Top 32 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Atlanta Braves. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

Braves Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Ronald Acuna 19 AAA CF 2018 65
2 Kyle Wright 22 A+ RHP 2018 55
3 Luiz Gohara 20 MLB LHP 2018 55
4 Mike Soroka 19 AA RHP 2018 55
5 Cristian Pache 18 A CF 2020 55
6 Ian Anderson 18 A RHP 2020 50
7 Austin Riley 19 AA 3B 2018 50
8 Touki Touisaint 20 AA RHP 2018 50
9 Max Fried 24 R LHP 2018 50
10 Joey Wentz 19 A LHP 2020 50
11 Kolby Allard 19 AA LHP 2019 50
12 Brett Cumberland 21 A+ C 2019 45
13 Bryse Wilson 19 A RHP 2020 45
14 William Contreras 20 R C 2021 45
15 Alex Jackson 21 AA C 2019 45
16 A.J. Minter 23 MLB LHP 2018 45
17 Drew Waters 19 R CF 2021 45
18 Tucker Davidson 21 A LHP 2021 45
19 Ricardo Sanchez 19 A+ LHP 2020 45
20 Kyle Muller 19 R LHP 2021 40
21 Drew Lugbauer 21 A C 2020 40
22 Travis Demeritte 22 AA 2B 2019 40
23 Dustin Peterson 22 AAA LF 2018 40
24 Josh Graham 24 AA RHP 2019 40
25 Jacob Lindgren 24 MLB LHP 2018 40
26 Patrick Weigel 22 AAA RHP 2018 40
27 Huascar Ynoa 19 R RHP 2021 40
28 Adam McCreery 25 A+ LHP 2019 40
29 Derian Cruz 18 A 2B 2021 40
30 Freddy Tarnok 19 R RHP 2022 40
31 Ray-Patrick Didder 23 A+ SS 2020 40
32 Jean Carlos Encarnacion 20 R 3B 2021 40

65 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela
Age 19 Height 6’0 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 65/70 50/65 60/55 45/50 70/70

Acuna has taken an unusual path to becoming an elite prospect. He signed for $100,000 out of Venezuela in 2014, and less than a year later, the Braves knew they had something special. He had gotten more physical while also exhibiting both better-than-expected plate discipline and also lofty exit velocities. Many expected 2016 to be his coming out party — and, in fact, it was in the eyes of scouts who saw him. He had only 179 plate appearances due to injury, though, so he didn’t get a chance to put up the numbers to really draw attention. In 2017, Acuna made the leap from scout favorite and known toolshed to one of the top prospects in baseball.

He demolished High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A as a 19-year-old, performing progressively better at each level, a nearly unprecedented feat. He will be the Braves’ starting right or left fielder (in deference to Ender Inciarte in center) in the first half of 2018 and projects for a peak season of at least four wins with about the lowest risk/variance a 20-year-old can offer. There’s some thought that Acuna will end up close to an average runner as he settles in a corner, taking a Justin Upton-like career path with Inciarte and Pache presumably patrolling center field for the foreseeable future.

55 FV Prospects

2. Kyle Wright, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Vanderbilt
Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 50/55 45/50 45/50

Wright was a tough sign out of an Alabama high school in 2014 due to a Vanderbilt commitment. The Braves made a significant offer that came up just short, but they got their man with the fifth overall pick in 2017 after a dominant three-year career in Nashville. Wright was a elite prospect wire to wire for the Commodores but had a rocky start in 2017, only finding a more natural arm slot weeks before the draft by taking grounders at shortstop, where he played in high school. He pitched 95-99 mph for the first half of a start against Arkansas a few weeks after that and hasn’t looked back since.

He likely won’t spend long in the minor leagues and should join the Braves’ young pitching in the majors at some point in 2018. He doesn’t have much to work on, as he’s close to a finished product, but facing more advanced hitters will force him to improve his consistency, sequencing, and location.

3. Luiz Gohara, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Brazil
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 45/50 45/50

Gohara was identified very early as an elite prospect — even coming from a non-baseball hotbed like Brazil — catching scouts’ eyes around age 14. The Mariners were on him first and had plenty of competition, but ultimately made him the highest-paid pitcher in the 2012 July 2nd class. Gohara’s development was slower than expected, dogged by maturity and weight concerns until a trade to Atlanta before the 2017 season. Gohara is still drawing CC Sabathia physical comps and will need to watch his weight, but he shot from High-A to the big leagues in 2017, invigorated by the change of scenery.

Gohara has the rare opportunity to become a durable left-handed starter who sits in the mid-90s, and he has uncanny feel for locating his above-average to plus slider, helping the pitch play up. He showed progress with his changeup last year, regularly flashing average, but it isn’t a big part of his game as his slider is more vertical than horizontal and thus can be used against lefties and righties effectively. Gohara is likely the Braves’ fourth starter to begin the 2018 season.

4. Mike Soroka, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Bishop Carroll HS (CAN)
Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 55/55 50/55 45/55

The Canadian righty has a background playing hockey and has the frame and demeanor to be a defenseman in the NHL despite a goofy, cerebral disposition off the field. The Braves challenged the polished sinker/slider standout with a 2017 assignment to Double-A at age 19. He excelled while also developing a changeup that was above average to plus to match his high-spin-rate two-plane breaking ball. The Braves thought Soroka’s mental makeup; deceptively athletic, durable frame; and feel for pitching would help his sinker and slider play up and that appears to have been the case. Soroka will likely be ready for an MLB look in 2018 at age 20, and while the upside isn’t frontline (he sits just 90-94 mph), you could argue everything he does is above average to plus. On the right day, he has three plus pitches and plus command, but there’s still some small mechanical and consistency issues he’s ironing out.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 55/55 20/40 80/80 70/80 70/70

Pache drew a $1.5 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2015. He’s a perfect example of the reward in signing a top July 2nd prospect, as his tools have taken a huge step forward since signing: his run grade jumped from 60 to 80, his arm from 60 to 70, and his raw power from 45 to 55. In the meantime, he’s also become arguably the best defender at any position in all of minor-league baseball. The only issue for Pache is tweaking the mechanics of his swing. He needs to lift the ball more and create a stronger base to tap into some of his power and allow his athleticism to play.

