Braves Sign Venezuelan Winter League Pitcher of the Year Jackson Stephens

The Atlanta Braves picked up a local product who shined in a foreign land this winter in the form of right-handed pitcher Jackson Stephens. 

It’s been a predictably quiet lockout for the Atlanta Braves, but they made a move on Wednesday that could pay big dividends.

On my Locked on Braves podcast the other day I ranked the starting pitching depth and talked about how they still need to take a chance on some guys with minor league deals.

They’ve done exactly that by signing Jackson Stephens to a minor league deal.

Translated that says, “I am informed that Jackson Stephens, @LVBP_Oficial Pitcher of the Year, signed with the @Braves.”

DOB also confirmed it on Twitter.

As noted, Stephens was the Venezuelan Winter League Pitcher of the Year this season after posting a 1.82 ERA in 49.1 innings with 44 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.236.

He did allow over a hit an inning giving up 51, but only walked 10 batters.

The lack of walks is really something he excelled at in 2021 both in Indy ball where he had a BB/9 of 2.0 and in the Venezuelan league at 1.8.

That’s much better than his total at the higher minor league levels and big league level where it was more around 3.5.

 

Braves Signing — History of Jackson Stephens

Jackson Stephens is a local product, more local for me, out of Oxford High School in Oxford, Ala.

The Cincinnati Reds took him in the 18th round of the 2012 MLD Draft.

Over parts of eight minor league seasons, he posted a 4.19 ERA in 717 innings (190 games, 106 starts) with 584 strikeouts, a BB/9 of 2.7, a K/9 of 7.3, and a WHIP of 1.381.

He pitched for the Reds in 2017 and 2018 with a combined ERA of 4.83 in 36 games (4 starts) with 54 strikeouts in 63.1 innings and a WHIP of 1.468.

I’m guessing the Reds cut Stephens at some point between 2019 and 2020. He played Indy ball in 2021 posting a 3.62 ERA in 114.1 innings (26 games, 20 starts) with 113 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.329.

 

Braves — What to Expect from Jackson Stephens

Strictly a depth move, this isn’t a guy coming in with a ton of upside. But he does have big league experience, throws strikes, and could make a spot start for you here or there if needed.

Looking back at his Baseball Savant page, he threw a four-seam fastball around 40 percent of the time averaging 94 MPH. Along with a sinker at 94 MPH, a slider at 85-87 MPH, and a curveball at 76 MPH.

That’s a pretty solid pitch mix with good velocity, but without more recent video I can’t give a full evaluation on the movement of those pitches and how effective they actually are.

It’s possible he could even fill a long reliever role at the big league level, but I think the Braves have more capable arms for that position.

As I said at the beginning, signing the 6-foot-2, 220-pound righty just adds depth to the organization and gives you another guy that in an emergency could start a game for you.

He’ll turn 28 in May and will likely start the year at Triple-A. I’d put him 10th or 11th on the starting pitching depth chart.