months he went from nowhere on my radar to the 19th ranked prospect in the organization. This kid put together one of the most impressive minor league pitching seasons I’ve seen in a while, and the attention will certainly be pointed his way heading into 2022.

2022 outlook

With all that said above, though, I hate to report that Diaz actually struggled mightily in the Arizona Fall League. Over the last couple of months in the desert, the 23-year-old righty pitched to a 12.79 ERA in 6.1 innings as he walked more than he struck out. And I know it’s a bit disappointing, and the rough AFL performance may be a cause for concern for some, but honestly, I wouldn’t look into it too much. For one, the sample-size is incredibly small, and though Diaz has had some control problems throughout his career, I don’t think his middling numbers with the Peoria Javelinas this fall should spoil what he accomplished during the regular season.

In fact, I’d say Diaz is a Braves prospect that’s perhaps on the cusp of contributing at the big league level – maybe even one of the closest among the system’s prospects. The kid has flown through the organization, skipping Single-A altogether, but even with only 45 innings of full-season ball under his belt, I could easily see him getting the call to Atlanta at some point in 2022.

Which means… I expect Diaz to begin the season in Triple-A Gwinnett, where he’ll not only be tested for perhaps the first time but where he can also continue to work on his control and his still-developing breaking ball. The kid already wields a spin-heavy, high-90s MPH fastball, but being able to also use his curveball will be huge in his quest to becoming a late-innings reliever in the majors. I certainly think he has what it takes. Let’s see if he can keep it up.

Offseason Prospect Review: Trey Harris

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
  • Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)
  • Greyson Jenista, OF/1B (link)
  • William Woods, RHP (link)
  • Darius Vines, RHP (link)
  • Cal Conley, SS/2B (link)
  • Daysbel Hernandez, RHP (link)

#20. TREY HARRIS, OF

25-years-old

2021 stats (AA):  96 G, .247 AVG, 8 HR, 89 wRC+

Trend:  Down

Coming off one of the best single-seasons in some time by a Braves minor league position-player two years ago (earning him Minor League Batter of the Year in 2019), Harris’ prospect stock has begun to decline now that he’s reached the upper-minors and coming up on his age-26 season. In case you forgot, the outfielder hit .323 with 14 homers and 73 RBI, to go with eight stolen bases, in 131 games combined between Single-A, High-A and Double-A in 2019. That impressive performance earned him a no. 11 ranking in my first set of rankings this past season.

However, leading up to my midseason Top 30 in 2021 (where I ranked him 20th), Harris only managed a .653 OPS in 84 games through Aug. 31 as he struggled to provide much power versus lefty-pitching. Overall this past season, even though is AVG versus both flavors of pitching remained fairly consistent, 16 of his 19 XBH came against righties. By far, Harris’ best stretch of play came in the final month as he hit .309 with a monthly-best seven doubles in 17 September games. It wasn’t a bad year for Harris, but given his incredible 2019 campaign, it was quite a step back.

2022 outlook

As you may know, Harris was not protected from this year’s Rule 5 Draft, which will come on December 8. Although, according to Braves Journal’s Ryan Cothran — who has written extensively on the subject — the chances that Harris is taken in the draft is fairly unlikely. In fact, Cothran gives it only a 10% chance.

So moving along with the expectation that Harris remains in the Braves system, it’s fair to say that 2022 is a big year for the soon-to-be 26-year-old (his birthday is in January). The organization is pretty flush when it comes to talented and up-and-coming outfielders, so it’s crucial to his stock that Harris returns more to his 2019 self. Before the 2021 season, it appeared he was on his way to potentially becoming a solid fourth outfielder for the Braves, though now I’m not so sure.

However, there’s also another route for Harris (which I’ve brought up before). Back in his college summer days (2016), he played some infield, totaling a combined nine games at both second and third. Obviously, he’s never done so as a pro, and nine games is basically nothing, but going more towards a utility-type role could improve Harris’ chances at breaking through. The Braves haven’t mentioned any such changes, and I highly doubt they do, but it is an idea.

