34. Jared James, OF
Age: 24 | Bats: L
.279/.352/.415 | 122 wRC+ | 5 HR | 1 SB | 8.6% BB | 15.9% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Class AA Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 34th Round — 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: NA
History: James was not even a regular player for his collegiate team when he was a very late round selection by Atlanta. The son of former Brave Dion James, Jared seems to be a classic late bloomer whose athleticism has caught up with his batting skills. James started his pro career in Danville, where he sprayed the ball around and showed enough plate discipline to record a .298/.379/.364 slash line in 33 games. Bumped up to Rome to finish out the season, James showed some unexpected power, hitting 3 balls over the fence in 27 games and teaming up with Ronald Acuna and Ray-Patrick Didder to solidify the Rome outfield during their playoff run.
After a quality instructional league and spring workouts, the Braves were impressed enough to give James a double promotion to AA Mississippi. Perhaps not surprisingly, James initially struggled against AA pitching, and was only hitting .215/.302/.338 by the end of May. When Ronald Acuna arrived to take over center field, James was forced to share time with Connor Lien and Keith Curcio, who were also off to slow starts. James heated up however, and before long he was in the line-up every night again and he hit .319/.385/.462 from June 1 through the end of the season.
When Anfernee Seymour was removed from the Arizona Fall League roster, James was chosen by the Braves to replace him. At the time of this writing, James was hitting a respectable .273/.393/.364 in a part-time capacity.
Offense: James sports an open stance with his hands out away from him before he closes up as the ball comes in. That provides him with a good look at the pitch out of the pitcher’s hand, allowing him to typically put wood to ball. He can spray the ball to all fields, but his power typically comes when he’s able to pull bad breaking balls. He can be beat with good velocity, especially inside as he tries to adjust his hands. James has above average speed and is a confident baserunner, more on taking the extra base than stealing bases.
Defense: While quick and athletic, James does not possess a strong or accurate arm, and this deficiency limited him to left field in 2017. He could play either of the other two outfield spots in a pinch, but he would not work well as a long-term solution.
What’s Next: James was challenged with his double promotion to AA, and the Braves have to be pleased with how he responded. A move up to AAA Gwinnett seems likely, but his defensive limitations will hamper further advancement.
33. Corbin Clouse, LHP
Age: 22 | Throws: L
2.53 ERA | 2.95 FIP | 41 G, 0 GS | 57 IP | 5.37 BB/9 | 11.37 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 27th Round — 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: NA
Superlatives: OFR Florida Fire Frogs Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year
History: Clouse didn’t start pitching regularly until his senior year of high school, and went to tiny Davenport University in Michigan, perhaps explaining why he fell to the Braves in the 27th round of the 2016 draft. Clouse wasted no time getting on the relief prospect map for the Braves as he struck out 16 of the 22 batters he faced while with the Danville Braves in 2016. He received a quick promotion to Rome and pitched to a 1.52 ERA in 15 games with the SAL champs, providing a much needed late season shot in the arm to the bullpen.
Assigned to high-A Florida to start the season, Clouse experienced his first real pro challenge, surrendering 10 earned runs in his first 5 appearances. He then proceeded to go on a run of 23 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run, pitching 34.2 innings while striking out 46. The final 3 outings of the streak occurred with the AA Mississippi Braves, to which Clouse was promoted on July 19. Clouse would end up pitching to a respectable 2.86 ERA with Mississippi in 16 games and 22 innings, striking out 26.
Clouse was chosen to participate in the Arizona Fall League, and as of this writing was pitching to a 5.14 ERA in 12 appearances, striking out 12 in 7 innings.
Pitching: Clouse throws five pitches, a high number for a reliever and a leftover from being a starting pitcher in college. He primarily uses a 2-seam fastball that sits around 92 but can get up to 95 and as good sink. He compliments that with a sweeping slider that he can either back-door against righties or get lefties to chase. He mixes in a 4-seam fastball that also has some sinking action and a somewhat tight curveball, but these pitches are used more as show pitches to set up the slider, which is his main swing-and-miss pitch. Clouse started throwing a change-up this year as well, which may help explain the lack of discernible platoon advantage for right-handed batters. Clouse can get into some trouble when he isn’t commanding his fastball and hitters can afford to lay off the slider. That said, Clouse is a classic battler and will not give in to hitters, and isn’t afraid to issue a walk in order to get a fresh count on a new batter if the situation calls for it.
What’s Next: Clouse could debut in 2018 in either AAA Gwinnett or AA Mississippi, and the Braves will probably take a look at him in the spring before deciding. As a hard-throwing lefty with true strikeout potential, look for him in the majors before too long. If his change-up keeps developing, he can also succeed as more than just a left-handed specialist as well and he could find himself in high-leverage situations.