Spring Training 2017 has come to an end, and as MLB teams prepare for first pitch, fantasy owners are putting the finishing touches on their rosters and taking stock of the pre-season takeaways. Let’s take a look at some prospect risers, fallers, and notes from Atlanta Braves spring training.
- Ronald Acuna dominated in the Australian League this offseason and carried that performance over into both big league and minor league camps. The 19-year-old centerfielder drew comparisons from management and observers to former Braves star Andruw Jones for his athleticism, natural talent, and feel for the game. The window to buy may have already closed, but we could be looking at a 5-category contributor and top 10 prospect by this time next year. He may not be as far away as was originally thought.
- The competition for the Braves‘ starting rotation went exactly as planned, with Mike Foltynewicz claiming the final spot behind Julio Teheran and the 3 offseason acquisitions (Colon, Dickey, Garcia). The competition for the first spot starter/injury replacement became more interesting, as Max Fried showed out during camp. Fried ramped up slowly last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but turned it on in his last few starts. Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler are still the first men up, but Fried is one to watch if multiple veterans are moved at the deadline.
- Rio Ruiz may not crack the Opening Day roster in Atlanta, but he certainly gave the Braves a lot to think about. Ruiz came into camp in great shape and put himself back on the radar with a decent spring. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts and refine his approach, but Adonis Garcia is not exactly a huge obstacle to playing time. Look for Ruiz to be the first man up if Garcia struggles or gets injured.
- Coming off a broken elbow, not much was expected of Ozzie Albies this spring, other than a return to good health. After being brought along slowly to start, Albies impressed throughout the second half of the spring and showed why the Braves think so highly of him. The Brandon Phillips acquisition will give the 19-year-old time to develop at his own pace and arrive when he is ready. John Coppollela has said that Phillips won’t prevent a call-up and recently hinted at a possible Javier Baez-type utility role.
- With the Braves‘ struggles to fill out their bench, Dustin Peterson probably had a decent chance of making the roster had he stayed healthy. Unfortunately, a broken hamate bone ended Peterson’s spring and will delay his regular season start. Hamate injuries are known for sapping power during the first year, and Peterson did not exactly have much to spare. Unfortunately, this could significantly delay his debut timeline.
- A.J. Minter also looked to have a shot at the Opening Day roster before injuries ruined his spring. Minter, a Tommy John survivor, is no stranger to injuries, and will be one to watch in the coming weeks. What once looked like a strong bullpen mix for the Braves looks considerably weaker after the trade of Shae Simmons, release of Paco Rodriguez, and injuries to Minter, Mauricio Cabrera, and Armando Rivero. There will likely be a spot available when Minter is ready, but that timetable is hazy at best right now.
- I really expected Sean Newcomb to get a little more time in big league camp. Yes, things were crowded with the aforementioned starting 5 along with Wisler and Blair. Newcomb, however, is supposedly the furthest along of the Braves wave of pitching prospects and not far from a big league shot. This spring affirmed what we already knew about Newcomb- tantalizing stuff, frustrating control. He’ll head to Triple-A to continue fine tuning, but with each walk, the bullpen chatter gets louder.
NEWS AND NOTES
- You cannot truly appreciate the Braves‘ pitching prospect depth until you take a look at the minor league affiliate rotations.
- The Gwinnett Braves will likely run out Wisler, Blair, Newcomb, and Lucas Sims
- Mississippi has a fantastic 4 of Fried, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Patrick Weigel, and potentially former Phillies top Prospect Jesse Biddle.
- High-A Florida Fire Frogs will lead with Touki Toussaint, offseason acquisition Luiz Gohara, and Ricardo Sanchez.
- Low-A Rome will be home to talented 2016 draftees Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, Bryse Wilson, and Jeremy Walker.
- This doesn’t even account for guys like Matt Withrow and Michael Mader who could end up at either High-A or Double A.
- Allard and Soroka will skip High-A, giving a serious boost to their timelines. Braves fans and fantasy owners should keep this in mind if they struggle out of the gate at AA. The Braves are one of the more aggressive organizations with their top prospects, but adjustment periods are to be expected.
- In my Top 50 Prospects list, I mentioned the breadth of catchers in the organization with intriguing upside and serious question marks. Keep an eye on the level assignments this spring and who is paired together. This could give an indication into the organization’s feelings on guys like Jonathan Morales, Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland, Alex Jackson, Kade Scivicque, Joe Odom, and Tanner Murphy.
- Keep an eye on Ray-Patrick Didder as a helium guy in the early months of 2017. Lots of tools for a guy who is very under the radar at the moment.