2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – On the Outside

2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – On the Outside

The switch over to 2018 means one thing to all baseball fans – the season feels so much closer now. And while there is a good month-and-a-half before even spring training gets going, baseball and spring seem right around the corner again. And regardless of your expectations for the 2018 season, more baseball in our lives is a good thing.

As we count down the weeks until spring training opens, our little blog is going to come at ya with some Top 50 Prospect articles leading us right up until the day pitchers and catchers report. With each week, we are going to get closer-and-closer to #1 and while, spoiler alert, it won’t surprise you who takes the top spot, I’m sure some of you will disagree with the placement of certain prospects along the way.

Certainly, the punishments from Major League Baseball in November hurt this organization’s depth. That said, the Top 50 remains robust and full of tremendous prospects. Today, we are going to go over a favorite prospect who just missed the top 50. Guys who caught our eye, but maybe not our vote. Consider this the coming attractions before the movie. By the time revisit out Top 50 once midseason hits, these guys could be climbing up the charts.

Tommy’s Guy – Bradley Keller@keller_bradley
Bradley Keller | Jeff Morris – @JeffMorrisAB

Three years and a .219/.275/.367 slash? What the hell do you see in this guy, Tommy?

Glad you asked. When Keller was picked out of Crest High School in Shelby, North Carolina, he was a raw player. Much like recent draft choices like Justin Ellison, the Braves were drafting on tools and hoping to find some lightning in a bottle. Atlanta has an affinity with toolsy outfielders that has lasted several scouting directors. It doesn’t always result in a prospect, let alone a star, but sometimes – occasionally – you find a good one.

Keller might not be that. He didn’t make our Top 50. But he showed some skills last year as a 20-year-old in Danville that give me hope. The former 15th-rounder was hitting .306/.360/.597 over 33 games. Now, that did include a .395 BABIP which would have regressed if he remained with Danville to continue the season, but I felt things were clicking for him just by watching him. He was recognizing the strike zone better, letting his bat slash through the strike zone with bad intentions, and showing some good understanding of what he wanted to do.

And then, he went to Rome and everything kind of…bleh.

Keller isn’t a Top 50 prospect, but he could be. It’ll come down to what he does this year. The potential is still there. He has good power, but a swing that needs tweaks. The hit tool could be a plus, but that depends on how quickly he can get the bat through the zone and plate recognition. He improved on the latter some before heading to Rome but will need big-time improvement to really improve his chances. Keller’s not quick, but he is fast enough to charge around the bases or make plays in the outfield.

Though he’s probably never going to be a big prospect, Keller could carve out a nice niche as a second-division starter/fourth outfielder if he makes the improvements he needs to in order to advance. The great thing about toolsy types like Keller – and the reason the Braves keep drafting them – is that you never know when if and when the light switch will turn on and they go from potential to production. Could this be Keller’s year? Let’s just say I wouldn’t be too shocked if it was.

Ryan’s Guy – Philip Pfeifer – @pfeifdawg22

Maybe it’s the name. Maybe it’s the obsession with lefties that could turn into the next Jonny Venters or Eric O’Flaherty, but I love me some Flingin’ Phil Pfeifer!

With a fastball that tops out 95 and 2 good complimentary pitches in a curve and change, he really mows ‘em down with a MILB career K/9 of 11.5. He’s still walking way too many but if he can harness a bit more control in AAA this year, he’ll challenge the other stud lefties for a spot. One thing that really stuck out to me regarding Pfeifer is how quick he is to the plate which likely aids in his K-rate. In my opinion, this is a big year for Phil and I look forward to seeing him get a chance in Atlanta very soon.

One other aspect that I hold close to my heart when it comes to Pfeifer was his ability to overcome alcohol and drug abuse and continue living his dream. As a person who has many family members that have battled addiction including a brother that’s an outspoken former addict who helps addicts in our hometown, I’ll always root for these types of stories. So, whaddya say, Phil? Let’s make a believer out of Braves country.

Stephen’s Guy – Dilmer Mejia@Dilmer35
Dilmer Mejia | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB

I’ve talked about this plenty before so some of you guys know it but, for me, there’s kind of a holy trinity of attributes I look for in SP prospects:

  • Are you missing bats?
  • Are you throwing strikes?
  • Are you getting opposite-handed hitters out?

The reason I really like Dilmer Mejia (he was on my personal Top 50 but didn’t make the composite) is because, at a young age, he’s shown an ability to do all 3. Most guys his age are all stuff and no command. They can throw hard but only have an educated guess where it’s going. Mejia is an exception. He shows elite command of the baseball early in his career (4.7% BB rate) and it’s not coming at the expense of too much contact (24% K rate). It sounds simple but being able to strike guys out and not walk them is a huge deal and not something you see a lot of in Rookie ball. The 5.20 K/BB ratio he put up last year is phenomenal and the production didn’t drop off at all when facing opposite-handed hitters.

My hope is Mejia gets a run at full-season ball next year and begins getting some of the fanfare and hype his performance deserves. He’s a small dude at 5-11 160 lbs so durability is going to be questioned until he shows it isn’t but early in his career, he’s showing a profile that’s probably a little under appreciated. We’ll see if he can keep it up.

Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow as the first ten prospects of our Top 50 are revealed.

10 Comments

Braxton Davidson is one ‘prospect’ (hard to come him a prospect because his MILB numbers SUCK so far) who was drafted because of his power potential. While it hasnt yet translated at the plate in any year so far (his career his in homers is 10, which he’s done twice)….dude does walk a decent number of times (he’s averaged 72 walks a year over the past three years). However unless the power picks up significantly…it’s going to be hard for The Braves to keep a player around who averages 158 strikeouts the past three seasons.

If Braxton can find a way to harness his power into games….he’d definitely be able to push himself into The Braves Top 50. What do you guys think about him and his ‘potential’?

Tommy….I’m surprised he made it into The Braves Top 50! He has looked AWFUL the 1st few years of his career in The Minors!

10 homers as his career high (he’s getting close to 500 at-bats a year)? I can only hope that he is one of those ‘late bloomers/takes time to translate batting practice power into real game power’ type prospects!

He wouldn’t have made it without the prospect losses. Yeah, tough to be high on him anymore, but the ceiling – that’s significantly lower – is still high enough to be a borderline Top 50 Prospect.

He has the one ‘potential tool’ (power) that we lack in our system (other than Acuna and Riley….however both have other tools while Braxton’s only ‘projectable tool’ is power).

If he was hitting 30 homers a year while striking out 150 times..then I would have ‘some hope’ for him. However, 10 freaking homers as his career high? That’s pathetic (especially in the lower Minors)!

If he wasnt a former 1st round pick, I cant imagine he’d still be in The Braves System. Last year he hit 10 homers with 35 RBIs….while striking out 155 times and only batting .213 in over 400 plate appearances (66 walks with 362 official at-bats). A .651 OPS at High Class A….aint cutting it…especially when he’s not a defensive whiz nor a speedster on the bases.

If Braxton doesnt show improvement in 2018, I cant imagine that The Braves would still keep him.

Where do you think Braves Management assigns him to open The 2018 Season?

He’s probably going to be moved to first base, which will be good for playing time purposes since first base is pretty empty in the organization. Can’t imagine he will be pushed up a level considering his 2017 numbers so I expect him back at Florida. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he’s outright released. He’s still only 21 years-old, but if he does move to first base, he’ll have Carlos Castro in front of him and Austin Bush behind him (with Drew Lugbauer likely in the mix). He’s gotta perform this season and if he scuffles in spring training, he might not even make it to opening day.

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