Projecting The Braves’ MLB Top 30 Prospects: Starting Pitching

Projecting The Braves Starting Pitchers in the MLB Pipeline Top 30.

Ian Anderson of the Braves throws in Orlando. (Photo: Baseball America)


{Editor’s Note: This is Dylan Short’s first piece with Outfield Fly Rule. Dylan hosts the Shellshocked podcast and has expanded into writing. Give the podcast a listen – CJ}


There’s been a lot made about our farm system (with good reason) and the gold mine the Braves are sitting on. I think we all can agree the future requires polarized sunglasses. Where discussion takes place is when we try to quantify it. Who is the ace? Who is going to the pen? Who isn’t going to pan out? Who is our diamond in the rough? Well, I’ve got a few thoughts about that.

Just as a preface, all players included are players currently ranked in our top 30 according to MLB Pipeline, so if you want a breakdown for anyone not currently listed, lt me know in the comments section below, or hit me up on Twitter at @dylanxshort. All comparisons are ceiling comparisons as I view them.

Here we go!


15. Drew Harrington – LHP

Age: 22

Current Level: A+ Florida

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 4.50 ERA/3.09 FIP/3.49 xFIP, 70 IP, 55 K, 22 BB, .298 BAA

A 3rd round pick out of Louisville last season, Harrington began his Cardinals career in the bullpen before jumping into the rotation as a Junior. When starting, his fastball sits in the 86-92 MPH range. Sink and a deceptive delivery, as well as his ability to locate it in the bottom of the zone, allows the pitch to play above it’s below average velocity. A curve that’s more 10-4 than 11-5, as well as a MLB average changeup, give Harrington 2 more pitches that grade out as at least average offerings.

Comp: Williams Perez

Projection: While his current ERA is misleading, Harrington is most certainly a command/control over stuff pitcher. A clean delivery, strong command, and a bulldog mentality point to a solid back end of the rotation starter. However, in this crop of pitchers, Harrington belongs in the bullpen, where his below average velocity can play up a tick in short outings. If moved to a middle relief role, Harrington could be a quick riser in a system lacking bullpen talent.


14. Freddy Tarnok – RHP

Age: 18

Current Level: GCL Rookie

ETA: 2021

Current Line: 4.50 ERA/1.20 FIP,  6.0 IP, 6 K, 0 BB, .174 BAA

A 3rd pick in this most recent draft, Tarnok is all about potential. The Braves gave Tarnok more than double the money normally slotted for that pick in order to sign him away from college. A mid 90’s heater complemented with a power curve with a strong spin and a glimpse at a future feel for a change give Tarnok 3 pitches that, at this incredibly early time, project to be at least average offerings.

Comp: Due to his currently only having six innings of experience, I will refrain from offering a comparison.

Projection: A similar frame to Ian Anderson, Tarnok has plenty of size and projection in his frame. Coming straight from the high school ranks, more velocity seems inevitable as he gets stronger and grows into his frame. The trouble lies in his extreme inexperience on the mound. Tarnok didn’t start pitching until his Junior season, and really didn’t begin focusing on it until the spring. While this isn’t necessarily a death knell, there is a considerable and concerning amount of rawness to his game. While Atlanta wants him as a starter and will most certainly begin his development as such. With a strong fastball and two offspeed pitches that project to be at least average, the fallback of becoming a middle to late inning reliever gives Atlanta a decent option if his development stymies.


13. Lucas Sims – RHP

Age: 23

Current Level: Atlanta

ETA: 2017

Current Line: 3.75 ERA/4.30 FIP/3.42 xFIP, 115.1 IP, 132 K, 36 BB, .224 BAA

If you feel like Sims has been in the pipeline for a decade, you aren’t alone. It’s been a trying career for the former 1st round pick out of Brookwood High School. Working with a fastball that sits anywhere from 92-95 MPH, and can reach as high as 97, there’s no doubt Sims has the arm of a frontline starter. He pairs his fastball with an absolutely silly curve that befuddles hitters across the league. While his change is significantly behind his other two offerings, there is enough there to work with and develop. The problem with Sims lies in his fastball. While it has plenty of power, it doesn’t have the life or late run needed to miss bats. This leads to a lot of homers being given up (19 so far this season).

