Mid-Season Top 30 Braves Prospect Update

C Brett Cumberland and CF Cristian Pache get ready to start the bottom of the inning for Rome Braves (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)

This has been a banner year so far for the #1 farm system in baseball, the Atlanta Braves organization. While the major league squad has been showing signs of respectability by playing near .500 ball, the gobs of young talent accumulated by the John Hart/John Coppolella front office have been working diligently in preparation for major league careers. At every level there are prospects that would be the crown jewels of any other farm systems.

The most difficult thing about making this list is cutting it down to 30, since there are at least 45 prospects in the minors right now that look like they could be future major leaguers. To start this process, I ranked all of the prospects in the Braves system by position. I then scored each prospect on essentially two criteria: the likelihood of making the major leagues, and the likelihood of making a significant impact in the major leagues. After adjusting my positional rankings appropriately, I then blocked the prospects into like tiers, regardless of position. Within those tiers, I then ranked the individual prospects based on personal scouting, reports from other sources, and performance metrics. While I didn’t manage to lay eyes on every prospect on this list personally, I feel good that I have been able to see each US-based Braves affiliate at least once in the first half of this season.

I am not going to do a full write-up on each prospect like I did in my postseason Get To Know a Prospect series, but I will highlight any relevant changes observed since that time. Also, three prospects have accrued enough service time to matriculate out of consideration: infielders Dansby Swanson (#1), Johan Camargo (#31), and relief pitcher Luke Jackson (#34), while former #23 prospect Juan Yepez was moved to the St. Louis Cardinal organization in the Matt Adams trade.

My colleague Micah Smith and I discussed these prospects and more in a follow-up Q&A

So without further ado, here’s my new Top 30. Enjoy!

30. William Contreras, C

Age: 19 | Bats: R
.357/.448/.554 | 163 wRC+ | 2 HR | 0 SB | 13.4% BB | 11.9% K
Current Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 68

After making rebuilding minor league catching depth a priority in the wake of the high-profile failure of former highly-touted prospect Christian Bethancourt, the lower levels of the minors are currently awash in interesting catching prospects. None may be as interesting as Contreras.

Contreras has a strong, line-drive oriented swing with good feel for the bat and strike-zone awareness. As impressive as his offense has been so far, I was even more impressed with his work behind the dish. Contreras is one of the more fundamentally sound catchers in the organization already, exhibiting good blocking, footwork, and pitch framing.

Danville C William Contreras’s first 2017 AB. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
29. Lucas Herbert, C

Age: 20 | Bats: R
.263/.317/.408 | 109 wRC+ | 6 HR | 3 SB | 5.6% BB | 20.6% K
Current Assignment: Class A – Rome
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 38

Speaking of fundamentally sound catchers, Lucas Herbert is currently head of the class in that category. Herbert is repeating a level after a difficult first full season, and has responded with an across-the-board offensive improvement. Herbert’s calling card will always be in his mitt, but he’s now demonstrating he can hit enough to get an invite to the party.

Rome C Lucas Herbert. (Photo: Chrissy Harris/OFR)
28. Tyler Pike, SP

Age: 23 | Throws: L
2.92 ERA | 3.22 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 92.1 IP | 4.78 BB/9 | 9.55 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Trade w/Seattle Mariners – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 32

Pike was a player-to-be-named-later in the trade that sent pitchers Robert Whalen and Max Povse to Seattle for #14 prospect Alex Jackson. Pike had been a 3rd-round selection by the Mariners in 2012 and had stalled out in the Mariners farm system. This season Pike dominated the high-A level for 12 starts before getting the bump up to Mississippi.

Pike has a pretty-well developed three-pitch arsenal but has some times where control can be a problem. At the AA level hitters have shown more patience against him, and Pike will need to find the strike zone more often than he has, but it looks like it’s more of a case of him having more confidence in his stuff.

27. Ricardo Sanchez, SP

Age: 20 | Throws: L
5.50 ERA | 4.16 FIP | 16 G, 16 GS | 73.2 IP | 4.28 BB/9 | 9.29 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A+ – Florida
Acquired: Trade w/Los Angeles Angels – 2014
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 28

Sanchez displays potential three above average pitches in his fastball, change-up, and curveball and has shown times this season where that repertoire can be dominating for long stretches. Problems come with men on base, and his control can desert him when pitching out of the stretch. All of this is fixable though and Sanchez remains a high-ceiling prospect.

