Around the Braves’ farm system: Who’s trending upward

Atlanta Braves outfield prospect Waters is hitting .230/.344/.338 with three homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs this season at Triple-A Gwinnett. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

Credit: Gwinnett Stripers

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Atlanta Braves outfield prospect Waters is hitting .230/.344/.338 with three homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs this season at Triple-A Gwinnett. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

Credit: Gwinnett Stripers

The Braves’ farm system lacks the clear blue-chip talent of recent years, but it’s nonetheless stocked with intriguing developmental players. Beyond the headline prospects, such as outfielders Michael Harris and Drew Waters, the organization is eager to see which prospects will take another step forward.

ExploreDrew Waters, Michael Harris named to Futures Game roster

Outfielder Cristian Pache and lefty Kyle Muller have experienced the majors, leaving Waters, Harris and catcher Shea Langeliers as the biggest names yet to debut, but there are others putting themselves on the map.

An update on some notable Braves prospects:

- While some fans have called for Waters’ promotion amid the Braves’ ever-changing outfield situation, the switch-hitter hasn’t proved he’s ready. Waters is hitting .230/.344/.338 with three homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs this season.

It’s possible Waters still could debut later this summer, perhaps in September, but it’s not guaranteed, especially with how he’s fared lately (1-for-28 with 17 strikeouts across his past eight games). The Braves already saw how Pache struggled when he wasn’t ready for major-league pitching. There’s simply no reason to rush Waters.

- Speaking of Pache, he’s on a skid. He’s just 2-for-22 in his past six games, lowering his slash line to .213/.273/.377 in 18 games this month. As the Braves already decided, Pache needs to continue his development at Triple-A. It’s been a disappointing season thus far for the franchise’s top prospect.

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Braves center fielder Cristian Pache made a rehab appearance with Gwinnett, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, playing center field and going 1-for-3 with a run scored in a 6-2 loss to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

Credit: Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers

Braves center fielder Cristian Pache made a rehab appearance with Gwinnett, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, playing center field and going 1-for-3 with a run scored in a 6-2  loss to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

Credit: Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers

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Braves center fielder Cristian Pache made a rehab appearance with Gwinnett, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, playing center field and going 1-for-3 with a run scored in a 6-2 loss to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

Credit: Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers

Credit: Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers

- Langeliers has 12 homers and five doubles across 40 games (139 at-bats) for Double-A Mississippi, showing some of the power potential the Braves saw when they drafted him ninth overall in 2019.

- The Braves’ other first-round pick that year, infielder Braden Shewmake, has underwhelming numbers (a .188/.315/.325 line) but has shown improvement at the plate recently. He has a hit in eight of his past 10 games, including five multi-hit performances. He’s hit .265/.315/.446 in June.

- Outfielder Jesse Franklin, a third-round pick in 2020, overcame a slow start with a phenomenal June. In his first 18 games, he hit .393/.464/.869 with eight homers, five doubles and 16 RBIs. The 22-year-old University of Michigan product is lauded for his work ethic and power-speed combination. If his recent production continues, he could become the next breakout position player in the system.

“From the alternate site last summer in Gwinnett to spring training and the regular season this year, Jesse has impressed with his work ethic,” Ben Sestanovich, Braves assistant GM of player development, recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “His combination of power and contact skills is very exciting. To see both skills showing up in games this year is especially encouraging for a player who missed an entire year of game action last year (he didn’t appear in any games at Michigan before the draft last year because of injury).”

- Left-hander Spencer Strider already is on his third minor-league level this season. Also part of the 2020 draft class, Strider leaped from low Single-A Augusta to Mississippi in seven starts. The Clemson product had a 0.59 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 15-1/3 innings in Augusta (four starts). In high Single-A Rome, he had a 2.45 ERA in three starts, earning a promotion to Double-A, where he made his first start June 24.

Strider, 22, is an aggressive pitcher who attacks the strike zone. It’s working for him thus far and has led to a quick ascension. Strider will try to work his way to Triple-A Gwinnett before the season ends.

- Harris has lived up to the hype in Rome. He’s hitting .319/.341/.464 with four homers, 12 doubles and 28 RBIs in 42 games. Harris already is a consensus top prospect in the system and eventually may become its No. 1 prospect because of his well-rounded skill set and advanced ability as a hitter.

“I don’t think I’d lose money if I say he’s going to be a young big leaguer,” manager Brian Snitker said during spring training.

- Starter Nolan Kingham was catching eyes in Mississippi, earning him a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. He had a 2.29 ERA across nine starts.

The Braves thought they had good value picking Kingham at No. 352 in the 2018 draft. He was Baseball America’s No. 100 prospect, though declining velocity because of injuries affected his stock. Kingham, a University of Texas product, has a four-pitch mix that includes a slider and change-up.

- Another ex-Texas Longhorn, starter Bryce Elder had a 2.60 ERA over nine starts in Rome, earning him a promotion to Mississippi. Elder, 22, could be another player who rises up the rankings.

- Infielder Vaughn Grissom’s numbers in Augusta won’t wow anyone – he’s hitting .271 with two homers, 16 RBIs and five steals in 38 games – but team officials spoke glowingly of his time at the alternate site last year, and he remains a player to watch.

- The Braves’ first rounder a year ago, lefty Jared Shuster from Wake Forest, has a 3.79 ERA in six appearances for Rome. He’s struck out 26 in 19 innings.

- First baseman Bryce Ball won a lot of fans during spring training 2020, when he burst onto the scene and impressed with his physical build and power prowess. He has struggled in Rome, hitting .194 with five homers, though he’s homered in two of his past four games.

- Outfielder Willie Carter has been the most productive hitter in Augusta. Carter, 24, is hitting .320 with three homers and 29 RBIs. Starter Joey Estes has been the GreenJackets’ most impressive pitcher, posting a 2.80 ERA with 52 strikeouts in nine starts (41 innings).

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