Braves' recent Draftees flood Top 30 Prospects list

August 11th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman's Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ATLANTA -- The tremendous potential of the Braves’ latest MLB Draft class can be seen within MLB Pipeline’s updated list of the club’s Top 30 prospects.

First-round selection Hurston Waldrep established himself as one of the best college pitchers available with the help of a highly regarded splitter. He ranks as the club’s new No. 2 prospect. His former Team USA teammate, who was taken with a compensation pick after the second round, debuts on this list at No. 4.

AJ Smith-Shawver made the meteoric rise from High-A to the Majors this year. He became the club’s top prospect a couple of months ago, and he remains in that position with this latest update.

Here’s a look at the Braves' Top 5 prospects:
AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (MLB No. 58)
Hurston Waldrep, RHP
Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP
Cade Kuehler, RHP
Owen Murphy, RHP

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the preseason list:

Luis De Avila, LHP (Preseason: 30 | Midseason: 14)
The 22-year-old hurler began his pro career with the Rockies, but he was released in 2019 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing supplement. He caught on with the Royals in 2021 but was taken by the Braves in the Minor League phase of that year’s Rule 5 Draft. De Avila led the South Atlantic League in multiple categories last season. He’s continued to strike out a little more than one batter per inning at the Double-A level, but his walk rate remains an issue.

Brandol Mezquita, OF (Preseason: 17 | Midseason: NR)
Mezquita stayed with the Braves after his $300,000 signing bonus was erased by the international signing sanctions levied on the club in 2017. He showed some promise with Single-A Augusta last year, but he faded with High-A Rome and has struggled at that level again this season. Mezquita has struck out in nearly a third of his plate appearances and produced a sub-.500 OPS.

New to the list
Here are the players added to the Top 30 from outside the organization:

No. 2 Hurston Waldrep, RHP (Draft)
No. 4 Cade Kuehler, RHP (Draft) 
No. 17 Drue Hackenberg, RHP (Draft) 
No. 18 Sabin Ceballos, 3B (Draft) 
No. 19 Garrett Baumann, RHP (Draft)
No. 23 Isaiah Drake, OF (Draft)
No. 29 Lucas Braun, RHP (Draft)
No. 30 Allan Winans, RHP (2021 Rule 5 Draft)

Impact callup
Smith-Shawver just was back up for his second big league stint, then sent down after one start. It’s been a crazy year with a rapid ascent from High-A to Atlanta, and he’s only amassed 144 professional innings. He’s been starting mostly, but he looked pretty good in one relief outing in the big leagues, so seeing him contribute in that fashion down the stretch could make some sense.

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade. 

Hit: 55 -- Ignacio Alvarez (Ceballos, Luis Guanipa)
Power: 55 -- David McCabe
Run: 70 -- Isaiah Drake
Arm: 60 -- Ambioris Tavarez (McCabe)
Defense: 60 -- Braden Shewmake
Fastball: 65 -- Waldrep
Curveball: 55 -- Kuehler
Slider: 60 -- Schwellenbach (Kuehler, JR Ritchie, Adam Maier)
Changeup: 60 -- Darius Vines (Winans)
Control: 55 -- Schwellenbach (Hackenberg, Winans, Owen Murphy, Darius Vines, Dylan Dodd)