When sitting down to do my re-ranking of the Atlanta Braves’ Top 50 prospects, I came to an interesting realization- for a rebuilding team, very few Top 50-worthy prospects have been added to the system since the beginning of the season. The reasoning for this is three-fold and differs significantly from most of MLB’s 30 other teams.
- First, the Braves went very top heavy on their draft. Kyle Wright was signed for well above his bonus level and forced the Braves to implement a different strategy than the money-spreading plan that netted Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller last year. The result is that only Wright, Drew Waters, Freddy Tarnok, Drew Lugbauer, and Troy Bacon (#50) make the list. In other organizations, later round picks with upside would find their way into Top 50 lists, but with the amazing depth the Braves have, only those 5 really even warrant consideration.
- Second, after blowing out their international bonus pool last year, the Braves were very quiet this year. You won’t find a July 2 signing on this list.
- Third, and oddest for a rebuilding team, the Braves made very few trades at the deadline this season. Only the trade of Jaime Garcia to the Twins netted a prospect of any merit (Huascar Ynoa).
While these three factors along with graduations of Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, and Luke Jackson from my Preseason Top 50 could have led to a decrease in the quality of a top 50, the Braves have instead seen a significant quantity of the prospects already in the system make significant jumps, leading to a list that is the deepest in the league and features a mix of big upside and solid floors.
I won’t be providing significant scouting reports in this midseason update, except to note improvements or struggles in certain areas. For the fuller scouting report, reference the preseason list. As a reminder, I value upside significantly for fantasy purposes and place very little value on relief pitchers unless they have bonafide closer potential. Give me your thoughts/complaints/discussion in the comments.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
1. Ronald Acuna, OF
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/18/97)
I had Acuna ranked behind only Swanson to start the year and was one of the high men on him. He has come out this season and absolutely destroyed 3 levels of pitching. Now at AAA, his cumulative line reads .321/.377/.520 with peripherals that back it up. His 16 HR and 36 SB point to a potential 5-cat terror who might be baseball’s top prospect coming out of 2017.
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
Age: 20 (DOB: 01/07/97)
Albies has done a lot this year to silence any doubters and now finds himself on the big league club. He started slowly while returning from a broken elbow, but rounded into form nicely as the summer heated up. He will never be a huge power threat, but has started to show enough power for fantasy owners to hope on a 15/30 HR/SB line to go along with a strong average and the potential to score a lot of runs at the top of an order.
3. Kevin Maitan, 3B
Age: 17 (DOB: 02/12/00)
Maitan is making his stateside debut this year, and after a solid start in the GCL, has struggled a bit in Danville. Reports on him are all still good, however, and point toward a corner infielder with elite power potential and strong bat-to-ball potential. Nagging injuries have played a role this year, and Maitan will look to put those behind him and finish the season strong.
4. Mike Soroka, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB: 08/04/97)
Soroka has been nothing short of amazing this season as a 19-year old (just turned 20) who skipped High-A ball and has dominated AA. Soroka’s pitchability and control make him and almost certain big leaguer for a long time, and he is beginning to find more swing-and-miss as well. The swing and miss will dictate his fantasy upside, but Soroka is probably as safe as any pitching prospect in the minors right now due to a likely low ERA, WHIP, and likelihood to pitch deep into games. He should be a part of the competition for a rotation spot next year, though some time at AAA in 2018 seems likely.
5. Luiz Gohara, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB: 7/31/96)
Stolen from the Mariners this offseason in the Mallex Smith/Shae Simmons trade, Gohara has dominated across 2 levels this season and is now taking a crack at AAA. The big lefty features a good fastball and an excellent slider that has kept batters whiffing all year. Even after an oblique injury, Gohara has already topped his previous season high on innings by 40, so it will be interesting to see how the Braves manage him down the stretch. Like Soroka, he should get a shot at the rotation next year.
6. Kyle Wright, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB: 10/2/95)
The Braves‘ top pick in the 2017 draft, Wright has the body of a workhorse and the stuff to go with it. The Braves have been very careful with him after a long college season, but he has still shown the dominance that would be expected of a top draft choice. With big-time college experience and an advanced repertoire, Wright is likely to move quickly and shoot up this list in 2018.
7. Kolby Allard, LHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 08/13/97)
Allard and Soroka have been battling back and forth since being drafted consecutively in 2015. After a strong start at AA, Allard has struggled since June rolled around (although his last one was a beauty). That’s not surprising for a 19-year-old in AA, especially one who is still working to build up innings. Allard might fall on some lists this off-season due to the struggles, but it will be completely unwarranted. The ceiling of a #2 starter is still there and the floor seems to have risen this season.
8. Ian Anderson, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 05/02/98)
Unlike many of the Braves other young pitchers, Anderson has been treated cautiously this year, throwing only 79 innings thus far. The results have been solid but unspectacular, and the 2016 #3 overall pick has struggled more with his command than his scouting reports would have predicted. He has struck out an excellent 11.23/9 which portends his huge upside. If the walk rate comes down, Anderson is likely a top 30 prospect this time next year.
9. Joey Wentz, LHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 10/06/97)
Wentz has been the anti-Anderson this season. His control and command have been much better than expected and have led to an absolutely dominant season. Wentz has struck out more than 10 batters per inning in route to a 2.43 ERA and 3.08 xFIP. There’s a chance Wentz gets bumped to High-A before the end of the year which could lead to a Soroka/Allard-esque jump to AA next year. Wentz is a big riser right now and a guy to try to get your hands on in dynasty leagues before he soars into the Top 50.
10. Alex Jackson, C/OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 12/25/95)
Jackson has made the transition back to catching at least part time this year and has seen strong results with the bat as well. While his defense has a long way to go, the upside that made him a 1st round pick is still there. Jackson put up a .272/.333/.502 line at High-A before being promoted to AA where he has struggled in a small sample size. His 14 home runs at AA already signify a career high, though he will need to walk more to be a serious fantasy contributor in multiple categories. The bar at catcher is low, so if he can hang behind the plate, Jackson has the potential to contribute significant value.
11. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB: 06/20/96)
IF YOUR LEAGUES TRADE DEADLINE HAS NOT PASSED, GO TRADE FOR TOUKI NOW! The breakout that has been foretold for eons seems to finally be occurring. The strikeouts are up, the walks are down, and the xFIP shows a guy who has been more dominant than his ERA would lead you to believe. The ERA at High-A was over 5, but all of the underlying numbers and reports look good, as have his two AA starts since his promotion. It’s possible that Toussaint will finally shed the dreaded bullpen label and evolve into the top notch starter that his athleticism and raw stuff has led many of us to hope on.
12. Christian Pache, OF
Age: 18 (DOB: 11/19/98)
Pache will likely rank a couple spots higher on real-life prospect lists, but much of his current value is tied to his outstanding defense. With that said, he does have speed, a solid approach, and at least some hope of developing power. Next year’s Acuna? Probably not, but if some power comes, watch out!
13. Austin Riley, 3B
Age: 20 (DOB 04/02/97)
I struggled with where to rank Riley in the preseason, and I struggled again this time. He’s an incredibly streaky hitter and thus an incredibly frustrating player to gauge. Riley was solid, if unspectacular at High-A, but the Braves promoted him aggressively as they have with several others. So far, the AA results have not been super impressive, but we never know when a streak is coming. On the plus side, Riley’s third base defense has reportedly improved significantly in 2017 which is paramount for his fantasy value. The bat is unlikely to carry him to fantasy relevance at first, but there is enough power to hope for a slugging third baseman.
14. Lucas Sims, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB: 05/10/94)
Sims has had a really nice bounce back after a couple of rough years. After striking out more than 10 per 9 in AAA and decreasing his walk rate from 6.66 in 2016 to 2.81 in 2017, Sims got the call up to the majors. He’ll have a chance to lock down a 2018 rotation spot if he can make a favorable impression down the stretch.
15. Max Fried, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB: 01/18/94)
Fried has been likely the biggest disappointment among Braves prospects in 2017. His peripherals are not as bad as his ERA would suggest, and the Braves thought enough of him to bring him up to help out in the bullpen. Scouting reports suggest, however, that his pitches have not been as sharp as they were at the end of 2016, and that has shown in reports. The Braves are likely hoping that a strong bullpen stint can help him adjust to major league hitters and boost his confidence. Fried is likely to get a shot at a rotation spot at some point in 2018.
16. Bryse Wilson, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/20/97)
Bryse Wilson has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2017 minor league season for the Braves. He was oft-forgotten among last season’s top picks of Anderson, Wentz, and Muller, but has turned in one heck of a season at low-A Rome. His smaller size likely doesn’t lead to the ace upside of the Wentz, Anderson, and maybe even Muller, but Wilson has shown enough promise to warrant roster consideration in leagues of 200 prospects or more.
17. Drew Waters, OF
Age: 18 (DOB 12/30/98)
Waters was selected in the second round out of the Braves‘ country- Woodstock, GA. He is a high ceiling power/speed combo who has acquitted himself well in 2 rookie-ball stops. Waters has the potential to contribute across the board with a smooth swing and bat speed to go along with good outfield instincts. I’ll be targeting him at picks 15-20 in my First Year Player Drafts.
18. Travis Demeritte, 2B/3B
Age: 22 (DOB 09/30/94)
Demeritte is what we thought he was before we all got greedy. He has big power, a strong glove, and serious contact issues. He’s actually struck out less in 2017, but his ISO and BABIP decreases continued to drag down his average. The Braves have moved him around a bit, and a versatile power bat off the bench is looking like his likely role.
19. Brett Cumberland, C/OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 06/25/95)
Cumberland, like Alex Jackson, is at risk of moving out from behind the plate. Also like Jackson, he has had a strong offensive year and would provide serious value if he can still catch part-time. Cumberland has OPSed .882 across two levels, with much of the success (especially power-wise) coming at Low-A. The catching depth charts in the Braves‘ minor leagues are starting to get crowded, so it will be interesting to see what the team decides to do with Cumberland.
20. Patrick Weigel, SP
Age: 23 (DOB: 07/08/94)
Weigel had 7 dominant starts at AA and 6 impressive starts in 8 turns at AAA before undergoing Tommy John surgery in late June. It was very unfortunate timing for Weigel, who would have likely beaten either Sean Newcomb or Lucas Sims to the big leagues had he remained healthy. Instead, he’ll rehab for the next year, with hopes of a late 2018 or Spring Training 2019 return. There’s probably a buying window here for fantasy purposes.
21. Rio Ruiz, 3B
Age: 23 (DOB: 05/22/94)
Ruiz had his shot at locking down the starting 3B job in Atlanta early in the season, but flopped in an 80 AB trial. Since then, the Braves have rotated through Freddie Freeman, Johan Camargo, and now Brandon Phillips at third. There is still certainly room for Ruiz to become the third baseman of the future, but his star is fading. Fantasy-wise, even with a starting job, I’m not sure he’s a difference-maker.
22. A.J. Minter, LHP
Age: 23 (DOB: 09/02/93)
If not for injuries, Minter is likely much further up this list and also likely on the major league roster already. Instead, he’s made just 23 appearances in 2017 and has yet to regain his dominant 2016 form. He’s particularly struggled with his control since joining AAA Gwinnett, though it seems more like rust than a long-term problem. Arodys Vizcaino has the closer role locked down for now, but a healthy Minter certainly has late-inning potential down the road.
23. Yunior Severino, 2B
Age: 17 (DOB: 10/03/99)
Severino was signed along with Maitan in last year’s July 2nd class and has enjoyed a strong U.S. debut as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. Severino is a switch-hitter who has the potential to be a power-hitting middle infielder. Can he make a full-season debut next year? I wouldn’t rule it out. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on, and one who is likely to move quickly up prospect lists in 2018.
24. Dustin Peterson, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 09/10/94)
Like Weigel, Peterson had terrible timing with an injury that set back his Major League debut. Peterson was having a strong spring before breaking the hammate bone in his wrist. As is typical with that injury, his power has yet to return. Unfortunately for Dustin, he did not have a lot of power to spare, so his fantasy impact is likely to be minimal. He has a solid hit tool, however, and is still only 22, so there is the potential for some power to develop.
25. Lucas Herbert, C
Age: 20 (DOB: 11/28/96)
Herbert was drafted as a defense-first catcher, but has really started to come around with the bat in 2017. While a .258/.317/.390 line isn’t going to wow anyone, it’s a huge jump forward from Herbert’s performance in the same league last year. If the bat continues to develop, he could become fantasy relevant. Reminder- catchers take FOREVER to develop.
26. Abraham Gutierrez, C
Age: 17 (DOB: 10/31/99)
Speaking of catchers who will take forever to develop, the 17-year old Gutierrez is likely light years away, but has a potentially big ceiling. There were concerns around his signing last year that Gutierrez would have trouble keeping his body in shape, but some of those seem to have been alleviated this year. He has only 88 at bats thus far in the Gulf Coast League, but has the tools to stick behind the plate and provide some pop.
27. Kyle Muller, LHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 10/07/97)
While Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz were holding their own in aggressive placements to start the year, Muller remained in extended spring training dealing with injuries and other obstacles. In his 8 starts since joining the Appy League, he’s struggled with consistency and walks, while also missing fewer bats than we’d hoped.
Tiers 4 and 5 run together here and depend on whether you prefer safety or upside.
28. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP
Age: 20 (DOB: 04/11/97)
In what I suppose can be considered a success, Sanchez has put up a remarkably similar season to 2016, albeit at one level higher. Unfortunately, he still lacks control or command and thus has not been overly impressive. As Toussaint has shown this year, it’s too early to fall victim to prospect fatigue.
29. Tyler Pike, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB: 1/26/94)
Pike seemed to solve his control problems during a 12-start stretch to start the season at High-A. Unfortunately, those gains have completely evaporated at AA to the tune of 46 walks in 51 innings. Hitters are still having a hard time hitting him, but he is giving up too many free passes, leading to unnecessary runs. My gut says he’s a reliever long term, but there is still some rotation upside here.
30. Freddy Tarnok, RHP
Age: 18 (DOB: 11/24/98)
The Braves surprised many when they took Tarnok in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. He was a relatively unheralded prospect who had split time between the field and the mound. Through an 8-inning sample size (5 starts), the results have been excellent and the scouting reports match. Tarnok is a long way away, but is worth taking a flier on in the late rounds of First Year Player drafts.
31. Derian Cruz, SS
Age: 18 (DOB: 10/03/98)
Cruz and Pache were the top 2 signings in the Braves‘ 2015 international class. Thus far, Cruz has struggled to keep pace with Pache’s quick ascension. The young shortstop has been overmatched this year in both rookie ball and Low-A. He’s struggled with strikeouts and really hasn’t shown much of anything with the bat. He’s still young, but the early results have not been promising.
32. William Contreras, C
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/24/97)
Willson’s little brother is showing this year that he may be able to follow his brother’s footsteps to the big leagues. After a strong debut in 2015 and a down year last year, Contreras has dominated the Appalachian League with a .325/.409/.476 line. He has an excellent approach, more walks than strikeouts, and has shown some burgeoning power this year. Catchers take a long time to develop, but Contreras is worth keeping an eye on (or adding now in very deep leagues).
33. Drew Lugbauer, C/?
Age: 20 (DOB: 08/23/96)
Slugbauer has taken the minors by storm after being drafted in the 11th round out of Michigan. After hitting 10 homers in 103 AB’s in the Appy league, he was promoted to the Rome and has continued his hot hitting. The power has slowed a bit, but is definitely real. The big question with Lugbauer will be his ultimate position. He’s played some catcher and may be able to remain there part time, but is also likely to see some time in the infield and outfield corners.
34. Huascar Ynoa, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB: 05/28/98)
The Braves acquired Ynoa from the Twins leading up to the trade deadline. He has solid stuff, but has struggled thus far with control and command. Folks who have seen him thus far in the Braves‘ system have been impressed, and the Braves will hope to harness his raw stuff into a future #3 or 4 starter.
35. Braxton Davidson, OF/1B
Age: 21 (DOB: 06/18/96)
Davidson is by far the biggest faller on the list, and that has been the case essentially from the day he was drafted in 2014. What was billed as an excellent batting eye with the potential for big power has turned into a lot of walks, a lot of strikeouts, and not much more. I have a bit of a sense that Davidson some days explodes as a post-hype sleeper, but there really isn’t any evidence that gives credence to that theory so far.
36. Isranel Wilson, OF
Age: 19 (DOB: 03/06/98)
Wilson has immense power, but has been consistently been held back by immaturity related issues. He probably deserves to be a bit higher on the list, but I’d really like him to put things together a bit before I start to truly buy in. A 10-homer assault on the GCL in 2015 remains the only truly encouraging in-game stretch.
37. Anfernee Seymour, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 06/24/95)
Seymour is a raw speed-centric prospect with a poor approach at the plate. In 2017, the speed has really helped the rest of his game and numbers play up, but it’s not a profile that lends to a lot of fantasy success. For every Billy Hamilton or Dee Gordon who contributes huge steal numbers, there are a hundred of guys like Seymour who don’t pan out. He’ll have to really work on his pitch recognition and overall approach at the plate and on the bases to turn the raw speed into a productive long-term player.
38. Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
Age: 17 (DOB: 09/23/99)
Rosario is a flame thrower with the potential for a couple above average secondary pitches. Whether that means a future in the bullpen or the rotation is yet to be seen. Rosario’s command has been inconsistent, but when he is on, you don’t have to squint too hard to see a big league starter’s repertoire. For a 17-year-old, that’s worth keeping an eye on.
39. Matt Withrow
Age: 23 (DOB: 09/23/93)
Amidst star prospects Soroka, Allard, Toussaint, and Gohara, Withrow is the less-heralded guy who just seems to keep chugging along and subtly impressing people along the way. He’ll never dominate with his stuff, but there is the ceiling of a starter with streaming potential.
40. Jean Carlos Encarnacion
Age: 19 (DOB: 01/17/98)
Encarnacion was a low-profile signing in early 2016 who has really impressed this season. He has shown an impressive ability to channel his power in game and has impressed with his bat to ball as well. The frame is there to continue to develop power, making him an interesting long-term piece.
41. Yenci Pena, 3B
Age: 17 (DOB: 07/17/00)
Pena is insanely raw, but also has the across the board skill set that you are looking for in a prospect this young. He has spent 2017 in the Dominican Summer League and given small glimpses at his potential power, speed, and approach, while struggling with consistency. We’re probably looking at a wait-and-see approach in all but the deepest of leagues.
42. Livan Soto, SS
Age: 17 (DOB: 06/22/00)
Another in the influx of international middle infield talent to the Braves‘ system, Soto will rely on his approach and hit tool to move through the system. He’s a smart player without loud raw power or big speed but with enough of each to potentially be relevant down the road.
43. Jeffrey Ramos, OF
Age: 18 (DOB: 02/10/99)
Ramos has been a monster with the bat this year, tearing up 2 rookie leagues to the tone of a .928 season OPS. Both the hit tool and the power have been impressive, though at 6’1, he probably doesn’t have the long-term power ceiling of a few of the other young bats on this list.
44. Juan Contreras, RHP
Age: 17 (DOB 9/8/99)
Contreras is a power arm signed in the 2016 international class. He has a potential plus slider and fastball, but the command is a disaster at this point. Keep an eye on the walk rate as the year winds down to see if he is making strides.
45. Braulio Vasquez, SS
Age: 18 (DOB: 04/13/99)
The young international signees keep coming. Vasquez has a solid hit tool, but has yet to incorporate even a glimpse of power into his game. At only 18, and with a 6’0, 170 lb frame, there is still room for that power to come, and it will be an important part to Vasquez developing fantasy relevance.
46. Yoeli Lopez, OF
Age: 20 (DOB: 07/31/97)
Lopez is a speed demon and maybe more. He has some gap power right now and is able to make pretty hard contact. He’s striking out too much for a guy with this skill set, but he also knows how to draw a walk. Defense and speed should help carry him while the rest of the tools develop.
47. Tyler Neslony
Age: 23 (DOB: 02/13/94)
An unheralded senior sign out of the 2016 draft, Neslony has done nothing but produce across 4 levels over the last year plus. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he doesn’t currently possess any standout skill other than a solid hit tool. Thus, he is unlikely to develop into a fantasy force. Stranger things have happened for this type of “gamer,” but he’ll likely be questioned at every level.
48. Alay Lago, 2B
Age: 26 (DOB: 07/21/91)
Lago marks an uncommon dip into the Cuban market for the Braves, and as such is an older prospect. This portion in the list finds either advanced low ceiling prospects or raw wild cards. Lago is the former, as he lacks a standout skill, but will likely continue to climb the minor league ladder. If he can tap into a bit more power, there may be something here, but it’s unlikely due to his advanced age.
49. Justin Ellison, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 02/06/95)
Ellison’s power speed combo has been on display this season (7 HR/ 7SB) as has his struggle to make contact (K rate over 25%). He has struggled since a mid-July promotion to High-A, with an OPS under .600. There will need to be a lot of adjustments for Ellison to make a fantasy impact.
50. Troy Bacon, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 9/26/96)
Bacon was a JUCO closer when the Braves drafted him in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. There is some talk of trying to see if his stuff will play up as a starter, although it looks like that will wait until next year. For now, Bacon is dominating as a reliever in the GCL. His stuff will certainly play in the bullpen, but a conversion to starting would make him more interesting for fantasy purposes.