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Braves Prospects Mailbag with David Lee

Welcome to a new year at the Braves Prospects newsletter. For January, the content schedule will run Mondays and Fridays. I expect to return to three days a week in February, but it will depend on the sport’s ability to stay on schedule as spring training nears.

As you may be aware, Major League Baseball is delaying spring training for players destined for Double-A and lower until major leaguers and Triple-A players leave the sites. That presumably means Triple-A will have a traditional start to its season, which is a positive. As has been expected for some time, most of the minor leagues will have a delayed start by about a month, assuming everything stays on track.

What this means for my ability to scout in person probably won’t be known for a while. But any semblance of normal, such as a traditional start for Triple-A, would be a welcomed sight.

On to the first post of 2021, a mailbag that covers Braden Shewmake, the 2020 alternate site and lots of questions about trading prospects.

Q: What do we think of when we think of Shewmake’s floor? Ceiling?

A: I see little variance between Braden Shewmake’s floor and ceiling. The floor is high based on a potential above-average or better hit tool and a solid feel to glove the routine at shortstop. For the most part, he’s a good, smooth athlete despite the lanky frame, and he has the hands and enough range to play anywhere in the infield. All of these positives boost his floor to major league bench. The ceiling is an everyday shortstop, but to get there he has to max out his above-average raw power in-game, which requires tweaks to his flat swing plane and contact-oriented approach. The realistic call is a utility player who provides value on a near daily basis by playing around the field with sure hands and offering solid contact and gap production.

Q: I’d love the skinny on what the everyday routine and vibe was like at the taxi squad camp this past season.

A: While I can’t speak for the experience myself because I was never there, the alternate site camps were meant to mirror the everyday minor league vibe as much as possible, which I’m sure was a challenge. If I’m a player development guy, I’d want my camp to be as competitive as possible, because that breeds development and removes the possibility of complacency. The prospects had competitive at-bats against each other, and the pitchers stuck to their throwing routines and tried to do their best each time out, as they normally would. As I’ve said before, perhaps the most important thing to take away from the alternate site was the ability for lower-level prospects to receive in-person instruction from Atlanta’s player development staff on a daily basis, as well as see live pitching or hitters who may be a level or two ahead of them. That could be a big advantage for guys like Michael Harris, Vaughn Grissom, Bryce Ball, Jesse Franklin, Jared Shuster, Spencer Strider, William Woods and so on. And don’t forget the in-person instruction from the new PD staff for pitchers like Tucker Davidson, Ian Anderson, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright while they were there. We saw real development from Anderson, Wilson and Wright when they returned from the site, and Davidson continued to work on shoring up his stuff and command.

Q: At what point are the Braves going to offload the surplus pitching prospects we have in a trade?

A: I tend to shy away from using the word “surplus” when referring to pitching prospects, because developing pitching is a volatile business and an org can never have enough pitching depth. But, with a 2021 Gwinnett staff that could include (maybe) Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Tucker Davidson, Kyle Muller, Jasseel De La Cruz, Huascar Ynoa, Patrick Weigel, Phil Pfeifer and Jeremy Walker…yeah, I see your point. Every offseason and trade deadline for the foreseeable future seems like an opportunity to trade some of these guys, because the Braves are World Series contenders. Will it happen in one or two blockbusters? I have my doubts, because trades don’t seem to take that route as often these days (trading, like, five highly ranked prospects in one deal), and the Braves haven’t been able to line up a deal to their liking. I could see them piece some moves here and there that involve some of these names, though.

Q: Which of the top five prospects are likely to get dealt?

A: If we’re going off my top five, I don’t envision any of them getting traded. Drew Waters is sometimes mentioned by fans, but it makes no sense to deal him right now unless you have another org that will reach for him. If you expand it to top 10, you have some possibilities: Kyle Muller, Bryse Wilson and Tucker Davidson. Wilson represents that high-floor player with major league experience yet tons of team control that teams tend to deal when acquiring a bigger name. Muller and Davidson would represent the traditional prospect return in a trade. Muller seems most likely to me based on the helium of touching 100 mph from the left side this past year. The Braves could try to sell high on Davidson after developing himself into a starter prospect. I won’t be surprised if one or more of these three eventually get traded.

Q: Which pitching prospect would you sell high on?

A: Going off my previous answer, I would say Muller. It’s not a secret that command and control are questions, so you’re not selling an org on a starter prospect that walks five per nine. But he does have very strong qualities, such as a triple-digit fastball from the left side, a sweeping breaker that breaks bats and an imposing presence. You’re selling an org on legitimate closer potential. I think Muller would be a valuable piece in a return.

Q: Which one of the lower-level prospects do you think will make the biggest impact in the major leagues?

A: I can take this question a couple different ways. The safe answer is Shea Langeliers, because he’s technically still a lower-level prospect and has a high floor as a major league catcher based on excellent defense behind the plate. If he hits enough, he’s a solid everyday major leaguer at the position, and that represents impact. A different answer would be Michael Harris. He flashes all five tools and shows a feel to hit with sneaky raw power. If the hit comes along and he taps into his raw, he’s a multi-tool threat regardless of his outfield position. That also represents impact. Don’t forget Bryce Ball. I’m higher on him than probably anyone, but there is everyday slugger potential if he hits. The type of power he could produce is impactful.