Top 32 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS)
AL East (BAL, BOSNYY, TB, TOR)

Braves Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Dansby Swanson 23 MLB SS 2017 65
2 Ozzie Albies 20 AAA 2B 2018 60
3 Ronald Acuna 19 A CF 2020 55
4 Kolby Allard 19 A LHP 2019 55
5 Kevin Maitan 17 R 3B 2021 55
6 Ian Anderson 18 R RHP 2021 55
7 Max Fried 23 A LHP 2018 55
8 Luiz Gohara 20 A LHP 2019 55
9 Mike Soroka 19 A RHP 2020 50
10 Cristian Pache 18 R CF 2020 50
11 Sean Newcomb 23 AA LHP 2018 50
12 Joey Wentz 19 R LHP 2021 50
13 Touki Touisaint 20 A RHP 2019 45
14 Patrick Weigel 22 AA RHP 2018 45
15 Travis Demeritte 22 A+ 2B 2019 45
16 Kyle Muller 19 R LHP 2020 45
17 Ray-Patrick Didder 22 A OF 2019 45
18 Dustin Peterson 22 AA LF 2018 45
19 Brett Cumberland 21 R C 2019 40
20 A.J. Minter 23 AA LHP 2017 40
21 Drew Harrington 21 R LHP 2019 40
22 Derian Cruz 18 R SS 2021 40
23 Yunior Severino 17 R SS 2022 40
24 Alex Jackson 21 A C 2021 40
25 Rio Ruiz 22 MLB 3B 2017 40
26 Dylan Moore 24 A+ UTIL 2018 40
27 Mauricio Cabrera 23 MLB RHP 2017 40
28 Austin Riley 19 A 3B 2021 40
29 Bryse Wilson 19 R RHP 2020 40
30 Ricardo Sanchez 19 A LHP 2020 40
31 Jonathan Morales 22 A C 2019 40
32 Randy Ventura 19 R RF 2020 40

65 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Vanderbilt
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 40/45 60/60 55/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .302/.361/.442 in 145 MLB plate appearances.

Scouting Report
The first-overall pick by Arizona in 2015, Swanson barely played affiliated ball for the Diamondbacks after he was hit in the face by a Yoan Lopez pitch on the backfields in Scottsdale shortly after signing. Swanson, who still wears a face guard on his batting helmet, was traded to Atlanta that December in the Shelby Miller deal.

Swanson’s tools aren’t especially loud, but they’re well rounded, play up due to his outstanding instincts and polish, and are bolstered by a rock solid defensive profile at shortstop. Swanson is a plus runner (he’ll even post some plus-plus jail-break times to first) with the requisite range for short, excellent defensive footwork, a plus arm and the athleticism to make strong, accurate throws from various awkward platforms. He has plus hands and a lightning quick transfer. I went to see Swanson when Atlanta came to Arizona late last summer and watched him backhand a well-hit short hop in the hole to his right on one knee and then hose a plus-plus-running Chris Owings at first. Two innings later he did it again, this time to Mitch Haniger (a 6 runner), on a slower hop hit over Adonis Garcia. He’s already an above-average defender at short and projects to plus at maturity.

Swanson’s contact profile hovers right above league average. He has above-average bat speed and can move the barrel around the zone a bit, punishing mistakes up in the zone and squaring balls down and in. He struggled with pitches low and away during his big-league stint and may need to make an adjustment if big-league arms start exploiting that area of the zone. His footwork is very simple, which will help mitigate some of Swanson’s natural swing and miss, but it also caps his game-power output. He might hit 15-18 homers in an outlier season or two, but I anticipate output to rest in the 12-15 range for most of his career. That’s still quite good for a plus defender at short.

I have Swanson projected as an annual 4-WAR player, slashing something close to .270/.340/.420 with terrific defense at short. He’s going to be a very good big leaguer for a long time and is one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 13.8 WAR

60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Curacao
Age 20 Height 5’9 Weight 150 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/70 40/40 20/30 70/70 50/60 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walk and strikeout rates were almost identical at Double- and Triple-A.

Scouting Report
I’ve mentioned this a few times during this series, but it bears repeating for such a unique and exceptional prospect like Albies: short and small are not the same thing. Albies is listed at 5-foot-9 and is probably shorter than that, but he is not small. He’s thick, muscular and sturdy, his only two DL stints coming after freak incidents. The first was a fractured thumb in 2015, which occurred when he was struck by an errant pickoff throw; the latter was a fractured olecranon during an awkward swing late last year. The latter injury required surgery, caused him to miss the Fall League, and will keep him out of game action early this spring.

Albies has arguably the best bat control in prospectdom, spraying hard contact to all fields, spoiling tough pitches and grinding out at-bats. He also has exceptional hand-eye coordination and makes natural adjustments to breaking balls in mid-flight. I was not at all discouraged by Albies’ lackluster showing in his few weeks at Triple-A. In fact, I find it encouraging that a 19-year-old (just a few months older than Yankees 2016 first-rounder Blake Rutherford) was able to carry such favorable peripherals to the precipice of the major leagues.

The swing isn’t perfect. Albies varies his footwork, he’s very upright and often unbalanced, and he has a bit of a bat wrap that can cause tardiness on hittable pitches. But he’s freakishly gifted and, while I have some moderate concern about the sustainability of his current swing — which depends on the sort of quick-twitch actions that don’t age particularly well — I think he’s a 70 hitter at peak.

He has a high but abbreviated finish to his swing and, despite above-average bat speed, he has below-average raw power. He’s a 70 runner underway but can be slow to exit the batter’s box, and his legs play closer to plus from home to first. Defensively, he has an above-average arm, and it would have been enough to play shortstop had Dansby Swanson not fallen into Atlanta’s lap. He projects as a plus defender at second base.

Albies’ uniqueness gives scouts some pause as they’ve never seen a player quite like this, and his profile relies pretty heavily on his bat maxing out. It’s encouraging that, even as a teenager, he laid waste to Double-A. I’m comfortable projecting him as a potential All-Star.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 12.2 WAR

55 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
30/60 55/60 30/55 60/55 45/55 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .311/.387/.432 with 10% walk rate at Low-A.

Scouting Report
Acuna is a plus runner whose speed and athleticism will allow him to play center field and, if his feel for the position continues to improve into his late 20s, he might be able to pass there even as he starts to slow down. For now he works there on pure physical ability and projects as above average at peak.

I became infatuated with Acuna during instructional league when I saw him spit on several (admittedly fringey) sliders just off the plate and then vaporize a well-located fastball up and in. He has impressive ball/strike recognition but is still learning to identify breaking balls, over the top of which he swings too often. I think his current strikeout rate is misleadingly low, but his ability to draw walks is legitimate.

Acuna has above-average raw power right now and I have it projected to plus at maturity, a result of his high-effort uppercut rips. He has plus bat speed and solid barrel control considering how hard he swings. I’ve seen him tone things down and try to poke difficult pitches the other way and also bunt for a hit.

