Even with the best record in the National League, the Atlanta Braves are still looking for ways to maximize their pitching rotation. In doing so, the Braves have made a major decision on one of their best young pitchers.
Rookie AJ Smith-Shawver will make his first MLB start on Friday or Saturday against the Washington Nationals, via Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. While general manager Alex Anthropoulous confirmed Smith-Shawver's start, there's no word on if the rookie will remain in the Braves rotation long-term.
However, his path to a full-time rotation spot has become much more linear. With Atlanta sending Mike Soroka down to AAA, his spot is available. Smith-Shawver is now getting an opportunity to occupy it. If he succeeds against the Nationals and shows continued success, Atlanta will have no choice but to have Smith-Shawver in their rotation full-time.
Based on his MLB debut, the Braves are likely hoping that's the case. Facing off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Smith-Shawver threw 2.1 innings of scoreless baseball with three strikes in a relief appearance. It may have been a brief outing, but Atlanta is certainly intrigued by his potential.
Which makes sense considering AJ Smith Shawver's prospect pedigree. He ranks as the fourth-best prospect in the Braves organization, via MLB Pipeline. It didn't take long for him to reach the majors, as the 20-year-old was selected in the 2021 MLB Draft.
But after rocketing up to the majors, Smith-Shawver is looking to stay. The Braves will get an even closer look at their talented rookie when he makes his first MLB start.