Atlanta Braves Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects

Martin breaks down the future of the NL East powerhouse Atlanta Braves!

The Braves have one of the best teams in baseball. Even after the recent signings by the Dodgers, the Braves still project to lead the league in wins. Although they lack eye-popping prospects, their farm system still carries plenty of intrigue. Led by three big-name pitchers, the Braves are an organization dynasty managers have learned to trust. Keep reading to find all 20 names and be sure to check out the Phillies’ top prospect report from yesterday.


The Top Tier


1) AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, Age: 21
2023 MiLB Stats (A+, AA, AAA): 62 IP | 2.76 ERA | 31.3 K% | 13.1 BB%
2023 MLB Stats: 25.1 IP | 4.26 ERA | 19.1 K% | 10.5 BB%

The Braves’ run on young starting pitching dating back to the early 90s is unprecedented and has led to their domination of the NL East over the past 25 years. The latest crop is headlined by right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver, a 21-year-old entering his third season in the organization. As a prep, Smith-Shawver starred at Colleyville Heritage HS (TX), where he played alongside Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. Smith-Shawver was a multi-sport college recruit who signed with the Braves after the 2021 MLB Draft. Standing 6’3″-205 lbs, Smith-Shawver had the size and athleticism the Braves coveted. 

On the mound, Smith-Shawver is a big body with a high-velocity arsenal. His four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s, reaching the upper 90s with ease. His four-seam is elite, rating at 28.6% ICR (Ideal Contact Rate), ranking 99th percentile in baseball, albeit in a small sample. He also throws a slider, change, and curve, all of which produced a 25+% Whiff rate at AAA last season. As Smith-Shawver continues to learn, improving his command should be a focal point in his development.

Over his first two minor league seasons, Smith-Shawver struggled up to Low-A Augusta, posting a 5.49 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 76 innings. However, we should give him a pass, as he began pitching development early in 2022. His breakout came in 2023 when he posted a 2.76 ERA in 62 innings across three levels, earning his way to Atlanta mid-season. His major league debut was brief, but Smith-Shawver showed enough to make his way onto the postseason roster for the NL East Champs. Entering 2024, Smith-Shawver will battle for a rotation spot but could end up in Triple-A to start the season. Once he arrives, his upside is a top-of-the-rotation arm on a winning team.


2) Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Age: 21
2023 MiLB Stats (A, A+, AA, AAA): 29.1 IP | 1.53 ERA | 33.3 K% | 13.0 BB%

Fresh off a historic season for the University of Florida, Waldrep was the Braves’ first-round pick in July’s MLB Draft as they selected him 24th overall. As a junior for the Gators, Waldrep was 10-3 with a 4.16 ERA, earning second-team All-American honors. Waldrep made his name known with a dominant postseason run, including an eight-inning gem against South Carolina, striking out 13 to lead Florida into the Championship Series. In all, Waldrep struck out 39 hitters in 23 innings in the postseason, cementing his place in the first round.

Like Smith-Shawver, Waldrep has an outstanding three-pitch mix, headlined by a high-90s fastball that produced a 30+% Whiff rate in the minors. In addition, he throws a hard slider and a split-change, both of which have the potential to be plus offerings. The main point of worry surrounding Waldrep is inconsistent control, but his arsenal is dynamic, and he can overcome any deficiencies. Waldrep has a realistic shot to debut this season in the big leagues, possibly as a dark horse candidate out of Spring Training.


3) Owen Murphy, RHP, Age: 20
2023 MiLB Stats (A, A+): 89.2 IP | 4.72 ERA | 29.6 K% | 8.4 BB%

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed a trend. The Braves have a litany of talented young pitching, and Murphy fits the mold perfectly. The 6’1″-190 lbs righty from Illinois was the Braves top pick in the 2022 Draft, the fourth pitcher off the board in a class that included Cade Horton and Kumar Rocker. As a prep, Murphy was Gatorade Player of the Year (IL) as a two-way player and played for Team USA before his selection by the Braves. Since his debut, Murphy has thrown just over 100 innings, producing a 4.69 ERA and 30.2% strikeout rate across three levels.

Murphy has mid-rotation stuff, but his unique four-pitch mix offers a safe floor for fantasy owners. His four-seam fastball sits in the low 90s but plays up thanks to solid off-speed offerings. His best off-speed pitch is his slider, although his curve offers an alternative breaking option. The changeup is still developing but has shown flashes of potential. Murphy is solid and has racked up strikeouts in the minors while limiting walks. At just 20 years old, I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Murphy, but 2024 should give us a gauge for his long-term ceiling.


4) Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP, Age: 23
2023 MiLB (A, A+): 65 IP | 2.35 ERA | 21.6 K% | 6.3 BB%

On potential alone, Schwellenbach is an intriguing asset. The Braves #3 prospect is yet another converted two-way player, this time a collegiate shortstop at Nebraska, who became an elite reliever. The issue for Schwellenbach is that he’s logged just 96 combined innings (31 NCAA/65 MiLB), partially due to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021. On the surface, Schwellenbach fits the part. At 6’1-200 lbs., he has a solid frame and a smooth delivery with an arsenal that looks effortless. Build-up following Tommy John is always a slow process, and the Braves seem to have erred on the side of caution with him this season.

When he’s on the mound, Schwellenbach features a mid-to-upper-90s heater that has maintained velocity post-surgery. He has two off-speed pitches, a hard-breaking slider, and a sinking change. As you’ll see in the video below, his ability to miss bats is prevalent, especially when he’s in rhythm. Much like Murphy, I’m looking forward to 2024 and seeing what Schwellenbach brings as he’s stretched out for more innings.


5) Ignacio Alvarez, SS/3B, Age: 20
2023 MiLB Stats (A+): .284 AVG | .395 OBP | .391 SLG | 7 HR | 16 SB | 20.8 K% | 16.0 BB%

We temporarily move over to the offensive side of the Braves organization and look at “Nacho” Alvarez, one of the best names in all of baseball. Alvarez is a stocky 5’11” – 190 lbs infielder with versatility in multiple positions. Following his 5th-round selection in 2022, Alvarez hit .287 in his first 30 professional games, walking more than he struck out (26:15). This season was a mini breakout for Alvarez, showing off his ability to hit the ball to all fields and displaying power in the process. Although he profiles hit-over-power, he could pop double-digit homers as he gets stronger.

Alvarez has a good feel for the zone, evidenced by his double-digit walk rate and lack of chase. He has shown advanced contact skills and is utilizing his power/speed combination to find the gaps and turn them into extra bases. Defensively, Alvarez is likely to stick at third base as he lacks the range to play short long-term but has a cannon for an arm to make the throw across the diamond.


6) Luis Guanipa, OF, Age: 18
2023 MiLB Stats (ROOK): .238 AVG | .361 OBP | .384 SLG | 4 HR | 20 SB | 24.4 K% | 13.4 BB%

Luis Guanipa, the Braves’ top signee in the 2023 International Class, is an intriguing prospect despite being just 18 years old. Guanipa has the build of a typical teenager, standing 5’11” – 190 lbs, and will likely add to his frame. Even still, he had a solid debut season. In 2023, Guanipa played 46 games at Rookie ball, posting impressive numbers, including 20 steals and a .361 on-base percentage. 

As for tools, Guanipa has an impressive blend of raw power and quickness that shows a future 20-20 output. According to MLBPipeline, evaluators have marveled at “his plus bat speed and the way the ball jumps off his bat.” As a defender, Guanipa is rangy enough to play centerfield and has above-average defensive instincts. Look for Guanipa to be a fast riser in the Braves’ system, and he is an exciting asset in dynasty formats.


7) JR Ritchie, RHP, Age: 20
2023 MiLB Stats (A): 13.1 IP | 5.40 ERA | 47.2 K% | 5.7 BB%

JR Ritchie is my 7th-ranked prospect in the Braves organization, more for what he’s capable of than what he’s done. Ritchie was diagnosed with a torn UCL earlier this season and underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Ritchie was a 2022 Draft Pick and had made nine starts before the injury. In those outings, Ritchie struck out 39 hitters in 27 2/3 innings with just eight walks. He will miss the first half of 2024, and the Braves will monitor his workload upon his return.

When he’s healthy, Ritchie is dynamic on the mound. His fastball reaches the mid-90s with significant run. He compliments the power fastball with two distinct breaking pitches, a curve, and a devastating slider. The arsenal rounds out with a changeup with great depth and fade, playing perfectly off the fastball. Tommy John recovery is always a concern, so monitor Ritchie’s velocity and feel for the breaking pitches when he returns to action. Ritchie is a clear buy-low in dynasty leagues with the potential to pay off big down the road.


Prospects Dynasty Managers Should Know


8) Darius Vines, RHP, Age: 25
2023 MLB Stats: 20.1 IP | 3.98 ERA | 16.7 K% | 8.3% BB
2023 MiLB Stats (ROOK, A+, AAA): 49.1 IP | 2.37 ERA | 25.3 K% | 8.2 BB%

Vines follows the adage that you don’t have to throw hard to get guys out. With a fastball that tops out in the low-90s on his best day, Vines is the anti-power pitcher, instead relying on three above-average off-speed pitches to elicit soft contact and get some whiffs. As a result, Vines should provide quality innings with win opportunities, albeit with marginal strikeout numbers out of a long-relief role.


