This Braves arm is growing up before our very eyes

June 24th, 2024

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 -- has been in the Majors for nearly a month. But he still seems to be the best choice for the Braves’ midseason Minor League player of the year.

Schwellenbach (Atlanta's No. 3 prospect) posted a 1.80 ERA, limited opponents to a .513 OPS and constructed a 5.10 strikeout-to-walk rate while combining to make eight starts for High-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi. He has validated this success while allowing three runs or fewer over five or more innings in three of his first four Major League starts.

“It’s incredible, man,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “The adjustments he’s made, and just how fast he’s made the adjustments, are really impressive, especially with all of his pitches. It’s impressive to see how comfortable he is with his changeup, when [in the Minors] it wasn’t really one of his best pitches.

“We all know about his slider and heater. His heater command is so good, and he’s able to put it in all four quadrants at 95-98 [mph]. Now, his curveball is coming along. You can basically call whatever you want and you can have confidence he’ll put it wherever you want it.”

This isn’t what you would expect to hear about a pitcher who just last year made his first start above the high-school level. Schwellenbach was a shortstop during his first two years at the University of Nebraska. He added closing duties to his responsibilities the following year, got drafted in the second round in 2021 and then missed all of 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Schwellenbach was carefully used last year, so this is actually his first unbridled year as a starter above the high-school level. Needless to say, it was hard to project he would rise to the Majors this soon. But his ascension and immediate success has allowed the Braves to keep their rotation solidified, despite the depth being reduced by the injuries suffered by Spencer Strider, AJ Smith-Shawver (Atlanta's No. 1 prospect, No. 56 prospect) and Hurston Waldrep (Braves' No. 2 prospect, No. 72 overall).

“I’m just growing every time I pitch,” Schwellenbach said.

Midseason Player of the Year for each affiliate

Triple-A Gwinnett: RHP Allan Winans (No. 25 prospect)
Winans, in 11 International League outings this season, has notched a stellar 3.17 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and a miniscule .209 opponents’ batting average. His five quality starts match Bryce Elder for the team lead. He has posted a 0.47 ERA, while recording 25 strikeouts and issuing just two walks in three starts (19 innings) in June.

Double-A Mississippi: LHP Hayden Harris
Harris has struck out 39 percent (34 of 87) of the batters he has faced this year. His 1.74 ERA is more impressive when you account for the fact three of the four earned runs he has allowed over 20 2/3 innings were tallied in one game.

High-A Rome: INF E.J. Exposito
Like Harris, Exposito isn’t listed among the Braves’ top 30 prospects, but you can’t ignore his production. The 23-year-old infielder has hit .286 with 11 homers and a .866 OPS. He has been successful with 20 of 23 stolen-base attempts.

Single-A Augusta: RHP Garrett Baumann (No. 23 prospect)
Baumann’s 6-foot-8 frame hasn’t prevented him from showing good command during his first full professional season. He has produced a 5.3 percent walk rate while producing a 3.20 ERA through his first 12 starts.