Acuna missed three-and-a-half months with a torn thumb ligament in 2016. His hands are very still in the box (it looks like he doesn’t load them at all) and this stiffness was bothersome for a source with whom I spoke. I think he makes it work and that we’re looking at something close to .270/.330/.450 and 20-plus home runs from a viable defensive center fielder.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from San Clemente HS (CA)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 55/60 40/55 45/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 25% strikeout rate at Low-A.

Scouting Report
Allard was so electric on the summer showcase circuit as a rising senior that I thought he merited consideration in the top five of the 2015 draft. He was touching 96 with a plus curveball and flashing an above-average changeup. A stress reaction in his back shelved him for much of his senior spring, and he slipped to the middle of the first round, but his back isn’t expected to cause any long-term issues.

Though he’s oddly built with thin forearms and extremities, Allard’s lightning quick arm works well, and he has a sturdy trunk and torso. He sat 90-93 with a somewhat straight fastball throughout the season and topped out at 96. He pounds the strike zone, flashing pinpoint fastball command to his arm side while struggling a bit to work inside to righties. Allard’s curveball already flashes plus quite regularly and should mature there. It dips beneath the bats of both left and right-handed hitters and is clearly his primary weapon in big spots.

The changeup is a bit behind, sitting in the low 80s with inconsistent fade but, even when Allard is tossing a 40- or 45-grade change, the quick-armed deception in his delivery has kept low level hitters off of it. It flashes above average with impact dive and I think, with reps, it will get there. It will likely become a developmental priority at some point and is a necessary component of Allard’s potential No. 2/3 starter future, especially if scouts’ mild concerns about a lack of movement on the fastball are founded; an improved and more frequently used changeup will help keep hitters from cheating on his fastball.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.9 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela
Age 17 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/60 55/60 20/55 50/40 40/55 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Scouts had already identified Maitan as prospect of note before he had turned 13 and, within a year, his body and offensive ability started maturing in such a way that he began garnering Miguel Cabrera comparisons. He had a near ideal physique, smooth defensive actions at shortstop with plenty of arm for the position, and not just usable but potentially impactful swings from both sides of the plate — as well as power projection to accompany it.

When I saw Maitan first don a Braves uniform in the fall, he was rusty but clearly quite gifted. He hadn’t seen game action for a while but showed good feel for the strike zone, plus bat speed, solid actions at short and a plus arm. Physically, he looked very likely to move to third base at some point (and probably soon), his lower half quickly thickening. But there’s a chance that Maitan develops a plus hit tool and plus raw power from both sides of the plate. He’ll profile comfortably at third base, or anywhere for that matter, if he does.

His left-handed swing is of the traditional, low-ball variety and has a beautiful high finish. The bat is quick into the zone and long through it, producing gap-to-gap contact right now that should move toward and over outfield fences as Maitan matures. From the right side, Maitan’s wrists are a little looser, his weight transfer more explosive and comfortable, his hands more surgical and his bat control more advanced.

This is the best July 2 prospect since Miguel Sano, a potential star who plays at a favorable spot on the defensive spectrum, potentially at a high level, hits and hits for power. The risk here is obviously high because we’re talking about a teenager who has yet to finish growing and who hasn’t yet faced pro pitching in a competitive environment, hence the heavy dilution to his FV grade despite a potential Role 7 ceiling.

6. Ian Anderson, RHP
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 50/60 40/50 35/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Anderson sat 92-95 in short bursts during showcases as a rising senior and flashed an above-average mid-70s curveball. He had a prototypical starter’s build and athleticism and had some nascent feel for a mid-80s changeup for which he had absolutely no use while playing high-school ball in upstate New York. When his senior spring arrived and, when Anderson pitched, he was mostly 91-95 with better command in the lower end of that band. That’s not a Jethro Tull joke, I swear. Anyway, Anderson missed starts last spring because of inclement weather, pneumonia and an oblique injury. The Braves stayed on him and, as the draft approached, his stuff starting improving. They drafted him No. 3 overall, cut an underslot deal that allowed them to have a dandy draft class, and Anderson was sitting 93-97 later that summer in the GCL.

When I saw him during instructional league he was 91-94 and struggling to throw strikes while flashing a 60 curveball (though there were some 40s in there, too) in the mid-70s that was better when it had two-plane movement rather than pure vertical drop. I only saw one changeup, but the arm action is good and I have it projected, quite conservatively, to average. I’ve spoken with scouts who have seen it flash above.

This is your stereotypical high-end prep pitching prospect and a potential No. 2 or 3 starter. If the body and command come along in the right way maybe, there’s more velocity in there (I’m skeptical, due to the massively increased workload), and it’s possible we exist in the universe where Anderson develops a plus change, too. He’s light years from the big leagues as a cold-weather prep arm who lost reps due to an entire Curb Your Enthusiasm season’s worth of misfortune, and the risk here is extreme.

7. Max Fried, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Harvard Westlake (CA)
Age 23 Height 6’4 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 60/60 50/55 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 2.80 ERA and struck out 72 over 54.2 innings starting in June.

Scouting Report
Fried was among the prospects considered by Houston for the top overall pick in 2012, but Carlos Correa’s combination of talent and signing-bonus discount ultimately made him the club’s clear choice. Fried fell to pick No. 7, where San Diego popped him and signed him for $3 million. Fried blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John late in the summer of 2014 and then was traded to Atlanta as part of the package for Justin Upton that winter. He threw all of 10.2 innings in 2014 and 2015 combined and was eased back into things last year, only throwing more than 90 pitches in one start until late August. He feels like a shiny new toy but is already 23. He struggled to throw strikes early in the season and sat 88-92 during the meatiest parts of those appearances.

By year’s end, though, Fried was electric, sitting 93-94 with his fastball and topping out at 97. He accrued double-digit strikeouts in each of his final four starts (including 13 in the South Atlantic League title game) and was flashing a plus-plus curveball during that span. His changeup was flashing plus on pure movement, but he lowers his arm slot to throw it and doesn’t finish it with the same conviction as he does his other offerings, both indicators on which major-league hitters could pick up.

If you’re inclined to believe that Fried’s late-season uptick in velo, etc., was a sign of a burgeoning, long-term improvement to his stuff, he’s probably too low on this list, as he’d profile as a front-end arm in that case. If you’re skeptical about him sustaining 93-plus over a full season or scared by his medical history, he’s probably a few spots too high in an otherwise loaded system. I (obviously) fall in between and have Fried projected as a No. 3 starter with some risk incurred from the TJ and scouts’ natural skepticism about his stuff’s long-term viability.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

8. 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 40/45 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Porduced 1.81 ERA over 13 starts in 2016.

Scouting Report
Gohara began 2016 back in extended spring training in part to improve upon his conditioning, and indeed he did. Scouts who saw Gohara by year’s end noted a dramatic improvement in his conditioning despite the fact that he remains quite large. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 210, but is probably closer to 250. Gohara’s conditioning issues mask the fact that he has major-league athleticism, something that allows him to repeat his delivery fairly well for a big, 20-year-old lefty with an upper-90s heater. He’ll spike the occasional fastball, but generally fills the bottom of the strike zone and showed the ability to command his fastball to his glove side pretty consistently in the Fall League.

