Braves Hope to Repeat with Pitching

The Braves are the last team reviewed by myworld for their prospects. Myworld rated them the top minor league system for prospects in 2017 and 2018 and number three in 2016. The last time the franchise was in the top ten for prospects was in 2010 and 2011 when they finished with the third rated system both years. Some of the players on that team that are still making an impact on the newer version of the Braves are Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman and Arodys Vizcaino. Two other top prospects are Mike Minor and Craig Kimbrel.

Some of the top prospects from the 2016 and 2017 seasons are - Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Kolby Allard, Aaron Blair, Mike Soroka, Kevin Maitan, Sean Newcomb, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Touki Touissaint, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna and Luiz Gohara. Some of the top prospects from the 2018 team are Ronald Acuna and Austin Riley and their gang of pitchers, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Joey Wentz and A.J. Minter. Cristian Pache is another highly rated position prospect from 2018.

This year the Braves top prospects are pitchers. Trying to find the best one is like trying to identify the winner in a beauty contest. Mike Soroka was a first round pick in 2015. The Canadian should have been in the Braves rotation in 2019 but injuries ended his season in 2018 after five starts. Prior to his shoulder issues he was the Braves best pitching prospect with a low 90s fastball, excellent control and above average slider. The shoulder issues still lingered this spring, putting a delay to his 2019 start. At 6′5″ he has a good frame for pitching. By mid-season he should be in the rotation if he has success in AAA and the other pitchers are struggling.

Touki Toussaint is another first round pick ready for the rotation. He was drafted in the first round in 2014 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they traded him to the Braves to eliminate salary (Bronson Arroyo). Finding the plate was the biggest issue for Touki when he was with the Diamondbacks. The fastball comes to the plate in the mid-90s and he has a plus curve and change. He started finding the plate more frequently with the Braves which reduced his walks and ERA. Last year he got five starts with the Braves but struggled finding the plate, walking 21 in 29 innings. The Braves felt a little more seasoning was needed in AAA.

Ian Anderson was the Braves first round pick in 2016. His fastball also sits in the mid-90s with a knee buckling curveball and plus change. His walks have been a little high (49 in 119 innings last year) but it is not expected to be a long term concern. Last year he made his AA debut reaching four starts. He gets lots of swings and misses with his pitches. He should start the season in AA but with the surplus of starting pitching in the minor leagues it will be tough for him to crack the Braves rotation in 2019.

Kyle Wright was the first round pick of the Braves in 2017. Drafted out of college he rose quickly, already appearing in four major league relief appearances last year. His fastball sits just south of 95 with decent secondary pitches (curve and slider). Walks have caused a problem for him but he elicits soft contact. Last year the opposition hit him at a .152 clip in four AAA starts. Kyle may be a player the Braves call up by mid-season.

Joey Wentz was a supplemental first round pick in 2016. He spent a couple months on the disabled list last year with an oblique injury, limiting him to just 16 starts and 67 innings. The one plus he has is he throws lefthanded, something the pitchers above him don’t do. His fastball sits in the low 90s with a quality curve and change. He does not get a lot of swings and misses with his pitches, but the opposition could only hit .206 against him. The 2019 season should see him starting at AA.

Other pitchers with a long shot to make the rotation include Bryse Wilson, Luiz Gohara and Kolby Allard. Bryse has a flaming fastball that reaches the high 90s. The 2016 fourth round pick needs improvement on his secondary pitches (curve and change). Gohara may have the best fastball hitting triple digits and can keep hitters off balance with strong secondary pitches. Only his slider is above average. His change is still a work in progress, which could limit him to the bullpen. Staying in shape could also be an issue, with the down side reducing his fastball to pedestrian levels. Allard is a lefthander who does not throw hard. The 2015 first round pick relies more on his curve and change. His fastball rarely reaches 90. He is a back end of a rotation starter or situational reliever.

On the position front Austin Riley is their top prospect. The Braves signed Josh Donaldson to fill the position for one year and then Riley takes over in 2020. The 2015 first round supplemental pick hits for big time power, last year slugging 18 homeruns. His defensive tools, including a rocket arm should keep him at third. When he arrives with the Braves he should be an annual lock for 30 plus homeruns per year.

Cristian Pache is their best fielding centerfielder. The Braves don’t have an immediate need for that position with Ronald Acuna and Ender Inciarte playing with the big club now. Pache has gold glove potential. The bat is a little light, lacking in power but his speed could make him effective as a second lead off bat in the nine spot. Improving his patience at the plate (20/97) would enhance his ambitions to become a major league player. He will start his season in AA and is an injury away from contributing to the Braves.

Drew Waters, the Braves second round 2017 pick has a little more bat but is not as strong defensively in the outfield. The speed is there to play center but it pales when compared to Pache. His arm is strong enough to play right. His bat has some pop to it and with his speed there is the potential to be a 20/20 player. Like Pache, Waters needs to improve his patience at the plate (29/105). Drew will start the 2019 season in High A with a quick promotion to AA if he has continued success.

Alex Jackson was a first round pick of the Mariners. They moved him to the outfield from catching where he failed to hit. The Mariners traded him to the Braves where they returned him to catching. His bat seemed to find some life going back to his old position. Last year he again struggled with the bat, his average barely squeezing above .200. Defensively he has a strong arm, but his other tools need a lot of work. Preventing balls from greeting the back stop is the biggest concern. Last year he played in AAA so he is an injury away from the major leagues.

The Braves catcher of the future is probably William Contreras. He is the younger brother of Wilson. Like his younger brother, he has a strong bat with the potential for power. His defense is also above average with a strong arm to slay baserunners. He is still a couple years away from appearing in the Braves lineup.

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