Comp: Rick Porcello

Projection: A proclivity to the longball is never a good indicator of frontline success and leads me to believe Sims may top out as a #3 at his peak. He has great strikeout numbers, and an excellent K/BB rate, but that flat fastball caps his upside. A #4 or #5 with high strikeout rates seems to be the more likely projection.


12. Bryse Wilson – RHP

Age: 19

Current Level: A Rome

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 2.81 ERA/3.23 FIP/3.22 xFIP,  99 IP, 97 K, 23 BB, .218 BAA

Flying completely under the radar due to the drafting of Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller, Wilson has made it impossible to ignore him any longer. While he doesn’t have the big fastball or the huge hook, Wilson separates himself by being an absolute bulldog on the mound. Wilson wastes no time playing with hitters, pounding the zone and challenging hitters. The only reason I don’t have him higher is that his ceiling is significantly lower than the prospects to come.

Comp: John Lackey

Yes, Lackey is bigger, but this is more about mound presence and demeanor. Like Lackey, Wilson wastes little time with trying to make hitters chase; he simply dares them to hit his sinking fastball into the ground.

Projection: As previously mentioned, Wilson lacks the ceiling of a frontline starter. What he lacks in ceiling, he more than makes up in a very high floor. A solid 4 or 5 and a 10 year career seem like safe bets for Bryse.

The newest Atlanta Brave, RHP Lucas Sims. (Karl Moore/Gwinnett Braves)

11. Patrick Weigel – RHP

Age: 23

Current Level: AAA (disabled list: TJ)

ETA: 2018-2019

Current Line:  4.14 ERA, 78.1 IP,  68 K,  28 BB,  .253 BAA

Weigel is an interesting case. Bounced around in college before becoming a reliever at Houston, the 7th round pick in 2015 had a dud of a debut season, then apparently a light clicked and he began flying through the system. Weigel brings a four pitch arsenal to the table. His fastball sits 93-94 with the ability to reach back for 96-97 when he needs it. His changeup is solid, registering as average, with more room still to grow. Where he separates from other prospects is his that he possesses two distinct breakers. He throws both a traditional curve and a slider. Generally one works better than the other on any given night, but Weigel has shown a proclivity for both, with each flashing above average potential. Before the injury, Weigel was well on his way to Atlanta, bypassing Lucas Sims in the process. If all goes well with his rehab, we should see Weigel return around June or July of next season.

Comp: A.J. Burnett

A solid pitcher with a full arsenal in his prime, one who also employed two distinct breaking pitches, and who sometimes struggled with command.

Projection: As long as his rehab goes well, Weigel looks primed to make it to Atlanta quickly. Whether that comes as a starter or a reliever remains to be seen. While he has an extensive arsenal and a good, clean delivery, his command can desert him at times, and he doesn’t quite possess the upside of our top 10. A solid #4 who can carve out a decent Major League living seems about right.


10. Touki Toussaint – RHP

Age: 21

Current Level: AA Mississippi

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 4.77 ERA/3.35 FIP/3.29 xFIP, 111.1 IP, 127 K, 44 BB, .242 BAA

For a guy who’s pure stuff has been compared to Pedro Martinez, the Braves got Touki Toussaint for the equivalent of a stick of gum. A pure upside project, there’s no doubting the arm talent. A fastball that will touch 98. A curveball that may be the deadliest in the Minors. A changeup that has shown the makings of an out pitch. The problem with Touki has been command. After tweaking his delivery this season, Touki has finally begun to put it all together. Now that he’s reached Mississippi, the fun can really begin

Comp: Pedro Martinez

Projection: Wait, if I’m comparing Touki to Pedro, how in the world is he only #10? Simple; I don’t believe he remains a starter. Touki has electric stuff and an extremely live arm. Unfortunately, his mechanics get out of whack often and his command will desert him for multiple batters at a time. Throw in the fact 2016 was the only season he had an LOB% over 70% and the problem begins to manifest itself. In order to make him feel more comfortable, his pitching coaches began having him pitch exclusively from the stretch. To me, that signifies a weakness. Throw in the fact that we only have 5 SP spots in the rotation, and SOMEONE has to go to the pen. As a reliever, Touki offers closer level arm talent and can remain in the stretch the entire time.