These are fixable things: he’s just turned 19 and has succeeded offensively up till this point (despite being young for each level) while relying on tools alone. With a new hitting coordinator and natural physical maturity, Pache may have a breakthrough at the plate this year. The Braves rave about his makeup and coachability, while his athleticism would be world class in any sport. With little improvement, he’s a Kevin Pillar two- or three-win type defensive specialist and his upside is a six-plus-win perennial All-Star.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Shenendowa HS (NY)
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 45/55 40/55

Anderson first got on many scouts’ radars when, in 2015 as a high-school junior, he faced senior and soon-to-be Rays first-rounder CF Garrett Whitley in a high-profile matchup. Anderson has made steady progress since then. Despite a senior season slowed by illness and an oblique injury, he went third overall in the 2016 draft, which many perceived as a signability pick given the below-slot bonus. The Braves, though, genuinely thought he was the best available prospect.

He had a prototypical pitching prospect’s projectable frame, along with three above-average pitches and the potential for above-average command to profile as a front- to middle-of-the-rotation starter. Anderson works up in the zone at 92-95, touching 97 mph with elite extension that allows it to play even quicker, but a combination of corralling his rising velocity along with minor-league umpires has impacted his walk figures. Expect that to be fixed sooner than later. Otherwise, his main concerns are the consistency of his offspeed stuff and remaining healthy.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from DeSoto Central HS (MS)
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 65/65 45/60 45/40 40/45 60/60

Riley was a tough read for scouts as an amateur, with the industry split evenly on whether he should be a hitter or pitcher. He was also set to punt for the Mississippi State football team if he got to campus, but the Braves popped him in the sandwich round as a hitter, surprising many, as only a few clubs were interested in Riley that early in the draft. He’s rewarded the Braves’ faith in his offensive ability, pumping 52 homers in two-and-a-half seasons while also reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old.

Riley has slimmed down and has a chance to stick at third base now, but his easy plus raw power and improving contact ability will play anywhere on the diamond, possibly as soon as this September in the big leagues. Riley has had some issues facing premium velocity and clearing his hands on hard inside pitches, but he made strides late in the season after some specific work in that area — a development that speaks to his coachability. Riley is deceptively quick and could play in the small right field in SunTrust Park if he can’t stick at third base, since the natural positional shift to first base would run into Freddie Freeman.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Coral Springs Christian HS (FL)
Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 65/65 55/60 40/50

Toussaint burst onto the scouting scene when he hit 97 mph with a plus-plus curveball as a high-school underclassman, but his delivery and command needed lots of work at that point. He’s slowly made adjustments — just before the 2014 draft he dialed down the high-octane stuff so he could command it better — and made his biggest strides in 2017. Toussaint’s changeup was consistently above average to plus while his 70 curveball and 96-plus mph fastball were still in his back pocket when needed, but he opted for a low-90s sinker and above-average curveball with more command of both early in the game.

His skillset now fits the changing big-league game: he may continue his path into becoming the frontline starter many envisioned when he was 16 years old or he could be a Lance McCullers-like Swiss Army knife that’s one of the most valuable pieces of a staff without ever pitching 200 innings. Either way, he could be a devastating big-league presence by the end of 2018, particularly in one- to two-inning stints. The Braves’ high-risk strategy of stockpiling power arms is still risky (see: the Mets), but we’re on the verge of seeing what this approach can yield.

9. Max Fried, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
Age 24 Height 6’4 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 65/70 50/55 45/50

Fried was part of one of the best high school pitching staffs of all time with Cardinals RHP Jack Flaherty and White Sox RHP Lucas Giolito. Fried went 6th overall in 2012 before Giolito (who had just had Tommy John surgery) and Fried had his own Tommy John surgery within a year of being drafted. Fried was then traded to Atlanta as the headliner in the Justin Upton deal. Fried has flashed signs of brilliance since his return, particularly down the stretch in 2016 as the stopper for the championship team in Low-A Rome (sitting 92-95 mph in that stretch) but a gnarly blister limited most of his 2017.

Some scouts still question his command, wondering if he fits better in short stints, but most see a mid-rotation starter outcomes for Fried. No one questions his knockout curveball, which gets grades as high as a 70 from scouts on the 20-80 scale. His fastball normally sits 90-94 and hits 97 mph while his changeup is above average and after a successful cup of coffee in the big league at the tail end of last year, Fried has a good chance to open 2017 in the Braves rotation alongside Gohara.

10. Joey Wentz, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Shawnee Mission East HS (MO)
Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 45/55 60/60 45/55

Wentz was seen as a middle-round two-way prospect entering the spring of his draft year in 2016, then broke out as a pitcher, eliciting Cole Hamels comps on his best days. He went in the comp round to the Braves for an overslot bonus to forego a scholarship to Virginia. In his first full pro season with Atlanta, Wentz’s velocity was down a bit (88-92) from his best amateur outings (91-95), but his inconsistent changeup became a consistent plus pitch to the point where he didn’t even need his above-average curveball more than a handful of times per game in many outings.

He’s a good athlete with a low-effort delivery (and plus power at the plate that will come in handy in the NL), low mileage on his arm, a present outpitch, a starter’s repertoire, and feel for his craft, so it’s a little less risky than the typical teenage pitcher. He’ll likely open the season in High-A but could move quickly to find a challenge, like Soroka and Allard did last year.

11. Kolby Allard, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from San Clemente HS (CA)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 50/55 45/55 50/60

Allard burst on the scene in the summer before his draft year, showing above-average potential with all three pitches and his command while being among the youngest in his draft class. Then he hit 96 mph at the Perfect Game All-American Game in San Diego and became a premier prospect. A back injury cut short his draft spring, and then the Braves scooped up a potential top-five pick at 14th overall. Allard has lived up to his feel for the game, performing in the minors, including a jump from Low-A to Double-A at age 19 with ERA/FIP/xFIP all in the low 3s.

