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Most of the players on the Braves’ 40 man roster made appearances or at least were a part of a roster move during the 2020 season. Between COVID, all of the issues in the rotation, and various injuries, the Braves made healthy use of their alternate training site and the roster occupants that played there. One player on the 40 man that did not make it to the major leagues in 2020 was the newly added Philip Pfeifer. Lets take a look at what role he could play in 2021 and beyond.
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What went right? He didn’t play in the majors at all in 2020 and I am pretty hesitant to make any projections based on rumors from the alternate site without real games to base opinions off of. For what it is worth, I didn’t hear anything terrible if that helps keep one’s mind at easy.
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The biggest thing is that Pfeifer’s insane 2019 season where he trimmed his walk rate a good bit and saw his strikeout rate take a jump forward gave the Braves’ enough confidence to add him to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
The 2018 second-round pick, Grayson Jenista, seemed like a slam dunk pick after a fantastic career at Wichita State. Unfortunately, the pro results have not been there as Jenista has slashed .244/.322/.365 in 191 career pro games. This comes after having a .318/.430/.487 slash in three seasons at Wichita State.
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Jenista has a pretty swing, and you can see the ability to add loft and power. He stands at 6’4 210 pounds and generates solid raw power. He has quick hands and a great bat speed through the zone. If he can get the hit tool dialed in as he did in college, he could rise back up rankings and be a top-1o prospect in the Braves system.
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20. Bryce Elder, RHP
DOB: 5/19/1999 (21.6 yo) HT/WT: 6’2/220 ETA: 2023
Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft: 5th Round From: University of Texas Highest Level: NCAA
Bryce Elder was the Braves’ final pick of the 2020 MLB Draft. Elder is still newer to baseball and was known for his golfing ability in high school. He did not pick up an offer from Texas until late into his senior season. He grew from a reliever into the Longhorns number one starter within his first year.
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His slider is his best pitcher and projects as plus as he generates plenty of whiffs on that pitch. His fastball and curve are also solid pitches. If Elder does want to stick as a starter, he will need to develop more feel and command on his changeup. His current projection is a back-end starter or middle reliever.
Atlanta Braves Honorable Mentions
Victor Vodnik, RHP | Justin Dean, OF | Tyler Owens, RHP | Thomas Burrows, LHP | CJ Alexander, 3B | Ambioris Tavarez, SS | Phillip Pfeifer, LHP | Stephen Paolini, OF
What went wrong? Its hard to get too excited for Pfeifer’s future in the majors in some ways. For one, his track record with his command leaves some things to be desired. Another is that despite the fact that he is a 28 year old former third round pick, he still didn’t warrant getting a look in the major leagues despite the rotation essentially imploding. The Braves only recently transitioned Pfeifer back to being a starter, so perhaps it is unfair to make too many inferences from a weird, weird season. However, Pfeifer does seem like a guy with a limited shelf life and he didn’t seem to get enough attention at the training site to get a look at the major league level.
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What to expect? In a vacuum, having a guy with starting and relieving experience on your roster is pretty sweet. Sometimes, he could be your long man to come in during mop up time. Sometimes, he could be a spot starter which seems particularly useful when you are managing young pitchers’ innings like the Braves are likely going to be. However, the Braves have already re-signed Josh Tomlin to that exact role for the 2021 season. Pfeifer was a great story from the 2019 season, but he also has an iffy track record and at 28 years old, he will need to break through to the major leagues soon. He needed the 2020 season to show that his success as a starter wasn’t a fluke because, at this moment, he has been surpassed on the Braves’ depth chart by several younger and probably more talented starters and the bullpen is looking awfully crowded even with a couple departures. The short answer to the posed question is that he is likely to remain on the Braves’ 40 man roster as there are easier cuts to be made, but it is uncertain if Pfeifer gets much further than that.