That fastball sat 94-97 and touched 99 in my AFL looks, velocity that was generated without a whole lot of violence or visible effort. The pitch has some late wiggle to it but doesn’t miss bats at the rate you might expect for a pitch that hard. Instead, its hefty downhill plane induces lots of weak ground-ball contact. It’s reasonable to imagine that, under a heavier workload (he only threw 80 innings this year) and in longer outings, Gohara won’t throw quite that hard, but the fastball is still a good bet to be at least plus at maturity because of its sink and plane.

Gohara’s favorite secondary weapon (and, in AFL his only one — I saw no changeups and neither did the scouts to whom I’ve spoken who saw him there) is a mid-80s slider that tilted in anywhere between 83-86 during Fall League play. It doesn’t have extreme length or depth to it, but it does bite late and Gohara did a remarkable job of keeping it either down in the zone or below it. I think it’s an average pitch right now based on pure movement/stuff but could play as plus at peak, especially as Gohara refines his command of it. He showed some ability to locate it for strikes and toward the back foot of right-handed hitters in the Fall League.

Atlanta’s priorities for Gohara will likely be changeup development and, in perpetuity, physical and off-field maintenance. I’m projecting a future plus fastball and slider with above-average command. That’s at least a dominant reliever. He’s going to have to develop a third pitch and show that he’s able to maintain his stuff over 20-plus starts instead of a casual baker’s dozen, but the ceiling here is pretty significant. Only two qualified big-league lefties averaged greater than 94 mph on their fastballs this year (Danny Duffy and Robbie Ray), which is either an indication of just how exceptionally talented Gohara is, a sign that he’s destined to fail, or evidence that big-league clubs should be indicted for moving hard-throwing lefties to the bullpen too soon.

On upside, Gohara is one of baseball’s top-50 prospects (pretty conservatively), with the chance to be a No. 2 or 3 starter if everything comes together. He represents significant risk because of his occupation and history of conditioning and off-field issues, which played a role in his departure from Seattle. His floor (assuming he doesn’t completely flame out in the minors) is that of a late-inning reliever.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.7 WAR

50 FV Prospects

9. Mike Soroka, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Bishop Carroll HS (Calgary, AB)
Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 50/55 40/45 40/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded just 5% walk rate at Low-A.

Scouting Report
The platonic ideal of a sinker/slider mid-rotation workhorse, Soroka fills the strike zone with a heavy low-90s fastball and has even shown some early signs of advanced fastball manipulation. His slider is of the sweeping, two-plane variety, and its shape is somewhat inconsistent, but it’s routinely average and plays up against right-handed hitters due to Soroka’s low-three-quarters arm slot. That slot and the natural sink on Soroka’s two seamer evoked Derek Lowe’s name a few times during scout calls.

Soroka lacks changeup feel right now, often spiking his change in the dirt. With a slot as low as his, it’s imperative that Soroka find some way to deal with left-handed hitters. That will either mean improving the changeup, tightening up his command (he throws lots of strikes now but doesn’t hit his target consistently), adding another pitch (I’ll go ahead and speculate that a cutter is a natural fit here, as Soroka has flashed an ability to naturally/accidentally cut his four-seamer), or some combination of these. There are indicators of pitch projection here, as Soroka is an above-average athlete for his size, has great competitive makeup, and hails from a cold-weather climate in Canada. The body isn’t especially projectable, but I think the command and a third or fourth pitch are. Soroka projects as an inning-eating mid-rotation starter.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 5.0 WAR

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
20/60 30/50 20/40 70/70 40/60 70/70

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit .333/.372/.404 in the Appalachian League.

Scouting Report
Pache arguably has the highest ceiling in this system of any player not named Kevin Maitan. He’s a 70 runner with a 70 arm and burgeoning physicality that was on display when I saw him last fall. He could be plus in center with reps and I was most taken with his ability to recognize balls and strikes. He’s already showing impressive bat control for his age/size, though he has to cheat, mechanically, to do it. But as he continues to grow, he’s going to become stronger with the bat, and I think he has a chance to be a plus hitter. Any power that comes would be a bonus and, while I wouldn’t expect much more than 40 game power at peak, there’s a chance for it.

The risk here is obviously great, but if my projections pan out we’re looking at .270, an above-average ability to reach base and the speed to terrorize pitchers when he’s on, maybe 8-12 homers and great defense in center field. That’s a 4-WAR player and, even with a huge chunk backed out for risk, one of the better prospects in a loaded system.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.7 WAR

11. Sean Newcomb, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Hartford
Age 24 Height 6’5 Weight 240 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 40/45 35/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 25% strikeout and 12% walk rate at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Newcomb was seemingly a predestined late-bloomer candidate. He was a raw college arm from a small, northeastern school with hellacious stuff that pitchers his size often don’t harness until after their more traditionally built peers. It’s discouraging that, just a few months shy of his 24th birthday, Newcomb hasn’t yet developed passable starter’s control, and it’s flummoxing to watch him deliver mid-90s fastballs with almost comical ease and grace and marry it with the idea that he has very little idea where it’s going. But to give up on a lefty with this kind of stuff, size (he body comps to Roger Clemens) and durability would be foolhardy.

Newcomb sits 90-96 with his fastball and will bump 99. It sneaks up on hitters who are lulled to sleep by the glacial pace of Newcomb’s delivery and its effortless nature, only to see 95-plus rocket past them. Newcomb has 35 fastball command (he doesn’t always clear his front side in time and his pitches will sail) and needs another full grade of progress to be a viable starting pitching prospect. His curveball, 77-82 mph, flashes plus with impact shape and depth but, again, he struggles to command it. The changeup is fringey and relies heavily on Newcomb’s ability to maintain his fastball arm speed rather than movement or velo separation. (It often approaches the upper 80s.) Newcomb hasn’t worked himself into enough favorable counts to allow for changeup development.

A comfortably plus fastball, plus curveball and even a fringe to average changeup with viable starter command would make Newcomb a league-average starter. With each passing day, it becomes more likely that he has to move to the bullpen, where he could be dominant, but for the reasons stated above I remain cautiously optimistic about Newcomb’s chances to start, while my pre-draft projections for him (I thought he had a No. 2 ceiling) have become an unlikely pipedream.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.6 WAR

12. Joey Wentz, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Shawnee Mission East (MO)
Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 209 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 55/60 40/55 40/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Wentz was a preferred target for many teams seeking to parlay their oversized draft pools into extra talent and only fell to the Atlanta’s second pick because expensive promises were made to him that teams in the middle of the first round couldn’t match without punting the rest of their draft. Wentz didn’t throw much on the showcase circuit and had trouble maintaining premium velocity deep into each of his last two amateur seasons, at times sitting just 88-91. At his best, though, he was 92-95 with a plus, mid-70s curveball, and he didn’t allow a hit for his first four starts of the amateur season.