Fire Frogs LHP Ricardo Sanchez. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
26. Kyle Muller, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: L
3.52 ERA | 4.07 FIP | 5 G, 5 GS | 23.0 IP | 3.91 BB/9 | 10.17 K/9
Current Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 22

Muller was the one of the top 4 pitchers taken in the 2016 draft by the Braves to not debut in 2017 in Rome, staying back in extended spring training and now pitching for the Danville Braves. No official reason has been given, but rumors included an injury that set him back in spring training to the Braves wanting to work on tightening up his curveball. After dominating the GCL last season, Muller has pitched reasonably well for Danville and should at least get a shot at Rome before the end of the season.

25. Lucas Sims, SP

Age: 23 | Throws: R
3.98 ERA | 4.64 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 97.1 IP | 2.77 BB/9 | 9.62 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2012
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 20

Sims’ second run through Gwinnett is going much better than his first try last season, and he’s shown improvement over last season in almost every facet of the game, especially in his control which has quieted some of the “make him a reliever” noise from some pundits. His command however is still not quite where is needs to be, and hanging curveballs he sometimes gets away with in AAA will more likely be hit hard in the majors. After getting off to a blistering start to the season that helped him snag an International League All-Star invite, he’s pitched to a 4.57 ERA/5.51 FIP since June 1. A major league promotion at some point this season likely is in his future.

24. A.J. Minter, RP

Age: 23 | Throws: L
1.38 ERA | 2.69 FIP | 16 G, 0 GS | 13 IP | 3.46 BB/9 | 12.46 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2015 (pick acquired from Diamondbacks)
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 19

The start of Minter’s season didn’t go as planned as he was slowed in spring training by forearm inflammation. Minter then toured the full-season minor league affiliates, pitching at least one inning with all four stops. He’s been as overpowering as usual, and now he’s in AAA, just a step away from the major league bullpen that some thought he’d start the year in. One thing he hasn’t done yet is pitch in back-to-back games, or come into a game in the middle of an inning, and until he starts doing that I don’t believe he’ll be taking that final step up the ladder.

23. Yunior Severino, IF

Age: 17 | Bats: S
.273/.379/.420 | 137 wRC+ | 1 HR | 0 SB | 13.6% BB | 22.3% K
Current Assignment: Rookie League – GCL
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 26

Plying his trade in the humidity of Florida is promising infielder Yunior Severino. Severino demonstrates power from both sides of the plate, but seems more comfortable from the left side for now. Signed as a shortstop, the Braves have played him exclusively at second base so far in his limited time as a pro. He doesn’t demonstrate good instinct for the position yet, but you know… 17 years old. Seems to take instruction well and I like his bat as much as fellow switch-hitter #20 prospect Drew Waters.

GCL Braves 2B Yunior Severino (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
22. Travis Demeritte, IF

Age: 22 | Bats: R
.213/.294/.382 | 97 wRC+ | 11 HR | 5 SB | 10.1% BB | 27.7% K
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 17

Demeritte is a very gifted defender at both second and third base and can hit the ball a mile. Unfortunately after a solid start to the season, he has seemed to fall back into bad habits at the plate; his strikeout rate has crept back up over 30% since June 1 and he hasn’t had a multi-hit game since June 3. Demeritte needs to arrest these trends soon, because he’s already looking more like a utility or part-time player to me.

21. Dustin Peterson, OF

Age: 22 | Bats: R
.284/.346/.363 | 100 wRC+ | 1 HR | 0 SB | 7.7% BB | 19.7% K
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: Trade w/San Diego Padres – 2014
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 13

Peterson has dropped 8 spots in this ranking, and the only thing he’s done wrong really was get hit in the hand with a pitch in spring training. Unfortunately, this kept him out of action until mid-May and it’s taken some time for him to get his power stroke back. He certainly can come back strong in the second half, but his way forward is somewhat clouded with Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis ahead of him in the majors and Ronald Acuna now his teammate in Gwinnett. That said, he’s still only 22 years old, and has faced only a handful of pitchers younger than him; he’s actually still young for the level, he just seems old because of all the teenagers whizzing around.