His stuff hasn’t really progressed since the beginning of his summer showcase season, normally sitting 89-91, touching 93 mph with solid-average offspeed stuff, and relying more on his command and pitchability, which is still advanced. His fastball is relatively straight and works best up in the zone. Given his lower velocity, that could lead to homer problems in the big leagues and a generally low margin for error with the pitch. With a smaller stature, back issues in the past, and ordinary stuff, the ceiling isn’t as high now as once thought when he hit 96 mph at age 16 on national television.

That said, he’s never failed despite roadblocks and limitations, and he’ll be 20 years old in Triple-A to start 2019 with the tremendous feel for pitching — particularly fastball command — that normally eases a transition to the big leagues. Allard has a low variance future of something from a third to fifth starter.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Cal
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 205 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/55 30/55 40/35 40/50 45/45

Cumberland got an above-slot bonus in the second supplemental round in 2016, the pick the Braves “bought” from Baltimore for taking on Brian Matusz’s contract. Cumberland had a rocky start in pro ball just after signing but made the necessary adjustment and had a breakout in 2017, learning to make his late-count, loft-oriented approach work in games at age 21/22. Some in the organization think he’ll get even a notch better with a new hitting coordinator more suited to Cumberland’s specific new-school approach at the plate.

He has a surprising feel for hitting (making contact, bat control, not chasing out of the zone) for a young power- and loft-oriented hitter, a type who traditionally take longer to develop. Most also never have above-average contact skills. Cumberland’s defense will always be a concern, as he has a fringey arm that plays up to average pop times with a quick release, but sometimes plays below average. His receiving and blocking are fine, suffreing from occasional mental lapses but the ability to be average. The biggest issue is that his bat is so advanced he may rush his way to the big leagues to take a Matt Adams-type role if needed, while the time it takes to fine-tune his catching would hold him back in the minors.

Some think he’s a poor man’s Carlos Santana or Kyle Schwarber given the combination of the bat, power, and patience, and eventually he probably won’t catch at all. For the first part of his career, though, he’ll bring value by being in the lineup at catcher, first base, or (when relevant) DH — and can serve as a pinch-hitter, too. He gives a GM and manager some options, possibly worked in as a backup catcher who finds his way into the lineup or (more likely for an NL club) a versatile bench bat/third catcher. Cumberland is a below-average runner who is deceptively quick underway, but he’s likely a first baseman if catcher doesn’t work out, limiting his upside if he moves out from behind the plate.

13. Bryse Wilson, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Orange HS (NC)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/60 45/50 45/50 45/50

Wilson was a superlative prep performer with three no-hitters in his draft year. He also possessed a somewhat unusual profile for a seven-figure prep arm: a physically maxed-out athlete who played on both sides of the ball for the football team. He pitches how you would guess: like an uber-aggressive bulldog, attacking hitters relentlessly to both sides of the plate and pounding the strike zone, with scouts raving about his makeup.

Wilson works 92-95, touching 99 mph with above-average sinking life on the pitch along with excellent extension that adds another tick to that velocity. His slider is below average currently but will flash slightly above average at times. It’s effective enough in games, as he has good feel for setting up minor-league hitters, hence his excellent numbers in pro ball.

Wilson’s changeup is a little firm, but he has good deception that helps the pitch play up to average at times. He’s an example of a pitcher who may play best as a multi-role reliever, as going just once through the lineup will help the fastball play even better, place less emphasis on the offspeed pitches, and suit his mentality. That’s not to say that Wilson can’t start, but especially in a system full of premium starting prospects who are all ahead of him, his best role may also be the one in which the Braves need him and which will get him to the big leagues the fastest.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela
Age 19 Height 6’0 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/55 20/50 45/40 45/55 60/60

William is the younger brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. William, however, had his breakout season last year during his age-19 season while Willson waited until his age-23 season to go from fringe prospect to potential everyday player. William has a wide base of tools that were present the last few years but came together in game situations in 2017. He also got a little more physical and athletic. Contreras is a good athlete behind the plate who’s comfortable in his crouch, has above-average range to both sides, and takes charge calling the game.

He has a plus arm and regularly pops in the 1.9s in games to where evaluators are comfortable calling him at least an average defensive catcher long-term, and most scouts see a more in there. Offensively, he shows a good sense of the strike zone especially for his age, even while he’s still learning plate coverage and how to loft the ball in game situations. There’s present raw power and a chance for average to above tools for the four that matter for catchers. If Contreras can perform somewhere close to this over a full season in Low-A in 2018, he will be on next year’s top-100 list. The Braves see this promise, giving Contreras an invite to big-league camp even without any full-season minor-league experience.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Rancho Bernardo HS (CA)
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 65/65 40/60 30/30 40/50 60/60

Jackson was identified as a top prospect as a high-school freshman due to precocious offensive ability and gaudy pop times at showcases. He held serve until his draft year, going sixth overall in 2014 after being in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick. He had a rocky start to pro ball: after a conversion to right field, he took a fly ball that he lost in the lights off the face, then got sent back to extended spring training when he floundered in his full-season debut. After some clashes with Mariners coaches and immaturity on his part, Seattle traded him to Atlanta while he still had value.

Like Gohara, Jackson responded with a bounceback season in Atlanta. The Braves moved him back to catching for the first time since high school (an idea Jackson took to and owned), and the huskier Jackson looks the part back there. He provides a big target, still has a plus arm, is dedicated to improving at the craft after the layoff, and can block pitches well given his large frame. He’s still learning the finer points of the job and creating muscle memory, but some scouts who saw him in the Arizona Fall League thought he had no chance to catch. This was because Jackson was completely run down energy-wise in the second half of the season and he fought through it to try to create the stamina he’ll need going forward.