Wentz is a big, athletic kid with an effortless delivery and squeaky clean arm action. There’s some changeup feel here, and I think it could be above average at maturity, as could the command. If he can show an ability to maintain his peak velo throughout an entire pro season, he has a chance to be a good No. 2 or 3; if not, he fits toward the No. 4 or 5 spot of a rotation as a pitchability lefty.

45 FV Prospects

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 60/70 45/55 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted strikeout and walk rates of 22% and 12%, respectively, at Low-A.

Scouting Report
The Braves acquired Toussaint, the 16th-overall pick in 2014, from Arizona in exchange for Phil Gosselin (who was recently DFA’d by Arizona) and Bronson Arroyo’s contract. Reports on Touki’s stuff coming out of spring training last year were discouraging. He was 88-92 and struggling with erratic mechanics, specifically his lower half. He struggled in April and May, striking out just 24 hitters over 43 innings during that span and walking 28. He rested a few extra days before his first June start and was lights out after that, striking out 104 hitters in his final 99 regular-season innings and carving up Lakewood over eight innings in the South Atlantic League championship series.

When Toussaint is locked in, he has some of the more tantalizing stuff in the minors. He’ll sit 93-95 and touch 97 with arm-side run. He works up in the zone, mostly to his arm side, though Touki’s inability to consistently repeat his delivery hinders his command of it. His low-80s changeup flashes plus but is wildly inconsistent, and he still spikes far too many non-competitive changeups in the dirt.

That brings us to Toussaint’s curveball. If you’d like to know what an 80 breaking ball looks like, go find video of Toussaint breaking off a good curveball. Voluptuous and deadly, it plummets down beneath the barrels of flailing hitters with 11-5 tilt. [Takes long drag from cigarette.] Now [exhales], there are times when Toussaint’s arm slot dips down and the pitch doesn’t have impactful vertical break, just as there are times when he’ll decelerate his arm in attempt to baby the curveball into the zone for strikes, and these two issues suppress the overall effectiveness of the pitch over the course of an entire start. But when he wants to bury the thing in the dirt, it is untouchable.

Scouts are concerned about Toussaint’s lack of a consistent third pitch and well below-average control and think there’s significant risk that he winds up in a bullpen. He could be dominant there. Certainly the Braves have every reason to run him out as a starter until he proves he can’t do it. He’s only 20 and has a strong, sturdy build that looks poised to handle a starter’s workload, even if it’s a pitch-intensive one caused by his own strike-throwing issues. The adjustments Toussaint made last year to smooth out his stride to the plate are encouraging on that end, as well. I think the most likely outcome here is that of a highly entertaining fourth starter. Of course, Touki’s upside is much higher than that, but his walk rate is going to have to improve for him to get there and probably needs to improve a bit if he’s going to be a starter at all. There wasn’t a qualified MLB starter who had a walk rate as high as Touki’s was last year. Francisco Liriano was closest, and I think that’s an interesting comp for Touki despite repertoire differences.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.7 WAR

Drafted: 7th Round, 2015 from Houston
Age 22 Height 6’6 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/55 45/50 45/50 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Projected by Steamer for 4.70 FIP in 2017.

Scouting Report
Things often come together late for big, hard-throwers (if they come at all) and began to for Weigel last season. He sat 92-96 and was frequently touching 99 with an above-average low-80s slider, a loopy but average curveball and a usable but fringey change. He has a limb-y delivery with a lot of moving parts but keeps things timed well enough that he threw an acceptable number of strikes for a starter last year. For pitchers whose coffer of secondaries are headlined by two separate breaking balls, above average or better command is often required to deal with left-handed hitters, and it’s hard to envision Weigel ever having that. I think he could be a No. 4 just on stuff, but there’s more zone-filling control than surgical command here. Weigel should stick in a rotation for now and could move to the back of a bullpen should Atlanta farm superior rotation options, as I have them projected to do.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 178 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 60/60 30/45 45/45 60/70 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has posted career 12% walk rate, 33% strikeout rate, and .225 ISO.

Scouting Report
Acquired from Texas mid-year in exchange for Lucas Harrell (who was released by the Tigers last May) and Dario Alvarez (who was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets), Demeritte brings an explosive but incomplete skillset to Atlanta. He’s hit for significant power in the low minors, whacking out 25-plus home runs in 2014 and 2016 — though the hitting environments at Hickory and High Desert likely bolstered those totals — and Demeritte tested positive for the masking agent Furosemide in 2015.

He does have plus raw power, though, something that was clear when I saw 50 at-bats or so from Demeritte last fall. He’s also a potential 70 defender at second base with remarkable range and athleticism. But Demeritte’s approach and propensity for swinging and missing at high rates concerns many scouts. He’s posted strikeout rates in excess of 30% at each full-season minor-league stop.

There are a lot of reasons for all those strikeouts. Swing length, a backside collapse, and mediocre breaking-ball recognition are probably the more prominent issues. Demeritte has made swing adjustments since high school to get where he is now and theoretically has the athleticism to make more if he wants to, but after watching Demeritte for six weeks during the Fall League I feel pretty good about his chances to get to his power despite the strikeouts and, for a plus-plus defensive second baseman, I’ll live with them.

I think there’s some risk here given the hitting environments in which Demeritte has succeeded, the drug suspension and the strikeout rate. Even if he hits .220 in the big leagues, though, he’s still probably a low-end regular because of the other tools.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

16. Kyle Muller, LHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Jesuit Prep (TX)
Age 19 Height 6’6 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
40/50 45/50 40/50 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Like Wentz, Muller was a product of the Braves’ effort to maximize the talent acquired in last year’s draft. He signed for $2.5 million as the 44th-overall pick, a full million over slot. He’s a massive, physical lefty with an extreme overhand slot that allows him to create significant downhill plane on his fastball when he’s working in the bottom of the zone, though when I saw him at Area Codes he struggled to do that. His fastball velocity fluctuated during the draft process, at times dipping down to 86 and bumping 93 at others. He has some breaking-ball feel, enough that it could get to average at peak, and he’s able to create more horizontal movement on his fastball and changeup than is typical for a pitcher with this high an arm slot. I have the change projected to average, as well.

Muller played two ways in high school (he has plus raw power), so there’s both physical and pitch projection here as he focuses solely on pitching, but he already has a relatively advanced idea of how to locate and sequence for a giant lefty, a skill forged by pitching in the Texas heat against advanced competition with a mostly upper-80s fastball. Despite his already gargantuan size, he’s got room for more mass and will probably tip the scales at 240-plus at peak. How much velo he adds as that weight comes is hard to predict, because Muller is such a physical outlier. If he can just maintain the low-90s fastball he’d flash in high school, he’ll be fine. He projects as a No. 4 starter.

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
35/50 40/40 20/30 70/70 45/55 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Was hit by 39 pitches in 2016.