20. Drew Waters, OF

Age: 18 | Bats: S
.370/.463/.609 | 203 wRC+ | 2 HR | 2 SB | 11.1% BB | 18.5% K
Current Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2017
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: NR

Speaking of teenagers, this local kid has loud tools and a feel for the bat that blew away the competition at the GCL level and has just gotten a move up to Danville only six week after graduating high school. That said, he’s still extremely raw and will need some time to sand away some of the rough edges in his game, including baserunning and some outfield fundamentals. It’s nitpicking on a guy where the sky’s the limit I know, but there’s a reason for the rookie leagues. One thing the kid does not lack is confidence, and he at least expects to move through the organization quickly.

CF Drew Waters. (Photo: Jeff Morris via Twitter, @AtlBravesJeff)
19. Brett Cumberland, C

Age: 22 | Bats: S
.243/.399/.474 | 151 wRC+ | 11 HR | 1 SB | 12.1% BB | 29.9% K
Current Assignment: Class A+ – Florida
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2016 (pick acquired from Orioles)
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 28

I admit I was perplexed by Cumberland after a poor pro debut for Danville last season and an April in Rome that saw him hitting .170 with only 1 home run. The former Pac-10 Player of the Year should be smoking those levels at his age and experience levels. Fortunately, he proceeded to do just that when the calendar flipped to May and he exploded to .357/.520/.757 mark for the month, which he rode to the next rung in the organizational ladder. Cumberland generates power from a solid base and a strong quick stroke, and he’s more than willing to lean into a pitch to get on base if that works too. Behind the dish his footwork is questionable, but he’s demonstrated improvement through out the season; early on I thought it likely he’d have to move to a corner outfield spot to advance, but I’ve come off that position for now.

Fire Frogs C Brett Cumberland takes a lead. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
18. Cristian Pache, OF

Age: 18 | Bats: R
.280/.340/.352 | 101 wRC+ | 0 HR | 19 SB | 8.6% BB | 20.9% K
Current Assignment: Class A – Rome
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 18

Pache has the best combination of range, instincts, and arm of any outfielder in the Braves minor leagues, and considering Ronald Acuna and Ray-Patrick Didder both are also in the minors it means something. Pache’s also shown a solid hit tool and excellent speed on the basepaths. What he hasn’t shown yet is even the whiff of any power at all, which limits his offensive profile, but I still believe there’s projection there for some over-the-fence pop.

OF Cristian Pache rounds third. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
17. Rio Ruiz, 3B

Age: 23 | Bats: L
.275/.323/.486 | 121 wRC+ | 9 HR | 1 SB | 6.4% BB | 25.1% K (minors only)
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: Trade w/Houston Astros – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 14

Ruiz has used his time this season at AAA well, showing both more power and an improved approach against left-handed pitchers (hitting .254/.324/.381 against them versus .203/.293/.229 against southpaws in 2016). He’s also made himself into an above average defender at third base, showing smoother actions and instincts to go along with his strong arm. Nevertheless, after a disappointing 91-plate appearance try-out with Atlanta after Freddie Freeman‘s wrist injury, I have a feeling that the window may be closing on Ruiz. Freeman’s move to third base plus the continued quality play of Johan Camargo has buried Ruiz on the third base depth chart, and that’s not even considering the imminent return of Sean Rodriguez. The best thing that could happen to Ruiz right now would be a Matt Adams trade; perhaps in anticipation of this possibility, the Braves have been giving Ruiz looks at first base to help his versatility.

16. Patrick Weigel, SP

Age: 23 | Throws: R
4.14 ERA | 3.98 FIP | 15 G, 15 GS | 78.1 IP | 3.22 BB/9 | 7.81 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: Drafted, 7th Round – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 15

Weigel was positioned as perhaps the “next man up” in Gwinnett in case of injury or poor performance of a major league starting pitcher when he tore his UCL and elected Tommy John surgery. It’s a disappointing setback for the best feel-good story from the 2015 draft and a popular player and teammate. Good luck to PW on his road to recovery, which could see him in games as early as late 2018, but the Braves have been very conservative with their Tommy John cases, so I would bet Opening Day 2019 is the target return date.

