Where Braves’ top 15 prospects will open their seasons

030221 North Port: Atlanta Braves pitcher Kyle Muller confers with catcher Shea Langeliers during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins in a MLB spring training baseball game at CoolToday Park on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in North Port.   Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
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030221 North Port: Atlanta Braves pitcher Kyle Muller confers with catcher Shea Langeliers during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins in a MLB spring training baseball game at CoolToday Park on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in North Port. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

At long last, minor-league baseball is back Tuesday. It’s been quite a while since organizations have been able to evaluate their prospects in real-game settings.

“It’s great,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I talked to a couple managers today. They were on their way to the games. Everybody’s excited. It’s going to be such a good thing to get minor-league baseball going again. Organizationally, for the players, coaches, managers, everybody. It’ll be nice to take another step toward normalcy, I think.”

Here are where the Braves’ top 15 prospects (based on the ranking of Baseball America) are opening the season:

1. OF Cristian Pache, Braves. Pache opened the season as the Braves’ starting center fielder, going 4-for-30 before an injury sidelined him. When he came back healthy, the Braves optioned him to the alternate site largely because Guillermo Heredia was doing such an excellent job in center. Pache returned recently when Heredia required time on the injured list.

2. RHP Ian Anderson, Braves. Anderson opened the season in the Braves’ rotation. Before a hiccup against the Blue Jays, Anderson was dominant. He’s one of the better young starters in the game and could emerge as a frontline pitcher.

3. OF Drew Waters, Triple-A Gwinnett. Waters is the top Braves’ prospect who’s yet to make his major-league debut. This will be a crucial season for him, one that could potentially earn him a call-up later this summer or drop him down prospect boards. | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

4. C Shea Langeliers, Double-A Mississippi. The Braves are excited about Langeliers, their first-round pick in 2019. He’s advanced from having played in college and could work his way up to Triple-A in short order. He’s already an outstanding defender, so his development as a hitter is the storyline.

5. RHP Bryse Wilson, Gwinnett. It’s easy to forget how young Wilson is, but he has made several starts in the majors, including this season, and will continue as valuable pitching depth. The question for him: Can he make the most of his sporadic opportunities and show he has a long-term future with the team? | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

6. C William Contreras, Braves. The Braves planned for Contreras to open his season in the minors. An injury to Travis d’Arnaud altered that approach, and Contreras will have a trial in the majors. It’s a prime opportunity for him to show he can handle a bigger workload next season, when d’Arnaud is set to be a free agent. Contreras has an impressive bat, and the Braves have lauded his maturity.

7. LHP Kyle Muller, Gwinnett. If Muller shows consistent command, he could find his way to Atlanta this summer. Muller is a raw but talented individual, possessing a towering presence and high-90s fastball. His control will determine whether he becomes a starter or reliever over the long haul. | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

8. SS Braden Shewmake, Mississippi. Shewmake was considered a high-floor, low-ceiling pick by some when the Braves took him in the first round in 2019. He’s already shown the potential for a bit more, and his athletic ability and versatility should make him a decade-long major leaguer. This is one of the more fascinating players to follow over the next few months.

9. LHP Jared Shuster, high Single-A Rome. Shuster will participate in his first minor-league action as the Braves’ 2020 first-round pick. Shuster has an excellent change-up and improving fastball. The slider is a work in progress.

10. LHP Tucker Davidson, Gwinnett. Davidson made his MLB debut in 2020, starting the regular-season finale. It’s quite possible he’ll return to that level later this season. Davidson will pile up strikeouts, but whether he can cut down on walks will determine his fate. | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

11. OF Michael Harris, Rome. Harris shined during spring training and should rank in the team’s top 10, if not top five prospects, for the remainder of his minor-league life. Harris, with his well-rounded skill set and athletic ability, has the potential to eventually top this list.

12. RHP Huascar Ynoa, Braves. Ynoa has been the breakout star of the Braves’ season thus far. He’s surpassing modest expectations and has greatly helped the Braves’ rotation.

13. RHP Jasseel De La Cruz, Gwinnett. De La Cruz represents solid pitching depth and could make his debut this season. He’s another pitcher whose command will decide whether he’s a starter or reliever. | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

14. RHP Daysbel Hernandez, Gwinnett. Manager Brian Snitker spoke highly of Hernandez during spring training. His fastball floats in the mid-to-upper 90s, and his slider provides a perfect complement. Baseball America mentions him as a potential late-innings option, thanks to his combination of stuff and aggressive mentality. | Triple-A Gwinnett roster

15. RHP Bryce Elder, Rome. Elder, drafted last summer, could work his way up quickly. He possesses a solid base, and while the upside doesn’t seem tremendous, he’s generally considered a player with a high-floor potential.

Honorable mention: 1B Bryce Ball, Rome. Ball is Baseball America’s No. 18 prospect for the Braves, but fans are familiar with him after he earned recognition last spring training. A big, powerful bat, he’s a player fans will keep an eye on as he progresses through the system, especially with the universal designated hitter likely coming to the National League next season.