Braves prospects. Anyone who’s anyone has put out pieces detailing the amount of high quality pieces on the farm. From top 100 lists to top 10 lists, everyone has been gobbling up everything they can on the top end of the Braves system. Not me. Instead, I’ve been mulling over the prospects on the farm that people haven’t been mentioning, and I’ve found a few that keep catching my eye. These are guys the national media doesn’t talk about, guys most of Braves Country doesn’t talk about, but these are prospects we should all watch closely. They may make a much bigger impact than we all think.
1. Isranel Wilson– OF
Size: 6’3 185
Stat Line: .258/.340/.407 | 6 HR | 32 RBI | 11 SB
Signed as a SS from St. Maarten a day before 2015 began, Isranel Wilson gives Ronald Acuna and Cristian Pache a real run for the title of “Toolsiest Prospect”. With a physical profile reminiscent of Melvin Upton JR, Wilson has more in common with the mercurial former top prospect than many would be comfortable with. Tall and rangy at 6’3 and 185 pounds, Wilson played a very good CF before moving to RF upon joining the Rome squad and all world defender Cristian Pache. A phenomenal athlete with plus speed and a strong arm, Wilson is more than adequate and, with more experience running his routes, profiles to be a plus defender there long term. Long-limbed and wiry strong, Wilson generates plus bat speed and provides an easy glimpse at a future 20/20 performer. So why is no one talking about him? Well, seemingly regressing, getting suspended for an unspecified “violation of team rules”, and a lowly .407 slugging% aren’t exactly going to generate any love. Fortunately for Izzy, these can all be corrected. Looking at his season a year ago, most of his numbers held steady throughout. A walk rate of almost 10%, an improved K% under 30%, and more than doubling his previous output of triples, the reason for the vast decline in slugging is obvious: an astronomical GB% of 54.3%. That’s almost 10 full percentage points higher than his previous career high. Not great, but not too shocking for a player almost 2 and a half years younger on average than his opponents in his first taste of A ball. If he can even out his GB/FB ratio, the Braves will have yet another outstanding OF prospect to join the tandem of Acuna and Pache.
2. Jean Carlos Encarnacion– 3B/1B
Size: 6’3 195
Stat Line: .321/.346/.464 | 4 HR | 22 RBI | 7 SB
Signed in May of the now infamous 2016 signing period, Encarnacion was a bit older than most of his fellow signees at 18. While he didn’t get nearly the bonus some of the other, higher profile names got, Encarnacion is one of the more intriguing prospects on the Danville roster. Big bodied at 6’3 and 195 pounds, JCE, as he is referred to, has quickly solidified himself as a prospect to monitor. He won’t ever be mistaken for a burner, but JCE is an above average athlete for 3B, and it shows in his range at the hot corner. He’s got a strong arm, soft hands, and easily profiles as a hot corner staple if his body cooperates. He’s more than athletic enough for a move to LF, ala Dustin Peterson, but I feel extremely confident JCE is more than good enough to remain at third. It isn’t all defense however, as Encarnacion has a great feel for making hard contact at the plate, and already shows an ability to use all parts of the field. He needs to improve upon his paltry 3.7% BB rate, but with easy, projectable power, JCE isn’t like most 3B/1B guys in that throughout his short career he’s yet to post a K% above 22%. Once he gets more comfortable and begins to transfer his raw power into games, I fully believe Encarnacion is going to solidify himself as the premier 3B prospect in the entire Atlanta Braves system.
3. Jefrey Ramos– LF/DH
Size: 6’1 185
Stat Line: .307/.349/.497 | 7 HR | 38 RBI
Yet another survivor of the 2016 Coppygate purge, Ramos has been a pleasant surprise. He’s not as physically gifted as Isranel Wilson or Jean Carlos Encarnacion, but Ramos has more than held his own, and he’s done it by better acclimating himself to the flyball revolution we find ourselves in. Posting a FB% of 33.3%, Ramos can easily improve that number by cutting down the ridiculous 31.6 IFFB% he posted in his first taste of Danville a season ago. He doesn’t have the athletic prowess or the ceiling of some of his international compatriots, but if his bat continues to grow, and he continues to develop his power, Ramos can become a very interesting power hitting LF in his own right.
4. Jared James– OF
Size: 6’1 185
Stat Line: .279/.352/.415 | 5 HR | 34 RBI
Absolutely the biggest surprise for me this season was the performance by Jared James in Mississippi. A completely unknown 3rd round pick in 2016, James quickly advanced to AA this past season and has opened quite a few eyes along the way. A player mentioned in the KATOH super deep sleeper prospect lists, you won’t find James’ name on ANY respectable top prospect lists a season ago. Hell, you wouldn’t see him in a top 300 prospect list. That’s ok, the game needs its grinders. That’s what Jared James is; an absolute grinder. He doesn’t excel in any one area. He won’t wow you with speed. He isn’t going to drop 30 homers in a season. He’s not going to suddenly become Andruw in the field. He just grinds it out and puts together very successful seasons. Instrumental to his success has been fundamentals. He strikes out only about 16% of the time. He walks about 9% of the time. He doesn’t make mistakes on defense. He uses all parts of the field at the plate. Water is wet, fire is hot, an Jared James will grind his way to a quietly productive season. I’m not sure where his projection ends up (he’s going to be 24 before the season starts), but don’t take your eyes off of him, we could see him in Atlanta before you know it.
As always, if you feel I’ve missed anyone or just feel like discussing, please drop a comment, discussions are always welcome