Spring Training is just around the corner so it’s a good time to revisit the top prospects list here at Walkoffwalk.net. Some new changes for this year include an expansion of the list from a Top 30 to a Top 50. Also, the top 5 prospects will be revealed in February at my other blog, AtlantaBraves.About.com. In the meantime, let’s look at the bottom of the list.
A couple of notes. My list does not include Derian Cruz or Christian Pache, the top prospects from last year’s international class. Other blogs will include them, but unless the player has actually suited up, they don’t make my list. If they did, Cruz would have been in the #10-#20 range with Pache likely in the Top 25 as well. Further, Hector Olivera and Dian Toscano are also not on my list. Even if they were young enough, so many years spent in Cuba’s premier league would have kept them off. Finally, I am not a scout so take my rankings and grading system with the largest grain of salt. I believe in them, but acknowledge that other experts could disagree.
Players just missing my Top 50 – Pitchers Brandon Barker, Matt Custred, Steve Janas, Wes Parsons, Jorge Zavala, catcher Willians Astudillo, and infielders Anthony Concepcion, Carlos Franco, and Omar Obregon.
50. OF Leudys Baez
49. LHP Kyle Kinman
48. LHP Brady Feigl
47. C Tanner Murphy
46. 3B Jordan Edgerton
45. 2B Luke Dykstra
44. OF Stephen Gaylor
43. C Jonathan Morales
42. RHP Chad Sobotka
41. RHP Caleb Beech
40. OF Joseph Daris
39. LHP Matt Marksberry
38. OF Keith Curcio
37. LHP Dilmer Mejia
36. RHP Ryan Clark
Some observations:…there is still some interesting talent near the bottom of my list….Sobotka has some believers, but I’ve soured on him. Could be a riser by midseason….Still like Mejia’s future; just looking for a bounceback effort….Morales the most interesting bat from this collection for me….lot of left-hand relievers who have a good chance to see action for the Braves this year.
35. Jason Hursh, RHP, Grade: C
– The “safe” drafting of college arms produced Mike Minor, Sean Gilmartin, and Hursh out of first round picks. I don’t hate on Frank Wren like others, but that’s damning. Hursh had to be disappointed with a return to Mississippi, but his results were awful. A late season move to the pen produced a promotion, but sinkerball pitchers who lack pinpoint control, nor the ability to strikeout batters rarely make for good relievers. If he has a good spring, hopefully the Braves trade him.
34. Ronald Acuna, OF, Grade: C
– The Braves thought so much of Acuna’s maturity to let him begin his professional career in the Gulf Coast League as a 17 year-old. He rewarded their faith and they gave him three-to-four weeks in Danville to end the year. A triple slash of .269/.380/.438 from a player who logged one plate appearance all year against a pitcher younger than him? Wow. It’s going to be interesting to see if Atlanta remains aggressive with Acuna into 2016 with a Rome assignment or if they let him start later with Danville. Either way, he’s got x-factor potential if he can continue to progress and stay in center field, where he played all but six games last year.
33. Ricardo Rodriguez, C, Grade: C
– Picked up in the Christian Bethancourt trade, Rodriguez just turned 18 a month ago. He’s raw at the plate, but has high potential as an excellent backstop with power. Baseball America named him the 21st best prospect in the 2014 international signing period so there is some higher ceiling for his game than others. Also have to love that he’s already made his debut in the states, even if it was just two games with in the Arizona Summer League. Likely ticketed for a prime role with one of the rookie teams in 2016, Rodriguez will be brought along slowly.
32. Connor Lien, OF, Grade: C
– I feel I’m late to the Lien fanclub. The nearly 22 year-old will be entering his fifth season after an eye-opening 2015. His numbers were improvements across the board and his defense drew great praise. He’s plenty capable of playing a major-league quality center field and has some pop in his bat. I’d like to see him cut down his strikeouts and take more walks, though. His stolen base total saw a big climb from 16-to-34, but he was caught 12 times. Outfield is going to be a tough place to break through in Atlanta with long-term assets like Hector Olivera, Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, and Mallex Smith in the way. A continued boost to his OPS for the fourth straight season would help Lien.