Offensively, Jackson has easy plus raw power and got a little more aggressive and chase-happy in the second half when fatigue was setting in. At his best, Jackson isn’t super selective, but there’s plenty of bat speed, bat control, and raw power to be average overall offensively (with upside for more) and to develop into average defensively behind the plate. The bad outcome would be that Jackson is no more than a third catcher defensively, has to move to first base, and is more of a platoon bat because his selectivity issues doesn’t allow him to get to his game power. The variance is pretty high for a prospect with his pedigree at Double-A, from a bench bat with some loud tools to one of the top-10 catchers in the game.

16. A.J. Minter, LHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Texas A&M
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
60/65 60/65 45/50

Minter was a relief prospect who stood out for Team USA the summer before he was eligible at Texas A&M, then he blew out early in this draft spring. Nevertheless, the Braves trusted what they saw enough to pop him 75th overall in the 2015 draft. Minter came out late in 2016 and was throwing even harder than he did in college, sitting 94-97 and hitting 98 mph with a devastating plus slider at 88-92 mph. There’s been some starts and stops and soreness for Minter in pro ball, but he’s been untouchable when he’s pitching, including a 1.64 xFIP in 15 big-league innings at the tail end of last year.

Minter’s success is due in large part to the flat plane he creates to the plate: he’s short, has a low slot, throws a four-seam with some rise on it, and often locates it up in the strike zone. For a power hitter with a lofted path trying to hit a very flat pitch, there’s very little space where those two planes overlap, thus a plus fastball plays even better. That Minter has a plus secondary pitch and at least average command helps him make this higher-risk strategy of high fastballs work. There’s no telling what his health will be like in the future, but something weird would have to happen for Minter to not continue dominating with his current stuff and command.

17. Drew Waters, CF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etowah HS (GA)
Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 183 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 55/60 20/55 60/55 45/50 60/60

Waters was an easy high-school prospect to like: he showed above-average raw power, plus speed, advanced feel to hit, and a plus arm. He also led his team to a state championship and won Gatorade Player of the Year for Georgia. The Braves took him in the second round, and he was a little gassed toward the end of the year in addition to tinkering with some elements of his swing after an aggressive promotion to Danville. Going forward, some think Waters will add more strength, lose a step, and move to right field, while others think he remains a similar type of player and sticks in center field.

I’ll lean to the first scenario given the center field Inciarte/Pache scenario mentioned in the Acuna report and where the game is going with fly balls and exit velos, particularly in SunTrust Park for left-handed hitters with power. Waters is supremely confident and is seen as a high probability high-school bat, even if it’s unclear exactly where he ends up at the big-league level.

Drafted: 19th Round, 2016 from Midland JC (TX)
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 40/45 50/55 45/50 40/50

Davidson was a nice arm-strength gamble in the 19th round of the 2016 draft from a Texas junior college, and he pitched well in his debut in relief. Over that offseason, Davidson cleaned up his body, lowered his slot a bit, and found a couple more ticks of velocity, wowing the development staff and fighting his way into a loaded Low-A rotation last year. He performed extremely well in that capacity, developing from an interesting late-round pick into a a real prospect. He works 90-95, touching 97 mph with above-average life and plane down in the zone. His slider is now above average at times and his changeup is average. Davidson’s stuff plays up a bit due to his strike-throwing ability and aggressive, attacking nature.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela
Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 50/55 50/55 40/45

Sanchez was acquired from the Angels in 2015 and was an exciting teenage lefty who had been into the mid-90s, flashing three above-average pitches with some feel for the craft. That’s still mostly what Sanchez is, but he hasn’t progressed as much as hoped. He throws strikes but often misses his locations, particularly with his fastball. There isn’t a delivery-based reason why this is happening, so the assumption is it can be fixed or is a mental issue. If it can’t be fixed, Sanchez is a pretty interesting relief arm, but he’s also only 20 years old and he’s already largely succeeded in High-A despite these issues.

40 FV Prospects

20. Kyle Muller, LHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Jesuit Prep HS (TX)
Age 19 Height 6’6 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
45/55 50/55 45/50 40/50

Muller was the second-round pick for the Braves in 2016, just behind Joey Wentz. Muller has had a rockier pro career than Wentz but showed late in 2017 and early this spring that he appears to be back on track. There wasn’t a huge problem with Muller early in 2017, he just had mechanical issues that manifested themselves in lower velocities. It was eventually figured out, and he was 90-93 mph late in the season and he looks in even better shape for 2018, hitting 95 mph in pre-camp workouts with Driveline.

At his best as an amateur, Muller sat 91-95, hitting 96 mph, while flashing an above-average to plus breaking ball and solid-average changeup. He was almost all the way back to that late in 2017 and may be all the way back to that in early 2018. It’s also notable that, like Wentz, Muller has plus raw power and is itching to get to Double-A where the pitchers for NL clubs are able to hit.

Drafted: 11th Round, 2017 from Michigan
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 220 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 60/60 30/55 35/30 35/45 55/55

Lugbauer was a power-over-hit catcher in high school who lacked an obvious future defensive home, so he headed to Michigan for college. He didn’t catch much there and also posted a 25% strikeout rate in his draft year, the reddest of red flags for draft-analytics types — and a development that got him removed from the board for some teams. The Braves thought they saw a future catcher in their limited glimpses at Michigan, regarding his 12 homers, 13 doubles, and a fixable swing flaw as a sign of upside at the plate. They popped Lugbauer with their 11th-round pick last summer.

He rewarded the amateur staff’s belief in him with a loud pro debut, slugging 13 homers in 254 plate appearances split across short season and Low-A. He also recorded a 26% strikeout rate despite the switch to wood bats, a huge jump in competition level, and the fatigue of a long season. Lugbauer also was worked into the catching rotation and showed an above-average arm and the tools to stick behind the plate in a short look. He still needs some work and his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame will always present challenges, but there’s at least enough here to be an offensive-oriented backup or give versatility as a third catcher and power bat for double switches.