Scouting Report
Ray-Patrick Elijah Khalil Didder has several catalytic qualities, led by his plus-plus speed, advanced eye for the strike zone and a seemingly pathological desire to be hit by oncoming pitches. He’s a better defensive center fielder than Ronald Acuna, but it behooves Atlanta to try to max out Acuna’s value, and so the two split time there last year. What Didder lacks is power. He has average bat speed (though he moves the barrel around well) and doesn’t extend through contact. This is a hit-over-power profile that doesn’t look as sexy in a corner as it does in center field, but if he’s plus or better there, he’ll play every day. I think his floor is that of a luxurious fourth outfielder. I also move that he is henceforth known by his full name so he doesn’t sound like a NASCAR driver.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Gilbert HS (AZ)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/50 40/45 50/50 45/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .282/.343/.431 at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Peterson has improved his stride direction and unlocked more of his natural pull power in the process. It’s pull-only power but he’s short to the ball, creates good extension through contact, and can go down and get balls down in the zone and still make authoritative contact. That there seems to be a substantive mechanical change here is reason for optimism that Peterson’s 2016 is the new normal and not some one-year mirage. The offensive tools aren’t loud enough to project him as a first-division regular or better, but I think he’s going to be a solid big-league piece.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.4 WAR

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Cal
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 188 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 55/55 30/50 30/30 30/40 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit .344/.480/.678 as junior at Cal.

Scouting Report
I’m all for giving college catchers the benefit of the doubt when evaluating their defense during their first foray into pro ball, but I can’t find an area scout who thinks Cumberland stays back there. He has average pure arm strength but will post pop times around 2.10-2.15 because of a long, slingy release and he’s not especially mobile. He can hit, though — especially from the left side — and there’s a chance he hits enough to profile in left field or at first base if/when he moves out from behind the plate. He has plus bat speed, above-average raw power, natural loft, and he can hit balls out to all fields. There’s some noise in his hands and I think he’ll swing and miss more in pro ball than he did in college but not so much that it derails his offensive output completely. He could move quickly if Atlanta is willing to move him out from behind the plate, but they seem to think he can stay there and certainly have the time to give it a shot.

20. A.J. Minter, LHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Texas A&M
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
70/70 70/70 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Had 40% strikeout rate in 18 Double-A appearances.

Scouting Report
Minter’s injury resume is lengthy. He dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome as a freshman at Texas A&M, and then needed Tommy John as a junior. He threw more innings in the Braves org last year than he did in any season during his three-year career with the Aggies, even with the Braves often spacing out his single-inning relief appearances by four to six days. He carries extreme risk, which is the only reason he’s not higher on this list. Otherwise, he projects as a dominant reliever with an upper-90s fastball and plus-plus slider/cutter, though I suppose the fastball velo might tick down under a 60- to 80-inning workload rather than a cautious 34. He could rocket to the big leagues next year, or he could blow out and never be heard from again.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Louisville
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
45/45 50/50 45/50 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 1.06 WHIP as junior at Louisville.

Scouting Report
Harrington got about $100,000 over slot as the 80th-overall pick, and he’s wholly unlike the three pitchers drafted ahead of him. He’s a college performer who was ACC pitcher of the year in 2016, posting a 1.95 ERA over 110 innings during which he K’d 92. He’s also a maxed-out 6-foot-1 with advanced command and control, locating a fringe-to-average three-pitch mix down in the zone with regularity. He sits 88-92, will touch 93 and will bump 95 out of the bullpen. His slider is average, his changeup a half-grade below, but should grow to average with reps. He profiles as a high-probability No. 4/5 starter.

22. Derian Cruz, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 177 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 30/40 20/40 70/70 40/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit .309 in GCL, then .183 in Appy League.

Scouting Report
Cruz was one of the 2015 July 2 class’s better athletes, with 70-grade speed, premium defensive footwork and plenty of physical projection, much of which he’d need to actualize to add arm strength and to do any damage with the bat. His feel for contact (especially from the right side, where his swing is much better) was too advanced for the GCL, but he couldn’t compete physically in the Appalachian League and he looked exhausted there. He showed up to camp this year looking noticeably larger, which will hopefully help him hit and remain effective throughout all of 2017. He’s a likely bet to stick at short, but the offensive profile is entirely dependent on how the body develops and whether or not his left-handed swing ever comes along. He showed a surprisingly discerning eye when I saw him last fall, which I did not expect given his metrics from 2016.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic
Age 17 Height 6’1 Weight 181 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 45/50 20/45 45/45 40/45 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Severino has sneaky raw power for his size. He has above-average bat speed, loose wrists and comfortable, natural loft in the swing. He didn’t track pitches consistently when I saw him during instructional league, and I have some concerns about swing and miss. He’s twitchier and more explosive in the batter’s box than he is in the field, where his footwork and actions can be slow and tentative. Some scouts think he’ll have to move either to second or third as he fills out. If that’s the case, then Severino will have to outperform my expectations for the bat to profile as a regular. If he can stay at short, however — and I think there’s a decent chance he can — then not only is he an everyday player, but he’ll become one of the system’s more interesting prospects.

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 60/60 30/45 20/20 30/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .243/.332/.408 in Midwest League in 2016.

Scouting Report
In 2012, Jackson led all California high-school hitters in home runs with 17. He was a sophomore. Later that summer, Jackson went to Area Codes, where he had one of the event’s most impressive batting practices, but his swing length was exposed in games during the event. Jackson made an adjustment and shortened up the next spring and continued to rake against elite prep arms in showcases during the rest of his high-school career. The track record for hitters who have consistent success at those events is very good.

Jackson caught in high school. He posted some plus-plus pop times thanks largely to his natural arm strength and quick arm action, but the body looked like it would eventually become too big to catch. Jackson worked out at third base and in the outfield as an amateur and has surprisingly good feet at third for an athlete of his size, but not all scouts liked the arm action over there and many preferred him in the outfield if forced to choose. By the time Jackson’s prep career was finished, he had been an Under Armour All-American twice, a Baseball America All-American three times and was named Baseball Prospectus’ Prospect of the Year before the draft. The Mariners drafted Jackson sixth overall in June of 2014 and signed him for a $4.2 million bonus. He was traded for Rob Whalen (a minor-league depth arm) and Max Povse (a potential No. 4/5 starter) this offseason.

With parts of three pro seasons now under his belt, Jackson’s stock had tanked. He was held back in extended spring training to start the year for performance reasons. His body has developed poorly and some of the quick-twitch elements of his swing have disappeared. Questions about Jackson’s makeup have been circulating since he signed. During his extended stay in Arizona last year, Jackson’s swing looked stiff and grooved, and he was often late on even average velocity. As the year went on, he became a bit more fluid and loose — and was getting better extension through contact — but he remained late on fastballs and would swing through hittable pitches. The bat path that once elicited dreams of both .300 averages and 20-plus home runs still exists, Jackson just doesn’t barrel many balls.