9. Ricardo Sanchez – LHP

Age: 20

Current Level: A+ Florida

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 5.04 ERA/3.87 FIP/3.46 xFIP, 89.1 IP, 95 K, 39 BB, .292 BAA

This may seem like sacrilege, putting a 20 year old that no one really knows or cares about above Touki (the guy who took a rotation spot away from him in Rome), but for some reason I keep coming back to Sanchez. A remarkably quick and clean release, Sanchez wastes no effort in delivering fastballs up to 94MPH with late life that makes the pitch play up even more. He has shown both a plus curve and a plus change, though inconsistently. He has the stuff. He has the delivery. The only thing holding Sanchez back from flying up the prospect rankings is command.

Comp: Francisco Liriano

While Liriano is 2 inches taller, the 2 pitchers share a lot in common. Both have outstanding stuff and live arms. They also both have bouts of extreme command loss.

Projection: While I could totally be off base, I get the feeling that Sanchez is going to be a diamond in the rough. He’ll take longer than his compatriots, but the payoff could be outstanding. To do that, however, Sanchez has to do a much better job of controlling himself on the mound. Much like Folty, Sanchez loses it when things don’t go his way on the mound. That is the point where things begin to unravel for him. Fix that and the Braves will have yet another #3 pitcher who could very well progress beyond that.


8. Kyle Muller– LHP

Age: 19

Current Level: Danville Rookie

ETA: 2020

Current Line: 4.09 ERA/5.08 FIP/5.25 xFIP, 33 IP, 28 K, 14 BB, .213 BAA

The 3rd pitcher taken in the Braves’ loaded 2016 draft, Muller was an outstanding two sport athlete headed to the University of Texas before Atlanta pried him away with bonus of $2.5 million. An imposing 6’6″, 225-pound lefty, Muller may not have the size projection of some other pitchers, but he still possesses quite a bit of upside. The velocity has been down slightly from his 95 MPH peak in high school, but at this point, it shouldn’t anything to worry about, as his downhill delivery angle creates natural sink. While he remains unrefined in his offspeed pitches, he flashes an excellent curve that looks like it may become a plus offering in time. Where he stands out, and what excites me the most, is he has already shown a feel for a fading changeup with good tumble as well. If he can develop that pitch into becoming a plus, he may very well blow my projections out of the water.

Comp: A.J. Burnett

While he received Clayton Kershaw comparisons coming out of high school, I refuse to compare anyone to Kershaw. Burnett was an outstanding pitcher for a number of years, and the Braves would be thrilled if Muller has a similar career.

Projection: While I’m not nearly as high on Muller as some other pundits, (see Kershaw comparisons) There’s no denying a lofty upside for the young lefty. I think a #3 is likely his destination, though blowing my projections out of the water certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.


7. Max Fried – LHP

Age: 23

Current Level: Atlanta

ETA: 2017

Current Line: (Minors) 6.21 ERA/4.22 FIP/3.87 xFIP, 82.2 IP, 80 K, 42 BB, .272 BAA

The key centerpiece in the trade that sent Justin Upton to the Padres, Fried was seen as a future ace in the making. It’s been a lot bumpier of a road than most in Braves country were expecting, however, as Fried is now seeing first hand what Lucas Sims had to deal with. When right, Fried sits 93-94 with his fastball, topping at 97, pairing that with a curve that approaches double plus. As 2016 wound down, Fried began to develop a feel for a very solid changeup, giving him 3 solid or better pitches to work with. Touted as a command and control pitcher who also possessed exciting arm life, that command has been maddeningly inconsistent for Fried for most of his professional career to this point. While already 23, Fried has more projection remaining than most his age due to missing almost an entire season due to Tommy John surgery.

Comp: Danny Duffy

Projection: If you had asked me this question at this time last year, my answer, and Fried’s place on this list, would have been vastly different. His struggles with his walk rate the past 2 seasons now border on legitimate negatives rather than growing pains. If he can tighten up his command, Fried has a chance to become the frontline guy everyone thought he could be. That’s much easier said than done.


