Braves Rumors: A.J. Smith-Shawver falls out of top-100 in prospect rankings
Atlanta Braves pitcher A.J. Smith-Shawver took a noticeable step back in several notable prospect rankings, including Baseball Prospectus and ESPN's Kiley McDaniel. Hurston Waldrep, meanwhile, ranks as the top prospect for both.
Smith-Shawver's downgrade is important in the grand scheme of things. While prospect rankings are far from perfect, the Braves will expect some sort of MLB impact from Smith-Shawver this season.
For the most part, he wasn't mentioned in trade rumors all offseason long, including for Dylan Cease. Smith-Shawver made an immediate contribution to the Braves rotation and bullpen at just 20 years old. This season, he needs to work on developing his secondary pitches some.
As for Waldrep, it shouldn't come as a surprise he leap-frogged Smith-Shawver so quickly. Waldrep made his way to Triple-A ball in a very short period of time last season. Keith Law of The Athletic ranked him 80th overall, and gushed about his out pitch -- the splitter.
"The splitter is just sick — it looks like a fastball out of his hand, has good velo separation from the heater at 85-89, and has huge bottom to it, yanked downward by some invisible zombie hand coming out of the ground like in the “Thriller” video. It also finishes out of the zone too often to be his go-to pitch — it’s a chase pitch, and a great one, but that’s all, and he’ll need to use all four pitches together to be a big-league starter," Law wrote (subscription required).
As Law suggests, Waldrep (much like Smith-Shawver) needs to develop some secondary out pitches. That's what the minor leagues are for, and why Braves fans shouldn't be too concerned just yet.