RHP Patrick Weigel of the Gwinnett Braves. (Photo: Chuck Pitts/Gwinnett Braves)
15. Max Fried, SP

Age: 23 | Throws: L
6.69 ERA | 4.31 FIP | 16 G, 16 GS | 76.2 IP | 4.58 BB/9 | 8.92 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Trade w/San Diego Padres – 2014
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 8

This wasn’t how anyone expected this season to go for Max Fried after he lead the Rome rotation down the stretch and stormed through the playoffs, then showed out well in spring training. In his first start with Mississippi he had to leave early due to back tightness. Fried relies heavily on a big breaking curve, but he hasn’t been able to throw it consistently for strikes. Hitters are sitting on the fastball, and especially right-handers are able to hit it well. Fried will need to regroup in the second half and focus on fastball command, curveball control, and working in his change-up more effectively.

14. Alex Jackson, C

Age: 21 | Bats: R
.280/.349/.523 | 154 wRC+ | 13 HR | 0 SB | 5.4% BB | 27.0% K
Current Assignment: Class A+ – Florida
Acquired: Trade w/Seattle Mariners – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 16

The Braves took a chance in trading two near-big league pitchers for former #6 over all pick in 2013 in Jackson. So far at least the chance has paid off, as Jackson has finally shown that power stroke that made him such a highly regarded prospect. Jackson has also moved back to his high school position of catcher. This experiment remains a work in progress; his footwork is better than you would expect, especially from a big man, but he has work still to do with making good decisions with the ball (he has a strong arm, and sometimes tries to do too much with it). He seems to have good hands and receives the ball well, but is somewhat mechanical.

13. Bryse Wilson, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: R
2.54 ERA | 3.31 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 88.2 IP | 2.13 BB/9 | 8.53 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A – Rome
Acquired: Drafted, 4th Round – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 25

No Braves prospect has improved their status more in the first half of the season than Bryse Wilson. Commanding a strong three-pitch arsenal, Wilson gotten the best performance of the Rome rotation, and is just coming off throwing the organization’s first complete game shutout of the season. Wilson has taken to instruction well since being drafted, greatly simplifying his delivery and working in a change-up along with his occasionally devastating sinker/slider combo.

RHP Bryse Wilson in the wind-up. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
12. Joey Wentz, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: L
2.73 ERA | 2.54 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 82.1 IP | 2.95 BB/9 | 10.06 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A – Rome
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2016 (pick acquired from Dodgers)
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 21

Wentz has silenced concerns about his health and stamina with a very strong first half at Rome. He’s a mature pitcher that has learned to make the most of his low-90s fastball with good location and a change-up, but mostly the big curveball that generates swing-and-miss. Wilson and Wentz are pretty much right together, but I gave the lower spot on list to Wentz because of slightly better peripheral metrics.

Rome LHP Joey Wentz. (Photo: Chrissy Harris/OFR)
11. Austin Riley, 3B

Age: 20 | Bats: R
.249/.308/.401 | 109 wRC+ | 12 HR | 0 SB | 6.8% BB | 21.7% K
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2015 (pick acquired from Padres)
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 11

Riley is a case where his progression this season doesn’t show up as much in the numbers but becomes evident when you see him play. Defensively, Riley is still pretty stiff at third, and he’s still a little tentative on his first step, but overall he played much more controlled at third than he did at Rome, and I’d say it’s no longer automatic that he’ll eventually have to move off third.

But it’s at the plate that I think he’s really made strides. He’s showing much better situational awareness, driving breaking balls opposite field for singles with runners on base to pick up RBI, instead of always trying to unload on every pitch. When the bases are empty he tries to ambush fastballs over the fence, but even then will adjust to take what the pitcher gives him. This is a seriously more advanced hitter than I saw in Rome, and it was the most encouraging thing I saw on my Fire Frogs visit.