Pre-draft, Jackson looked like a future plus hitter with plus power. Based on how he looked for me last year, the hit tool’s ceiling is probably closer to a 40. Atlanta plans to move Jackson back behind the plate and, if that reversion is successful, a 40 hitter with plus raw power is not only playable but probably an everyday player. Scouts will tell you that successful conversions to catcher require good athleticism and makeup (catching takes significant tolls on one’s body and mind), and it’s unclear if Jackson has either of those. At the very least, he represented an interesting buy-low opportunity for the Braves, who had a surfeit ton of minor-league pitching to trade. Jackson will play next season at age 21.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

25. Rio Ruiz, 3B
Drafted: 4th Round, 2012 from Bishop Amat HS (CA)
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 230 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 55/55 35/40 40/40 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .271/.355/.400 at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
Ruiz has above-average raw power that he hasn’t been able to utilize in games because his in-game swings are stiff and effortful, and he never seems to take advantage of opposing pitchers’ mistakes, often fouling back grooved, hittable fastballs. He has a good approach and recognizes breaking balls early; however, mediocre bat control, hand-eye coordination and an excessively deep load suppress his ability to make strong contact. He’s still just 22 and has plenty of time to make adjustments without another Braves third-base prospect breathing down his neck in the upper minors, but it’s hard to project Ruiz as an average regular because he’s never hit for the kind of game power needed to profile favorably there.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.1 WAR

26. Dylan Moore, UTIL
Drafted: 7th Round, 2015 from Central Florida
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 35/40 40/40 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has produced career .270/.378/.446 line as pro, but always older than average for level.

Scouting Report
Despite a very simple swing consisting of very little lower half use, Moore is able to generate average raw power, and he can torch balls on the inner half. When pitchers are working him away, he has trouble getting the bat head there without extending his hands early and arriving late. He’s hit well in A-ball as a college draftee, but I do think upper-level pitchers will be able to exploit him more readily than low-level arms have been able to. He’s a 40 runner and, despite having played most of his pro career there, I don’t think he fits at short full time. He’s already begun to see time at the other three infield spots, and he spent time in the outfield with Texas before he was sent to Atlanta in the Jeff Francoeur deal. I like him as a mistake-hitting utility man who plays all over the field.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 245 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
80/80 45/50 45/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded average fastball velocity of 100.6 mph, per Statcast.

Scouting Report
Cabrera is famous for his 100-plus mph fastball that sits anywhere from 98-103 with some life when he’s locating to his arm side. It’s straight when he’s working to his glove side and is a bit more hittable than one would expect a hondo heater to be. His breaking ball (it looks like a slider but since it has a 20 mph velo delta from his fastball, I guess you could call it a curve) is inconsistent, above average at times and well below average at others. He also has a changeup in the 88-93 range that bewilders hitters who are geared up for 100-plus. I think a lack of true out-pitch breaking ball will ultimately prevent Cabrera from closer duties, but he’s a high-probability seventh-inning setup type. He’ll exhaust his rookie eligibility early in 2017.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from DeSoto Central (MS)
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 40/50 40/30 40/45 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Had .915 OPS from July through end of year.

Scouting Report
Riley began the year struggling with any sort of velocity and then improved the timing of his footwork, quieted his hands and started hitting. Late in the year, he was turning on plus velocity. He has plus raw power (at least) and has improved his body composition since high school (when he was a heavy 230). But at just 19, with some general stiffness to his actions, Riley is pretty likely to kick over to first base as he matures. The adjustments he made last year were encouraging, but reports from late in the year indicate some vulnerability on the outer half, and it’s going to be difficult for him to clear the offensive bar at first base with his current contact profile. He was up to 94 on the mound in high school, so if he can have passable range and actions at third, the arm might keep him there for a little while.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.9 WAR

29. Bryse Wilson, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Orange HS (NC)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 224 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 40/50 40/45 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
A stocky bulldog righty, Wilson lacks the physical projection of the prototypical high-school arm but already sits 90-94 with a heavy fastball that will touch 96. His slider was his primary offspeed pitch in high school, flashing average and sitting below it, but he showed solid changeup feel in his brief pro stint. He has a non-zero chance to pitch toward the back of a rotation but is more likely to end up as a solid relief piece, and reports indicate Wilson yearns for high-leverage situations.

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
50/50 50/55 45/50 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Had 200% increase in workload in 2016.

Scouting Report
Acquired from Anaheim as part of the Kyle Kubitza trade ahead of the 2015 season, Sanchez was an intriguing teenage lefty who was touching 95 in the AZL at age 17 and showing feel for both a curveball and changeup. He struggled to throw strikes and keep all the components of his delivery timed well (especially from the stretch, where he loses some velo, too) and still has issues with that today, but he’s still just 19 and was sitting 90-93 and flashing an above average curveball last year. His changeup will flash average. On stuff, he’s a potential No. 4 starter, but the command needs a full grade of progression for him to be even a viable reliever. That’s well within the realm of possibility for an arm this young.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.4 WAR

Drafted: 25th Round, 2015 from Miami Dade College
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/45 30/40 20/20 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .269/.313/.369 at Low-A.

Scouting Report
Morales had the unenviable task of catching Rome’s pitching staff last year, which was probably a lot like being Mitch Mitchell in 1966, as he too was forced to handle exceptional but unkempt talent on a nightly basis. He did it with aplomb, though, showing terrific receiving and ball-blocking ability, good lateral mobility and an average arm. He can catch and, while he was a bit old for Low-A last year, he does have some feel for contact and modest pull power. None of the tools is loud enough to project surefire everyday value, but I like Morales as a solid backup and potential low-end regular. If you’re skeptical of Brett Cumberland’s chances of catching, Morales is the best backstop prospect in this system.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.6 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 5’9 Weight 165 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/50 20/40 55/50 40/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has recorded 60 career walks, 58 career strikeouts.

Scouting Report
Though he doesn’t have the endless physical projection possessed by many of the other Latin American teenagers in this system, Ventura arguably has the best feel to hit of any of them. He has plus bat speed and excellent bat control from the left side. That swing is so pretty, I have no idea why he bothers switch-hitting. He did struggle against average offspeed stuff when I saw him during instructional league. He’s an above-average runner and has pro experience in center field, but his body has matured quickly and he’s probably going to be quite thick at peak, so I have him projected in right field. At just 5-foot-9, his power projection is quite modest, but he might hit enough to justify everyday duty in a corner anyway and, of course, he’s quite a distance from the majors. He suffered a scapula fracture in a car accident in the Dominican late in 2015 but has shown no ill effects.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Braxton Davidson, OF/1B, 0.7 KATOH+ WAR – Davidson’s body has matured quickly and scouts are projecting him to first base. He was stiff and his hands were noisy when I saw him in the fall, though his contact is hard when he’s making it. Regardless of his defensive home, he’s going to have to hit more than he has. He led his level in strikeouts last year, and I have inconsistent reports on the bat path and bat speed.

Guillermo Zuniga, RHP – This Colombian righty was a bit older than other members of the ’16-17 July 2 class (he turned 18 in October), but he’s got a good pitcher’s body at 6-foot-3, 195, an easy, repeatable delivery and solid curveball feel. His fastball, 88-92, touching 93, jumps on hitters due to extension, and he’s shown an ability to back door his curveball already. He’ll probably carve up the GCL this year, because he can throw that breaking ball for strikes.

