May 24, 2024

The Atlanta Braves could consider promoting one of their potential breakout prospects.
The Atlanta Braves are dealing with rotation problems following the revelation of Spencer Strider’s UCL injury and subsequent elbow surgery, which will keep him out for at least the rest of 2024.

While everyone in Atlanta is focused on the major league rotation and what’s going on in AAA Gwinnett, there’s one prospect who’s quietly having a fantastic start to his season in the minors.

Spencer Schwellenbach, Atlanta’s second-round choice in the 2021 MLB Draft from Nebraska, is currently 1-0 with no earned runs allowed in 11.1 innings for High-A Rome. After his first two starts of the season, he has seven strikeouts to one walk, five hits, and one earned run.

Schwellenbach, a two-way player at Nebraska, underwent Tommy John surgery following the draft and did not make his debut with Atlanta until last season. Schwellenbach made thirteen of his sixteen starts for Single-A Augusta, finishing the season with a 5-2 record and a 2.49 ERA in 65 innings. In an uncommon return from Tommy John, Schwellenbach’s control returned before his “stuff”, with only 55 strikeouts (7.6 K/9) but also only 16 walks (2.2 BB/9).

In Schwellebach’s final three outings of 2023, all in Rome, he went 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA, striking out 14 over 13.2 innings. That finish to the season, combined with a more typical strikeout percentage, caused many, including us, to anticipate Schwellenbach as Atlanta’s breakthrough prospect in 2024. Ben Sestanovich, Atlanta’s associate general manager and head of player development, told MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis during spring training:

“Spencer came here a month before Minor League camp started and has looked really good,” Sestanovich told Callis. “We forget sometimes that last year was his first complete season as a pitcher. Going through the year, followed by an offseason, and knowing what to expect helped him prepare. He’s on the same route as AJ (Smith-Shawver) following his first full year in 2022.”

The mention to Smith-Shawver attracts attention – Smith-Shawver, a seventh-round pick out of high school in 2021, spent the entire year of 2022 in Single-A before advancing from High-A to the majors in 2023. While Schwellebach’s debut isn’t expected until 2025, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoted quickly, and it may be time to do so.

 

Braves 2023 Minor League Player Review: Spencer Schwellenbach - Battery  Power

 

Schwellenbach’s most recent start, over the weekend against a Hudson Valley side with the South Atlantic League’s second-highest run differential, saw him throw four genuine pitches in 5.1 innings while allowing one unearned run on two hits and walking one.

 

Atlanta handed Smith-Shawver three High-A starts in 2023 before advancing him to AA Mississippi, where he made two starts before moving on to AAA Gwinnett. Schwellenbach should follow a similar trajectory, with a promotion to Double-A on the horizon.

Moving Schwellenbach to the upper minors would expose him to better-caliber batters and quality competition; both the Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs affiliate) and the Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox affiliate) are ranked among MLB Pipeline’s ten most ‘laden’ minor league teams.

Early signs suggest that he may be ready for it.

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