10. Touki Toussaint, SP

Age: 20 | Throws: R
5.46 ERA | 3.66 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 92.1 IP | 4.09 BB/9 | 10.14 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A+ – Florida
Acquired: Trade w/Arizona Diamondbacks – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 7

Toussaint has had a maddeningly bizarre season where he has shown across-the-board improvement in nearly every peripheral pitching metric, and also has a 5.46 ERA. Some of this discrepancy may be found, like fellow prospect and Fire Frog #27 Ricardo Sanchez, from having trouble pitching out of the stretch, for which pitching coach Dennis Llewellyn had him pitching only from the stretch the entire month of June in an effort to get him to repeat his delivery.  Toussaint is also working on a fourth pitch, a sinker, to add to his already above average fastball and change-up and plus curveball. It may seem like Toussaint is standing still while other prospects are moving ahead, but he’s also young for his level. Fans and organizations need to be patient while developing power arms and power bats, and there’s no need to hurry Toussaint along or contemplate changing his role at this time.

Fire Frogs RHP Touki Toussaint. (Photo: MLBPipeline.com via Twitter)
9. Ian Anderson, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: R
3.78 ERA | 3.10 FIP | 15 G, 15 GS | 66.2 IP | 4.86 BB/9 | 11.34 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A – Rome
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 9

Anderson’s results haven’t been as good as his fellow Rome high-school draftees, but he’s been flashing the repertoire that made him a #3 overall pick in 2016. When he’s on, Anderson confounds low-A hitters with a four-pitch mix that all plays off a four-seam fastball that he can spot anywhere. When he’s off, he doesn’t get calls just off the corner and can give up walks in bunches. This may be an issue that corrects itself with better umpires.

8. Luiz Gohara, SP

Age: 20 | Throws: L
2.47 ERA | 2.54 FIP | 17 G, 16 GS | 76.2 IP | 3.17 BB/9 | 9.86 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Trade w/Seattle Mariners – 2017
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 12

There could be a pretty good debate on the best individual pitches in the Braves organization, but Gohara’s slider is right up with the best of them. Gohara has used it plus a high-90’s fastball to bully the Florida State League then push his way up to the AA level. It’s a unique repertoire for a left-hander, and batters rarely square Gohara up. After a brief speed bump caused by a biceps strain, Gohara has been similarly effective with Mississippi. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a pitcher that the Mariners gave up on because of conditioning and control concerns.

7. Sean Newcomb, SP

Age: 24 | Throws: L
3.39 ERA | 3.24 FIP | 11 G, 11 GS | 57.2 IP | 4.28 BB/9 | 9.29 K/9 (minors only)
Current Assignment: MLB – Atlanta
Acquired: Trade w/Los Angeles Angels – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 5

Dropping two spots on this list should not be considered a drop in prospect status for Newcomb, who has done all anyone could reasonably hope for in his second full season in the Braves organization. In his first 11 starts at the AAA level, Newcomb saw across-the-board improvement in his pitching metrics, most notably to his control numbers. Newcomb still has moments where it seems like he can’t buy a strike, but he has one of the most difficult to hit curveballs in baseball to help get him out of trouble. He’s now made his way to the major leagues and looks like he may be there to stay.

Gwinnett LHP Sean Newcomb. (Photo: Jason Getz/AJC)
6. Kevin Maitan, IF

Age: 17 | Bats: S
.355/.394/.452 | 145 wRC+ | 0 HR | 1 SB | 6.1% BB | 27.3% K
Current Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2016
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 6

The biggest prize of the Braves 2016 international free agent spending spree, Maitan has done absolutely nothing to stymie the hype that is surrounding him as he has now moved on to Danville after three weeks of terrorizing opposing GCL pitchers. Maitan has reportedly gained around 40 pounds since his signing, but he wears it well and moves quickly around the bases for a kid his size, though it makes it increasingly unlikely that he’ll be able to stay in the middle infield. The switch hitter has shown to be amicable, coachable, and the most likely player to be number #1 on this list this time next season.

Kevin Maitan gets coaching before hitting an RBI single. (Photo: Andy Harris/OFR)
5. Kyle Wright, SP

Age: 21 | Throws: R
0.00 ERA | 0.00 FIP | 0 G, 0 GS | 0.0 IP | 0.00 BB/9 | 0.00 K/9
Current Assignment: Rookie League – GCL
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2017
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: NR

With their fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, the Braves managed to snag a pitcher who was, in my opinion, the best player in the draft. The fact that Wright isn’t automatically the number one prospect on this list is more of an indication of the strength of the prospects than any issue with Wright. After a long SEC season, the Braves will hold Wright’s innings down for the rest of this year. For a roadmap as to what that may look like, check out 2016 draft pick Drew Harrington‘s 14.2 innings pitched last season.

