Top 20 Atlanta Braves prospects for 2019
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major “if” in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for.
A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS THE WINTER PROCEEDS
1) Ian Anderson, RHP, Grade A-: Age 20, first round pick from high school in New York in 2016, posted 2.49 ERA in 119 innings between High-A and Double-A, with 142/49 K/BB, only 87 hits and two homers allowed all year; plus fastball, curveball and change-up have all developed nicely, throws strikes, no deterioration in performance after being promoted; in my opinion he has the best combination of upside and polish of all the Braves pitching prospects; ETA late 2019.
2) Mike Soroka, RHP, Grade B+/A-: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Canada, posted 1.76 ERA in 31 innings between Triple-A and a Low-A rehab outing, 34/6 K/BB, just 20 hits; posted 3.51 ERA in 25.2 major league innings with 21/7 K/BB; pitching time limited by shoulder problems; reports on recovery are good but shoulder stuff is inherently scary and knocks his grade down a notch from what it would otherwise be; he’s ready for a rotation spot if healthy; ETA 2019.
3) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, famously electric arm with fastball up to 98 and nasty breaking ball; took huge step forward with his command this year, posting 2.38 ERA with 163/57 K/BB in 136 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, just 101 hits; posted 4.03 ERA in 29 major league innings with 32/21 K/BB, just 18 hits; it is all a matter of control, stuff is too good for the minors at this point so he may have some ups and downs in the majors for a year or two to put the finishing touches on his command; ETA 2019.
4) Kyle Wright, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2017 out of Vanderbilt, posted 3.46 ERA in 133/51 K/BB in 138 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 118 hits; threw six innings in the majors with five strikeouts, six walks; fastball in mid-90s, mixed in with slider, cutter, change-up; overpowering on the right day but can be inconsistent with his command and have some games when he gets blown up, reminds me some of Kevin Gausman at the same stage; ETA 2019.
5) Kolby Allard, LHP, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2015, posted 2.72 ERA in 112 innings in Triple-A with 89/34 K/BB, 102 hits; gave up 19 hits in eight innings in the majors with 12.38 ERA; he’s obviously better than that; doesn’t have the pure stuff of the guys above him but certainly no slouch and can throw fastball, curve, change-up for quality strikes when he’s going well; I like him more than some other analysts do for intuitive reasons I can’t explain very clearly; ETA 2019.
6) Austin Riley, 3B, Grade B+: Age 21, comp round pick in 2015 from high school in Mississippi; hit .294/.360/.522 with 30 doubles, 19 homers, 37 walks, 129 strikeouts in 408 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; defense has improved dramatically over the last two years and he’s proven he can get to his raw power; approach is aggressive and strikeout/contact concerns could inhibit OBP and batting average when he reaches the majors; that said, I am optimistic about him; ETA 2019.
7) Cristian Pache, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015; hit .279/.307/.410 with nine homers, 20 walks, 97 strikeouts in 473 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; very young for these levels; stands out for arm strength, 70-grade speed and strong defense; began to develop power this year after hitting zero homers in 2017; still some uncertainties about his approach but extremely impressive to see in person, tools are obviously stand-out and the skills are coming along; ETA 2020.
8) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Grade B+: Age 22, out of Brazil, posted 4.81 ERA with 59/18 K/BB in 58 innings in Double-A/Triple-A with 5.95 ERA, 18/8 K/BB in 20 major league innings; progressed stalled this year with nagging injuries and distracting family crises; I remain intrigued with his upside and still believe he can become a dominant pitcher if he can get a handle on the off-field stuff and stay healthy; Wayne Cavadi compares him to CC Sabathia in terms of upside potential and I can see that, keeping in mind that CC was also erratic in his early MLB exposure; ETA 2019.
9) Bryse Wilson, RHP, Grade B+: Age 20, fourth round pick in 2016 out of high school, posted 3.44 ERA with 143/36 K/BB in 126 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A; posted 6/6 K/BB in seven major league innings; looks like potential workhorse with 90+ sinker, slider, and change-up combined with good control; doesn’t get as much press as the guys ahead of him but may end up being just as successful; would be the top pitching prospect in many systems. ETA 2019.
10) Drew Waters, OF, Grade B/B+: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Georgia; hit .293/.343/.476 with 39 doubles, nine homers, 29 walks, 105 strikeouts, 23 steals in 460 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; switch-hitter with plus running speed, still learning to tap his power though high doubles total is promising; another Braves hitter with aggressive approach leading to OBP questions as he moves up but young enough to make needed adjustments. ETA 2021.
11) Kyle Muller, LHP, Grade B: Age 21, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Texas; posted 3.03 ERA with 129/46 K/BB in 140 innings between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A; fastball velocity can be inconsistent but he throws strikes and has made good progress developing curveball and change-up; easy to overlook given the depth of pitching in this system; ETA late 2019.