Abrahan Gutierrez, C – Gutierrez was one of the bigger names in Atlanta’s J2 class because his body matured sooner than his peers’. He lost some mobility as signing day approached, but he has enough defensive skill to remain at catcher long term provided he keeps his body in check and remain mobile. He turned 17 in October. Gutierrez has average raw arm strength that plays down because of how long it take Gutierrez to rise from his crouch, but that should be cleaned up, at least a bit, with instruction. Offensively, he has some pull power because of raw strength in his hands, but he lacks exceptional bat speed. He may never be more than a 40 hitter with 45 game power. If he can catch, however, that will play.

Yenci Pena, 3B – Pena has a big frame and above-average power projection. As he grows into that power, he’ll almost certainly move off of short and to third base. The actions, footwork and arm strength will play there, possibly as plus. He’s a high-upside lottery ticket.

Jesse Biddle, LHP – Fate has been unkind to Biddle. A former first-round pick by Philadelphia, Biddle was 88-94 with a loopy but cool-looking 69-72 mph curveball for much of his tenure with Philly before the curveball ceased to be effective with heavy use against upper-level hitters (often the case for lollipop curveballs like Biddle’s). He struggled with command which made it difficult for him to work more heavily with and develop a slider (which looked promising when he would throw it) and changeup. A freakish run of bad luck (the most bizarre occurrence was Biddle getting hit in the head with a tennis-ball-size chunk of hail and suffering a concussion early in 2014, the most severe one was he needed Tommy John in the fall of 2015) totally derailed his career, and he was DFA’d by Philly and Pittsburgh before landing with the Braves.

Livan Soto, INF – Soto, signed out of Venezuela for $1 million, has a lot of physical projection and has shown some solid hitting traits, but he’s extremely raw both physically and technically. Until Soto fills out, if he does at all, it’s hard to say which of his tools will have benefited from physical maturation (bat control, power and arm strength are likely candidates) and which have been harmed (straight-line speed and already heavy defensive footwork). He’ll likely end up at third base eventually.

Lucas Sims, RHP, 1.8 KATOH+ – Sims will sit 94-96 with a plus curveball, but the fastball plays down due to its flat, lifeless nature. Sims’ delivery is a bit stiff and oddly paced, resulting in 30 control. He needs to improve his ability to throw strikes just to be a middle-relief piece, and there’s a chance he never gets there.

Jacob Lindgren, LHP – Lindgren was 87-90 as a sophomore starter at Mississippi State, then touching 96 as a junior out of the bullpen with a plus-plus slider. He struck out 100 hitters in 55 innings of relief as a junior and the Yankees picked him in the second round of the 2014 draft. He reached the majors in his first pro season, but his slider’s bite became very inconsistent. He missed much of 2016 with bone spurs in and then had Tommy John in August. The Yankees non-tendered him in December and Atlanta offered him a major-league deal. He only began throwing a few weeks ago.

Akeel Morris, RHP, 0.9 KATOH+ – Morris was touching 95 in the Fall League, sitting mostly 92-94 with a plus changeup that has extreme velocity separation from his heater, usually tumbling in in the upper-70s. His delivery has a lot of moving parts and he has poor control. At age 24, he’s looking more like an up-and-down arm than a true middle-relief mainstay because the command is so unreliable.

Josh Graham, RHP – Graham began his career at Oregon as a catcher and, after two years behind the plate, moved to the mound. He’s built like a catcher and has a stiff, somewhat slingy delivery that he struggles to repeat. He’s a pure relief prospect but sits 92-95 and touches 97 while flashing a plus changeup. The breaking ball is fringey, but the fastball/change combination could allow him to be a bullpen mainstay.

Thomas Burrows, LHP – Burrows was the Mariners’ fourth-round pick out of Alabama from the 2016 draft and then was traded to Atlanta in the Mallex Smith, Drew Smyly kerfuffle. He’s a low-slot, pure relief arm with an average fastball/slider combo that could play a half-grade above that due to natural deception in Burrows’ delivery. He profiles as a lefty specialist.

Jeremy Walker, RHP – Atlanta’s fifth rounder out of Gardner Webb, Walker was 91-94 for me during instructional league with a stiff, relief-only delivery. He flashed two different above-average breaking balls in a tight, Frisbee-like mid-80s slider that touched 88 and an upper-70s, two-plane curveball. He’s a potential middle-relief piece.

Evan Phillips, RHP, 0.7 KATOH+ – Phillips was 94-97 in the Fall Stars game with a fringe change and average slider in the 82-84 range that had some length but lacked sharp movement. I like the velo but don’t see a bat-missing secondary offering here. Still, the three-pitch mix may work in middle relief.

Luis Mora, RHP – Mora is 21 but still freakishly skinny. His limbs look like Twizzlers and he’s had trouble holding his stuff late into starts. It sounds like Atlanta is considering developing him in a multi-inning relief role. That might allow Mora to sit 95-plus with his fastball for the duration of his outings. He was touching 101 last year. Mora’s seccondaries are very inconsistent, at times flashing above average but often sputtering in well below average. He throws from a lower slot, and it’s hard for him to get on top of a breaking ball from that angle, so if any of his pitches are going to improve enough to make him a viable big leaguer, I think it’s likely to be his changeup

Juan Contreras, RHP – Contreras touches 97 with his fastball and sits 92-95. There’s some effort to the delivery, but Contreras’s lower half is long and strong and the arm works fine. His best secondary is a slider with purely vertical movement, a result of Contreras’ vertical arm slot. It flashes plus. It’s hard to generate any changeup movement from a slot like Contreras’. Due to a combination of that arm slot, his size (a slightly built 6-foot-1) and the effort in his delivery, there’s a good chance he’s only a reliever.

Anthony Guardado, RHP – Guardado suffered a shoulder injury playing quarterback in high school and didn’t pitch much as a senior. I ran into him purely by chance when I went to see San Dimas righty Pete Lambert (now with Colorado) during their draft springs and Guardado was touching 94 with curveball feel over just two innings of work. The injury issues have lingered in pro ball, which is why Guardado hasn’t thrown very many innings, and it’s difficult to know what’s still in there.

Corbin Clouse, LHP – Clouse was a 27th rounder in 2016 out of Davenport University. A back injury required a medical redshirt during his freshman year, but he struck out 75 hitters over 50 innings as a redshirt sophomore. He was 90-93, touching 95, and flashing a 55 slider out of Rome’s bullpen last year and is a potential middle-relief piece.

Luis Ovando, 2B – A Dominican second baseman signed later during the 2015 J2 period, Ovando fits best defensively at second base rather than short and he has an advanced feel to hit.

Tucker Davidson, LHP – A 19th rounder out of Midland JC in Texas, Davidson was topping out at 93 in college, but his velo has ticked up as he’s improved his conditioning and is now touching 96. He might breakout this year.

Johan Camargo, INF, o.7 KATOH+- A switch-hitting Panamanian infielder, Camargo will flash impressive leatherwork, but he lacks the range for shortstop and the bat to play anywhere else. His feel for hitting and lack of balance at the plate are both non-starters for any sort of offensive output, but he’s a plus defender at third and has started to see reps at second base. He could have Abraham Nunez’ career.

