42. Ray-Patrick Didder, OF
Age: 23 | Bats: R
.230/.331/.330 | 98 wRC+ | 5 HR | 25 SB | 8.9% BB | 24.8% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Class A+ Florida
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2012
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 87
History: Signed as an infielder out of Aruba, Didder had a breakout season for Rome in 2016 as an outfielder, leading off most of the year for the SAL champs and posting a fantastic .387 OBP with 37 stolen bases. A move up to class high-A Florida turned out to be a tougher assignment than anticipated as Didder’s OBP dropped 50 points and his strikeout rate jumped 7% in a league that can be tough on hitters. The Braves made some moves to turn Didder into a true utilityman, playing him in the middle infield as well as the outfield in 2017.
Offense: Didder starts with a high-hands, open stance that closes with a long, loopy swing. This make him vulnerable to above-average velocity, which Didder saw a lot more of in the Florida State League and contributed to his strikeout spike. Didder’s 39 hit-by-pitches lead all minor league baseball in 2016, but the slightly sharper control of high-A pitchers lowered that to only 21 painful free passes in 2017, contributing to the big dip in his OBP.
Didder has average raw power, but his swing doesn’t really allow him to bring it into games. He has plus speed, and that allowed him to steal 25 bases and tally 17 doubles and 5 triples on the season.
Defense: If Didder makes it to the majors, it will be on the back of his defensive abilities. His speed allows him to track down most fly balls and he has good instincts in the field and takes good routes to the ball. His arm is still a plus tool, and the only reason his outfield assists dropped from 20 last season to 13 this season is that baserunners have learned not to test him. Didder started 38 games in the middle infield for the Fire Frogs, 29 at shortstop and 9 at second base. Didder was signed originally as an infielder, but had not logged a pro inning there since 2014. Didder acquitted himself well enough to be at least an option to fill in at those positions; his fundamentals are solid, but he wouldn’t be a viable option to man either spot regularly without much more extensive time put into the positions due to poor footwork and occasionally questionable decision making.
What’s Next: Despite the mediocre offensive performance in 2017, look for Didder to move up to AA Mississippi in 2018. Continued use and improvement in the infield to broaden his defensive utility and/or improvement in his offensive profile could push him back up prospect lists again, but for now while his baserunning and outfield defense provide the solid floor of a major league 5th outfielder/utilityman.
41. Tyler Neslony, OF
Age: 24 | Bats: L
.263/.342/.363 | 108 wRC+ | 5 HR | 25 SB | 9.8% BB | 17.2% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Class AA Mississippi
Acquired: Draft – Round 9 – 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 40
Superlatives: Florida State League All-Star
History: Taken in the 9th round of the 2016 draft as a “senior sign”, Neslony has already exceeded draft expectations by advancing quickly to the AA level. A .313 career hitter with Texas Tech, Neslony was a team leader with the Red Raiders, and a key part to their 2016 Big 12 championship team. Neslony joined the 2016 league champion Rome Braves late in the season and provided a spark off the bench, hitting .257/.311./.331 in his first taste of A-ball.
Promoted to high-A Florida for 2017, Neslony filled in at both corner outfield spots and DH as the Fire Frogs juggled Braxton Davidson, Ray-Patrick Didder, and Ronald Acuna in the same outfield, but more playing time opened up when first baseman Carlos Castro went out for several weeks after being struck in the face with a pitch. Neslony filled in at first base and hit well with regular time, going .283/.317/.400 while doing his best at an unfamiliar position. When Castro returned, Neslony had a spot in the outfield, and ended up hitting hitting .309/.378/.442 for the Fire Frogs. Neslony was bumped to AA Mississippi along with teammate Austin Riley on July 13, but struggled down the stretch, hitting .194/.289/.243 with the M-Braves.
Offense: Neslony has a quick, clean, and level left-handed swing that generates line-drives when he’s seeing the ball well and lots of worm-burners when he’s not. This is unfortunate, because his speed is pedestrian at best. To keep progressing, Neslony will need to maintain his line-drive approach more consistently, or start demonstrating some over-the-fence power, which is a possibility; he’s a strong enough hitter to add pop without hurting his on-base average with just a tick more launch angle. Neslony has a good approach at the plate with good pitch recognition and he nearly always makes the pitcher earn the out; 7+ pitch at-bats seem to be common for him.
Defense: First the positives: Neslony has an above average outfield arm and good accuracy on his throws. His lack of speed however limits him to the corners, with left field the better position for him. His limited time at first base was, quite simply, a disaster. He made 9 errors in his 23 starts at the position. He’s certainly athletic enough to play first base, so I think the performance could be chalked up to inadequate preparation, but if the possibility of additional time at first to increase his utility is still an option, he will need considerable offseason coaching and spring reps to smooth out the rough patches.
What’s Next: Tyler “The Pony” Neslony has shown enough that he’ll likely return to AA Mississippi as a favorite to start in one of the outfield corners. Slight changes to his hitting profile could do wonders for his prospect status, but right now he’s got a solid potential 4th/5th outfielder floor.