Either way, given his age and the fact that he’s at nearly 140 career games at the Double-A level, I expect Harris to start 2022 with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he’ll join what’ll no doubt be a crowded outfield. This is still a fairly toolsy prospect, with speed, defense and solid bat, but at this point I’m afraid he’s beginning to run out of time. I’m anxious to see how he handles Triple-A pitching.

Offseason Prospect Review: Daysbel Hernández

Monday, November 22, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
  • Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)
  • Greyson Jenista, OF/1B (link)
  • William Woods, RHP (link)
  • Darius Vines, RHP (link)
  • Cal Conley, SS/2B (link)

#21. DAYSBEL HERNANDEZ, RHP

25-years-old

2021 stats (AA/AAA):  42.1 IP, 3.83 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 4 HR

Trend:  Up

The Braves got a helluva deal when they signed Hernández for $190,000 back in September of 2017 as the 25-year-old continues to perform well in the minors. The righty got his first taste of Triple-A ball in 2021, and though it didn’t go as well as he probably would’ve liked (7.45 ERA), Hernández no doubt gained some much-needed experience. As one of the top prospect relievers in the system, it’s likely he’s called upon by the Braves at some point in 2022, IF he isn’t taken by another team in the Rule 5 Draft.

The problem for Hernández has always been control, shown by his career average of 4.4 walks per nine in the minors. In fact, this past season was perhaps one of his worst regarding free passes as the Cuban pitcher finished with 6.5 walks per nine with Gwinnett (along with 4.4 per nine with the M-Braves). A fastball/slider guy — who consistently reaches the high-90s MPH with the former offering — how far Hernández goes will most likely depend on his ability to remain in control on the mound. There’s no doubt, when this kid is on, he’s one of the best young relievers in the organization.

2022 outlook

Given Hernández’s poor showing with the Stripers this past year, I’m sure he’s looking to rebound in 2022. And it’s likely, given he dominated the level and because of his age, that he gets his chance right out of the gate as I don’t see the Braves making him repeat Double-A. Hopefully Hernández learned something from his brief ten-game stint with Gwinnett in 2021.

I still believe this is a top-25 prospect in the Braves system, and over at FanGraphs, Hernández is right there in that range at no. 19. Even though it’s inevitable that many of the current prospect starters don’t work out, Atlanta doesn’t have too many traditional relievers in its system, which bodes well for Hernández’s chances at one day pitching out of the Braves bullpen. If he can get a bit better at consistently being in control, the sky’s the limit for him.

Offseason prospect review: Greyson Jenista

Monday, November 15, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH (link)
  • Tanner Gordon, RHP (link)

#25. Greyson Jenista, OF/1B

24-years-old

2021 stats:  89 G, .216 AVG, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 124 wRC+

Trend:  Up

Back in August I wrote about Jenista’s strikeout issues, and now that the 2021 season is over, the concern is the same. The 24-year-old struck out 118 times in 329 PA this past year, which comes out to a 35.9% K rate – the highest rate of his pro career so far. Sure, the 19 home runs were nice, ranking second on the M-Braves (behind Shea Langeliers), BUT it’s going to be quite the challenge maintaining an above-average offensive profile with that many whiffs.

In the summer I had Jenista nearing a top-20 ranking, though even with the power explosion it’s going to be difficult for him to stay inside the top 30 in my new list considering the many talented outfielders in this Braves system. Although, I still like this guy as a platoon bat who only faces righties. Just consider his splits this past season…

vs. RHP:  197 PA, .256 AVG, .912 OPS, 13 HR

vs. LHP:  81 PA, .169 AVG, .752 OPS, 5 HR

2022 outlook

Cut back on the whiffs! That’s really the only thing holding back Jenista. Surprisingly, given his size (6-4, 210 lbs.), the guy is pretty athletic, and the times I’ve seen him in person he’s been solid with the glove. Jenista also has some decent speed, going 7 for 9 in stolen bases in 2021. Yeah, all-in-all, this is still a talented Braves prospect. It’s just that, given the depth of the position these days, Jenista is really going to have to step it up even more to keep up.