RHP Mike Soroka. (Photo: Ed Gardner/Mississippi Braves)


6. Ian Anderson – RHP

Age: 19

Current Level: A Rome

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 3.47 ERA/2.91 FIP/3.56 xFIP, 72.2 IP, 94 K 37 BB, .239 BAA

Taken at #3 in a purely money saving capacity so that Atlanta could afford to sign compatriots Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Anderson has quite a bit of potential himself. Anderson works with a fastball that sits 91-93 and peaks at 95. His long frame creates an easy downhill angle, giving it some good bite and setting up his plus breaker. While his breaker is still slurvy at the moment, in time it should tighten up into a an easy plus slider. His changeup is only average at this point, but he already shows a great feel for when and where to use it. At 6’3″ and 185 lbs, there’s still plenty of projection left in his frame, leading me to believe more velocity is on the way.

Comp: Sonny Gray

Projection: While his name doesn’t elicit the same response as a Kolby Allard or Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson has an exciting amount of upside all his own. His command is still a touch erratic, and his slider needs some tightening, but the tools are there for a solid #2 or a potentially dominant #3


5. Joey Wentz – LHP

Age: 19

Current Level: A Rome

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 2.51 ERA/2.64 FIP/3.13 xFIP, 100.1 IP, 115 K, 32 BB, .215 BAA

The compensatory pick picked up in the Hector Olivera deal, the Braves loved Wentz enough to give him almost $3 million to forgo college and begin his professional career. The rare pitching prospect with both pitchability AND supreme stuff, Wentz has done nothing to quell expectations. So far this season his fastball is actually down from the 96 MPH peak he experienced in high school; and it hasn’t mattered a bit. His long 6’5″, 210-lb frame gives him a natural sink to go with arm-side run on a fastball he typically throws between 92-93. He pairs the fastball with a deep, not quite 12-6, curve and a fading changeup that each register as above average to plus. Combine the arm talent with an easy, clean delivery and an impressive presence on the mound, and it’s very easy to see why the Braves are excited about Wentz.

Comp: Madison Bumgarner

Projection: The comparison says it all. With an outstanding feel for pitching, a 3 pitch arsenal without any glaring holes, and still quite a bit of projection left as he grows into that big frame, Wentz has a chance to be truly special. His fastball should return to form, though he may be more of a low to mid 90’s guy than a true power arm, but it really doesn’t matter because of how it plays coming out of his hand. The only thing I can find to nit pick would be cutting out the wild pitches, as 16 is far too many for a player of his caliber. He’s got ace, or at least #1 starter, written all over him.


4. Mike Soroka – RHP

Age: 19

Current Level: AA Mississippi

ETA: 2018

Current Line: 2.75 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.20 xFIP, 118 IP, 100 K, 24 BB, .227 BAA

Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. That is the word for Soroka. Taken in the 1st round after current rotation mate Kolby Allard, Soroka was the 1st to establish a reputation for dominance. While he doesn’t over power hitters, Soroka has an outstanding ability to throw all three of his pitches for strikes down in the zone. While his fastball sits modestly in the 90-93 range, it has excellent sink that opposing batters tend to beat into the ground. He has outstanding spin on his curve, which promises to be at least plus, and his changeup has an excellent tumble, allowing both to be swing and miss pitches. Although young, Soroka proved to be a workhorse capable of swallowing innings the way CC Sabathia swallows cereal, throwing over 140 innings in his debut season. Of all his outstanding qualities, however, it’s his ability to make in game adjustments on the mound that sets Soroka apart.

Comp: Adam Wainwright

Projection: Outstanding #2

A big bodied innings eater that peppers the bottom of the strike zone? Yeah, there’s a lot to like here. Soroka has faced every challenge the Braves have thrown at his thus far without breaking a sweat. He may be young, but, like Ronald Acuna, the Braves may have no choice but to continue to throw challenges at the young man as he beelines his way to Atlanta. At absolute worst, Soroka promises to be an innings gobbling #3.


