Welcome to the Braves prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.
Harris fast out of the gate (April 15)
Center fielder Michael Harris, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Braves’ top prospect, has opened the Double-A season with a seven-game hitting streak. Batting leadoff, Harris was 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and one run scored in Mississippi’s 7-3 loss to Biloxi on April 15. The fifth-inning double gave Harris four extra-base hits in his past four games (two doubles, two triples). His slash line stood at .379/.419/.586 through the seven games. He also notched his first outfield assist of 2022 in the April 15 game, cutting down a runner attempting to stretch a single into a double. — Shaun O’Neill
Harris drives in three on three-hit day (April 10)
No. 1 prospect Michael Harris II is still looking for an extra-base hit to start 2022, but he made the most of three singles in his first multihit game for Double-A Mississippi, driving in three runs and reaching base four times to help the Braves get their first win of the season, 8-2, over Montgomery.
The outfielder got the scoring started in the bottom of the second when he turned on the first pitch he saw and sharply grounded up the middle to plate two. In the following inning, he took a 1-1 pitch and deposited it into shallow left for his second hit and third RBI of the day, plating fellow prospect Trey Harris as part of a four-run inning. He drew a four-pitch walk in the fifth before adding his final single of the day, another looper into left. The 21-year-old stole second but was caught trying to take third base. Harris is by no means a power hitter, but he’s a top-tool player in just about every other regard. He’ll look to add on to his strong 2021 season, during which he batted .294 with a .798 OPS, 64 RBIs, 36 extra-base hits, 35 walks and 27 stolen bases in 101 High-A games. — Stephanie Sheehan
Elder finishes spring without allowing a hit (April 5)
Bryce Elder, the Braves’ No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, put together a solid Spring Training and showed he could be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation option for Atlanta this year if called upon. The Braves’ fifth-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Elder, who will start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, did not surrender a hit over 7 2/3 innings, struck out four and walked three in Grapefruit League play.
Elder swiftly progressed through the Braves’ Minor League system last year, starting at High-A Rome and finishing at Gwinnett, where the righty posted a 2.21 ERA in seven starts. Across three Minor League clubs in 2021, Elder held opponents to a .193 average and struck out 155 in 137 2/3 innings. With Atlanta deciding to start the year with a six-man rotation, along with the trials and tribulations of the regular-season grind, the 22-year-old Elder could see time in the Majors sooner rather than later. — CJ Haddad
Harris II impresses at camp, gets optioned (March 28)
Braves top prospect Michael Harris II was optioned Saturday. But the talented young outfielder made another great impression while in big league camp.
“I’m all over Michael Harris,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I love that kid. It’s hard not to. That’s what they look like. He just needs some more experience. He’s still a young kid with limited playing time in the Minor Leagues. He’s going to Double-A. So, he’s fair game now.”
Harris hit .294 with seven homers and a .798 OPS for High-A Rome last year. The 21-year-old suburban Atlanta native ranks as baseball’s No. 65 prospect per MLB Pipeline. — Mark Bowman
Smith-Shawver draws praise from top prospect (March 20)
To understand the respect Braves pitching prospect AJ Smith-Shawver might begin to garner this year, one can look at the assessment provided by one of baseball’s top overall prospects.
“He’s a hard worker,” Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr. said. “Super raw talent. I’m really excited to see where he goes, because now he has that mindset of baseball as a passion. He loves the game now. I think he’s just going to shoot up from there.”
Witt, who ranks as MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect, might be biased. But he also has known of Smith-Shawver’s tremendous athleticism far longer than most. The two have been playing sports together going back to their elementary school days in the Fort Worth, Texas, area.
Smith-Shawver was two years younger, but he developed a strong friendship with Witt as they played basketball in the driveway, tossed around the football on occasion and teamed to help Colleyville Heritage High School win a Class 5A state title in 2019.
Though Smith-Shawver didn’t start pitching until his junior year, the Braves liked his arm and athleticism enough to take him in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB draft. The young right-hander is still getting a feel for secondary stuff as he approaches his first full professional season. — Mark Bowman
Waters rising again (March 20)
Drew Waters’ stock might have dropped over the past couple years, but the 23-year-old prospect has come to Braves camp looking to prove he still has a bright future.
Waters homered in Friday’s Grapefruit League-opening 3-1 win over the Twins, then went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk during Saturday’s 4-4 tie against the Rays. The switch-hitting outfielder’s home run came from the right side of the plate.
Waters slashed .319/.366/.481 while constructing an .847 OPS over 454 plate appearances with Double-A Mississippi in 2019. He worked out at the Braves’ alternate training site during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, then slashed .240/.329/.381 with a .710 OPS over 429 plate appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett last year.
“He’s looked good to me,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s still young. But there’s a lot of talent there.” — Mark Bowman