KATOH Projects: Atlanta Braves Prospects

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Back in November, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Atlanta Braves. In this companion piece, I finally get around to looking at that same Atlanta farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Braves have the 13th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Ozzie Albies, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 12.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 60 FV

Albies followed up his scorching Rookie-ball debut in 2014 with a similarly impressive showing in full-season ball last year. Although he was the youngest player in the league, the speedy shortstop slashed .310/.368/.404 and swiped 29 bases. At 5-foot-9, it’s unlikely that Albies will ever hit for power, but he does just about everything else: he rarely strikes out, draws ample walks, runs like the wind and plays solid defense at short — all while playing with guys a few years older than he is. Albies is still a long ways from the show, but there’s a ton to like here.

Ozzie Albies’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Tito Navarro 9.9 0.0
2 Jimmy Rollins 13.3 25.6
3 D’Angelo Jimenez 10.6 7.7
4 Hiram Bocachica 10.0 0.5
5 Alcides Escobar 10.3 10.9
6 Edgar Renteria 11.9 20.0
7 Juan Melo 9.6 0.0
8 Dennys Abreu 7.9 0.0
9 Danny Klassen 8.7 0.1
10 Jose Reyes 17.5 28.5

2. Mallex Smith, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 8.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Smith did a bang-up job between Double-A and Triple-A last year, where he hit .306/.373/.386 with an eye-popping 57 steals. Smith’s control of the strike zone and lofty BABIPs result in high OBPs, which allow him to take full advantage of his top-notch speed. Power is the one piece that’s missing from Smith’s profile, but the strength of his other skills should make him a productive big leaguer.

Mallex Smith’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Jason Tyner 7.7 0.9
2 Rich Becker 9.1 7.8
3 Prentice Redman 6.0 0.0
4 Scott Hunter 6.8 0.0
5 Kevin Gibbs 8.2 0.0
6 Ricky Otero 7.1 0.1
7 Troy O’Leary 6.8 5.3
8 Shin-Soo Choo 7.3 17.0
9 Juan Pierre 7.2 16.9
10 Steve Hosey 8.5 0.1

3. Ronald Acuna, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 5.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

Acuna’s professional debut was excellent. Although he was just 17, he hit .269/.380/.438 between two levels of Rookie ball. Acuna’s a risky bet since he’s yet to play above that level, but his .169 ISO and 16 stolen bases hints at an intriguing power-speed combination.

Ronald Acuna’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Steve Gibralter 5.2 0.0
2 Felix Pie 6.1 1.7
3 Richard Hidalgo 6.2 19.9
4 Gerardo Parra 4.2 10.3
5 Alex Romero 4.0 0.0
6 Jose Camilo 4.1 0.0
7 Jason Pridie 5.2 0.9
8 Xavier Paul 3.5 0.5
9 Jorge Piedra 4.6 0.9
10 Wladimir Balentien 4.9 1.1

4. Daniel Castro, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Castro is a slap-hitting middle infielder who spent most of last year in the minors, but received a decent chunk of playing time for the Braves down the stretch last year. Castro has barely any power to speak of, which probably renders him a backup. But his contact ability is encouraging, and it’s enabled him to hold his own in the high minors despite his lack of power. Castro is a glove-first player all the way, and he does just enough with the bat to make him interesting.

5. Austin Riley, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Last year’s 45th-overall pick had a loud debut in Rookie ball, hitting .304/.389/.544 in 60 games. His 26% strikeout rate is a red flag, and will be something to monitor as he climbs the ladder. On the whole, though, Riley’s statistical profile lives up to the high scouting grades.

6. Lucas Sims, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Sims has very good stuff, but his results in the upper levels of the minors have been mediocre at best. He pitched to a 4.37 ERA and 3.59 FIP between High-A and Double-A last year, and walked opposing batters at an unsightly 13% clip. Even so, Sims is still just 21, and his 25% strikeout rate hints at a bright future. KATOH’s lukewarm on him now, but will certainly be on board if he hacks a few percentage points off of his walk rate next year.

Lucas Sims’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Chad Durbin 2.8 1.4
2 Chan Ho Park 2.3 16.3
3 Franklin Morales 2.5 0.9
4 Horacio Estrada 2.7 0.0
5 Jaret Wright 3.2 9.7
6 Felix Rodriguez 1.6 4.4
7 Daryl Henderson 2.7 0.0
8 Troy Patton 3.5 1.5
9 Joel Hanrahan 3.0 3.1
10 Oscar Munoz 2.3 0.0

7. Sean Newcomb, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Newcomb’s been a strikeout machine. He split the 2015 season between three levels — Low-A, High-A and Double-A — and pitched well at each stop. All told, he finished up with 2.36 ERA and a 29% strikeout rate. However, those strikeouts have came with a heavy dose of walks. Because of those walks, and also because Newcomb spent most of the year in A-ball at age 22, KATOH’s bearish on the 6-foot-5 lefty.

