First I have to say this post was inspired by an awesome piece from Jake Wiener on the Tampa Bay Rays. Second I have to say how thankful I am to work with other writers at Prospects1500 who let me “borrow” their great ideas for articles of my own. So here we go, the 2020 All-Prospect Opening Day Lineup with a Braves twist. Of course, the 2020 MiLB season is in question, but this is still a fun exercise that allows us to highlight what an opening day lineup and pitching staff could look like if we compiled all of the Braves top prospects on one team. Before we dive in, yes, I am including a DH for this exercise and if you are a Braves fan, you know sorting through the outfielders was tough and finding the infielders was not nearly as simple as the Rays. I can see the comments now.
Starting Lineup/Batting Order
1. CF Cristian Pache
At least we get to start with an easy one. Pache is a divisive prospect in the fantasy landscape, but there is no doubt he is one of the two best players in the Braves system right now. Since he and the guy in the two hole have been a 1,2 punch many times before, it seems logical we could see that again on our fictional 2020 All-Prospect Opening Day lineup. I’ve highlighted concerns about his batted ball profile in the past, but Pache will provide a nice combo of pop and speed at the top of our lineup.
2. RF Drew Waters
Like Pache, many have concerns with Waters’ offensive skillset. Not me. Sure, he is a free swinger who strikes out at a high clip, but he has also been significantly younger than his competition over his career. I think the aggressive approach makes him a solid number two hitter in our lineup. His present gap power will drive in Pache regularly and he can take the extra base himself giving us a potential for two table setters at the top of the order.
— Jake Berry (@berrys_baseball) September 7, 2019
3. 1B Bryce Ball
The story of Bryce Ball’s first pro season was almost something like folk lore among Braves twitter before he was promoted to Rome and more people were able to get eyes on him. The 6’6 24th round draft pick who went yard once every 11 at bats in rookie ball quickly made a name for himself. Ball and the guy hitting cleanup are virtually the only two 1B prospects in the Braves system and they provide a nice power duo after our speed duo at the top.
4. DH Mahki Backstrom
Big, strong, and athletic enough to have plus bat speed, Backstrom possesses light tower power and has earned his way into our cleanup spot. Hopefully this encourages opposing pitchers to give Ball something to hit as well. Braves twitter lost it when Backstrom finally signed with the club and the day three selection has enough power alone to carry him through the minors.
Top #Braves prospects under the age of 20:
— Jake Berry (@berrys_baseball) January 29, 2020
5. SS Braden Shewmake
Shewmake is the perfect bat to have bridge the lineup. A solid skill set across the board, not only is he the man to hold down shortstop, he will also provide a threat at the dish. A left handed swinger, the 2019 first round pick was outstanding in his pro debut. In fact, he was so good that some questioning that draft selection have already back pedaled after half a season. Shewmake has an advanced plate approach and will only get better now that he is around some top level coaches.
6. LF Trey Harris
You know the ole’ cliche of “good things happen when you put the ball in play”? That’s Harris. Now putting the ball in play is just one of many positive traits the Georgia native brings to the table. If you have followed me for any length of time you know that I am the high man on Harris. I’ve highlighted his stat lines and wondered how so many ignore a guy who just performs no matter what you may think of his build or pitch recognition or whatever else. I’ve seen him play in person at least a dozen times and I’ve spoken of the energy he brings to the ballpark everyday. On top of that, HE LOVES DATA. Read the first couple of paragraphs in Eno Sarris’ article below. I’m not telling you to bet on Harris being an everyday regular for a decade, but how it has taken people this long to see Harris as a legitimate MLB prospect is beyond me. Rant over, this is a great number six hitter for our fictional lineup!
7. C Shea Langeliers
What do you prefer in a prospect, especially at catcher? Floor or ceiling? I think Langeliers’ already developed defense gives him a more solid floor than William Contreras whose carrying tool is his power, that’s when he is able to barrel the ball. Now I do see the ability to barrel in Langliers’ skill set and unlike many, I am encouraged by the progress he has made at the dish while losing nothing behind it. The margin is thin between he and Contreras and if Langeliers proves me wrong and ends up being unable to handle pro pitching a little better in his first full season, then Contreras will be in the 2021 all prospect lineup. I always have to throw in the caveat that I do value defense a little bit in deep leagues. Playing time and positional eligibility are king.