3. Kolby Allard – LHP

Age: 19

Current Level: AA Mississippi

ETA: 2018

Current Line: 3.56 ERA/3.92 FIP/3.81 xFIP, 111.1 IP, 90 K, 41 BB, .266 BAA

Considered a top of the draft talent before a stress reaction in his back, the Braves were only too happy to scoop up Allard in the 2015 draft. While they’ve understandably been cautious with Kolby, the gloves are starting to come off and you’re starting to see what has Atlanta so excited about his potential. His fastball isn’t the flashiest, sitting in the low 90s with an ability to reach back for a couple more ticks, but what makes it so impressive is it’s natural cutting movement. With it’s movement and his ability to locate it pretty much wherever he wants it, Allard’s fastball plays much better than it’s mediocre velocity. The fun doesn’t stop there however, as Allard also possesses an incredible curve with a sharp, steep drop. Add in a changeup that seemingly begs to be called plus, and Allard already has a Major League repertoire. His deceptive delivery allows all three pitches to play up even higher than their already outstanding grades, promising exciting things to come from the young lefty as he gets even more comfortable in his development.

Comp: Tom Glavine

Projection: #1, dominant #2

While any comparison to a 300 game winner seems lofty, there’s no doubt Allard deserves just such a comparison. With a chance for further growth, and maybe even a few more ticks in velocity, Allard’s already outstanding arsenal has a chance to further improve. While he remains behind Mike Soroka in terms of pitchability at the moment, the battles between these two will remind Atlanta fans of happier days. 1990’s days.


2. Kyle Wright – RHP

Age: 21

Current Level: A+ Florida

ETA: 2019

Current Line: 0.93 ERA, 9.2 IP, 10 K, 3 BB,

Joining the ranks of David Price, Carson Fulmer, Mike Minor, and Casey Weathers as Vandy players selected in the top 10, Wright may just end up the best of the lot. Already equipped with a four pitch arsenal, all projected as above average or better, Wright differentiates himself from other college arms because he still has projection for his already prodigious talent. His fastball sits in the 91-94 range, made even better by his ability to add and subtract to it as needed, with an ability to clock it at 97. Already equipped with a strong power curve that ties lefties in knots and a hard slider that, at this point, is almost a cutter, Wright began developing a changeup for his foray into the professional ranks. The kicker? His change is already thought to be at least a major league average, with higher grades coming as he develops it more in the coming days.

Comp: Max Scherzer

Projection: Ace

Before accusing me of simply overhyping the newest acquisition (Huascar Ynoa be damned!) take a look at the profile. Four pitches that promise to be above average, 3 already profiling as plus or better, coupled with an outstanding pedigree at Vanderbilt. While the Braves will be extremely cautious with him this season, expect Wright to fly up through the minors as he begins his quest to claim the torch left behind by the iconic trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. If he manages to add growth and his changeup becomes as good as his other offerings? This projection may not be hyped enough.


1. Luiz Gohara– LHP

Age: 21

Current Level: AAA Gwinnett

ETA: 2018

Current Line: 2.61 ERA, 104 K, 33 BB, .228 BAA

Essentially thrown to the curb by Seattle, Atlanta was more than willing to take a chance on the fireballing Brazilian youngster. Early indications seem to point to John Coppolella, yet again, fleecing the competition. Compared to CC Sabathia even before turning it on upon arrival in the farm, Gohara has found another gear. With the most electric arm in the system, Gohara routinely fires fastballs in the upper 90’s, approaching triple digits on the regular. While his slider always had potential, Gohara getting himself into real shape after the trade transformed his slider from average to a potentially plus plus offering. Add in a changeup that is quickly approaching league average and you have the makings of a dynamic talent. He got knocked around in his welcome to AAA, but at only 21 years old, Gohara may just be the most exciting arm in the entire system.

Comp: CC Sabathia

Projection: Ace- middle rotation

There is no doubt in my mind that Gohara possesses the highest ceiling of the bunch. You simply don’t see many prospects that carry 97+ into the 7th inning. Gohara isn’t without his warts though. The fact that it took being traded to get into shape, and still not great shape at that, means that is something the Braves will always have to check up on. With those warts, however, comes the potential for an arm that truly matches up with the likes of the Noah Syndergaards, Max Scherzers, Stephen Strasburgs, and Jacob DeGroms in the division. After breaking through to AAA this season, don’t be shocked to see Gohara force his way into the Major League rotation next season. It’s a whole lot of man to stand in the way of.



*information gathered from MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs


    • Thanks! If Newk was up for consideration I’d rank him anywhere from 8-6. Anywhere from right behind fried to just ahead of Ian Anderson.
      Purely based on command and control deficiencies.

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