Sean Newcomb’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Adam Harben 3.3 0.0
2 Matt Wright 2.1 0.0
3 Wade Davis 2.6 8.7
4 Chad Hutchinson 3.2 0.0
5 Jim Johnson 2.7 3.3
6 Erik Schullstrom 1.9 0.3
7 Renyel Pinto 2.7 0.1
8 Adam Loewen 1.9 2.0
9 Jeff Granger 1.9 0.0
10 Mike Bynum 2.5 0.0

8. John Gant, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 60 FV

Gant came over from the Mets last summer in exchange for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. He pitched to an excellent 3.10 FIP last year with a 23% strikeout rate between High-A and Double-A. Gant doesn’t throw particularly hard, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his stat line. He’s done a fine job of getting batters out all the way up the minor-league ladder.

Jon Gant’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Chris Capuano 2.4 8.9
2 Ryan Vogelsong 2.0 0.7
3 Heath Murray 2.7 0.0
4 George Kontos 2.5 0.5
5 Rod Henderson 3.1 0.0
6 John Van Benschoten 1.9 0.0
7 Jim Johnson 2.7 3.3
8 James Shields 2.4 15.0
9 Chris Narveson 2.0 2.2
10 Eric Ludwick 1.9 0.0

9. Aaron Blair, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Blair pitched to an excellent 2.92 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last year, but his peripherals suggest he got a bit lucky: his 19% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate were both in line with his league’s average. Even so, for a 23-year-old, a middle-of-the-road performance in the high minors is nothing to sneeze at. Blair’s numbers don’t suggest he has a ton of upside. But he’s almost big-league ready, which gives him a relatively high floor.

Aaron Blair’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Trever Miller 2.0 0.1
2 Jae Kuk Ryu 2.4 0.0
3 T.J. Tucker 1.9 1.8
4 Jason Standridge 1.9 0.0
5 Clayton Mortensen 1.3 0.1
6 Gaby Hernandez 1.6 0.0
7 Kurt Miller 2.8 0.1
8 Kent Bottenfield 1.5 0.6
9 Sean Bergman 2.7 4.5
10 Amaury Telemaco 1.4 0.9

10. Rio Ruiz, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Ruiz hit very well in A-Ball in 2013 and 2014, but his bat sputtered in his first taste of Double-A. Aside from walking in 13% of his trips to the plate, there was nothing remarkable about Ruiz’s 2015 performance. He struck out at a league-average clip, and could only muster an .090 ISO — a far cry from his .163 mark from two years of A-ball. His career may depend on whether he can rediscover that power against advanced pitching.

11. Juan Yepez, 1B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

Yepez hit a solid .299/.364/.458 as a 17-year-old in Rookie ball. His 24% strikeout rate and position (first base) explain why he didn’t rank higher. But he showed glimpses of promise in his pro debut.

1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
12 Braxton Davidson OF 1.5 40
13 Johan Camargo SS 1.3 35+
14 Alejandro Salazar SS 1.2 Unranked
15 Touki Toussaint P 1.1 45
16 Luke Dykstra 2B 1.1 35+
17 Manny Banuelos P 1.0 Unranked
18 Chris Ellis P 1.0 45

Alejandro Salazar demonstrated encouraging on-base abilities by slashing .284/.352/.361 as an 18-year-old shortstop in Rookie ball. Manny Banuelos posted a solid 3.46 FIP as a starter in Triple-A, but just turned 25.

*****

Remaining Prospects

Ryan Weber, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 0.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Statistically speaking, Weber’s profile is extremely unremarkable. He spent last season as a 24-year-old swing man in Double-A and Triple-A, and came away with a 3.45 FIP and below-average strikeout rate. That’s certainly not the statistical track record of a future mid-rotation starter; however, Dan pointed out that Weber’s pitches have excellent movement to go along with excellent command. He certainly wouldn’t be the first prospect with great command to sneak up on everyone: Jacob deGrom and Kyle Hendricks went from fringe prospects to starting Game 3 of the NLCS in just a couple of years. There may be more to Weber than my dumb computer can glean from his stat line.

Ryan Weber’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Tim Mcnab 0.1 0.0
2 Matt Snyder 0.3 0.0
3 Lloyd Johnson 0.2 0.0
4 Bob Baxter 0.1 0.0
5 Jose Parra 0.5 0.0
6 Josh Miller 0.1 0.0
7 Paul McCurtain 0.1 0.0
8 Brian Faw 0.1 0.0
9 Kevin Legault 0.4 0.0
10 Bronswell Patrick 0.8 0.2

*****

Remaining 45+ FV Prospects
Player Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Max Povse P 0.8 50
Mauricio Cabrera P 0.4 45

Max Povse was just alright last season as a 21-year-old in A-Ball. Mauricio Cabrera throws gas and misses bats, but KATOH’s scared away by his unsightly walk rates out of the bullpen.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH Projects: Atlanta Braves Prospects by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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Cory Settoon
Member

Considering that Swanson isn’t even on the list, you could say that the Braves have some options at SS.