Lugbauer also played some third base, where his quickness limits him a bit, but he makes the routine plays and is fine at first base. The calling card here is Lugabauer’s plus raw power from the left side and also his lofted swing plane and high exit velos that allow him to get to it in games already. He isn’t the pure hitter Cumberland is and it’s probably more below-average contact to get to the plus raw power in games. There’s a limited track record and you aren’t sure what position he is, so there’s plenty of risk and it’ll take a few years, but there’s a lot more here than in the average 11th-round pick.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Winder Barrow HS (GA)
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 60/60 45/55 45/45 50/55 50/50

Demeritte is a frustrating prospect, showing plus raw power and — at least in the beginning of 2017 — exhibiting the ability to cut down the strikeouts. He also has the versatility to play at least an average second or third base along with an emergency fill-in at shortstop. It’s a rare skillset, but Demeritte has mental lapses, contact issues, and bad habits that he can’t quite shake. He went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft, so there’s now some value in having him for a year not on the 40-man roster to see if he can figure things out and reach some of his lofty upside.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Gilbert HS (AZ)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 55/55 45/50 50/45 45/50 40/40

Peterson was acquired from San Diego in the Justin Upton trade that netted Max Fried and Mallex Smith, who later turned into Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. After shaking off the effects of a team bus crash in 2015, Peterson had a breakout in 2016 in Double-A, showing the ability for at least a 50 hit tool, game-power tool, and defense in left field. His 2017 was largely lost, featuring some of the same potential but with some injury issues and trouble with timing. The same upside is still there as a low-end everyday left fielder and a likely role of at least a platoon bat with some pop, but he also went unselected in the Rule 5 draft, so he has 2018 to prove he’s worth a 40-man spot in 2019.

24. Josh Graham, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Oregon
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/55 50/60 65/70 40/45

Graham has the pitch that may be most obviously outstanding to an untrained eye at the ballpark: a plus-plus Bugs Bunny changeup that he’ll throw three or four times in a row to any batter and still elicit goofy swings and misses. Graham has excellent feel for this pitch and should probably throw it even more than he already does. He also has a slider that’s inconsistent but flashes above average and even plus at times. He gets goofy reactions to this pitch, as well, and commands it pretty well.

The issue for Graham is his fastball command, as he muscles up and tries to throw it too hard at times, sitting 94-96 and hitting 98 mph with above-average sinking life but often falling behind in counts. Graham would be well served to throw more offspeed pitches and dial down the velocity a notch so he can throw strikes more often. The converted catcher has limited miles on his arm and could fight his way into a cup of coffee this year.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Mississippi State
Age 24 Height 5’11 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/60 60/65 40/45 40/50

Full disclosure: Lindgren was a couple spots higher on this list before the news broke a couple days ago that he was sore and had to be shut down. It could amount to nothing much, but for a reliever at the tail end of his return from Tommy John, this is something to monitor. Lindgren hasn’t pitched in a competitive game since early in 2016, when he blew out. He was a starter with fringey stuff in college as a sophomore, then moved to the bullpen and experienced a huge jump, sitting 90-93 mph with his sinker, along with a slider that flashed 65 or 70 for most scouts, a usable changeup, and solid command from his starter days.

When the Yankees tried to sneak him off their 40-man with a lucrative minor-league deal, the Braves swooped in with a better deal to land a prospect whom they had coveted for a while. The upside is closer-level if and when Lindgren is healthy and back to what he was, but it’s unclear when and if that will happen.

Drafted: 7th Round, 2015 from Houston
Age 22 Height 6’6 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/65 55/55 45/50 45/50 40/45

Weigel had a breakout 2016 season after being selected as a lottery-ticket arm-strength pick in the seventh round of 2015 draft. He ran his fastball up to 99 mph, sitting at 92-94 as a starter with above-average sink and plane but below-average command. Early in 2017, after a promotion to Triple-A, Weigel blew out and got Tommy John surgery, with an expected return late in 2018.

There was already some risk beforehand that Weigel would end up in the bullpen despite having four average or better pitches, since there wasn’t a plus secondary pitch, his command was below average, and his velocity sits in the mid- to upper 90s in short stints. Now with surgery behind him and a glut of premium starting options in the upper minors, Weigel could turn into another Jason Grilli, who was a 50 FV reliever for a couple years, including 2015 with the Braves.

27. Huascar Ynoa, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/55 45/55 40/50

Ynoa is the younger brother of the former record-holder for biggest July 2 bonus of all time, RHP Michael Ynoa. Huascar isn’t as talented as Michael at the same stage but may ultimately have a better career. He signed for $800,000 in 2014 and was showing three above-average pitches in his best short showcase outings. That’s still the case now, but there’s more arm speed, with a fastball that sits 93-96 and hits 98 mph with above-average life.

His power curveball at 80-84 mph is consistently above average and flashes plus at times out of the zone, while his changeup is also above average. Ynoa’s command is below average now, in part because his stuff has lots of life but also because he’s a short-strider who could stand to be more athletic in his delivery. There’s risk he ends up in relief, but there’s also a chance he’s a mid-rotation starter. He’ll get a look in full-season ball in 2018.

28. Adam McCreery, LHP
Drafted: 22nd Round, 2014 from Azusa Pacific
Age 24 Height 6’8 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
55/60 50/60 40/45

McCreery is 25 and still hasn’t gotten out of A-ball. He was added to the 40-man anyway this offseason because, after a healthy 2017, the 6-foot-8 lefty is showing nasty stuff and has learned how to use it. McCreery’s type of size tends to create health, command, and consistency issues, all of which dogged McCreery until a 2015 trade from the Angels for Jhoulys Chacin.

McCreery sits 90-94, hitting 95 mph, but it plays up due to his excellent sinker plane and extension, generating swings and misses and grounders at a high rate. He backs it up with a slider that’s usually a 50 or 55 but flashes plus at times. His stuff wasn’t hugely different in 2016, but he learned how to use and locate these pitches more effectively and could move quickly if he continues this progress.

