21. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP
Age: 20 | Throws: L
4.95 ERA | 4.06 FIP | 22 G, 21 GS | 100.0 IP | 4.14 BB/9 | 9.09 K/9
Current Assignment: Class A+ Florida
Acquired: Trade w/Los Angeles Angels – 2015
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 27
History: Sanchez was traded by the Angels to the Braves for Kyle Kubizca early in the Braves rebuild process, and has since shown tantalizing ability while also not having performances commiserate with other top pitching prospects. After two seasons with Rome (the first year ruined by injuries), Sanchez was promoted to high-A Florida. Sanchez overall showed more quality innings and struck out over a batter per nine innings for the first time in his Braves career, but also had several blow-up outings and innings, usually due to giving up home runs at inopportune times. Sanchez was shut down with two weeks left to go in the season after hitting exactly 100 innings. .
Pitching: Sanchez is the rare smallish pitcher in the Braves organization, listed at 5’-11” and 170 pounds, but looking more in the 210 range. Sanchez can run the fastball up to around 94 and sits in the low-90sm but his bread-and-butter pitch is an above average-to-plus curveball that is his primary strikeout weapon. Sanchez also throws a change-up that has shown improvement with movement and separation from the fastball. Sanchez has generally below average command of all three pitches, especially from the stretch; he can dominate a game until a runner reaches base, and then the potential for a meltdown increases due to an inconsistent landing spot.
What’s Next: Sanchez did some of his best pitching just before being shut down, and that may be enough for the Braves to move him up to AA Mississippi next season, but another season with the Fire Frogs wouldn’t be the worst thing for him; he’s still very young. He’s ceiling is high, but unless he figures out his command issues from the stretch, his floor is low enough to make him a risk to bust.
20. Travis Demeritte, IF
Age: 23 | Bats: R
.231/.306/.402 | 105 wRC+ | 15 HR | 5 SB | 9.6% BB | 26.2% K
Current Assignment: Class AA Mississippi
Acquired: Trade w/Texas Rangers – 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 22
History: A former first round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2013, Demeritte has been a prodigious power threat in his minor league career, accompanied by prodigious strikeouts. This season Demeritte moderated both aspects of his game. Demeritte hit a full-season career low 15 home runs but also lowered his strikeout rate from 33% in the 2016 season to a more reasonable 26.2%. Overall, Demeritte looked to put the ball in play more, which also reflected in his lower walk rate, but to his credit he didn’t ground the ball any more than his career norms, which is a danger when a player makes an adjustment towards more contact. Instead he hit more fly balls, which would likely have benefited him in ballparks not quite as cavernous as Mississippi’s TrustMark Park. Demeritte got off to a hot start, but was slumping badly by midseason, hitting only .166/.248/.304 from June 4 through August 7. After a short DL stint, he hit .304/.360/.418 with a 19.8 K% through the end of the year.
Offense: Demeritte is listed as 6′-0″ and 180 pounds, but his long arms and legs give the impression of a taller man. He has a leg kick and a long, powerful stroke that generates his power. That same stroke can limit him when he gets fooled as he has a hard time making adjustments once the ball is on it’s way, and his pitch recognition is poor enough that he gets fooled on a regular basis, though there was some improvement in 2017. He did make an adjustment this season, slightly opening his stance, which may have helped him in this regard. Demeritte has above average speed, but was a surprisingly poor basestealer last season.
Defense: Demeritte is an above average defender at third base and a plus defender at second base. Demeritte demonstrates excellent range and footwork and decent hands at both positions. Demeritte has a strong arm, but suffers some accuracy issues making the longer throw from third base.
What’s Next: The Braves have been notorious for valuing how a player ends a season over his entire season’s worth of work, and if that continues under the new front office Demeritte will be ticketed for AAA Gwinnett to begin the 2017 season, an injury away from the show. If not, a return trip to AA Mississippi wouldn’t be the worst thing for Demeritte either. In any case, Demeritte’s combination of above average defense and power gives him a high likelihood of being given a long look in the majors someday. Whether that’s as a utility infielder or an everyday starter at second base or third will be determined by his continued maturation as a hitter.