9) Cade Kuehler, RHP, Age: 21
2023 MiLB Stats (A): 7 IP | 0.00 ERA | 30.8 K% | 15.4 BB%

Kuehler was the Braves’ 2023 2nd round pick, grabbing the righty out of Campbell College. In his professional debut, Kuehler threw seven scoreless innings at Low-A Augusta. Kuehler has a dynamic four-seam fastball that reaches the upper 90s with plenty of movement and three secondary offerings. His command needs improvement, but he should have no problem missing bats at the next level.


10) Luis De Avila, LHP, Age: 23
2023 MiLB Stats (AA,AAA): 127 IP | 3.26 ERA | 23.6 K% | 12 BB%

De Avila is a crafty southpaw who gets a combination of strikeouts and groundouts using a slider-change combination. De Avila also throws a low-90s sinking fastball, but the pitch is more of a secondary offering. Although De Avila has primarily been a starter in the minors, I’d anticipate a bullpen transition in the majors.


11) Ambioris Tavarez, SS, Age: 20
2023 MiLB Stats (A): .216 AVG | .319 OBP | .343 SLG | 7 HR | 21 SB | 47.1 K% | 10.6 BB%

Tavarez joined Douglas Glod as the premium signee of the 2021 International class, earning a $1.5 million bonus to sign with Atlanta. While his 2023 season was disappointing, Tavarez has outstanding bat speed and raw power. Contact skills are a concern, but Tavarez has the talent and athleticism that gives optimism for the future.


12) Drue Hackenberg, RHP, Age: 21
2023 MiLB Stats (A,AA): 6.1 IP | 1.42 ERA | 44.8 K% | 20.7 BB%

Hackenberg comes from an athletic family that produced four professional athletes, including his brother Christian, a QB for the NY Jets. Drue relies on the outstanding command of a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider that generates plenty of whiffs. Although he’s seen limited professional action, Hackenberg is a name to monitor moving forward and projects as a reliable MLB starter.


13) Douglas Glod, OF, Age: 18
2023 MiLB Stats (ROOK): .224 AVG | .386 OBP | .398 SLG | 5 HR | 6 SB | 39.8 K% | 23.6 BB%

Glod was disappointing in 2023, continuing to struggle with making consistent contact and poor plate discipline. The diminutive outfielder still possesses loud tools, including impressive bat speed and raw power. Still just 18 years old, Glod has plenty of time to continue his development and capitalize on his talents.


14) Dylan Dodd, LHP, Age: 25
2023 MiLB Stats (AAA): 78 IP | 5.65 ERA | 20.9 K% | 8.8 BB%
2023 MLB Stats: 34.1 IP | 7.60 ERA | 9.1 K% | 7.9 BB%

Dodd made his MLB debut on April 4th in St. Louis, allowing just one run over 5 1/3 innings against the Cardinals. He was the talk of the fantasy world, an unknown rookie to a suddenly desirable asset. From that point on, the wheels fell off for Dodd. The left-hander struggled mightily in 2023 and looks to rebuild his stock entering 2024. Dodd is still a viable name in deep dynasty leagues, but he’s likely to start this season at Triple-A Gwinnett.


15) David McCabe, 3B, Age: 23
2023 MiLB Stats (A, A+): .276 AVG | .385 OBP | .450 SLG | 17 HR | 10 SB | 21.6 K% | 15.3 BB%

After his selection in the 2022 Draft, McCabe made a solid first impression in the Braves organization in 2023. The 6’4″ slugger belted 17 homers and posted a .835 OPS in 123 games while walking at a 15.3% clip. McCabe continues to switch hit, but his splits are skewed heavily as a left-handed hitter, including 16 of his 17 homers. McCabe should see a prominent jump in 2024 after finishing last season in the Arizona Fall League.


The Next Five: Although these prospects did not crack the top 15, dynasty managers should keep their eye on these five players.


16) Garrett Baumann (Age:19)– 6’8″ prep arm with power arsenal but inconsistent mechanics

17) Jesse Franklin V (Age:25)– Speedy outfielder with plenty of raw power but plenty of mechanical flaws in swing

18) Allan Winans (Age: 28)- Crafty right-hander had marginal success with the big club in 2023. Winans projects as a long reliever or spot starter in 2024.

19) Adam Maier (Age: 22)- Recovering from internal brace procedure (’22), but arm talent was evident in limited mound work

20) Sabin Ceballos (Age: 21)– 3rd rounder in 2023 with a big frame (6’3-225) and advanced feel for the hitting zone. Power remains in question, but the hit tool is evident.


Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

Martin Sekulski

Martin is a Dynasty writer for PitcherList. He is a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation and attributes his love of baseball to his father, Marty. As a father and a husband, Martin now loves sharing his love of America's pastime with his family. You can find his work on Twitter and SubStack

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