It’s not a novel idea, but the Braves are implementing an approach to positioning their prospects that has become more popular across the game.
If you keep up with the Braves minors on a daily basis, you have likely noticed players like Vaughn Grissom, Luke Waddell, Cal Conley, Cam Shepherd, Riley Delgado and Kevin Josephina working around the infield in various ways. Even outfielders like Michael Harris and Jesse Franklin have alternated their spots at High-A Rome.
It’s an approach that player development departments seem to be using more often as a way to gain versatility among lower-level prospects. As you see more upper-level players and major leaguers working around the field as a result of the shift’s influence on positional value as well as keeping bats in the lineup, you see that effect trickling down the system to gain an upper hand earlier.
Part of it is also simply getting bats in the lineup. Low-A Augusta has several infielders whom the Braves are trying to get regular at-bats, so playing different positions allows more flexibility for playing time. And, as I said, it’s not a new concept, because a player like Grissom perhaps would have alternated shortstop and third base at A-ball in a different era anyway.
But Grissom has also seen time at second base, so the Braves are working him at three different infield spots already at Low-A. His ultimate home is still likely to be third, but if he can gain the versatility to play short and second in a pinch, that adds value.
Middle infielders like Waddell and Conley are well-suited for this approach. It’s not a new concept to have smaller shortstops get time at second as they rise in a system, but these two are being exposed to it early in their pro careers, and Waddell has played third, too. Conley offers a little intrigue with the ability to mash the occasional pull-side homer to go with rangy defense at second.
You can also apply this to the outfield, where Harris and Franklin have alternated center and right field. The ability to play center is a huge boost to prospect value, and experience gained by getting reps can help toward that. Harris is the better defender of the two and is more likely to remain in center long-term, but it doesn’t hurt to give Franklin reps there while showing he can hit for power.
This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery. Orgs have long moved guys around to gain flexibility on stacked minor league rosters. But it is a positive that prospects like Grissom and Conley are learning different positions and getting reps around the field to gain maximum defensive value. It can go a long way toward boosting their value in the majors.
Aug. 24-29: at Nashville (Brewers)
Aug. 24-28 at 8:05 p.m., Aug. 29 at 7:15
Aug. 24-29: vs. Pensacola (Marlins)
Aug. 24-27 at 7:35 p.m. ET, Aug. 28 at 7:05, Aug. 29 at 3:05
Aug. 24-29: at Bowling Green (Rays)
Aug. 24-28 at 7:35 p.m., Aug. 29 at 3:05
Aug. 24-29: vs. Charleston (Rays)
Aug. 24-27 at 7:05 p.m., Aug. 28 at 6:05, Aug. 29 at 5:05
Prospects to Watch This Week
At Triple-A Gwinnett, Bryce Elder had a strong showing in his debut at the new level, allowing two runs while striking out six in five innings. Rotation-mate Kyle Muller threw six innings of one-hit ball last time out. At Double-A Mississippi, Freddy Tarnok continues to shine, allowing two unearned runs in five innings last time out. Spencer Strider also had a strong outing this past week. At High-A Rome, Darius Vines and Jared Shuster both threw well this past week, while Jesse Franklin, Michael Harris and Cody Milligan all hit over .300 for the week. At Low-A Augusta, Willie Carter has been on fire, recording seven hits in his past four games, including two doubles, three RBI, five walks and five stolen bases. Vaughn Grissom continues to rake, and Justyn-Henry Malloy has found a groove early in his first pro assignment.
Aug. 22: Dylan Dodd commands a low-90s FB to all quadrants and knows how to work it around zone. CH is a solid arm-speed pitch with some fade that he commands well. A breaker has to step up and pro hitters will mash the FB middle-middle. But good command profile. Repeats.
Aug. 21: Beautiful short, quick stroke from Pache for a double to the right-center gap. I think he's found his comfort level with his swing. Just a matter of seeing the ball.
Aug. 20: (On Justyn-Henry Malloy): I love this swing. I was intrigued when the Braves picked him, and he's showing some tools early. I like him.
Aug. 20: Bryce Elder's Triple-A debut: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, 3 BB, 6 K.
