by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We finally got some clarity on the situation in Atlanta, and the penalty was steep. Not only did it cost some people their jobs, as well as a future in the game, there were forfeited draft picks, limitations on their future international spending and most importantly a loss of prospects. The biggest name set free was Kevin Maitin, who had been our #3 ranked prospect for the team, but all told there were 12 players declared free agents. Obviously it hurts the depth of the system, but lucky for Atlanta they had built up quite a stockpile of talent.
Let’s take a look at how our rankings now stand:
1) Ronald Acuna – Outfielder
Grade – A
ETA – 2018
It was a meteoric rise for Acuna, as he nearly forced a promotion to the Majors as a 19-year old. Playing across three levels of the minors he thrived at each one:
- High-A – .287 (33-115), 3 HR, 19 RBI, 21 R, 14 SB
- Double-A – .326 (72-221), 9 HR, 30 RBI, 29 R, 19 SB
- Triple-A – .344 (76-221), 9 HR, 33 RBI, 38 R, 11 SB
Couple the 21 HR with 31 doubles and 8 triples, and it’s clear that the power is there and likely to continue growing. He also improved his strikeout rate as he advanced, something that may be far more impressive considering his age and level he ended at (31.7% to 23.0% to 19.8%). There are some concerns that the strikeout rate regresses (12.8% SwStr% at Triple-A, 12.3% overall in the minors), but that’s splitting hairs.
Acuna is among the elite prospect in the game, bringing both power and speed to the table. While he didn’t get his opportunity in ’17, there’s little doubt that it’ll come in ’18 (and it wouldn’t be completely shocking if he won a job on Opening Day).
2) Koby Allard – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2018
The 2015 first round pick spent the entire season at Double-A, posting a 3.18 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 150.0 IP. His strikeout was unimpressive, with a 7.74 K/9, though he did show solid control (2.70 BB/9) and enough groundballs (41.6%). If you look at his 9.0% SwStr% you would think that upside isn’t there, but he was significantly better in the second half:
- First Half – 57 K over 73.2 IP
- Second Half – 72 K over 76.1 IP
There is no questioning his upside, especially as a southpaw that brings both strikeouts and control. He has a curveball that many consider among the best in the minors, and considering the impressive group of young arms Atlanta has assembled it speaks volumes that he sits atop the list.
3) Mike Soroka – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
The 2015 first round pick (28th overall) spent the year at Double-A, putting up an impressive 2.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Considering his size (6’5”), his 1.99 BB/9 is a highly impressive mark. He also has more upside in the strikeout department, when you consider a 7.32 K/9 and 10.6% SwStr%. He may not be elite in that regard, but with his ability to stay in the strike zone and generate groundballs (46.2%) there’s an awful lot to like. You could argue that he’s the top pitching prospect in the system, though the strikeout rate and fact that he’s right-handed (compared to the southpaw Allard) put him at #2. Considering the state of the system, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
4) Luiz Gohara – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
As he was developing in Seattle’s system Gohara was sometimes compared to the Dodgers’ Julio Urias, in regards to a teenage left-hander potentially emerging. Gohara did take a step back at one point, but he returned to prominence in ’17 as he split time across three levels of the minors and accumulated a 2.62 ERA, courtesy of a 10.70 K/9, 3.20 BB/9 and 47.1% groundball rate. The groundballs did regress as he advanced up the ladder (0.93 GO/AO at Triple-A), and he did struggle in the Majors (0.63 GO/AO, helping to a 4.91 ERA). He needs to prove that he can translate his minor league success to the highest level, but the upside is there.
5) Kyle Wright – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
The team’s first round pick in 2017 (5th overall), he showed impressive talent upon making his professional debut. Obviously it was a small sample size (17.0 IP), but underlying numbers like this are always going to grab our attention:
- SwStr% – 16.3%
- Groundball Rate – 65.0%
He has the size team’s look for (6’4″) and the stuff to thrive at the highest level. He could move quickly, and if he wasn’t part of such a pitching rich system could conceivably arrive in 2018. You could argue that he should be ranked as high as #2 in the system, which says a lot to his talent.
The Next Five:
6) Ian Anderson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B+)
7) Joey Wentz – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
8) Bryse Wilson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
Wilson showed an impressive skill set in ’17, with a 9.13 K/9, 2.43 BB/9 and 52.1% groundball rate over 137.0 IP at Single-A as a 19-year old. With those numbers, he has the potential to emerge as one of the team’s top prospects by mid-year.
9) Austin Riley – Third Baseman (Grade – B)
10) Christian Pache – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: