October 21st, 2022
In 2019, Justyn-Henry Malloy was part of Vanderbilt's College World Series championship team. The freshman played sparingly, picking up just 15 at-bats. When he got only 24 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he had a choice to make. He loved the Vandy community and the program, but he wanted the chance to play regularly.
Georgia Tech gave Malloy that opportunity, and his .994 OPS after he transferred led to the Braves taking him in the sixth round of the 2021 MLB Draft. While it wasn’t easy, it was the right call for him to make.
“It was so difficult,” said Malloy, who is playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. “The relationships that I created at Vanderbilt that I still have today … I see Stephen Scott [A Red Sox catcher who also went to Vandy] over there and we're able to reunite.
“But it was so difficult, especially after winning a national championship in 2019. But having that conversation with [Vandy coach Tim Corbin], he made it actually very comfortable for me. He said, ‘Make it a business decision.' And that kind of helped along with the process, emotionally as well. And it ended up working out really well.”
So did Malloy's first full season of pro ball. The No. 11 Braves prospect began the year with High-A Rome, made his way to Double-A Mississippi and ended in Triple-A Gwinnett, finishing the year with a .289/.408/.454 slash line to go along with 17 homers and 97 walks. Malloy has confidence in his abilities, but he’d be lying if he thought he’d play across three levels that soon.
“I feel like it would do myself a little bit of a disservice to say I was surprised. But at the same time, I was,” Malloy said. “I really just wanted to be where my feet were, starting off the season in Rome, and just playing there. I was so excited to be able to just go to Mississippi and play in Double-A. And then I got the news that Triple-A was the next move. I try not to hold much stock into it; it's just baseball at the end of the day. But I definitely was surprised. But a lot of preparation and work was definitely put into it.”
While Malloy continues to work on his offensive game in the Fall League -- he takes great pride in his outstanding plate discipline but does admit that he can get a bit too patient at times -- he’s also focusing on the defensive conversion to the outfield that began when he got to Mississippi. It’s a shift that’s taking time to adjust to, but just like his move from Vanderbilt to Georgia Tech, he’s embracing it.
“I got the news in High-A right before I was leaving to Double-A that we were going to make the move and I was going to go to the grass,” Malloy said. “And to be completely honest, I was so excited about it. It just kind of took a lot of weight off my shoulders [so I could] really just worry about the stick and hitting.
“It’s still a learning curve … but I'm enjoying that learning curve. Especially going up to Triple-A, learning from the guys who are up there -- even the guys in Double-A, everyone -- just learning and trying to be as much of a sponge as I can.”
Braves hitters in the Fall League
Cal Conley, SS (No. 12): Conley is a gamer who has surprising pop and excellent speed that allowed him to hit 16 homers and steal 36 bases across Single-A and High-A in his first full season in 2022. He got a little pull-happy early on, trying too hard to get to that power, and is working this fall to get back to his game, which is driving the ball to the gaps and using his speed.
Cade Bunnell, INF: The Braves got Bunnell in Round 40, the final round of the 2019 Draft. He worked his way from High-A to Double-A and actually swung the bat much better up a level. He profiles as a utility type, one who has played every infield position.
Braves pitchers in the Fall League
William Woods, RHP (No. 25): Woods is back in the Fall League for the second consecutive year. He once again missed a bunch of time this season, this time with an ankle injury, though he did make his big league debut as he continues to get used to working as a full-time reliever.
Alex Segal, LHP: A 22nd-round pick in the 2019 Draft out of Wichita State, Segal is in Arizona making up for lost innings after missing the first two months of the Minor League season. He can miss bats with his fastball-slider combination, but he needs to continue to work on his command, which eluded him over the AFL’s first two weeks.
Austin Smith, RHP: The Braves got Smith out of Arizona in Round 18 of the 2021 Draft and he spent all of his first full season with High-A Rome, where he saved 13 games and struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings. He’s a fastball-slider reliever who can run his heater up to 98 mph.
Allan Winans, RHP: Originally a 17th-rounder of the Mets, the Braves nabbed Winans in last year’s Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. He reached Triple-A, but missed two months of the season due to injury, so he’s making up for lost innings.