by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Braves have rebuilt their system, with the focus being put on high upside arms. There’s clearly a wave coming, and the addition of multiple veterans will afford them ample time to develop and mature without the spotlight or unrealistic expectations. That said, their upside is clearly there and they aren’t alone as there are several impressive hitters filling up the system as well. The Braves could become a force in the AL East in short order, making this system an intriguing one to spotlight:
1) Dansby Swanson – Shortstop
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived
He’s moved quickly, after being traded from Arizona in the doomed Shelby Miller deal. Swanson got 145 PA in the Majors last season, as a 22-year old, hitting .302 with 3 HR and 3 SB. He showed a good command of the strike zone, including a 9.7% SwStr%, so with experience we’d expect him to improve upon his 23.4% strikeout rate.
There could be some bumps as he develops, and expecting him to be an All-Star in ’17 would be a mistake. We also shouldn’t look towards him for extreme power, though there should be a bit more upside as he develops (he totaled 32 doubles, 6 triples and 12 home runs last season). At the end of the day the potential is there for a .280/15/15 type player (and even more in time).
2) Ozzie Albies – Second Baseman
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
He’s just 20-years old (he played all of ’16 as a 19-year old), which may be the only reason he’s ranked behind Swanson. Spending time at Double and Triple-A last season Albies hit .292 with 6 HR and 30 SB, though the numbers certainly took a hit after making the jump:
- Double-A (330 AB) – .321 with 4 HR and 21 SB
- Triple-A (222 AB) – .248 with 2 HR and 9 SB
His strikeout rate was similar (15.4% to 15.8%), as it was significantly different luck that resulted in the struggles (.376 vs. .290 BABIP). The truth probably lies in the middle, which would be just fine. He’s never going to be a big source of power, though he did appear to be putting the ball in the air a bit more last season (1.29 GO/AO). That’s something to monitor, though not a major indication in either direction.
3) Kolby Allard – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, Allard impressed last season compiling 95 K and 25 BB over 87.2 IP. His groundballs dropped significantly after reaching Single-A (0.66 GO/AO over 60.1 IP), which will be something to watch as it could obviously lead to potential home run issues moving forward. Outside of that, though, what’s not to like? He owned a 9.8 K/9 vs. 2.6 BB/9, and the potential is there for a significantly higher groundball rate. In other words the potential is there to flash all three skills, and in a system flush with pitching talent his upside may be the highest.
4) Mike Soroka – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, Soroka spent the entire season at Single-A and flashed all three skills we generally look for:
- Strikeouts – 7.87 K/9
- Control – 2.01 BB/9
- Groundballs – 1.49 GO/AO
The big question is going to be if his fastball ticks up another notch or two, something that’s possible as he fills out and gains experience (he’s listed at 6’4” and 195 lbs.). At 19-years old (he won’t turn 20 until August), that would be a very reasonable expectation. If it does, the argument could be made that his upside could be even greater than Allard’s.
5) Sean Newcomb – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017
The biggest problem with Newcomb is his control, as he posted a 4.6 BB/9 in ’16 and owns a minor league career 4.7 mark. Sure he can strikeout out a significant number of batters (9.8 K/9 last season), but he has taken a step back against more advanced hitters and he could continue to regress with another promotion. It’s something worth watching, though you’d expect there to be enough (though if he can’t throw strikes it won’t matter).
6) Max Fried – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B+)
7) Ian Anderson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B+)
8) Austin Riley – Third Baseman (Grade – B/B+)
9) Kyle Muller – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B/B+)
10) Ronald Acuna – Outfielder (Grade – B)
Note – It may be viewed as aggressive to include him in the Top 10, given the depth of the system and the fact that injury limited him to 40 games last season. That said when on the field the 18-year old showed an impressive command of the strike zone (28 K vs. 18 BB over 148 AB) while also flashing power and speed (4 HR and 18 SB).
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: