John Hart and John Coppolella have done an excellent job of re-building a depleted Braves farm system. The result for fantasy owners is a deep group of 2nd and 3rd tier Braves prospects and some young prospects with really high ceilings. A few notes as you read through my list:
- Upside is incredibly important to me when it comes to valuing fantasy players. Going after guys with low ceilings is not in my blood.
- There are a lot of catchers at the bottom of this list, because the Braves are desperately searching for a catcher of the future. Outside of Brett Cumberland, there are not any that are probably worth investing in right his minute, but there are several interesting names to watch. At least 1 will likely emerge this year as a significant prospect.
- I largely eliminated relievers unless I believed them to have closer potential or really high end strikeout and ratio potential. It simply is not worth speculating in fantasy on a commodity so volatile.
- Interestingly, the Braves have a ton of pitching depth at the top of the system, but not as many interesting arms toward the bottom of the list. My interpretation is that this comes from the Braves investing heavily on starting pitching in early rounds of the draft in recent years, but more heavily on relievers and sure thing, low ceiling starters in later rounds. The Braves have also tended to focus more on bats in the international market, and thus there are fewer wild card pitchers from that area than in many other organizations.
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. Dansby Swanson, SS
Age: 22 (DOB: 02/11/94)
Swanson barely maintains his rookie/prospect status heading into 2017, but it clearly positions him as the Braves top prospect. While he may never be elite in any fantasy category, he has enough speed, power, and hit tool to provide a solid across-the-board line for roto owners starting this season.
2. Ronald Acuna, OF
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/18/97)
This ranking will probably make me the high man on Acuna, but the upside from a fantasy perspective is mouth-watering. Injuries slowed his breakout campaign, but he has dominated this winter in the Australian League. He has the tools to be a 5-category contributor and a top shelf fantasy asset.
3. Kevin Maitan, 3B
Age: 16 (DOB: 02/12/00)
It is insane to put a 16-year-old into Tier 2, but Kevin Maitan has the kind of talent to justify the ranking. Chipper Jones and Miguel Cabrera are frequent comps, thanks to Maitan’s excellent hit tool and raw power. He is obviously a long way off, but is worthy of a top 5 pick in first year player drafts based on the huge upside.
4. Ozzie Albies, 2B
Age: 20 (DOB: 01/07/97)
This ranking probably makes me the low man on Albies. With limited power upside, Ozzie is likely to be a better real life player than fantasy second baseman. We are looking at a guy who might provide a .290 average and 30 SB, but his value will be very batting order slot dependent. With Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson atop the Braves lineup, Albies may find himself pushed to a less ideal lineup slot. A broken elbow ended the 2016 season early for Albies and might delay his start to 2017, so he should start at AAA with the chance of earning his way to Atlanta by the All-Star break.
5. Kolby Allard, P
Age: 19 (DOB: 08/13/97)
We start a run of pitchers here who all have #1/2 upside, but also some significant risk. Health is the concern with Allard, particularly his back. Coming off back surgery last winter, the lefty posted excellent numbers in 2016 across 16 starts. Allard struck out more than a batter per inning with a 2.98 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He likely gets tested at High-A this season and will need to show that he can remain healthy through a full season.
6. Sean Newcomb, P
Age: 23 (DOB: 06/12/93)
Newcomb is the most talented and most frustrating pitcher in the Braves system. His stuff is phenomenal, but his command is….not. His strikeout totals are delicious, but the control and command issues have led to only a 2:1 K/BB ratio and WHIPs of 1.27 and 1.31 the last two years. Newcomb will likely start the year at AAA, but will have a chance at a big league job at some point in 2017 if he can throw more strikes. At worst, he is a shutdown reliever. At best, he is the ace that the Braves have been seeking.
7. Mike Soroka, P
Age: 19 (DOB: 08/04/97)
Soroka may be the safest of the Braves‘ top pitching prospects, but also lacks the fantasy upside of the rest of this tier. Control is the calling card and should keep his WHIP and ERA in control, but the strikeout numbers will just be solid. For fantasy purposes, this is a guy you would love to have on your squad, but not one for whom you shell out the big bucks.
8. Max Fried, P
Age: 22 (DOB: 01/18/94)
Fried showed encouraging signs in his 2016 return from Tommy John surgery. He struggled a bit with command, but that is to be expected after a year and a half layoff. 2017 will be a critical year in the lefty’s development, and I am trying to get as many shares of him as I can this offseason.
9. Ian Anderson, P
Age: 18 (DOB: 05/02/98)
Anderson was an under slot signing at #3 overall in this year’s draft, and is tough to peg from a fantasy perspective. He is probably the type to be more value in real life than fantasy, as he is unlikely to be a high-K guy. At only 18 years old and with fairly limited pitching experience, there is a pretty long development curve still to come for Anderson.
10. Joey Wentz, P
Age: 19 (DOB: 10/06/97)
The Braves second pick in June’s draft, Wentz is a high-upside lefty starter who would have gone higher if not for signability concerns. There are control concerns with Wentz, but he also offers big strikeout upside. Similar upside and concerns to Newcomb, but further from the big leagues.
11. Touki Toussaint, P
Age: 20 (DOB: 06/20/96)
Full disclosure, we are possibly talking about a reliever or burnout here. There is signficant risk, but oh the reward. Touissant finally seemed to make some strides in 2016, although the final numbers still aren’t overly impressive. Toussaint is extremely athletic, but has struggled mightily with command, control, and consistency from start to start. In Tier 3, though, this is the type of guy I want to try to acquire. There is probably some prospect fatigue here, so it might be worth checking on the asking price in leagues where you can afford to take some risk for a potential top-end starter.
12. Alex Jackson, C?(please?)/OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 12/25/95)
Once the Mariners’ top prospect, Jackson was acquired this offseason for some middling starting pitching prospects. The former 6th overall pick is looking for a change of scenery and the Braves are hoping to capitalize on his once ballyhooed bat. John Coppolella didn’t squash speculation that the Braves might try Jackson back at catcher, which would obviously be big for his fantasy potential. The Braves have no catcher of the future in the system, so if Jackson can get back on track at the plate, he could easily shoot up rankings this season.
13. Austin Riley, 3B
Age: 19 (DOB 04/02/97)
I really struggled with where to slot Riley and could honestly see him anywhere from 8 to 15. An absolutely miserable first half of 2016 is part of the reasoning. Riley hit .252/.299/.372 in the first half- whoof! Fortunately for the Braves and fantasy owners, he rebounded in the second half with 17 homers and a .289/.348/.581 line. The Braves really need Riley to be the 3rd baseman of the future, and he is certainly capable. The hit tool is iffy at best, but the power is significant.
14. Patrick Weigel, P
Age: 22 (DOB: 07/08/94)
Weigel rivaled Acuna as the biggest breakout prospect in the system last year. A 2015 7th rounder out of Houston, Weigel magically put everything together last year after an inconsistent college career and first pro season. With that history, it’s anyone’s guess where he ends up. Of the non-2016 draftees/signees in the top 20, Weigel is the most likely to be available in your league, so act accordingly.
15. Travis Demeritte, 2B
Age: 22 (DOB 09/30/94)
The Braves savvily acquired Demeritte from the Rangers for some spare parts in July. His .266/.361/.554 line from High-A stints with two different teams was impressive, and he impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall league both offensively and defensively. Strikeouts are a huge obstacle for the former 1st rounder. If he can cut down on the K’s somewhat, he could provide a juicy fantasy line.
16. A.J. Minter, RP
Age: 23 (DOB: 09/02/93)
You won’t find many relief pitchers on my list, as they are generally low-impact, volatile, and tough to predict for fantasy purposes. Minter is the exception due to a very clear closer profile. Unlike many high-end relievers, Minter was college closer, drafted and developed as a closer. He had Tommy John surgery in college, causing him to fall in the draft. To say that his return went well would be an understatement. Across 3 levels in 2016, Minter struck out 47 guys in 34 innings while walking only 11 and maintaining a .84 WHIP. Minter will likely battle for a bullpen spot in spring training and could be the Braves closer by 2018.
17. Rio Ruiz, 3B
Age: 22 (DOB: 05/22/94)
If you are looking for the closest proximity to the majors, Ruiz trails probably only Swanson in that category (maybe Minter or Albies). The 2016 season was a mixed bag for the former Astro prospect, but he did make his major league debut. Ruiz hasn’t yet developed much in the way of home run power, but he has a solid batting eye to go along with a decent hit tool. If he can show well in spring training, Ruiz could potentially work his way into a platoon with Adonis Garcia at the hot corner. Not huge upside here, but at 22 years old and with opportunity on the horizon, it is too soon to write him off.
18. Lucas Sims, P
Age: 22 (DOB: 05/10/94)
Once one of the Braves top prospects, Sims has struggled to put together consistent strong starts and is likely being passed over on the depth chart by the Braves other young starters. He’ll probably get one more shot at the AAA rotation this year, but a future in the bullpen is looking increasingly likely.
19. Dustin Peterson, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 09/10/94)
Peterson had a great year at baseball year AA, but lacks big fantasy upside. A corner outfield profile with a .280 average and 20 homers is probably the ceiling. That’s potentially useful in deep leagues, but he hit a career high 12 homers this season, so there is development still to go in that area.
20. Christian Pache, OF
Age: 18 (DOB: 11/19/98)
Pache is a young, toolsy outfielder signed in the 2015 international class. Thus far, he has yet to tap into any in-game power, but he is 18 and scouts expect it to come. He’s likely to get his first run at full-season ball this year and is a potential 20/20 threat down the road. His speed and defense should help carry him while the power develops. Pache could be one of the biggest risers on the list by the end of 2017.
21. Kyle Muller, P
Age: 19 (DOB: 10/07/97)
Muller was the third prized arm of the Braves‘ 2016 draft class. Like Wentz, Muller is a big lefty who was also a touted hitting prospect. There is significant development needed on the secondary pitches in order to achieve his ceiling, but Muller has 2/3 starter potential.
22. Derian Cruz, SS
Age: 18 (DOB: 10/03/98)
Cruz is a switch-hitting shortstop with top-end speed and at least mild power potential. He’ll go through all of 2017 at age 18, so there are still a lot of possible outcomes, but the Braves made him a big-money signee in the 2015 international class, so the ingredients are there.
23. Ray Patrick Didder, OF
After converting from shortstop to the outfield in 2015, Didder transitioned into the leadoff spot for the 2016 Rome Braves. Didder had 30 extra-base hits and 37 steals during this first year of full season ball, and possesses an excellent eye at the plate. He has the potential to be a big-time helium prospect in 2017 and is a nice choice late in prospect drafts.
24. Bryse Wilson, P
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/20/97)
The Braves 2016 4th round pick had a fantastic debut, posting a .068 ERA and 0.90 WHIP across 26.2 innings. That’s obviously a small sample size, but one certainly worth monitoring. There are concerns about the secondary offerings (as with many high-school draftees), which will need to develop if he is going to be able to remain a starter.
25. Braxton Davidson, OF/1B
Age: 20 (DOB: 06/18/96)
Davidson has largely been a disappointment since being drafted in the 2014 1st round. He has a good eye at the plate, but a questionable hit tool. Some have questioned whether plate discipline has turned into plate hesitance, preventing Davidson from driving some of the best pitches he sees. When drafted, Davidson’s power was thought to be his carrying skill, but it has yet to really develop into home run power.
26. Brett Cumberland, C/OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 06/25/95)
Brett Cumberland’s pro debut did not exactly go as planned. Billed as a bat first catcher, he surprising struggled to hit for power or average as a former collegeiate in rookie ball. The Braves will hope to develop his receiving skills and get his offense back on track in 2017. As mentioned with Jackson, catcher is a big need at the upper minors/big league level, so Cumberland will get every chance to succeed.
27. Dylan Moore- IF
Age: 24 (DOB: 08/02/92)
Moore is probably a big-league utility man, but he has a nice blend of power, speed, and versatility. Moore hit 14 homers and stole 42 bases in 2016, while also posting a .379 OBP. He’ll be tested at AA this season, and could be worth a flier late in drafts.
28. Juan Yepez, 1B
Age: 18 (DOB: 02/18/98)
After a strong debut in 2015, Yepez had a lost season in 2016 due to injury. He has good contact skills and the ability to develop significant power. Yepez is a relatively strong defensive first baseman and will look to jump start his development again in 2017.
29. Luke Jackson, RP
Age: 25 (DOB: 08/24/91)
Jackson is a former starting pitching prospect who struggles with control and is making the transition to the bullpen. He has an electric fastball that will be his carrying tool toward fantasy relevance.
30. Isranel Wilson, OF
Age: 18 (DOB: 03/06/98)
Wilson has a lot of power, and thus far almost no ability to harness it for good. He hit 10 homers in the GCL in 2015, but only managed to hit .222. In 2016, those numbers dropped to 2 and .192. Wilson currently struggles with focus and feel for the game and was suspended at the end of the season by the team. 2017 presents a new start, which will hopefully result in improved results for the 18-year old.
31. Jared James, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 02/22/94)
The Braves drafted James in 2014 and again in 2016. This time, James signed as a 34th rounder and had a solid .300/.379/.420 debut with some speed and pop. Probably a 4th outfielder, but with a good eye and wide base of skills, there’s potential for more.
32. Yunior Severino, SS
Age: 17 (DOB: 10/03/99)
Severino is a switch-hitting middle infielder with a solid hit tool and projectable pop. He struggles with off-speed pitches (like most 17-year olds) and may or may not come stateside for 2017. Put this in the talent stash-and-watch folder.
33. Lucas Herbert, C
Age: 20 (DOB: 11/28/96)
Herbert is the first of quite a few catchers in Tier 5. The Braves have been searching for the catching talent and depth in the last 2 drafts and international classes, leading to a lot of guys worth watching, but none with standout skills. Herbert’s defense will carry him and give him a chance to make it to the upper levels of the minors. Hopefully, that will give his bat a chance to develop along with it.
34. Ricardo Sanchez, RP
Age: 19 (DOB: 04/11/97)
Sanchez was the first of several high-risk, high-reward acquisitions by the John, John, and John front office. The reward has yet to come, although the small lefty made very minor strides in 2016. Sanchez lacks command or control, which leads to a lot of walks and a lot of hits. Underneath the terrible ratios, there is enticing stuff, but it is buried deep.
35. Michael Mader, P
Age: 22 (DOB: 02/18/94)
Mader is a back of the rotation starter or swingman. Were he a year farther along, that probably would have meant 15 starts for the Braves in 2016. With the veteran signings of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and the trade for Jaime Garcia, it probably makes him organizational depth in 2017 and beyond.
36. Connor Lien, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 03/15/94)
Lien is a phenomenal defender with enough other tools to make him mildly enticing down the road. His defense, speed, and gap power could make him a decent 4th outfielder in a year or two. He’ll need to cut down on strikeouts to take his game to the next level.
37. Matt Withrow, P
Age: 23 (DOB: 09/23/93)
The younger brother of former Brave Chris, Matt Withrow had a breakout season in 2016 at High A. He struck out 131 batters in 126 innings. He allowed far too many base runners over those innings, but managed to keep his team in the game in almost every start.
