27. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B
Age: 20 | Bats: R
.321/.346/.464 | 124 wRC+ | 3 HR | 7 SB | 3.4% BB | 21.0% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 50
History: Signed out of the Dominican Republic very late in the 2015/16 international amateur signing period, Encarnacion was a skinny, lanky older player in the Braves Dominican Summer League in 2016, but showed some good feel for the bat and decent glovework at third base. Coming into spring training for 2017, Encarnacion had worked to fill out his frame and was assigned to the GCL Braves last summer. Encarnacion impressed in his month with the team, hitting .350/.374/.563 with 2 homers before being promoted to Danville.
Danville proved to be a little tougher for Encarnacion, but he still put up solid numbers, going .290/.316/.355 with another home run in 23 games to finish out the season.
Offense: Encarnacion is 6′-3″ and 195 pounds and looks like he’s all arms and legs at the plate. Starting with a slightly open stance, Encarnacion closes with a toe-tap and swings hard at pretty much anything near the strike zone. He likes the ball away from him so he can bring his long arms to bear in order to launch it the other way for power, but he has enough bat control to also turn on pitches inside. Because he so far lacks selectiveness he will often swing at pitcher’s pitches and put the ball on the ground or whiff, but he also shows a good eye so this is something he may improve with exposure. While not a speedster, Encarnacion’s long strides allow him to gallop around the bases at a pretty good clip once he gets up to speed.
Defense: While lacking in strong technique, Encarnacion’s athleticism gives him a very strong defensive tool that could make him a potential plus third baseman before too long. He has good natural instincts and a strong and accurate arm. Encarnacion played a handful of games at first base with the GCL Braves and looked very uncomfortable there, but there’s no reason to think he couldn’t play that position well given coaching and repetitions.
What’s Next: Encarnacion only garnered a $10,000 signing bonus, and the Braves have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen from him so far. It’s likely he will open up the season as Rome’s third baseman. Somewhat complicating things may be if Kevin Maitan is moved over the third, but for now they should be able to co-exist on the same side of the diamond.
26. Izzy Wilson, OF
Age: 20 | Bats: L
.258/.340/.407 | 111 wRC+ | 6 HR | 11 SB | 10.1% BB | 26.1% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Class A Rome
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2014
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 31
History: After a power explosion in the GCL during his first pro year in 2015 (10 HR in 173 PA), a lot of prospect watchers were very interested in Wilson’s move up to Danville in 2016. Unfortunately, Wilson’s 2016 was pretty much a dud as he saw his power evaporate, his walk rate crater, and even his strikeout rate, already very high in 2015, tick up. On top of that there were rumors of maturity issues, and he was suspended the last week of the season for violation of unspecified team rules.
Wilson returned to Danville in 2017 recommitted and with something to prove, and he did just that, igniting the Danville offense in 17 games, hitting 4 homers and stealing 3 bases. That was good enough to get Wilson promoted to Rome after the trade that sent right fielder Randy Ventura to Cincinnati. Wilson acquitted himself well in his first taste of A-ball, hitting .262/.340/.351 with 9 stolen bases over the last six weeks of the season.
Offense: Wilson has an intriguing set of tools that he’s now starting to bring into games on a regular basis. At the plate, the 6′-3″ shows a good batting eye and quick hands. He has a closed stance and minimal stride; he simply explodes at the pitch with a natural upper-cut swing that can produce tape-measure power. Wilson’s main issue is pitch recognition; anything breaking down or away from him is a big problem, and he’ll over swing over them for a whiff or to tap it weakly to the infield. Wilson demonstrated significant improvement in this area last season, but it still remains his primary area of development. On the bases, Wilson demonstrates plus speed and will aggressively take extra bases. The 2017 version of Wilson also revealed a better base stealing threat.
Defense: Wilson has the speed, range, and arm that could make him an above average center fielder, but playing with Cristian Pache in Rome pushed him to right field where they formed a very strong outfield.
What’s Next: It seems like Wilson has been in the system forever, but he doesn’t even turn 20 until March. He likely will be booked for a return engagement with Rome, and the Braves will be looking for Wilson to start turning those plus tools into plus skills.