Micah Johnson, 2B, 1.8 KATOH+ – Johnson turned 26 in December and still doesn’t have the power to play at any defensive position he’s capable of competently manning regular basis. The Dodgers had him working at various positions in Triple-A last year, but he can’t play shortstop, so it’s not an obvious utility profile. He can absolutely fly and hits right-handed pitching a little bit, so if he can develop enough feel for center field to be passable there, then he could essentially be a fourth outfielder who can also play second base.

Braulio Vasquez, SS – One of Atlanta’s lesser-heralded signings from the 2016 J2 class, Vasquez is a 55 runner with viable actions at shortstop and some feel to hit, but he was seen as too weak with the bat to be more than a utility player at maturity. Then he showed up to camp this week having added 15 pounds. This is one to monitor in the GCL this year.

Anfernee Seymour, SS – Seymour was born in the Bahamas but went to high school at the fabled American Heritage in Florida. He was the Marlins’ seventh rounder in 2014 and then traded to Atlanta in the Hunter Cervenka deal last year. He’ll likely never hit enough to be a regular (below-average bat speed and raw feel to hit) and profiles more as a utility player, though he might be able to play above-average defense at all the premium positions, as he’s an 80 runner with enough athleticism to pass at both middle-infield spots.

Ramon Morla, RHP – A former Seattle farmhand who moved to the mound after a disappointing start to his career with the bat, Morla was touching 99 with a plus slider in the AZL before his elbow blew out. His body and stuff had gone a bit backward when he returned, and he signed a minor-league deal with Atlanta this offseason. He’s an interesting flier if he can reclaim all of his arm strength.

Izzy Wilson, OF – Signed during the 2014 July 2 period off of the island of St. Martin (an island about 200 miles east of Puerto Rico that’s split in half by the French and Dutch), Wilson is a tools goof without any modicum of polish in the batter’s box. He’s a twitchy and well-built (6’3, 185) plus runner with above-average raw power and plus bat speed, but his bat control is way behind and needs significant polish if he’s even going to be a bench outfielder.

William Contreras, C – The brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, William is also a malleable athlete with some feel to catch, bat speed and mobility skills. He’s just raw.

Lucas Herbert, C, 0.4 KATOH+ – Herbert has always been a glove-first prospect and he remains so, but the bat hasn’t progressed to a point of viability and it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that it ever will.

Phil Pfeifer, LHP — An undersized lefty from Vanderbilt, Pfiefer sits in the low-90s, will touch 94, and has a four-pitch mix headlined by an above-average slider. He’s had stamina issues, and his future is the the bullpen as a unique deep repertoire mop-up guy.

Carlos Castro, 1B, 0.4 KATOH+ – Castro has plus raw power but swings at (almost literally) everything and has a first-base-only defensive profile. He takes huge, aggressive hacks and annihilates mistakes on the inner half, but his approach needs to improve quickly and drastically.

Devan Watts, RHP – A 17th rounder in 2016, Watts sits 91-94 with some downhill plane and an average slider. He attacks hitters, throws strikes and is another potential ‘pen arm who lacks the raw stuff of the names ahead of him on the list.

Juan Yepez, INF – Yepez began the season in Low-A as an 18-year-old but suffered an oblique injury, missed three months and his season never got off the ground. He has above-average raw power but also expands the zone too often. Scouts are split on whether he fits long term at third base or first. The latter would force a significant improvement in approach if he’s to remain a prospect.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, INF – A Dominican infielder who signed for just $10,000, Encarnacion has begun to grow into his lanky 6-foot-3 frame and flash above-average power. He was a little old for the DSL last year but is worth monitoring as he moves stateside.

Alger Hodgson, RHP – Hodgson is a 17-year-old Nucaraguan righty who was suspended and did not pitch in 2016 after testing positive for Stanazolol last spring. He sits 93-96 and touches 97, albeit with lots of effort.

Zach Rice, LHP – A low-slot lefty from North Carolina, Rice will touch 95 but has 20 control.

Alay Lago, UTIL – Despite an immaculate physique, above-average raw power and elite run times in the 60 yard dash, Lago couldn’t generate much interest from MLB clubs after defecting from Cuba. He went to the Mexican League, where his season was cut short due to a drug suspension after he also tested positive for stanozolol. He signed a minor-league deal with Atlanta in December. He’s going to be old for his level, and his approach and swing are both ugly.

Nick Shumpert, INF – Shumpert is the son of former major-leaguer Terry Shumpert, who had that one .347/.413/.584 season in 1999 but only had one other 100-plus wRC+ season in a 13-year big-league career. Nick has some power, but his approach and timing are both raw. He fits much better at second base than he does at short, so the bat needs to come.

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

Jared James, OF, 1.3 KATOH+
James’ amateur profile isn’t the sort that typically portends greatness. He was signed, for example, only after his senior year of college. At a DII school, actually. Where he didn’t inspire sufficient confidence in his coaches even to play center field. And lacked the signature power of a corner outfielder.

Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t selected until the 34th round. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, James acquitted himself quite well as a professional — in particular during his 100 plate appearances at Low-A Rome, where he recorded a strikeout rate of only 11% while producing nearly a .200 ISO. All this while playing at just about the league-average age.

There are a number of caveats to make, obviously. Relative to his pedigree, however, it was a very promising performance — and similar enough to his college output to suggest it might be a reflection of true talent.

*****

System Overview

This is baseball’s “Trust the Process” franchise, one that has amassed perhaps the best collection of minor-league talent in the game because of complete and total devotion to their own rebuild. A few trends have emerged during this rebuild, aside from the obvious arm hoarding. First, Atlanta has identified motivated big-league buyers and done business with them multiple times. The Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Marlins, and Rangers have all conducted multiple trades with Atlanta over the last few years to varying degrees of splash. Atlanta has also been willing to take fliers on players who are acquirable for non-talent reasons, such as injury or makeup, which has given their system famous depth and looks great on lists like these.

The Braves also seem to have a propensity to believe a player’s most recent performance is either (a) what he’ll be moving forward or (b) the start of a continuous upward trend. The organizations seems more willing to jump on prospects in the draft or trade market based on short-term upticks in performance. Ian Anderson, whose stuff was great late in the spring is, the the most prominent example of this and Joey Wentz (who was back up into the mid-90s during state playoffs) is another. Most teams seem to more heavily weigh performance closer to the date of acquisition rather than equally consider an entire long-term sample, but I think the Braves do more so than any other save for perhaps the Dodgers. This club probably has another top-100 prospect coming in this year’s draft but likely won’t be able to manipulate the shape of the draft as much as they did last year because teams like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Tampa, and others having multiple picks between Atlanta’s first (No. 5) and second (No. 41) selections.

We hoped you liked reading Top 32 Prospects: Atlanta Braves by Eric Longenhagen!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

newest oldest most voted
JasonPennini
Member
JasonPennini

This is a sexy system. DEEP

brood550
Member
brood550

It looks good on paper. The results are quite a ways off though as most of the prospects are below AA. Solid potential, but so volatile.

Rahul Setty
Member

Sexier than Big Sexy?