The Braves announced a handful of roster moves Monday, optioning infielder Vaughn Grissom and lefty Jared Shuster to Triple-A Gwinnett while recalling righty Darius Vines for his MLB debut and reinstating second baseman Ozzie Albies from the injured list.
Vines, 25, was Atlanta’s seventh-round pick back in 2019 and has pitched well across three minor league levels this season after returning from a lengthy absence brought about by shoulder inflammation. Baseball America currently ranks him fifth among Braves prospects, while MLB.com has him tenth and FanGraphs pegs him 13th.
Since returning from the injured list in June, Vines has made nine starts: two with the team’s Rookie-level affiliate in the Florida Complex League, two in High-A and five with Triple-A Gwinnett once those four rehab appearances were complete. He hadn’t pitched beyond six innings until his most recent outing — a seven-inning start against the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate — but Vines has reached 90 pitches in each of his past three starts. He’ll give the Braves a long option out of the bullpen or a candidate to make a spot start, as needed.
In 43 1/3 innings this year, the Cal State Bakersfield product has posted a 2.70 ERA with a 27.1% strikeout rate, 8.2% walk rate and 44.4% ground-ball rate. Scouting reports at BA, MLB.com and FanGraphs tab Vines as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm thanks to his command of a three-pitch repertoire (fastball, slider, changeup). The changeup draws plus (60 on the 20-80 scale) or better offerings, with BA’s report noting that some scouts have put a plus-plus (70) grade on the pitch.
Vines joins Shuster, Dylan Dodd, Michael Soroka, AJ Smith–Shawver, Allan Winans and (once healthy) Ian Anderson as an in-house option who can compete for a rotation job next year. The Braves are largely set with Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Bryce Elder and a soon-to-return Kyle Wright making up the front four in the rotation both down the stretch and likely in the 2023 postseason. Morton isn’t a lock to return — the Braves have a $20MM option on him for the 2024 season — which will leave at least one and possibly two spots to be sorted out next spring. (The offseason could bring about trades and/or free-agent additions to address the starting staff, of course.)
As for Albies, he’ll return after two weeks on the shelf due to a strained hamstring. The Braves initially expressed optimism that Albies was only dealing with some minor cramping and might not even require an IL stint, but further testing revealed what wound up apparently being a fairly minor strain. Given Atlanta’s overwhelming lead in the NL East, there was every reason to proceed with caution, as they can effectively sleepwalk their way to a division title with a 12.5-game lead and just 33 games left to be played. Albies is in the midst of another terrific season, batting .267/.327/..514 with 28 home runs in 510 plate appearances.