31. Isranel Wilson, OF, Grade: C
– The new scouting-and-development team took over last winter and have already added a lot of talent to the system. One of those players was Wilson, who was signed late in the 2014-15 signing period. Another aggressive push by the Braves, the 17 year-old skipped the Dominican Summer League and OPS’d .828 with the GCL Braves. He belted ten homeruns as well, giving the organization one of their few exciting power threats. There are problems, of course. His average of .222 looks bad, though he walked at an excellent rate. You’d like to see the strikeouts come down, too, but if the power is real, that’s something you can deal with. Likely set for a Danville assignment, Wilson could join Acuna in Rome if both continued to be aggressively pushed.
|Winkler (Joe Skipper/Getty)|
30. Daniel Winkler, RHP, Grade: C
– In Winkler, the Braves have a lottery ticket. Now, the prize isn’t Powerball level, but it’s a nice scratcher. You can get a guy who could rack up strikeouts with good control. On the other hand, you might have nothing. Winkler, a Rule 5 pick last year, has an advantage on other Rule 5 picks in that he has had entire year with his organization, despite pitching just 1.2 innings in 2015 before a seven game run in the Arizona Fall League. That was a result of Tommy John surgery that ended his 2014 prematurely. To keep Winkler, the Braves will still have to roster him for most of the first couple of months of 2016 so he’s still going to have to show something. The good thing is that at his best, he was damn good (1.41 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4.2 K/BB with Tulsa before the injury). He’ll probably get an extended look to make the team and while he has plenty of starting experience, the best bet is that Winkler has a foot in to make the roster as a bullpen player.
|Weber (S. Cunningham/Getty)|
29. Ryan Weber, RHP, Grade: C
– Raise your hand if you knew Ryan Weber would make his major league debut in 2015. You’re a liar if your arm moved at all. Weber had been an A-ball fixture for four years before finally having one ugly year with Mississippi in 2014. Then…magic happened. He continued to bounce back-and-forth between the rotation and bullpen, but over nearly 100 minor league innings, he walked a scant ten batters. I hate to Greg Maddux any poor young pitcher because God knows Kris Medlen heard the comparison enough, but nothing says Madduxian more than a 0.9 BB/9. By the end of the year, he became starter #10 to get his shot with the Braves. He had one really bad game, but was pretty good otherwise and gave the team at least six innings in 4-of-5 starts, including a 7-inning, 1-R, 10-K outing on October 1 against the Nats. His xFIP (3.42) and SIERA (3.29) make me want to be a believer (or beweber?), but his 109 cFIP makes me skeptical. Plus, his 66% GB% rate will likely decline to a degree. I like him from a plucky underdog standpoint, but I have my concerns.
28. Johan Camargo, SS, Grade: C
– I was surprised that Baseball Prospectus, when they did the Top 10 list for the Braves, mentioned five interesting players including Camargo since talents that missed their Top 10 include Braxton Davidson, Tyrell Jenkins, Chris Ellis, and Juan Yepez. Camargo is a fun prospect, don’t get me wrong. While he lacks some of the instincts at this point to play a smooth shortstop, he has a plus arm. A switch-hitter who has often played young for his level, Camargo has held his own and shows some plate discipline. There’s potential here to be a utility bench player with a chance to be a second-division starter. I just want to see more offense first.
27. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP, Grade: C
– In a system with some great pitching prospects, few match Cabrera’s high-end combination of stuff and velocity. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always know where it’s going. He has a closer-worthy fastball and slider combination that could easily bring him to the majors in a hurry if only he can handle them. Until then, we’ll simply be in awe over the triple-digit velocity and the isolated moments where he seems to put it all together only to fall apart the next outing.
26. Lucas Herbert, C, Grade: C
– His selection was one of the most interesting picks of the 2015 draft. Kolby Allard‘s battery mate at San Clemente High School, many thought he was drafted at least somewhat for that reason. That’s a bit unfair as Herbert, who was drafted #54th overall, was tabbed as the #52nd overall prospect entering the draft by Baseball America. He signed well before his more famous teammate and was ready to be the primary catcher for the GCL Braves before meniscus tear ended his season after just three games. He returned for the fall instructional league and will be on target for a bigger role in 2016. He’s already a superb defensive catcher, but will he hit? He’s expected to have power, but he has a bit of an odd swing where he doesn’t really utilize his lower torso. But if he hits, he’ll be a Top 10 prospect within a year or two – even in this system.
I’m actually a couple of days late with this so I hope to get the next issue with prospects #16-#25 on Thursday. Thanks for reading and remember to share in your Braves facebook groups and on Twitter!