by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

After spending time rebuilding their farm system the Atlanta Braves are ready to now go in the opposite direction.  They are now looking to go for it, seeing an opportunity, utilizing their young talent both on the field and as a way to improve their Major League roster.  Having developed one of the better systems in the league, flush with pitching prospects, let’s take a look at who are the best options:

 

1) Ian Anderson – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019

Anderson, selected third overall in 2016, spent the bulk of his time at High-A last season (100.0 IP) but also made four starts at Double-A (19.1 IP) and impressed across the way with a 2.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  He clearly has strikeout stuff, with a 13.3% SwStr% leading to a 10.71 K/9.  The questions are about his control (3.70 BB/9) and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (46.0% groundball rate).  Both of those things are going to be key as he continues to advance up the ladder, though he’s thus far developed as expected since being drafted out of high school.

There’s still a bit of question, with the control being the biggest, but he won’t turn 21-years old until May and is still developing/harnessing his stuff.  That’s expected to come and this season could be the real tipping point.  If he turns that corner, with how aggressive Atlanta has been with their pitching prospects, he should arrive in 2019.

 

2) Kyle Wright – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – Already Arrived

Selected fifth overall in 2017 Wright has moved quickly, including pitching out of the Atlanta bullpen in September.  It certainly was a justified rise, as he pitched well at both Double-A (109.1 IP) and Triple-A (28.2 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 8.67 K/9
  • Control – 3.33 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 53.7%

The control hasn’t been great thus far, though that has always been viewed as a positive.  There’s also upside in his strikeout rate, with an 11.8% SwStr% and reports that he owns a quality four-pitch mix.  It will be interesting to see how hard Atlanta pushes him, but he should be able to throw around 175 innings this year and could open with a spot in the Atlanta rotation.

 

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3) Touki Toussaint – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived

Toussaint showed the ability to generate strikeouts at each level he played last season, including a cup of coffee in the Majors:

  • Double-A (86.0 IP) – 11.20 K/9
  • Triple-A (50.1 IP) – 10.01 K/9
  • Majors (29.0 IP) – 9.93 K/9

With a 12.3% SwStr% in the minors there should never have been a question in that regard.  The issue has been whether or not he could harness that stuff and improve his ability to throw strikes.  While a 3.50 BB/9 in the minor leagues isn’t going to blow you away, it’s a positive step (3.97 BB/9 in ’17) and shows his development.  Even if he simply maintains his current rate the stuff will play well in the Majors, but any further improvement would elevate him even further.

 

4) Michael Soroka – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived

Soroka saw his season end in June due to a shoulder injury and never returned, and that it a serious concern that has to have an impact on his grade/ranking.  That said, before the injury he was showing just how good he could be as he forced Atlanta’s hand and arrived in the Majors as a 20-year old.  Not only that he was pitching well over his 25.2 innings, with 21 K, 7 BB and a 44.0% groundball rate.  Those are solid numbers, and right along the lines of what he produced at Double-A in ’17 (153.2 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 7.32 K/9
  • Control – 1.99 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 46.2%

There is more upside in his strikeout rate, including a 10.6% SwStr% in ’17, and his control has always appeared to be elite.  His health and whether or not he can fully tap into his strikeout upside, though, keep his ranking suppressed for the time being.

 

5) Christian Pache – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2020

There’s a question to what happened to the stolen bases, as he went from 32 SB at Single-A in 2017 to 7 SB between High-A (387 PA) and Double-A (109 PA) in 2018.  Of course we also have to remember that he played the year at 19-years old so we will have to give him time to develop/learn how to best utilize his speed.  As that happens he should be a difference maker on the base paths, with the ability to routinely swipe 30+ bases (and even flash 40+).

He did show a little bit of pop, with 23 doubles, 6 triples and 9 HR last season.  You extrapolate that out, along with a little bit of development, and you get a potential top of the order threat who delivers 10+ HR and finish in the Top 10 in stolen bases (think 12/30).  The big question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, especially after the strikeout rate jumped to 25.7% after his promotion to Double-A and he owned a 12.6% SwStr% overall.  Again taking into account his age and the competition level we can give him a slight pass.  He needs to show signs this season, but if he develops his approach the upside is there to blowup into a B+/A- prospect this season.

 

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The Next Five:

6) Drew Waters – Outfielder (Grade – B)
A 2017 second round selection, Waters exploded at Single-A (his first full season of professional baseball) hitting .303 with 9 HR and 20 stolen bases over 365 PA.  There’s no questioning the speed, with the potential to swipe 20+ bases per season.  He also showed ample power potential, adding 32 doubles and 6 triples prior to his promotion and finishing the year (he played 30 games at High-A) with 39 doubles, 9 triples and 9 HR.  He needs to continue to develop his approach (12.4% SwStr%), but he has the ability to develop into at least a 20/20 player (and it’s not impossible that he reaches 25/25 or more).  He hasn’t fully emerged as of yet, but the potential is there to develop into a B+ type prospect.

7) Bryse Wilson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
After generally flying under-the-radar Wilson reached the Majors last season (7.0 IP) after pitching across three levels of the minors and posting a 10.24 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 and 46.8% groundball rate.  While he had shown impressive groundball stuff in the lower minors, seeing it regress to 44.0% at Double-A (77.0 IP) and 44.6% at Triple-A (22.0 IP) is a bit of a concern.  His control also wavered enough at Double-A (3.04 BB/9) that if he can’t rediscover his groundball stuff the results may not be there.

8) Austin Riley – Third Baseman (Grade – B-)
The days of viewing Riley as the next third baseman for Atlanta may have come and gone, as the team clearly has questions about his upside after they signed Josh Donaldson this offseason.  While he split time between Double and Triple-A in 2018, with a 29.3% strikeout rate over 324 PA at the highest level is definitely a scary number (as is his 14.4% SwStr% overall).  There is power there, but he’s yet to fully realize it (12 HR at Triple-A, 19 HR over 408 AB overall).  If he can tap into that the outlook will change, but for now his value is limited.

9) William Contreras – Catcher (Grade – B-)
The brother of the Cubs’ Willson Contreras, William hit .285 with 11 HR over 390 AB last season as he played at Single-A (307 AB) and Double-A (83 AB).  A 13.4% SwStr% is obviously a concern, though he played the season at 20-years old and needs time to develop.  There’s obviously upside in his power (he added 24 doubles and 1 triple) and reports have him owning a solid eye (8.1% walk rate last season).  He has the upside of a solid starting catcher, and one that should provide power while maintaining at least a decent average.

10) Luiz Gohara – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
Gohara has pitched in the Majors each of the past two seasons, showing strikeouts (9.00 K/9) and control (2.94 BB/9) over 49.0 IP.  There’s no questioning the pure stuff, but there’s concerns about his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (39.1% groundball rate in the minors last season) as well as his conditioning (he’s currently listed at 6’3” and 265 lbs).  It’s possible he ultimately transitions to the bullpen, especially given the depth of the system, but for now Atlanta will continue to try him as a starter.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists:

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