Obviously, with 163 games spanning two seasons worth of experience in Double-A, Jenista is ready to get his shot with Triple-A Gwinnett — either as a DH, a first baseman or an outfielder (all of which he’s spent of plenty of time playing). We’ll see if he can cut back on the swing and miss in 2022, because if he can, Jenista could finally be on the cusp of reaching his full potential.

Offseason Prospect Review: Drew Lugbauer

Sunday, November 14, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)
  • Cody Milligan, 2B (link)

#27. Drew Lugbauer, 1B/DH

25-years-old

2021 stats: 86 G, .223 AVG, 18 HR, 117 wRC+

Trend: Up

One of the bigger surprises for the Braves minor league system in 2021, Lugbauer caught fire during the first-half of the season and wound up on my mid-season Top 30. However, a middling second-half stunted what could have been an even more spectacular year.

It’s like once the calendar hit August everything changed. For the first 58 games of his 2021 campaign (through July 31), Lugbauer was one of the better hitters in all of Double-A. But the 6-3, 220-pound first baseman couldn’t keep it going down the stretch:

  • May 7 – July 31:  58 G, .266 AVG, .890 OPS, 12 HR
  • Aug. 1 – EOS:  33 G, .145 AVG, .599 OPS, 7 HR

Though even with the rough finish, I’m still a big believer in Lugbauer. He not only increased his walk rate by nearly 5% compared to 2019, but for much of the season he maintained a high average, proving that he is in fact capable of being more than simply a left-handed power-bat.

2022 outlook

Even with the decline in his numbers since I ranked him 27th in the system back in August, I still believe there should be a place for Lugbauer in my upcoming Top 30. However, now about to enter his age-25 season, it’s now or never for the first baseman.

What will be critical is how well he adapts to Triple-A competition, which could be a challenge that presents itself as soon as the start of 2022 (although another short stint with the M-Braves wouldn’t be awful either). With the universal-DH on its way to the majors, consistent power from Lugbauer next season could continue to drastically improve his prospect stock and give the Braves an in-house option for a position it will no doubt need to fill from here on out.

Also helping Lugbauer’s stock is how well he’s hitting this fall in Arizona, where he’s teamed up with fellow Braves position-players Jesse Franklin and Luke Waddell. Playing with the AFL’s Peoria Javelinas, Lugbauer is 15 for 37 (.405 AVG) with five homers and 13 RBI in his first 11 games in the desert (through Saturday), easily leading the lineup. Given how well he hit during the regular season, a strong performance in fall ball will only help Lugbauer as he prepares to possibly open spring camp with the Braves and make his Triple-A Gwinnett debut this coming summer.

Offseason Prospect Review: Jefrey Ramos

Thursday, November, 11, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

#30. Jefrey Ramos, OF

22-years-old

2021 stats (AA): 58 G, .183 AVG, 6 HR, 55 wRC+

Trend:  Down

It’s safe to say that Ramos had a down year in 2021. The outfielder began the summer ranked just inside my top 30 (#28) before falling to 30th in August as he continued to struggle with Double-A Mississippi. In his sixth season in the organization (counting the canceled 2020 campaign), 2021 was no doubt one of the worst for the Dominican.

In fact, Ramos was unable to hold on to his starting spot with the M-Braves, shown by his 58 games played. The 22-year-old’s strikeout rate soared (30%) and his power plummeted, causing him to post career-lows in just about every offensive category in 2021. And it’s a real shame, because for the last three years it appeared Ramos was on the upward trend.