12) Joey Wentz, LHP, Grade B: Age 21, comp round pick in 2016 from high school in Kansas, limited to 67 innings by nagging injuries but pitched well when healthy, 2.28 ERA with 53/24 K/BB, 49 hits in High-A; like Muller he has a respectable low-90s fastball and an assortment of classic southpaw secondaries; K-rate declined this year which bears watching; ETA 2020.
13) William Contreras, C, Grade B: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2015, brother of Willson Contreras; hit .285/.347/.436 between Low-A and High-A with 11 homers, 35 walks, 89 strikeouts in 390 at-bats; defense needs more polish (19 errors), has throwing arm and mobility to be a fine catcher but still working out the kinks, should improve with experience; power developing well and he controls the strike zone reasonably; has a shot as a regular with continued development; ETA late 2020.
14) Tristan Beck, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2018 out of Stanford, threw 4.2 innings without allowing a run in rookie ball; college career was marred by injuries but effective when healthy with low-90s fastball, slightly above-average curve, and plus change-up; relatively polished and could move quickly through the system if he manages a pro workload successfully; ETA 2021.
15) Wes Parsons, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, older prospect but with a solid track record, 2.76 ERA with 104/35 K/BB in 117 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 101 hits allowed; the youngsters ahead of him throw harder and have gaudier press clippings but Parsons throws strikes with four average pitches (two-seam, four-seam, slider, change-up) and has nothing left to prove in the minors; fourth starter/long relief type but should not be underestimated; ETA 2019.
16) Freddy Tarnok, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, third round pick in 2017 from high school in Florida; posted 3.96 ERA in 77 innings in Low-A with 83/41 K/BB, 70 hits; raw, still learning how to pitch rather than just throw; curveball and change-up inconsistent but flash well to go with his fastball up to 95; needs to improve command and control but a high ceiling; ETA 2022.
17) Greyson Jenista, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick out of Wichita State, hit .333/.377/.453 in 117 at-bats in Low-A but slumped to .152/.230/.227 in 66 at-bats in High-A; lefty hitter with 6-4, 210 pound build, plus power potential, also runs and throws well, I saw a lot of him in college and he’s dangerous when his swing mechanics are in gear but can be inconsistent on days when he loses the strike zone; ETA 2021.
18) Chad Sobotka, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, fourth round pick in 2014 from South Carolina-Upstate; posted 2.03 ERA in 58 innings between in High-A/Double-A/Triple-A, 77/29 K/BB, just 30 hits allowed; posted 1.88 ERA in 14 major league innings with 21/9 K/BB; really opened eyes after poor 2017 seasons; mid-to-upper-90s fastball and hard slider make him promising bullpen asset if his command holds up; ETA 2019.
19) Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, acquired from Minnesota Twins in Jaime Garcia trae in 2017; posted 3.63 ERA in 92 innings in Low-A with 100/42 K/BB; hit hard in High-A with 8.03 ERA in 25 innings, 31/12 K/BB but 33 hits; struggles to keep mechanics consistent which hurts his command but there’s good stuff here with low-mid-90s fastball, slider and change-up; he’s in the right system to learn his craft; ETA 2022.
20) CJ Alexander, 3B, Grade C+: Age 22, 20th round pick in 2018 from State College of Florida; destroyed pro pitching at .352/.429/.495 in 196 at-bats between rookie ball and High-A, no loss of production at the higher levels; draft status was deceptive; he was considered a fourth round talent and it was a steal to get him in the 20th; in college had reputation as a power hitter; he hit just two homers as a pro but showed better than expected pure hitting skills; if he combines those two attributes, look out; ETA 2021.
OTHER GRADE C+ (could fit in slots 15-20): Thomas Burrows, LHP; Corbin Clouse, RHP; Tucker Davidson, LHP; Justin Dean, OF; Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP; Riley Delgado, INF; AJ Graffanino, INF; Alex Jackson, C; Adam McCreery, LHP; Jefrey Ramos, OF; Trey Riley, RHP; Ricardo Sanchez, LHP; Jacob Webb, RHP; Patrick Weigel, RHP
GRADE C: Derian Cruz, 2B; Victor De Hoyos, C; Travis Demeritte, OF; Ray-Patrick Didder, INF; Jeremy Fernandez, OF; Josh Graham, RHP; Trey Harris, OF; Miguel Jerez, LHP; Tanner Lawson, LHP; Drew Lugbauer, C-3B; Alan Rangel, RHP; Matt Rowland, RHP; Braulio Vasquez, INF; Jeremy Walker, RHP; Isranel Wilson, OF
The Braves have an insane amount of pitching talent but are not nearly as deep in impact position players. I’m firm on Anderson at Number One and a healthy Soroka at Number Two but the next seven slots could be ordered 50 different ways with valid logic. Spots 15 to 20 are also fungible and I went through five or six different versions before settling on these guys as the most interesting of the bunch.
Your mileage may vary but that’s what we’re here to explore.
Kris Dunn and I will do a podcast and please send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion on the podcast.