29. Derian Cruz, 2B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 40/45 20/40 70/70 45/55 50/50

Cruz signed for $2 million during the 2015 July 2nd period as one of the top players in the class, due in part to his plus-plus wheels, the possibility he could play shortstop, and his contact skills from both sides of the plate. Those things are all mostly true, but it’s looking more likely that Cruz will settle at second base as his arm strength is still just average, though he’s young and there’s a chance he plays shortstop long-term. Cruz needs to clean up his pitch selection: not only can’t he afford to be so aggressive with his lack of power, but he also needs to give himself a chance to use his speed. He’s still just 18 and the loud tools are here for a breakthrough even if the production is coming up short so far.

30. Freddy Tarnok, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Riverview HS (FL)
Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/60 45/55 40/50 40/50

Tarnok was largely unknown to anyone other than area scouts until midway through last spring, when he hit 98 mph and flashed a 55 or 60 breaking ball. Anyone immediately would notice Tarnok’s long, ultra-projectable frame and easy, clean arm action, so you can see why scouts got excited when plus stuff started coming out. Some teams didn’t have him high on their board since they thought Tarnok wanted to go to school and play both ways and didn’t want to pitch in pro ball, but the Braves obviously weren’t worried about that and took him in the third round for an overslot bonus. Being that his arm speed is new and that he has a two-way background with limited polish, Tarnok has a long way to go and may not even get to full-season ball this year, but the ceiling is about as high as you’ll find in the third round.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Aruba
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 45/45 20/40 65/65 45/50 70/70

Didder’s career will be defined by his 65-grade speed, 70-grade arm, and ability to be at least average defensively at every position on the field except catcher. He came up as an infielder; shifted to center field, where he’s above average defensively; and last year played some shortstop, where he flashes the ability to be average in part due to arm strength that gives extra margin for error. He has fringey raw power and solid pitch selection, so you’re reasonably hoping for a 50 bat with some walks and 45 game power, which would make him a versatile 50 FV. It’s probably going to settle a little south of that, but even with little improvement, Didder will hang around the back of a 40-man, waivers, and/or the Rule 5 Draft in the coming years if he can continue hitting in Double-A this year at age 23.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/55 20/45 50/50 45/50 55/55

Encarnacion was signed for a $10,000 bonus — a nice player to fill out the DSL roster and hopefully make it stateside. Encarnacion has already exceeded those expectations, though, and Braves player-development staff knew they had a prospect soon after he was signed. He’s a rangy athlete who plays a decent shortstop but will eventually outgrow the position and move full-time to third base, though he has the arm and present solid-average raw power to profile there long-term. Depending on how much he fills out his frame, there could be plus raw power, but Encarnacion doesn’t lift the ball much in games at the moment and his pitch selection needs to improve. As a result, there’s some risk to projecting a 50 bat and 50 game power, but there’s a chance there’s even more than that in there.

Other Prospects of Note

Jacob Webb, RHP – Webb had Tommy John surgery in April of 2015, returning late in 2016, making 2017 his first full season back on the mound. He sat 92-95, touching 97 mph with a high-spin-rate fastball he uses effectively up in the zone for whiffs, though he could do that even more. Webb’s changeup is his second-best pitch, a consistent 55 offering that flashes plus occasionally, and he commands these two pitches about average. His slider is inconsistent and his feel for the pitch lags behind the others, but it flashes above average when he hits it right.

Akeel Morris, RHP – Morris was acquired from the Mets in 2016 and got his second big-league cup of coffee in 2017. His separator is a plus Bugs Bunny changeup at 75-78 mph for which he has above-average feel, while his other pitches (a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and an average slider) and fringe to average command of them are more ordinary in today’s game.

Braxton Davidson, 1B/RF – A first-round pick in 2014, Davidson has draft pedigree and retains the tools that compelled Atlanta to select him there: 65-grade raw power from the left side, a patient late-count approach, and a 55 arm. He’s a 40 runner who’s fringey in the outfield, so a move to first may be in the cards, but the real adjustment needed is to tap into his superior exit velos with more loft in his bat path. A change hasn’t taken just yet, but those in the organization feel Cumberland and Davidson are the two bats to monitor with a new hitting coordinator. There will always be walks, strikeouts, and hard-hit balls; Davidson just needs to put more of those batted balls over the fence to take a step forward.

Isranel Wilson, RF – Originally signed as a shortstop, Wilson has shifted to center field but now fits best in right field long-term with average speed and an above-average arm. He is long, lanky, and loose with a pretty left-handed swing and present average raw power you can project to above average or plus. He can fall in love with his looseness and get too much hand movement at the plate, which disrupts his timing. His maturity/focus can also come and go. That said, he already knows how to lift the ball in game and scouts have been predicting a breakout for years.

Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP – De La Cruz is a prototypical Latin power arm who’s being developed as a starter but would move faster in a relief role since those are the traits he’s showing right now. As a starter, he works 91-95, touching 98 mph but with below-average command of the pitch. His slider consistently flashes plus, while his changeup is below average and needs some work. There’s still time for a command breakthrough, as he’s 20 years old and ticketed for Low-A in 2018.

Chase Johnson-Mullins, LHP – Mullins is a massive 6-foot-8, 270-pound reliever whose stuff has always been impressive, headlined by a 92-95 mph sinker that’s hit 96 and flashes plus life along with excellent plane down in the zone. Like McCreery’s, the pitch plays well above its velocity. He mostly relies on an above-average to plus slider with high spin rates that helps him produce lots of strikeouts and grounders. Johnson-Mullins also mixed in a softer version for a curveball that grades closer to average. His body will obviously require some maintenance and strikes are never a given from that kind of frame, so there’s some risk. The stuff is loud, though.

Thomas Burrows, LHP – Acquired from the Mariners with Gohara, Burrows isn’t as flashy but has plenty of ability to carve out a big-league career. He sits 90-92, hitting 94 mph from a lower slot with excellent extension and command, helping the pitch play above average. His slurve is consistently above average to where it’s easy to imagine him as the second lefty in any MLB bullpen for awhile.

Phil Pfeifer, LHP – Pfeifer was acquired from the Dodgers in 2016 and is 25 years old with some time in Triple-A, representing another MLB inventory reliever for the Braves. He doesn’t have a standout quality, but Pfeifer mixes four pitches: a 92-94 mph fastball that hits 96, an above-average to plus curveball, a solid-average changeup, and a fringey slider. Pfeifer’s command is fine, but he falls behind in counts and can sometimes avoid contact, leading to higher walk totals.

Jesse Biddle, LHP – Biddle missed 2016 with Tommy John surgery and the Braves claimed him on waivers, counting on the former first-round pick to bounce back. He was solid in 2017, throwing 49.2 innings exclusively in relief, sitting 92-95 and hitting 96 mph. His slider and curveball were both above average and his changeup was solid average. The stuff came back and was a tick better than before, given the shorter stints, and the command looks fine. It may be too much to expect Biddle to be a 180-inning starter, but there’s a big-league role of some kind for him.

Lucas Herbert, C – Herbert was Allard’s catcher in high school, and the Braves took him in the second round in 2015, but the development path has been a bit rockier for Herbert than Allard. With an above-average arm, Herbert still shows the ability to be average behind the plate, but some nagging injuries and fatigue give scouts different looks throughout the year. There’s fringey to average raw power and some ability to lift the ball, but the parts haven’t been put together quite often enough to get scouts excited. Herbert just turned 21 and has plenty of time, as catchers tend to take a little longer than other position players anyway.

Corbin Clouse, LHP – Clouse was a diamond-in-the-rough find in the 27th round in 2016, a starter at a D2 school with fringey stuff who suddenly was flashing above-average to plus stuff in short stints out of the bullpen in the Low-A Sally League playoffs. That stuff backed up a little in 2017, but Clouse was still working 90-93 and hitting 95 mph, along with an above-average slider and fringey changeup. He’ll be 22 in Double-A to start 2018 and has real prospect value, already a win from such a low-profile pick.

Kade Scivicque, C – Scivicque was acquired from the Tigers in 2016 and doesn’t have a big carrying tool but is an above-average defender with an above-average arm and enough contact skills to hang around the big leagues for years as a steady backup. It’s hard to see him becoming a starter, but dependable cheap big-league inventory isn’t as easy to find as you’d think.

Dan Winkler, RHP – With a Tommy John surgery and broken arm in the rear view, along with a funky delivery and late-loading arm to where that medical makes some sense, Winkler comes with plenty of risk that he’ll never pitch another full season. That said, he’s big-league ready, needs to be carried a little longer for the Braves to get his full rights from his Rule 5 selection years ago, and he can really pitch when he’s healthy. Winkler sits 92-94 and hits 96 mph with lots of deception and life that helps the pitch play up to plus, along with an above-average slider, average changeup, and good feel for pitching.

Jordan Rodgers, 3B – Rodgers played alongside Nick Senzel in the Tennessee infield the last few years and was the Braves’ first cut-rate senior pick in the sixth round last summer. He’s a very agile, plus defender at third who can play a passable shortstop and good second base. He’s a 55 runner with a solid-average arm and fringe raw power. He also has good feel for contact. Like Didder, you’re hoping for a 50 bat, 45 power, and positional versatility in a platoon/bench piece, but Rodgers is further away and has less upside due to less flashy tools.

Leudys Baez, RF – Baez isn’t flashy but will show you five average tools at times. The upside isn’t enormous — he isn’t that big, he profiles as a corner, and his 55 arm may be the only above-average tool — but there’s plenty of guys with this profile in the big leagues if he can stay healthy and productive.

Troy Bacon, RHP – Bacon was the Braves’ fourth-round pick last summer from a Florida junior college. At less than six feet, he isn’t a typical highly drafted reliever. He sits 91-95 and has hit 97 mph with above-average life, an average changeup, and an above average curveball. It isn’t knockout stuff, but he really knows how to pitch, is athletic, can go multiple innings, and his rising fastball with flat plane plays well up in the zone for whiffs.

Alan Rangel, RHP – Rangel was signed out of Mexico and is a projection play, currently sitting 89-92, hitting 94 mph with good extension and excellent sinker plane. His curveball flashes solid average, but he doesn’t have great feel for it yet; he does have good feel for his changeup, however, which flashes plus. If another tick or two of velo and a little more consistency to his mechanics and curveball come along, Rangel will easily make next year’s list.

Anfernee Seymour, CF – Seymour was acquired in 2016 from the Marlins with Mader and, much like Didder, Seymour’s career will be defined by his 80-grade speed and positional versatility. Seymour’s instincts still aren’t great in center field, but he obviously has great makeup speed. He’s played shortstop and second base in the past, and he’s fine at both as an option for NL teams, but has an average arm, so his best fit is center field with some ability to play second. His approach needs to improve and he has almost no power. Speed, defense, and contact need to carry him to a bench role in the big leagues.

Jared James, LF – James was a 34th-round pick in 2016 as a senior from a D2 school and performed well in a short look at Low-A to end that year, so the Braves pushed James to Double-A the next year and he performed again, so he’s already smashed his pre-draft expectations. His average speed and below-average arm limits him to left field, and while he may end up with a 55 bat, he has fringey raw power and doesn’t lift the ball much, so the reasonable ceiling is a 45 FV platoon player/pinch-hitter.

Jason Hursh, RHP – Hursh was a first-round pick in 2013 and his 94-96 mph sinker still hits 98 and appears to be an easy plus pitch, although there isn’t much deception or feel along with limited extension, so the pitch plays down a bit. The slider and changeup both flash above average, as well, but Hursh often can’t control the slider, making his changeup his best weapon even though it’s his third-most-used pitch. There’s an effective seventh-inning reliever here if the right pitching coach can figure out how these elements fit together.

Garrison Schwartz, RF – Schwartz had a limited look in 2017 after the draft as 16th-round pick splitting time in Danville, but showed enough tools and skills to get scouts’ attention. The lefty swinger has solid-average raw power along with average speed and arm strength. His feel for the strike zone was solid, and he may blossom with a larger role in 2018.