Following a big year in rookie ball in 2017, featuring a .325 AVG and six homers in 30 games, the prospect outfielder broke out in Single-A in 2018, crushing 16 long balls to go with a 102 wRC+. He kept it going in 2019 as well, with High-A Florida, posting a respectable .241 AVG with nine homers and solid plate discipline numbers. I don’t think any of us ever looked at Ramos as an ultra-high-contact hitter, but his power potential made him someone that only needed to hover around a .250-260 AVG to remain a solid contributor at the plate.

2022 outlook

It’s doubtful Ramos remains inside the top 30 to start the 2022 campaign. With so many up-and-coming young players in the Braves system now, he’ll have to earn his way back on the list. However, I do still believe it’s too early to completely give up on the outfielder. One poor season shouldn’t ruin a player’s stock, and with another year in Double-A, Ramos may make the adjustments needed to turn his play around.

The big thing that Ramos will have to improve is his plate discipline. There’s no way he can become a viable major league player when he’s striking out 30% of the time AND providing very little power. The kid will need to shorten things up and focus more on putting the ball in play, and maybe hits will start falling. When the 2022 season begins, Ramos will still be only 23, so there’s still plenty of hope. But either way, next year will be an important one for him.

Shea Langeliers and Bryce Elder named Braves minor league players of the year; Langeliers added to Triple-A Gwinnett roster

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

I must’ve been on to something when I selected my own version of 2021’s minor league MVP and Cy Young for the Braves farm system. Both of my award winners have been named the best at their respective position groups for this season. Although, it’s not as if they were difficult choices. On Tuesday, the Braves announced its Players of the Year for the 2021 season, naming Shea Langeliers Batter of the Year and Bryce Elder Pitcher of the Year.

Oh… and Langeliers was also added to Triple-A Gwinnett’s active roster for the team’s final week of play.

In case for some reason you’ve missed the entire 2021 minor league season, both Langeliers and Elder have evolved into superstars this year, with the former at Double-A Mississippi and the latter… well… essentially everywhere.

Langeliers also took home the Hank Aaron award and Elder the Phil Neikro award, both accolades representing the top position-player and pitcher in the farm system.

If you’re interested in catching the Stripers before its 2021 season is over, today Gwinnett begins a five-game series with Jacksonville at home, with Elder taking the mound for what will most likely be his final outing of the year. So far, in six starts at the Triple-A level, the 22-year-old Elder has pitched to a 2.20 ERA, including 9.9 strikeouts per nine. The Braves prospect has been especially stingy lately. Over his last four starts, Elder has only allowed three earned runs in 21 innings – good for a 1.29 ERA.

Meanwhile, Langeliers will look to keep his impressive performance going this season. Spending all of 2021 with the M-Braves, the prospect catcher has managed to hit .258 with 22 homers and 52 RBI (128 wRC+), putting himself among some of the best hitters in all of Double-A. It’s not much of a sample-size, but hopefully a week-long look at the top level of the minors will at least give Langeliers an opportunity to get ready for 2022, where he’ll likely start his season. Both Elder and Langeliers are on track to potentially debut in the majors next year.

Braves 2021 Minor League Awards: Reliever of the Year

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

-Clint Manry

I’ve covered perhaps the two most noteworthy end-of-year awards for the Braves minor league system, awarding righty Bryce Elder this season’s Cy Young winner and catcher Shea Langeliers MVP. Today it’s time to look at another Braves minor league award: Reliever of the Year.

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: Reliever of the Year

Indigo Diaz

You may not remember him as a prospect, but Craig Kimbrel’s career in the Braves minor league system was unlike anything we’d seen at the time. From 2008 until late-2010, the hard-throwing right-hander was nearly unhittable, and in 2009 – spanning four different levels – Kimbrel averaged 15.5 strikeouts per nine to go with a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings of relief. There was no doubt about it – this kid was the Braves future closer. And we all know what happened next. Kimbrel ended up spending five seasons in Atlanta (2010-14), tallying 186 total saves and 476 strikeouts. As a reliever with the Braves, the Alabama native accrued 11 fWAR, running out to Welcome to the Jungle on an almost nightly basis.

