Braves Rebuild From Tainted Rebuild

The Braves are on another rebuilding effort after the first one crashed to failure after it was discovered the Braves were circumventing the international bonus cap. They were forced to forfeit 11 players, including Kevin Maitan, most of whom have now signed with other clubs. They also tried to pull similar shenanigans in the domestic draft and as a result have lost a couple future draft picks. The Braves faced a couple suspensions from their administrative staff and now look to rebuild from the rebuild. It may take a little bit longer for them to be competitive. They stocked up on pitching by trading a number of their veteran players, stockpiling a pot pourri of number one picks, but they have fallen short on position players. Below are some of the prospects myworld likes.

It all starts with Ronald Acuna, who is probably the best prospect in baseball. The Venezuelan has five impressive tools that will make him an annual All Star. Many compare him to Andrew Jones at the same age. The Braves traded Matt Kemp to open a position for him on the major league club, though they still may want to acquire some outfield depth just in case Andrew pulls a Jurickson Profar on the Braves. After hitting 21 homeruns with a .325 average at three different levels he deserved a September promotion. The Braves held back to save their 40 man roster spots for other players. With a good spring Acuna could go north with the Braves in April. If not April, at least by the mid-season.

Another talented outfielder is Cristian Pache. He may not hit as well as Acuna, but his defense is gold glove caliber. He has the arm for rightfield but there is very little power in his bat to fit a corner outfield slot. He finished the season in Low A with a .281 average with 32 stolen bases but 0 homeruns and a .343 slugging average. The Braves may be more inclined to trade him to another team in need of a centerfielder to stock up at other positions.

The Mariners moved Alex Jackson from catcher to outfielder. The number 1 2014 pick struggled with the bat and the Mariners traded Jackson to the Braves for a couple pitchers. The Braves returned him to catcher and last year his bat came alive, hitting .267 with 19 homeruns. He still has a tendency to strike out too much and his defense behind the plate needs some polish. He will start the 2018 season in AA.

Pitching is the Braves strength. They have a number of number one picks in their system, many of them acquired via trade. Mike Soroka could be one of their best even though he does not throw hard. The 2015 first round pick from Canada hits the low 90s with his fastball put keeps hitters off balance with his location and quality secondary pitches (curveball and change). In AA he limited the opposition to a .233 average and even without overpowering stuff struck out 125 batters in 153.2 innings. The 6′4 righthander should find himself in the back end of the Braves rotation in 2018.

Myworld likes the long, wiry Touki Touissant who has a mid-90s fastball but has trouble finding the strike zone. Last year he walked 42 hitters in 105 innings, but high pitch counts resulted in short outings. He also is limited to two effective pitches, with his change still lacking consistency. Touki had greater success at AA (3.18 ERA) than at High A (5.04 ERA) so expect him to start the season there. He is still a couple years away from the major leagues, closer if his control improves and he finds consistency with the change.

The Braves drafted righthanded pitchers in the first round of the last two drafts. Ian Anderson was a first round pick in 2016, the third player selected in the draft. He tamed hitters with a fastball that could hit 95 but sat in the low 90s, complemented by a good curve. Good curveballs can get a number of swings and misses at the lower levels. Kyle Wright was their 2017 first round pick and the fifth player taken in the draft. The Vanderbilt pitcher advanced to the Florida State League in his minor league debut with a low 90s fastball and quality secondary pitches. Expect him to move quickly if he achieves success at the higher levels.

The Braves have more lefthanders than they know what to do with. Kolby Allard was limited last year with back issues. The 2015 first round pick came back strong in AA with a 3.18 ERA in 27 starts. His pitches appeared to be too easy to hit, with a .258 opposition average and a less than sterling 128 whiffs in 150 innings. He will also by vying for the fifth spot in the Braves rotation.

Max Fried showed success in a late callup last year and in the Arizona Fall League. He was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Padres and traded to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss some time. Last year was his first real season beyond rehab, hitting the mid-90s with his fastball. He got off to a slow start, recovered and got some spot starts with the Braves. The Braves will want to monitor his innings which could keep him down in AAA or they could again use him in a spot starter role.

Luz Gohara could be the hardest thrower in the Braves system. He was originally signed by the Mariners from Brazil and traded to the Braves for a couple minor leaguers. His fastball hits triple digits, sits easily in the mid-90s but is very difficult to throw across the plate. His weight could also be a concern. Last year Luz got five starts with the Braves. He pitched a few more innings than Fried, is not a Tommy John issue and could start the season as the number five in the Braves rotation.

Ricardo Sanchez was a flash signing by the Angels but was a disappointment and traded to the Braves. He has not really lit it up with the Braves. At 20 years of age he has time to mature.

The two top infielders both play the same corner position. Austin Riley raked in the Arizona Fall League, showing off the power in his bat that will make him an effective middle of the order hitter. He has a strong arm for third but lacks the speed to move to the outfield. Travis Demeritte was acquired from the Rangers. Last year was a struggle for him with just a .231 average accompanied by 15 homeruns, short of the 28 taters he hit in 2016. He needs to cut down on his swings and misses to up the average and return to his 2016 homerun production. Travis may be the better defensive option at third, moving there from short, but he could also fit at second base. That may be tough with Ozzie Albies appearing to be an anchor at that position.

The system has depth in the rotation but lacks power arms. It also lacks position players, losing a large crop of international signees. Not a lot of veterans left for them to trade. Freddie Freeman may be more willing to leave the time now that the rebuilding clock has been pushed back a couple years.

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