While pitching has been the centerpiece of the Braves’ rebuild, Atlanta has also acquired and developed some relatively high-ceiling position players as well. Depth on the offensive side is not as immense as with pitching, but there is fantasy talent to be mined here. A few weeks ago, we took a look at how the pitchers had started the 2017 season. Now, it’s time for the hitters.
Major league promotions:
- Dansby Swanson was a disappointment for much of the first two months of the season. He’s slowly improving as the months get warmer, however, so now is the time to buy if his owner has gotten frustrated.
- Rio Ruiz has seemingly squandered any chance of taking hold of the third base job. He’s gotten two chances to take and run with the gig while Adonis Garcia was disabled, and has struggled in both. Now, he’s losing significant playing time to Johan Camargo, and the Braves are apparently considering playing Freddie Freeman at third base when he returns from the disabled list. Sell Ruiz fast if there is anyone in your league still willing to take a chance on him.
- Johan Camargo has come out of nowhere to play some solid ball for the big league team. He is capable of playing 2nd, 3rd, and shortstop, and is currently getting most of the AB’s at 3rd. He didn’t make my preseason Top 50, because I assumed he was a utility infielder who would have little to no fantasy value. That’s probably still the case, but he does seem to have added a little bit of power to his game. Probably nothing to see here, but keep an eye on him.
Cream of the Crop
- I ranked outfielder Ronald Acuna an ambitious 2nd in my Preseason Top 50, and even I could not have envisioned the success he has had. After garnering rave reviews during Spring Training, the 19-year-old has put together a .298/.352/.464 line with 7 homers and 29 stolen bases. He’s striking out too much and needs to improve his reads on the base paths (13 CS), but Acuna has the stat line juice that fantasy owners should be salivating over. A 2018 arrival is not out of the question, and Acuna is likely to make a bunch of midseason Top 10 lists.
- Ozzie Albies has been maddeningly inconsistent, but has continued to show the tools and intangibles that had many ranking him as a top 25 prospect when the season started. Unfortunately, those tools have been shown in extreme streaks. If Albies can minimize the cold stretches, he’s likely to get a shot at the 2nd base job if/when the Braves move Brandon Phillips at the deadline.
- Borderline catchers Alex Jackson and Brett Cumberland have had the two biggest breakouts among Braves‘ hitting prospects this year. Both have been working at catcher in addition to DHing, and have shown excellent results at the plate. Jackson is .289/.351/.553 with 10 HR through 159 at bats. Cumberland has an insane .432 OBP to go along with a .531 SLG. I’d snatch up either of these guys if they were available in a league that rostered 150 or more prospects, with the hope that they can remain behind the plate. Even if the can’t, the improved hitting could carry them to fantasy relevance in the outfield.
- Before the season, I ranked Christian Pache 20th, claiming he “could be one of the biggest risers on the list by the end of 2017.” The 18-year-old outfielder has followed through. While his in-game power has yet to come, he’s impressed with his speed, defense, and hit tool, and could be poised for an Acuna-esque breakout in the second half or early next year.
- I’m not sure Randy Ventura really counts as a riser, because he is exactly what we knew he was- a speedster with a hit tool. He’s continued to impress at Low-A Rome, and is a potential future asset in stolen bases.
- Derian Cruz has been extremely overmatched in Low-A. He’s just 18, so no need to panic, but we would have hoped for more. Same goes for Ray-Patrick Didder at High-A and Keith Curcio, Jared James,and Dylan Moore at AA. The latter 3 were fringy to begin with, so we can probably safely right them off at this point. I still think Didder can develop into at least a 4th OF, maybe more.
- Braxton Davidson continues with more of the same, and that makes him a faller. Walking a lot can only get you so far when you are hitting .207 with only 5 HR. Davidson leads the Florida State league in walks, but is also 2nd in strikeouts- not necessarily a recipe for success at the High-A level.
- Austin Riley and Travis Demeritte have been binging on home runs and strikeouts. Riley has had some stretches where he looks like the Braves‘ third baseman of the future and some where he looks absolutely lost. Demeritte has begun taking reps at third base in addition to his natural second in order to increase his versatility and find a way to the big leagues. There are loud power tools here that just need a bit more hit to be relevant.
- Dustin Peterson has struggled since returning from a broken wrist suffered in Spring Training. He still has a chance to be a bench piece going forward, and maybe more, but I’ll need to see some power before I really buy into that and especially before I buy him as a fantasy contributor.
- I’m keeping and eye on improvements from C Lucas Herbert, OF/1B Joey Meneses, 1B Carlos Castro, and OF Justin Ellison. Herbert is a strong defensive catcher who has made very mild gains at the plate. The others are fringe players who might be able to breakout with continued development.
- Outfielder Anfernee Seymour has performed quite well this season and is one of the fastest players in the minors. His hitting really lags behind, however, and his numbers are buoyed by that speed. I’m fine with keeping him on a Watch List, but wouldn’t make the add based on his deceptive .301 combined average at Low/High A.
Yet to debut:
- Kevin Maitan
- Isranel Wilson
- Yunior Severino
- Abrahan Gutierrez
- Braulio Vasquez
- Joseph Odom (injury)
Article featured image of Ronald Acuna – courtesy BaseballAmerica.com/Cliff Welch