Before we get into Clint’s new additions to his prospect list, I wanted to quickly sum up more of AA’s additions to Spring Training in the form of Non-Roster Invitees:

  • RHP, R.J. Alaniz: 31 year old righty with a total of 18.1 innings pitched in MLB. Is on a MILB deal and likely stays on it as I cannot see what he’d provide other than emergency depth.
  • RHP, Nick Vincent: 35 year old right that relies on movement because he can’t break glass. He has more success than Alaniz, but one could essentially copy/paste the last sentence from his description.
  • RHP, Brad Brach: 35 year old submariner whose walks are going the wrong way. If it’s a choice between O’Day and Brach, I’m going O’Day all day.
  • UI, Pete Valaika: Classic Utility player with ups and downs at the plate. Potato pie isn’t near as good as sweet potato pie. Meh.
  • UI, Brock Holt: 33 year old that used to be good but now he’s gotten used to being bad. I mean…if I had to choose, he might win. Maybe.
  • UI Phil Gosselin: If you’d have told me Goose is now 33, I’d have slapped you sideways. He’s fine, I guess but I’d like more of a bat if I had to choose.

Final thoughts: I’d rather not have any of these guys on this team, but if you’re forcing my hand, I’d pick Goose. Unless there’s a real emergency, whoever grabs the final bench spot will be the 2nd utility infielder and that’ll grab ya a paycheck, but no real work to speak of.

Might I also remind everyone that AA likes to shop the aisle of recent cuts from other teams and I’m guessing we could see a slightly more exciting player be added before camp ends.

Even though he’s currently on the 40-man roster, Tyler Thornburg is worth discussing. He’s been good at striking out people, but also good at walking people, which isn’t actually good at all. He doesn’t have any options but if he wanted to rediscover what he had in 2016, I wouldn’t complain.

Now…On To Clint!

Last week, the Braves and A’s got together in what’s been perhaps the biggest blockbuster trade in some time. It seems like a win-win deal – Atlanta nets a power-hitting big league first baseman (who also happens to be one of the better defenders in the game) to replace its former franchise player, Freddie Freeman; while Oakland receives four highly-ranked prospects that should provide some help to the major league team in the near future, but also reinforce a farm system that’s been lacking over the last several years.

In case you missed the details of that massive trade, the Braves moved a quartet of Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers, Joey Estes and Ryan Cusick, and they all ranked in my top 13 with Pache coming in at 2, Langeliers at 3, Estes at 10, and Cusick at 12.

Naturally, now that four prospects have been omitted from my top 35, I must replace them, right? With my next list not set to come out until mid-season, we can’t go several months with four players missing from the rankings. So today I’ve replaced those four top-tier prospects by incorporating four of my top Honorable Mentions from when I constructed my Top 35 back in December. I’ll discuss each of them below, followed by another post that’ll feature the actual updated list.

JDLC wasn’t included in my Top 35 back in December simply because, at the time, he no longer was part of the Braves organization. Heading towards the MLB Rule 5 Draft, Atlanta non tendered the righty in late November, potentially ending his stint in the Braves system. However, as of mid-January, the team re-signed Cruz, and according to several sources the non tendering was simply to make space on the 40-man roster, and the Braves had every intention of bringing the kid back anyways.

And it’s a good thing he’s back too. Despite struggling during his first opportunity at the Triple-A level in 2021 (7.03 ERA in 56 1/3 IP), Cruz is still considered a talented player. His prospect stock may no longer be that of a top-tier starting pitcher, but with his elite two-pitch mix (fastball / slider) still plenty effective, Cruz could make for a damn good multi-inning reliever in the majors. He’s entering his age-25 season, so time has most likely ran out for him as a starter, but as a bullpen option, I believe Cruz should still be considered a ranked prospect in the Braves system. He’ll most likely land somewhere in the 20s on my updated list.

Back in late August of last season (featured in my 2021 Midseason Top 30 List), I had Ramos just barely ranked as a prospect, ranked 30th. Then the outfielder proceeded to only play in four games during the final month of the season, finishing the year with Double-A Mississippi going just 3 for 15 (.200 AVG), appearing to have lost his starting job. Overall, Ramos hit only .183 last year, to go with six home runs — good for a 55 wRC+. And to make matters worse, he struck out a career-high 30% of the time, perhaps suggesting he was a bit in over his head.

However, at just 23-years-old right now, I can’t get over the two seasons prior to 2021, when Ramos hit .243 with 25 homers and 125 RBI in 250 games combined between Single-A and High-A in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Leading up to last season, all signs pointed to him becoming an above-average bat for the Braves, even though the system’s outfield was rather crowded.

We’ll see if Ramos can turn things around in 2022 and get back to the player he was a short time ago. Given the recent prospect turnover, though, I think he just barely fits inside the top-35 on my updated list.

Ambioris Tavarez (SS/3B)

The Braves signed Tavarez back in January of 2021 for $1.5 million, going down as the team’s biggest international signing in several years. However, the 18-year-old hasn’t played stateside since, so there’s still obviously a ton of questions regarding his prospect stock within the system.

Either way, considering the excitement surrounding his signing (per Baseball America, he was the 25th-best player in the 2020-21 class), combined with the lack of depth in the organization up the middle (even though it has improved a bit recently), I imagine Tavarez would fit in somewhere in the top 35 on my updated list (BA has him 26th)

Munoz sort of went viral for a bit last season when he came out of the gate throwing a high-90s fastball versus Single-A batters. In his first four appearances with Augusta, the young righty tallied 24 strikeouts in 17 innings, and he looked like a potential quick riser in the Braves system. However, when the calendar flipped to June, everything went downhill for Munoz, and with an injury mixed in there, the 21-year-old struggled to the tune of 13 earned runs over his final 12 2/3 innings last season, a whopping 9.24 ERA in that span.

Munoz has an electric fastball, and despite his first two pro seasons (both in instructs), he actually appears to have a pretty good handle on it, shown by his 3.3 walks per nine in 2021 — a huge improvement compared to his 2018 and 2019 seasons. Sure, the 6.67 ERA last year is concerning, and Munoz is no doubt a raw prospect, but I believe there’s now enough room for him inside the top-35.