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
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
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
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.