The Braves have rostered some pretty sharp closers since then. But never as incredibly dominant as Kimbrel.

It’s impossible to predict the next Craig Kimbrel, as potential Hall of Fame closers don’t usually come around very often. But in Indigo Diaz, the Braves may have their next homegrown star.

Diaz – drafted in the 27th round by Atlanta in 2019 – wasn’t a very sought-after prospect. He only pitched one season at a major college (Michigan State), and his numbers were far from inspiring (5.73 ERA / 5.9 walks per nine). However, Diaz’s time as a pro has been much different.

Going from nowhere to currently 19th on my latest Braves Top 30, Diaz is now a bonafide prospect within the organization. And although it was only at the rookie level, Diaz actually began showing signs of stardom during his draft year in 2019. With the Gulf Coast League Braves, the then-20-year-old only pitched 10.1 innings that season, but his ability to rack up strikeouts was obvious as he averaged 13.1 punch outs per nine. Admittedly, High-A Rome to start 2021 seemed a little aggressive, but it didn’t take long for Diaz to master that assignment either. In 27 innings there, the righty struck out an incredible 54 batters, which went nicely with his just-as-impressive 1.00 ERA. At nearly three years younger than the average player in Double-A, Diaz continued to mow down the opposition with the M-Braves. Tallying his final 18 frames of the 2021 campaign with Mississippi, the 22-year-old struck out 29 batters – good for an average of 14.5 K/9.

Add it all up and the numbers were video game-like this season. A whopping 83 of the 175 batters Diaz faced in 2021 (or 47.4%) went down on strikes. The kid allowed one home run this year, and amazingly that lone long ball came in Diaz’s very last appearance of the year on September 16 — part of an outing in which he allowed two runs in one inning of work (his one and only appearance in 2021 in which he surrendered more than one run).

So who knows if Diaz has a Kimbrel-like future ahead of him. But either way, this is a slam dunk of a prospect; and at this rate, it won’t be long before he’s contributing in an Atlanta uniform.

Spencer Strider promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett 

Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

Go ahead and add another big Braves prospect promotion to the list for this season. According to Talking Chop’s Eric Cole on Monday morning, right-handed pitcher Spencer Strider is headed to Triple-A Gwinnett. 

The promotion comes with only five regular season games remaining for the Stripers, so it’s obviously less exciting than a midseason or even August assignment. However, Strider should have plenty of time to acquire some innings at the highest level of the minors. Per the report from Cole, Strider is expected to pitch out of Gwinnett’s bullpen.

Strider, taken in the fourth round by the Braves in the shortened 2020 MLB Draft, is a former Clemson star who, at the time of the draft last year, had recently undergone Tommy John surgery, causing many to question just how quickly he would progress as a pro. Although, the now-typical operation hasn’t appeared to slow him down.

Surging fast on my Braves Top 30 list this year, Strider currently ranks seventh on my latest ranking, just behind lefty Tucker Davidson. The 22-year-old Strider began 2021 with Single-A Augusta, but after averaging more than 18 strikeouts per nine and pitching to a 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings, he was quickly moved up to High-A Rome. With the R-Braves, Strider’s stint was even shorter, thanks to 14.7 K/9 and a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 frames. His second promotion of the season, a late-June call-up to Double-A Mississippi, gave Strider his first taste of adversity, though he wound up becoming one of the top starters in the rotation. In 63 innings with the M-Braves, the talented prospect pitcher put together a 4.71 ERA despite allowing only a .211 AVG from opposing batters. 

Any time a player is on his third promotion in one year in the minors it means he’s doing something right. Along with his 2020 draft mate, Bryce Elder, Strider’s move to Triple-A sets him up nicely to possibly debut in the majors as soon as 2022. MLB debut or not, though, this kid is the real deal.