Once Wright does get up to speed, wherever that will be in 2018, he will demonstrate good fastball movement, and above average-to-plus curveball, strong competitiveness, and the ability to move quickly if he can improve on the command he showed with Vanderbilt.

4. Mike Soroka, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: R
2.37 ERA | 3.31 FIP | 17 G, 17 GS | 98.2 IP | 1.92 BB/9 | 7.21 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 4

Challenged with a double promotion to Mississippi from a full season in Rome last year, Soroka has responded with perhaps the most impressive pitching performance of anyone in a Braves system filled with good performances. Soroka pounds the strikezone with four different pitches and good command, giving hitters different looks and pitching efficiently. He marries a strong groundball game with striking out his fair share of hitters and being extremely stingy with walks. He’s a cerebral pitcher and a natural leader, and with Weigel now on the shelf perhaps the most likely of the homegrown Hart/Coppy pitching prospects to reach the majors first.

RHP Mike Soroka in the 2017 Futures Game. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
3. Kolby Allard, SP

Age: 19 | Throws: L
2.98 ERA | 3.47 FIP | 18 G, 18 GS | 96.2 IP | 3.26 BB/9 | 7.73 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA – Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2015
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 3

Allard has all the same projection that he had coming out of the 2015 draft where he was considered a top-5 talent that dropped to Atlanta because of concerns about a stress fracture in his back. Those concerns are now well behind him, and Allard has responded well to the same double promotion challenge as his team and draft-mate Soroka. The performance hasn’t been quite to the same level as Soroka, but it’s been pretty close.

Allard, Soroka, and Wright could be placed in almost any order. If you emphasize projection, Allard is your guy. If performance is your bag, there’s Soroka. If you like more polish on your prospects, Wright is for you. In the end, these three guys could easily all be in the Atlanta rotation by the end of 2018 if everything goes right, and sometime in 2019 if things go normally.

2. Ozzie Albies, IF

Age: 20 | Bats: S
.289/.334/.447 | 114 wRC+ | 7 HR | 21 SB | 6.1% BB | 19.7% K
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2013
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 2

After a slow start to the season following an abbreviated spring training caused by having to rehab a broken elbow suffered last September, Albies has resumed his place in terrorizing opposing pitchers. Since May 1, Albies has hit .303/.355/.474 for Gwinnett, marks in line with his minor league career. After publicized concerns with his left-handed swing, Albies has improved in that area as the season has progressed as well, hitting .351/.390/.532 since coming off of a 9-game DL stint in mid-June.

There is still some fine-tuning to be done with his swing and his game, but he is still showing he can be an offensive igniter at the top of the batting order and a difference maker in the field. He could easily be the top prospect in most farm systems, including Atlanta’s, but right now there is one star that’s burning just a little bit brighter.

International League All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies. (Photo: Jason Churchill/HEROSports.com)
1. Ronald Acuna, OF

Age: 19 | Bats: R
.314/.366/.514 | 154 wRC+ | 13 HR | 33 SB | 7.5% BB | 25.6% K
Current Assignment: Class AAA – Gwinnett
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2014
Pre-Season OFR Ranking: 10

Well, what can you say about a kid who in the space of a year has gone from missing most of his season at low-A with an injury to a AAA outfielder on the cusp of the majors and now a consensus Top 10 prospect in all of baseball? His Australian Summer League teammates dubbed him “The Answer To Everything” for a reason. He plays a strong centerfield, has the arm and aptitude for right field, has developed extremely impressive power, is in the top 5 in all of the minors in stolen bases, is hitting over .300 easily, and is doing it all while being first the youngest player at the AA level and now being by far the youngest player at the AAA level. The only complaints about his game at this point are nitpicks, like his stolen base technique needs refining as he’s being caught just a little too much, but the reality is that he’s likely already a major league caliber player as a teenager.

Gwinnett OF Ronald Acuna. (Photo: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)
All stats as of the morning of 7/16/2017.
About Andy Harris 82 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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