38. Abrahan Gutierrez, C
Age: 17 (DOB: 10/31/99)
A prized international signing, Gutierrez has the tools of an excellent defensive catcher with athleticism and potential for some pop at the plate. Due to his defensive skill, Gutierrez may be able to move faster than other international signings, particularly catchers, and could make his stateside debut in 2017. There are tools to dream of an everyday catcher here.
39. Anfernee Seymour, SS
Age: 21 (DOB: 06/24/95)
Seymour is a switch-hitting speedster with a long way to go in terms of approach at the plate. The swing is wild and will need to be refined to make the speed matter.
40. Joey Meneses, OF/1B
Age: 24 (DOB: 05/06/92)
Meneses has good plate discipline and an average hit tool. Unfortunately for a corner infielder/outfielder, he does not have the power that is typically desired. Probably too old to develop much more, but could see the majors in a bench bat capacity down the road.
41. Randy Ventura, OF
Age: 19 (DOB: 07/11/97)
Ventura has killer speed and a hit tool that might be enough to let that speed matter. In 2015, he stole 55 bases in 58 games of rookie ball. Stolen base numbers are to be taken lightly in the lower levels, but the speed is real. Hopefully we will get a chance to see him in a full-season league this year.
42. Jonathan Morales, C
Age: 21 (DOB: 01/29/95)
Morales is a catcher to watch in the Braves system for 2017. He has an excellent arm behind the plate, and a solid combination of hit tool and power at the dish.
43. Kade Scivicque, C
Age: 23 (DOB: 03/22/93)
Did I mention the Braves are trying to find a backstop? Scivicque was acquired for Erick Aybar in a waiver-trade deal. He has yet to show a ton at the plate, but is another to watch in 2017. If nothing else, we’ll know who to knock off the list in 2017.
44. J.B. Moss, OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 06/21/93)
Moss was drafted in the 7th round out of Texas A&M in 2016. He doesn’t have a singular carrying tool but has the potential to be solid across the board. Could move quickly after advancing to High-A in his professional debut.
45. Braulio Vasquez, SS
Age: 17 (DOB: 04/13/99)
The Braves love toolsy Latin American shortstops, and Vasquez is just that. He has a projectable hit tool and power and had a strong .333/.416/.374 debut after signing this year. At 6′, 170 lbs, there is some nice room to grow into the power.
46. Carlos Castro, 1B
Age: 22 (DOB: 05/24/94)
In his first year of full-season ball, Castro showed out with 17 HR and a .508 slugging percentage. At 22, he was a bit old for the league, but is one to keep an eye on heading into 2017. There is enough power and contact skill to dream on for fantasy owners.
47. Jeremy Walker, P
Age: 21 (DOB- 06/12/95)
Walker was a 2016 5th round pick typifying the new Braves regime. His college career at Gardner-Webb was mediocre, but the Braves saw talent they could work with. Walker rewarded them with a strong debut at Danville. Command and consistent mechanics are an issue, but this summer was a nice start in Walker’s development.
48. Justin Ellison, OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 02/06/95)
Ellison was a 12th round pick in 2015. He brings a power/speed package to the outfield, and can also take a walk. He will need to make more consistent hard contact in order to make the other tools matter for fantasy purposes.
49. Joseph Odom, C
Age: 24 (DOB: 01/09/92)
Ok, fine, one more catcher. Fresh off his 2015 Arizona Fall League participation, Odom had his strongest offensive showing yet at High-A Carolina to start the year. A promotion to AA slowed him (and his playing time) somewhat, as his swing mechanics reportedly fluctuated with his playing time. The Braves will have to sort out their catcher log jam in 2017, but look for Odom to emerge as one of the timeshare leaders at the upper levels.
50. Keith Curcio, OF
Age: 24 (DOB: 12/28/92)
The Braves drafted Curcio in the 6th round of the 2014 draft, and he has steadily climbed the ladder since. The lefty-swinger won’t wow with any one skill, but walks almost as much as he strikes out and has good speed and instincts on the base paths. The power is mostly of the gap variety, making Curcio likely a 4th outfielder down the road.