AJ Smith-Shawver

Braves Smith-Shawver impressing in Triple-A, Could get Tapped Soon

The Atlanta Braves have meticulously constructed a farm system brimming with pitching talent, a brilliant approach that has positioned them as a perennial World Series threat. Among the constellation of pitching prospects within the Braves’ system, one name shines particularly bright: AJ Smith-Shawver. When will we see him in Atlanta?

AJ Smith-Shawver Could Get the Call to the Bigs Soon

The Braves take pitching prospects seriously, allocating  61% of their MLB Draft bonus pool towards acquiring pitching prospects from 2018 to 2023 – the most among all 30 teams – the Braves have doubled down on fortifying their pitching ranks.

We saw AJSS briefly in 2023, tossing 25 1/3 regular-season innings with the big club, plus 2 2/3 more effective mop-up work in the NLDS. So far this season, he is showing promise, but he gave up three homers and ten runs in 17 innings for a plus-five ERA. Then there are the strikeouts, 21 of them in those same 17 innings.

It’s still early in the season, and the Braves are taking a more cautious approach in AJSS development, which is wise considering Spencer Strider’s second Tommy John by age 26. During spring training, the young hurler deliberately focused on increasing his change-up usage, a deliberate pitch mix choice that has carried over into the minor league season.

AJSS has been operating under carefully crafted pitch count restrictions, gradually increasing his workload from a modest 30 pitches in his inaugural start to a more substantial 84 in his most recent outing. In his start Tuesday, he went a full five innings without allowing a run and stuck out five batters while walking only one.

AJ Smith-Shawver
Mar 10, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver (32) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The uber-athletic right-hander was ranked an impressive #42 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list for 2024. He is captivating with his electric repertoire, mid-90s fastball, vicious slide, mean curve, and change-up that’s coming along. Despite a recent slide to #66 in the updated rankings due to his bloated ERA, Smith-Shawver’s journey through the minor league ranks has been fascinating.

While statistical hiccups may temporarily tarnish the luster of these prospects, the Brave’s focus remains on developing major league-ready talent. As long as Smith-Shawver is poised to contribute at the highest level when called upon, their rankings within the Top 100 become a mere footnote.

After all, the distinction between a prospect ranked in the 40s and one in the 60s is often negligible, given the pool of nearly 5,000 minor leaguers vying for recognition. What truly matters is the ability to translate their skills and experience to the big leagues and how healthy they can be throughout their career.

Still, Braves fans are watching Smith-Shawver’s progression through the ranks with great interest. With the Braves rotation definitely facing a shake-up after this year, with Max Fried and Morton leaving, the right-hander will be an integral part of the rotation and invaluable in the Braves organization in the upcoming years.

Imagine the electrifying atmosphere at Truist Park as Smith-Shawver takes the mound, his imposing frame casting a shadow over the batter’s box. His arsenal, honed through meticulous preparation and a commitment to growth, could be the catalyst for a deep postseason run. Sooner than we think.

5 1 vote
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
5 1 vote
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x