Braves Calling Up Top Prospect for Thursday Afternoon Start in Chicago

The Atlanta Braves are giving one of their top prospects his first Major League action of 2024
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves are calling in the kids. 

Faced with a “TBA” on the schedule for Thursday afternoon’s series finale with the Chicago Cubs and needing to fill it, the Braves decided to use one of their top prospects in that spot. 

Per manager Brian Snitker, the Braves are calling up prospect AJ Smith-Shawver for the series finale start against Chicago on Thursday. 

Smith-Shawver, 21, hasn’t yet started for Atlanta in the majors this season. Rocketing all the way from High-A to the majors last season, he went 1-0 with a 4.26 in the majors, making six appearances (five starts) at the major league level. He then went on to follow Bryce Elder in Atlanta’s NLDS game three loss, allowing three runs on three hits in 2.2 innings, striking out three but also allowing three homers to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

This season, Smith-Shawver’s been in Triple-A Gwinnett, where he is 1-2 with a 6.10 ERA in his eight starts. Across 31 innings, he’s struck out 35 while walking nine. 

But don’t let the stats fool you - similar to spring training, Smith-Shawver has been tasked with certain development work while in the minors this season, work which has hampered his traditional statistics. He’s been charged with significantly increasing his changeup usage, ramping it up to a full 21.5% of his arsenal so far in 2024. (In 2023 at the major league level, it was a clear fourth pitch, only being used 11% of the time). 

He’s also significantly improved his fastball velocity with another year of development. After averaging 95 mph last season and topping out at just under 100mph in his major league debut season, Smith-Shawver has broken 100 mph with his heater this season and is sitting in the higher-90s for an average velocity in AAA.

It’ll be interesting to see what the corresponding move is to get Smith-Shawver on the active roster - Darius Vines seems like the most likely candidate to get sent back to Gwinnett to make the roster spot, but Smith-Shawver’s also had some workload restrictions on him this season that Vines could alleviate in a “piggyback role”. In Smith-Shawver’s eight starts, his longest outing by length has been 5.1 innings, coming in his most recent outing against Memphis (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate) last week, while his highest pitch count has been just 91 pitches (for 4.1 innings) against Charlotte (Chicago White Sox affiliate) on May 7th. 

Despite the bullpen not being used at all tonight thanks to Max Fried’s complete game, the Braves may not be comfortable optioning Vines down without having being used this week and relying on the rest of the bullpen to pick up the slack if Smith-Shawver can’t go as deep into the start as would be ideal. Per reports from MLB's Mark Bowman, reliever Daysbel Hernández will be the one to go to Gwinnett, setting up a "piggyback" scenario with Smith-Shawver and Vines on Thursday OR a scenario where Vines is the starter for Friday's series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Lindsay Crosby


Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at