16. Travis Demeritte, 2B
2016 Level: A+ Carolina
12.6 BB%, 33 K%
(stats from class A+ High Desert and Carolina)
The History: Demeritte was a 1st-round pick by the Texas Rangers out of Winder-Barrow HS in Georgia in 2013, and traded mid-season 2015 to the Braves for RHPs Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez. At the time of the trade, Demeritte was leading the class high-A California League in home runs, in part thanks to playing in video game-like conditions at High Desert, but after the July trade he continued to knock extra base hits in Carolina. Demeritte was selected to represent the Rangers in the 2016 Future’s Game and was Atlanta’s feature player in the Arizona Fall League, where he received rave reviews by national scouting pundits for his defensive play and was named by MLB Pipeline to the All-AFL team.
The Report: Demeritte is listed at 6’-0” and 180 pounds, but he generates power with a big, violent swing. While he has an advanced hitting eye, the swing is long and prone to swing-and-miss. So far Demeritte looks like a “three-true-outcomes” kind of hitter, generating lots of home runs, walks, and strikeouts, and his ceiling is only limited by how much he can cut his strikeout rate. It will be interesting to see if the Braves encourage Demeritte to shorten his stroke to generate more contact at the expense of power. Demeritte has good speed and will be a base-stealing threat. While he’s got the hands and arm to play shortstop, his range is more suited to second base or third base, and he played both positions in the AFL.
What’s Next: After the Miller-for-Swanson/Inciarte/Blair deal, the trade that sent spare parts Lucas Harrell and Dario Alverez for Demeritte may work out to be John Coppolella’s second best trade of the rebuild. Demeritte at the minimum will be a power-hitting utility infielder in the majors, and has the potential for being a Javier Baez-esque talent. He will start the season in AA Mississippi, but his presence gives the Braves options at both second and third base long-term.
17. Cristian Pache, OF
2016 Level: Rk Danville
5.5 BB%, 10.2 K%
(stats from two rookie league levels)
The History: Pache was an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in the 2015 signing period, signing with Atlanta for a $1.4 million bonus. Like fellow 2015 signee Derian Cruz, Pache started his first pro season at age 17 stateside in the Gulf Coast League, and like Cruz he started very well, hitting .283/.325/.377 and only striking out 11 times in 106 at-bats. Also like Cruz, he was promoted to Danville after a month in the Gulf Coast League. Unlike Cruz, Pache actually improved his performance after his promotion, hitting .333/.372/.404. After the season, Baseball America named Pache the #10 prospect in the Gulf Coast League and the #9 prospect in the Appalachian League.
The Report: Pache is a complete toolkit of a player, with a good hit tool, good raw power, enough defensive range to play any outfield spot, the arm to play right field, and potential plus baserunning. While his swing can get long, he has extremely good contact ability and will spray the ball with authority to all fields. He hasn’t translated his raw power to over-the-fence power yet, but once he fills out that should come as well. Currently he’s a lanky 6’-2”, 185 pounds. As long as he maintains his conditioning, he should be able to stick in center field.
What’s Next: The Braves have shown to be more than willing to push international prospects, and I expect Pache to make his A-ball debut in Rome on Opening Day, where they should have another fun team full of top-notch prospects.
18. A.J. Minter, LHP
2016 Level: AA Mississippi
31 G, 0 GS
(stats from A, A+, and AA levels)
The History: Minter was a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M. Minter was considered a potential top 30 pick until his UCL snapped that February, requiring Tommy John surgery. The Braves have not been shy about acquiring high-upside talent with TJS in their background, and were reportedly “thrilled” that Minter dropped to them with the #75 pick in 2015. At Texas A&M, Minter had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen his sophomore season and as a starter his junior season (prior to his injury), but it looks like the Braves will use him exclusively as a reliever. They heavily monitored his usage in his pro season, but he was electric in three stops, only five earned runs all season, and four of those in one appearance. Minter got the save in the post-season clincher and pitched three scoreless appearances for Mississippi in their playoff run.
The Report: Quite frankly, Minter is the most exciting pure relief prospect the Braves have had since Craig Kimbrel was making his way (quickly) up the organizational ladder. Like Kimbrel, Minter has an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s that touches 99 with tremendous movement. Also like Kimbrel, Minter has a slider with a tight spin than he can throw at different velocities and get swing-and-misses against both lefties and righties. The slider was voted best in the Braves system by Baseball America. He has a change-up as a third pitch that is a vestige of his starting days at Texas A&M, but will occasionally break out to give another look. Minter is listed as 6’-0”, 205 pounds and he uses his legs to explode out of a deliberate motion. He worked exclusively out of the stretch in 2016.
What’s Next: Minter will likely start 2017 in AAA Gwinnett, but if he performs well and there’s an opportunity, Minter could be in the Braves bullpen as soon as Opening Day.