8. 3B CJ Alexander
This was tough for me strictly from a hot corner perspective because there aren’t many options. I did debate dropping Riley Delgado in here at 3B. Ultimately the tools of Alexander won him a spot in the lineup. He swings a heavy piece of lumber and gives a nice power threat at the back of the lineup. Plus, he has proven to be much more versatile as he continues to develop and face tougher competition. He didn’t spend much time on the field in 2019 due to injury, but he is one of the players I am most looking forward to seeing in 2020.
9. 2B Vaughn Grissom
Grissom is just a solid all around ball player and for that reason I cheated a little bit. He played only shortstop in his pro debut, but surely he can handle 2B, right? Grissom definitely has room to grow into his frame and with a little loft in his swing and the ability to get the barrel through the zone quickly, he is very much a legitimate fantasy name to keep an eye on.
Braves SS Vaughn Grissom hitting his 2nd HR in the GCL. In July, the projectable 11th rd high school pick has a .875 OPS and is destroying LHP. Most known for being Riley Greene’s HS teammate, Vaughn also ranks in the 95th percentile in barrel speed and acceleration. #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/NdEZN8djy9
— tyler j. spicer (@tylerjspicer) July 20, 2019
1. RHP Ian Anderson
Anderson may not be the ace of the future Braves staff, but he is certainly the ace of our 2020 All Prospect Opening Day rotation. The NY native was drafted the year I started writing about prospects and he has since been consistently near the top of the system thanks to his repertoire. His mid 90’s FB is complimented well by a CB that entices a lot of swing and miss and a CH that has been improving since draft night.
2. RHP Kyle Wright
One year after taking Anderson in the first round, the Braves took Wright with their first selection. The Vanderbilt product hasn’t performed in the majors yet, but it’s hard to imagine a world where he isn’t a staple in the big league rotation for a couple of years. A 6’4 frame with a high 90’s fastball and a tight slider provides as nice of a floor as you can have for a pitching prospect. Rein in the command a little bit and it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone to see Wright as a consistent piece in the rotation.
3. RHP Jasseel De La Cruz
This may be a little surprising to not see Bryse Wilson in this spot, but I am on record saying that I believe Wilson makes his living in the bullpen. That is still a very real possibility for De La Cruz, but I am encouraged by the trajectory of his career. De La Cruz is a flamethrower with run on his FB and a swing and miss SL. Scouts grade his command slightly below average, but since he has been healthy he hasn’t been wild for the most part and his film shows him locating at least his FB at will. The big factor in De La Cruz sticking in the rotation is the development of his CH which some scouts say is steadily improving.
My two favorites in the #Braves system. Pitcher and Hitter
Jasseel De La Cruz: Mixing the pitches much better and flying up ranks. Know as Jasseel De La 🐐 around here, @berrys_baseball favorite.
Trey Harris: Best hit tool of someone not named Pache, Waters, Shewmake #ChopOn
— Jake Berry (@berrys_baseball) July 28, 2019
4. LHP Tucker Davidson
Davidson’s stock has skyrocketed over the last year or so as the driveline product has been lighting up the radar gun and using his secondaries to induce weak contact. I admitted that I was late to the party on Davidson, but I am all in now.
5. LHP Kyle Muller
I am a Braves fan so of course I am a Kyle Muller fan, but from a fantasy perspective I have always been a little lower than most. I think this tends to be one of those situations where you see a guy live who has some rough starts, not just blooped, but legitimately can’t find the zone and those outings stick in your head. If and when the walks level out, Muller will be a much more legitimate fantasy prospect in my eyes. He has a long way to go in that department, but if you follow him on social media you know the guy works hard.
High Leverage Bullpen
Hernandez falls into the De La Cruz / Trey Harris camp as he is (or was) an under the radar @berrys_baseball favorite. In short stints he has one of the best FB/SL combinations in the system, perhaps second to the next guy, and from a fantasy perspective I love future relievers who are being developed as such.
Of #Braves MiLB pitchers who threw at least 50 IP in 2019, Roddery Munoz posted the highest swing strike rate at 36%. Of pitchers not in the DSL. Highest was @berrys_baseball favorite Daysbel Hernandez at 16%. Of players with 100 IP it was…. you guessed it, Phil Pfeifer at 14%.
— Jake Berry (@berrys_baseball) January 14, 2020
RHP Kasey Kalich
Speaking of relievers who are developed as such, Kalich was dominant out of the pen in 2019 for Texas A&M before the Braves took him in the fourth round of last year’s draft. He doesn’t quite throw as hard as Hernandez, but his FB has some movement to it and the SL is a little bit more consistent at this point in time.
What do you all think of the Atlanta Braves: 2020 All-Prospect Opening Day Lineup? Comment below or reach out on Twitter @berrys_baseball to give your take.