33% Review: Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects, Part 3

OF Ronald Acuna of the Mississippi Braves (Photo: Mississippi Braves via Twitter)

This post takes a look at the top of the OFR Top 30 Prospects list, prospects #1-10.

 

Part 1: Prospects # 21-30

Part 2: Prospects # 11-20

Part 4: Outside the Top 30

10. Ronald Acuna, OF

Age: 19
Bats: R
Current Assignment: AA Mississippi Braves

.317/.374/.525
158 wRC+
6 HR, 24 SB
8.3 BB%, 27.9 K%

No offensive prospect in the Braves system has been more impressive so far this season than centerfielder Ronald Acuna. I wrote about Acuna earlier this month when he was promoted to class AA Mississippi on May 9. I noted in that piece that the promotion, while warranted, was coming despite a career high 31.7% strikeout rate and a career low 6.3% walk rate.

Since joining Mississippi, Acuna has dropped his season strikeout rate by 2 points and raised the walk rate by 2.5 points. At the same time he’s slugging .593 while at AA, including 3 home runs, all hit at TrustMark Park.

Oh by the way, Acuna is leading all the minor leagues with 23 stolen bases.

Also by the way, Acuna is the youngest player at AA.

9. Ian Anderson, RHP

Age: 19
Current Assignment: A Rome Braves

3.73 ERA
2.80 FIP
9 G, 9 GS
41.0 IP
4.83 BB/9, 12.95 K/9

Anderson’s results have been up and down so far in 2017, but he’s been displaying the stuff that caught the Braves eyes and made them select him with the third-overall pick in the 2016 draft.

Anderson has shown good fastball velocity with movement as well as above average change-up and curveball. Anderson has been walking a good number of batters. Some of that I attribute to not being willing to give into hitters when they get to 3-ball counts, but he has also had some instances where his release point can drop and he he loses command. This has happened more often in May, though his last start was a 6-inning, 1-walk, 11-strikeout gem.

At his best Anderson pitches low in the zone for both swing-and-miss and inducing ground balls. Anderson hasn’t allowed a home run this season.

8. Max Fried, LHP

Age: 23
Current Assignment: AA Mississippi Braves

5.79 ERA
4.59 FIP
10 G, 10 GS
51.1 IP
4.21 BB/9, 8.94 K/9

So far, Fried’s first season at the AA level hasn’t gone as planned. After a terrific spring training in which there was discussion Fried may get a look at the majors by the end of the season, Fried’s first start ended abruptly with back spasms.

Fried only missed one start. but other than a brilliant 7-inning, 1-hit effort against Montgomery on April 25, Fried hasn’t gotten the results expected of him. Fried’s bread-and-butter pitch, his big looping curveball, is as impressive as ever. However, most batters have learned to lay off of it and sit on his fastball. Fried’s fastball command hasn’t been sharp enough to make hitters pay for it, and he hasn’t brought the change-up consistently into games enough to give hitters something else to think about.

Fried started slowly last season as well and finished very strong, so hopefully the same will occur for the former first round pick this season.

7. Touki Toussaint, RHP

Age: 20
Current Assignment: A+ Florida Fire Frogs

6.80 ERA
3.90 FIP
9 G, 9 GS
46.1 IP
2.91 BB/9, 10.88 K/9

Toussaint is having a terrible start to the season, despite having a career high strikeout rate and a career low walk rate. Perhaps his improved control hasn’t been accompanied by a similar improvement in command; his .247 batting average against is a tick up over his career average. He has also allowed almost half of his baserunners to score after only allowing 29% of baserunners to score last season.

Like Fried, Toussaint started slow last season before turning it around in the second half. Given Toussaint’s even better peripheral stats, I am somewhat less concerned about Toussaint.

6. Kevin Maitan, SS

Age: 17
Bats: S
Current Assignment: Extended Spring Training

Perhaps the most hyped prospect in baseball that hasn’t actually played in a professional game, Maitan is awaiting assignment in extended spring training.