19. Lucas Sims, RHP
2016 Level: AA Mississippi
28 G, 27 GS
(stats from AA and AAA levels)
The History: Sims was the Braves 1st-round pick in 2012 out of Brookwood HS in Snellville, GA. Sims has had a steady rise through the Braves organization since being drafted, with the notable speed bump of the Carolina Mudcats team bus accident in May of 2015. Sims suffered a hip contusion in the accident that kept him out of action for six weeks, but returned to Carolina in July to make three starts before getting promoted to class AA Mississippi. A solid campaign in Mississippi (including an 0.88 ERA and 33 Ks in 30.2 innings his last 5 starts), followed by a strong Arizona Fall League campaign, had many hoping that Sims was on the verge of a breakthrough in 2016.
Sims picked up in 2016 right where he left off, pitching in 3 starts for Mississippi in April to a 1.84 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 14.2 IP. He was promoted to class AAA Gwinnett, but after two good starts the wheels came off. In his 14 starts with Gwinnett, Sims had a 7.56 ERA with 37 walks in 50 IP. Sims was demoted back to AA Mississippi to work again with pitching coach Dennis Llewelyn. He reverted mostly back to his prior good performance, though his walk rate still remained uncomfortably high. Sims was named the #18 best prospect in the Southern League by Baseball America after the season.
The Report: Sims is a large-bodied pitcher at 6’-2”, 220 pounds. When he’s on his game, he uses that frame to generate velocity and movement on with his fastball, which is generally rated as one of the best in the organization. It sits in the 93-95 range and can touch 97. Sims also has a curveball that can be devastating at times. Sims’s third pitch is a change-up that the Braves have tried to develop with Sims since he started with the organization, but it’s still decidedly his weakest offering, though when it’s working Sims can rack up serious strikeout numbers. Sims’s most pressing developmental need however is control; he historically has had a difficult time repeating his mechanics. In his ill-fated Gwinnett promotion, he has indicated that Marty Reed’s promotion to Atlanta to be manager Brian Snitker’s bullpen coach, and the promotion of a coach that he hadn’t worked with before, caused him not to be able to fix mechanical issues that had cropped up. While that may be true, and he did pitch better shortly after his return to AA Mississippi, his pitch counts and walks continued to be higher in the second half than in his prior stint with Mississippi.
What’s Next: This will be a big year for Sims. He has some of the best pure stuff of anyone in the minors. If he can refine his control and get this change-up to be a reliable third pitch, he can be an upper-half of the rotation guy. If not, he’s probably going to end up as a relief pitcher. I can see it go either way at this point, which is why he’s “only” rated at #19 for me right now.
20. Joey Wentz, LHP
2016 Level: Rk Danville
12 G, 12 GS
(stats for two rookie league levels)
The History: Wentz was a 1st-round pick (Comp-A round) by Atlanta in the 2016 draft (40th pick overall) out of Shawnee Mission East HS in Prairie Village, KS, a pick that came to Atlanta via the Miami Marlins in the complicated 3-team trade that resulted in Hector Olivera becoming a Brave. Considered a Top 25 talent by draft pundits, Wentz fell due to signability concerns, but the Braves were able to lure him away from his commitment to the University of Virginia with a $3.05 million signing bonus, nearly double the slot allowance. After not pitching at all his junior season while dealing with a “dead arm”, Wentz did not allow a run, struck out 104, and only allowed 19 baserunners in the 51.1 innings of his senior year of high school, leading his team to the Kansas class 6A championship.
Wentz kept that scoreless streak going in the first stop of his professional journey, allowing no runs and 3 hits in 12 Gulf Coast League innings while striking out 18. The Braves pushed him to Danville to challenge him and he finally ran into some adversity, allowing 6 runs in his first Appalachian League start. Wentz settled in after that and pitched well down the stretch, twice having scoreless outings. Wentz was named the #10 prospect in the Appalachian League by Baseball America after the season.
The Report: Wentz is 6’-5”, 210 pounds and athletic, a two-way star in high school that could have been taken in the draft as a position player. Wentz has a short but repeatable delivery with which he manages to get good extension. Wentz has three quality pitches that already rate as average to above average. His fastball sits in the low-90s with good location and movement. He has a quality 12-6 curveball and a very good change-up, both of which are swing-and-miss pitches.
What’s Next: Wentz will likely join fellow 2016 draftee Ian Anderson in what is looking like another outstanding rotation for the class A Rome Braves.
Outfield Fly Rule Prospect List:
- Dansby Swanson, SS
- Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS
- Kolby Allard, LHP
- Mike Soroka, RHP
- Sean Newcomb, LHP
- Kevin Maitan, SS
- Touki Toussaint, RHP
- Max Fried, LHP
- Ian Anderson, RHP
- Ronald Acuña, OF
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Dustin Peterson, OF
- Rio Ruiz, 3B
- Patrick Weigel, RHP
- Alex Jackson, OF
- Travis Demeritte, 2B
- Cristian Pache, OF
- A.J. Minter, LHP
- Lucas Sims, RHP
- Joey Wentz, LHP