Dylan Moore, UT – Moore had a tough 2017 with poor ball-in-play luck, but he still has a chance to carve out a big-league utility role. He’s good enough to fill in at shortstop, fits best at second base, and can play all four corners. He has above-average contact skills, average raw power, and some ability for gap power in games. It isn’t high upside and the numbers weren’t good in 2017, but there’s something here.

Brad Roney, RHP – Roney was electric out of Southern Miss in 2014, but injuries have sapped his stuff and consistency since then. He now sits 91-94, hitting 95 mph, but his offspeed stuff is as good as ever: he flashes above average to plus with both his slider and changeup. There’s late-inning potential if Roney can regain the mid- to upper-90s velocity of 2014, but just being healthy could get him a chance at a middle-relief role.

Jeremy Walker, RHP – Walker has a great pitcher’s frame and a live arm, sitting 92-95 and hitting 96 mph with his sinker, along with a curveball and slider that both flash above average. His command, particularly of his fastball, is well below average and his changeup is too firm, just occasionally flashing average. Walker needs more consistency and command to allow his stuff to play better at the plate, but there’s some clear ceiling here.

Michael Mader, LHP – Mader was acquired with Seymour from the Marlins in 2016 and shifted to the bullpen in 2017 due both to a fringey fastball but also loaded rotations at all Atlanta’s full-season clubs. His velocity ticked up a bit in shorter stints. He was still working 90-94 and hitting 96 mph, but the command, deception and movement make it an average sinker at best in a relief role. His curveball and changeup are above average, so there is a multi-inning long-relief and spot-starter role with some progress.

Drew Harrington, LHP – Harrington was an effective reliever for Louisville as a sophomore, then an effective starter in his draft year. He’s had some injury issues with the Braves after they took him in the third round in 2016. His velocity has always been fringey in a starting role, and his intense demeanor may fit better in a relief role, where the velo will play into the mid-90s and his above-average to plus curveball is more of a weapon. Harrington’s changeup flashes average, but his fit as a long-term starter is dependent first on health, making relief the more likely option.

Wes Parsons, RHP – Parsons missed time in 2015 and 2016 with injuries and projects as a reliever in the big leagues. In 2017, he sat 92-95, hitting 96 mph with good life and extension to his sinker. While his injury history and fringey changeup limit him to relief, his slider is plus given the high spin rate, command, and tunneling ability with his sinker. The upside is a slider-heavy middle reliever, but those still go for a lot of money on the free-agent market.

Justin Smith, RF – Smith was part of the crowded but talented Danville outfield, with up to eight prospects spending time there who have prospect value. Smith was a touted prep outfielder who stalled a bit after leaving Miami and landing at a junior college, where the Braves drafted him last summer. He’s physically imposing, with plus raw power that he was able to reach in games, along with an above-average arm and 45 speed. There’s going to be some swing and miss to his game, but I wouldn’t expect him to repeat a 38% strikeout rate from last summer.

Brad Keller, LF – Keller is a solidly built left fielder with a power/fly-ball approach who had some trouble tapping into it in games until 2017. His easy plus raw power played last year after he started the season in extended spring training. He posted big exit velocities, but his bat control and plate discipline were both a little short of what’s needed at higher levels. He’s limited some by a corner profile, so Keller will need to make progress there.

Anthony Concepcion, RF – Concepcion has never been a hyped prospect and got buried a bit after some minor injuries and deep lineups at the lower levels, but he has plus raw power and deceptive fringe to average speed. He’ll be 23 this season, so he needs to get a chance to play regularly and see if he can develop further, but there’s been clear flashes in limited chances.

Luis Mora, RHP – I saw Mora hit 100 mph in 2016 and flash an above-average to plus slider and changeup — which, to be fair, may have been the best he’s ever looked. He’s long and thin, has had a number of injuries over the years, and turns 23 this season with only 4.2 innings in full-season ball, but it’s hard to walk away from that level of upside.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Jared James, OF
The 24-year-old James received the designation of Cistulli’s Guy in this space last year, as well. Having advanced no further than Low-A at that point, the outfielder skipped High-A altogether, earning an assignment to the Southern League at the start of the 2017 campaign. He was more or less the same player there that he’d been the previous season, with some of the deterioration in rate stats that one would expect from a player facing perceptibly better competition.

Of some concern is James’ defense. Far from a tweener, he’s consistently recorded negative fielding numbers in left field according to the methodologies employed both by Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport. That’s not ideal, of course. For a player selected in the 34th round, however, the overall collection of skills is improbably strong.

System Overview

Even without all of the prospects forfeited in MLB’s investigation, the Braves still arguably have the best farm system in baseball and undoubtedly one of the top three. The amateur and international scouting staffs have done an excellent job — not only by securing high-profile signings but also unearthing a number of diamonds in the rough to complement the prospects for whom the club has traded in their aggressive rebuild. At some positions and levels, there were simply too many prospects last year — even some not named among the 60-something above, who deserved to play but had to split time with other young players.

With a new regime, at least slightly different direction, and some new key instructors in the player development staff, there could be some breakouts from players not reached as effectively as the last staff, with sources pointing to Cumberland, Davidson and Pache as the most likely candidates. How quickly and effectively the Braves can turn all the prospects in the upper levels into established big leaguers and not just young players with promise will dictate how quickly the window of contention opens and how long it stays open.

If things fall just right and a handful of these prospects come up and immediately become above average players, while the ones already in the big leagues develop further, Atlanta could be positioned to spend big after the season to supplement the core and make a run at the division in 2019. This is the scenario where things could get really interesting as soon as September, particularly with the Marlins starting a rebuild, the Phillies running alongside the Braves in their own rebuild, the Mets never fully using the financial muscle they could, and the Nationals possibly losing multiple key pieces after the year.

Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.

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6 years ago

No Max Fried?

6 years ago
Reply to  Kiley McDaniel

Thanks!! Excellent work as always!

6 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin

Seconded. Articles like this are why I visit FanGraphs.

6 years ago
Reply to  Kiley McDaniel

Fried’s highest level is listed as “R” and while the experience was less than exciting, pretty sure he did make the majors last year.