5. Sean Newcomb, LHP

Age: 23
Current Assignment: AAA Gwinnett

3.09 ERA
3.43 FIP
9 G, 9 GS
46.2 IP
5.21 BB/9, 11.19 K/9

Newcomb’s first stint in AAA has been successful so far, though he’s still experiencing the walk issues that marked most of his 2016 season with Mississippi. The walks tend to come in bunches, usually early in a game. If Newcomb can push through those problems without a significant damage, he tends to settle down and get good results the rest of the game.

Newcomb’s stuff is as good or better than it’s ever been, with the fastball showing plenty of life and the curveball showing very good spin and break. But until Newcomb can go an extended stretch without those walk problems, I don’t think he will be seen as a promotion candidate.

4. Mike Soroka, RHP

Age: 19
Current Assignment: AA Mississippi

2.96 ERA
3.47 FIP
9 G, 9 GS
48.2 IP
2.59 BB/9, 9.43 K/9

Soroka got a surprise double promotion to AA at the start of the season, and like most of the Braves aggressive promotions it’s so far turned out well. Overall, Soroka’s work at AA Mississippi looks a lot like his work at Rome, though he’s missing a few more bats but allowing a few more home runs.

3. Kolby Allard, LHP

Age: 19
Current Assignment: AA Mississippi

LHP Kolby Allard of the Mississippi Braves (Photo: Ed Gardner/Mississippi Braves))

1.83 ERA
3.26 FIP
10 G, 10 GS
54 IP
2.83 BB/9, 7.67 K/9

Like Soroka, Allard got the surprise double promotion at the beginning of the season, and like Soroka he’s making that decision look good. In fact, Allard’s and Soroka’s peripheral numbers are very similar, with Soroka getting more strikeouts and Allard keeping the ball in the park a little more.

Seriously, 19 year old pitchers should not be making AA ball look this easy.

2. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS

Age: 20
Bats: S
Current Assignment: AAA Gwinnett

IF Ozzie Albies of the Gwinnett Braves. (Photo: Jason Getz)

.267/.314/.393
95 wRC+
2 HR, 14 SB
6.3 BB%, 21.6 K%

Albies hasn’t exactly struggled this year at AAA, but neither has he consistently shown the hitting skills that make Albies who he is. Namely, he’s hitting a lot more balls in the air than in prior years. As noted with other hitters, it seems like minor league batters across the board seem to be swinging the bat more aggressively and also looking to elevate the ball. I’m not sure this approach is best for Albies.

The question everyone has with Albies is when he will arrive in Atlanta. I think the answer to that is simply as soon as the Braves are ready to deal Brandon Phillips, and I do expect that to happen this season.

1. Dansby Swanson, SS

Age: 23
Bats: R
Current Assignment: Atlanta Braves

.195/287/.305
55 wRC+
4 HR, 1 SB
11.7 BB%, 25.5 K%

Swanson lost the “prospect” tag in his first game this season, so this will be the last time I’ll be writing about him in a prospect post. I guess you can consider this… his swan song.

Swanson’s ups-and-downs have been well documented, but in a nutshell Swanson has been having problems with high velocity fastballs and sliders away from him. When he makes contact he’s hitting the ball well, but has gotten spectacularly poor luck on balls in play. To combat this he is trying to be more selective, and he has a healthy walk rate, but he’s also getting fooled by pitches on the outside corner. By all accounts he confidence has been unaffected by his struggles, and the team has faith him him to correct this over time. Swanson’s .243/.376/.392 May slash line is quite solid, and he’s demonstrated a little more power than probably expected.

 

Early next week I will have Part 4 of this review, taking a look at 15 prospects that didn’t make the OFR list in November than are have started the season on a good foot.

About Andy Harris 129 Articles

Andy Harris has been a baseball fan since seeing the Big Red Machine in 1978 and hardcore baseball fan since reading Bill James’s Historical Baseball Abstract in 1990. Andy moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, which turned out to be a pretty good year for the local team.

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