03 Mar

power source

Rosters for the minor league teams are far from set, but there’s a good chance the top-rated power prospect in Atlanta’s system will suit up for Double-A Mississippi this season. Jesse Franklin V, who played 15 games for the 2022 M-Braves before an arm injury (and Tommy John surgery) ended his year, was named by MLB Pipeline as the best power threat in the Braves’ thinned-out farm system. The lefty-swinging Franklin, a former Michigan slugger and Atlanta’s No. 14 overall prospect, hit two homers for the M-Braves last year and 24 in A-ball in 2021. He also has 21 career steals. While Franklin seems a logical candidate, it’s really anybody’s guess at this stage which other top prospects might play for new M-Braves manager Kanekoa Texeira this year. Cal Conley, Atlanta’s No. 13 prospect, is a switch-hitting shortstop who plays “full throttle,” per reports, and batted .251 with 16 homers and 36 bags at two levels of A-ball in 2022. The former Texas Tech standout also played in the Arizona Fall League and is in Atlanta’s camp as a non-roster invitee. No. 4 prospect A.J. Smith-Shawver, a right-hander, might land in Pearl at some point. Once a highly regarded high school quarterback, he pitched at Low-Class A Augusta in 2022, posted a 5.11 ERA but fanned 103 batters in 68 2/3 innings. Outfielder Brandol Mezquita, ranked No. 17, hit .268 with 14 steals at two levels of A-ball in 2022, and lefty-hitting catcher Tyler Tolve, No. 29, batted .261 with 12 homers at High-A Rome. A couple of familiar names, neither of whom is a Top 30 prospect, might also reach Double-A in 2023. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Brandon Parker, a 23-year-old outfielder, hit .282 with 10 homers at Low-A Augusta and finished 2022 at High-A Rome. And then there’s right-hander J.J. Niekro, son of Joe and nephew of Phil, the famous knuckleballers. Niekro was 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA at Augusta and 3-2, 4.88, at Rome last season. (He has tinkered with a knuckler but not used it in a game as yet.)

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