Pressed and overthrew some in his first start at a new level, but battled and came out fine. Secondaries were solid.
Aug. 18: Spencer Strider is having one of those outings tonight. Ball is jumping from his hand. Hitters are between the mid-to-upper-90s FB with life and the hammer breaker. Explosive.
Recent Prospect Performances
8/21: Cristian Pache 2-5, 2B
8/20: Bryce Elder 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, 3 BB, 6 K
8/19: Drew Waters 1-3, 2 RBI, BB
8/18: Cristian Pache 2-3, BB
8/18: Kyle Muller 6 IP, H, R, 3 BB, 4 K
8/22: Justin Dean 2-2, SB
8/22: Freddy Tarnok 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K
8/20: Justin Dean 1-3, BB, 2 SB
8/20: Trey Harris 2-3, 2 RBI
8/18: Braden Shewmake 2-4, HR, BB
8/18: Spencer Strider 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R/ER, BB, 7 K
8/17: Justin Dean 3-5, 3B
8/17: Braden Shewmake 2-5, RBI
8/17: Shea Langeliers 2-4, 2B, BB
8/21: Cody Milligan 2-4
8/21: Jared Shuster 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, BB, 5 K
8/20: Cody Milligan 3-4
8/20: Beau Philip 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI
8/20: Luke Waddell 2-3, RBI
8/20: Darius Vines 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 7 K
8/18: Michael Harris 3-5, BB (DH)
8/18: Jesse Franklin 2-6, 2B, RBI, SB (DH)
8/17: Cal Conley 2-5
8/17: Willie Carter 2-3, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB
8/17: Justyn-Henry Malloy 2-4
8/17: Stephen Paolini 2-3, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB
8/22: Cal Conley 1-4, HR, BB
8/22: Vaughn Grissom 3-4, 3B, SB
8/22: Justyn-Henry Malloy 1-2, BB, SB
8/22: Willie Carter 2-3, RBI, SB
8/22: Dylan Dodd 3 IP, 6 H, 2 R/ER, BB, K
8/22: Dylan Spain 2 IP, K
8/21: Cal Conley 1-3, RBI, BB, SB
8/21: Vaughn Grissom: 1-5, 2B, RBI, SB
8/20: Vaughn Grissom 2-5, 2B
8/20: Stephen Paolini 4-5, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 SB
8/20: Joey Estes 5 IP, 2 H, 3 R/ER, 3 BB, 7 K
8/19: Justyn-Henry Malloy 3-3, HR, 3 RBI, BB
8/19: Andrew Hoffmann 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R/ER, 3 BB, 4 K
8/19: Dylan Spain 1 IP, BB
8/18: Willie Carter 2-4, RBI, SB
8/18: Ryan Cusick 2 IP, H, R/ER, 2 BB, 4 K
8/19: Liam McGill 2-3, 2B, HR, 4 RBI (pro debut)
8/19: William Woods 1 IP, H, K
8/19: Jared Johnson 4 IP, BB, 5 K
8/17: Tyler Collins 1-4, 3B, RBI, BB
8/16: Tyler Collins 2-4, RBI, SB
8/16: Kadon Morton 2-4, 3B, RBI
8/21: C William Contreras recalled to Atlanta
8/19: INF Riley Unroe placed on 7-day IL at Double-A
8/19: RHP William Woods assigned to FCL
8/19: LHP Kris Anglin assigned to FCL
8/17: RHP Bryce Elder assigned to Triple-A from Double-A
8/17: RHP Jacob Webb optioned to Triple-A
8/17: RHP Nolan Kingham assigned to Double-A from Triple-A
8/17: RHP Victor Vodnik placed on 7-day IL at Double-A
8/17: LHP Dylan Dodd assigned to Low-A
8/17: RHP Dylan Spain assigned to Low-A from FCL
8/17: LHP Jake Higginbotham sent on rehab assignment to FCL
8/16: LHP Mitch Horacek released
8/16: RHP Jasseel De La Cruz placed on 7-day IL at Triple-A
8/16: C Logan Brown placed on 60-day IL at High-A