2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – #50-#41

2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – #50-#41

Yesterday, we went over a few guys we rather liked who missed our Top 50. Today, we get to the really fun part – the rankings themselves. We knew that there would be a lot of Top 50 shake-ups compared to our midseason list. From that list, six players graduated, two aged out, and one – Randy Ventura – was traded. And then, the punishments from Major League Baseball came down and an additional four players were taken out of the Top 50. That’s 13 players from our list in June that won’t be on this list.

Actually, it’s 15. Two players from that list didn’t make this list even though they were eligible.

That’s a lot of movement, but that is the nature of these lists. Players rise and fall with each rankings that are done as our small cadre of experts – or smartasses – change their mind on a few players. Without much more fanfare, let’s get into how these rankings were done and the rankings themselves.

Methodology – each member of Walk-Off Walk submitted a Top 50. We then averaged the rankings together to give us a composite ranking. If a player was unranked on any one member’s submission, he was assigned a ranking of #55 for averaging purposes. Ties were broken by the highest individual rank by a member of Walk-Off Walk. In one case, a second tiebreaker that used the second highest individual rank was utilized. All rankings are displayed along with the preseason and midseason ranks from 2017. It should be noted that the 2017 preseason Top 50 was done entirely by Tommy Poe.

Also receiving votes: Dilmer Mejia, Caleb Dirks, Philip Pfeifer, Kyle Kinman, Kade Scivicque, Oriel Caicedo

50. Braxton Davidson@BraxDavidson

Braxton Davidson | Jeff Morris – JeffMorrisAB
Tommy: #50, Stephen: #42, Ryan: UR
2017 Preseason: #22, Midseason: #38

Davidson is on this list for two main reasons. One, he was a 1st round pick in 2014 and is just 21 years old. And two, there’s still some interesting aspects to his hitting profile. Davidson does three things that all, in themselves, help lead to success. He hits the ball hard, he hits in the air, and he takes walks. That is the beginning of a really good profile. But for some reason, it never actually shows up in his numbers. The sum never equal the total of the parts for him and for most people, they’re ready to move on. Even here at WOW, if you look at the last 3 list we’ve done, he’s slowly making his way towards irrelevance. He simply has to hit more. And strikeout less. I think the talent is there but eventually, production has to replace potential. (Stephen Tolbert)

49. Jacob Webb

Tommy: UR, Stephen: #45, Ryan: #47
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Jacob Webb was drafted from a small college in Kansas at 20 years old where he was a starting pitcher and considered to be the workhorse of the staff. In 2014, he was given the shot to continue being a starter in the Gulf Coast League and did very well, posting a 2.14 ERA to go with a low BB-rate and high K-rate. But Webb’s professional journey came to a screeching halt as he went down with an elbow injury the first day of spring training 2015 and, you guessed it,  Tommy John surgery. When he arrived back on the scene, it was mid-2016, and he put up some of the most bizarre stats you’ll ever see: a 4.85 ERA with a 21.5K/9. In 48 at-bats against Webb that year, he struck out 31 batters.

As we all know, when pitchers are recovering from TJS, arm strength seems to come back first and following WAY behind is control. This rung true as Webb also carried a BB-rate of 6.2/9. Now fast-forward to 2017, Webb was 2 years removed from Tommy John and had remarkable numbers between High-A and AA, and Grant McAuley reported an increase in velo, as high as 95. Webb will likely begin 2018 in Mississippi with a move to Gwinnett when the bullpen carousel starts. If he continues to find success and can lower his BB-rate a bit, he could be a bullpen candidate for late 2018. (Ryan Cothran)

–For more on Webb, check out this profile from last March.

48. Jeffrey Ramos

Tommy: #35, Stephen: UR, Ryan: UR
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

One of the few remaining players from the 2016 J2 Class, Ramos could still make it a winning class. Just 18-years-old in 2017, he advanced from GCL, where he had a .427 wOBA, to Danville last season. His numbers took a fall, but a .278/.308/.403 slash against a lot of college-aged pitchers isn’t that bad. Plate discipline could be an issue for Ramos as he’s very aggressive at the plate, but he does put a charge in the ball when he connects. Defensively, he projects mostly in left so he’s going to have to develop a bit more pop. I think he can, though. He’ll likely be one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League when the 2018 season opens. (Tommy Poe)

47. Leudys Baez

Leudys Baez | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB
Tommy: #34, Stephen: UR, Ryan: UR
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Knee injuries delayed him. His own performance delayed him. But now, it might be time to really see what Baez can do. He started slow last summer for Danville, but after 25 games, he was hitting .340/.415/.585 and showing some glimpses of the player that the Braves always believed was there. He finished up the year with a .330 wOBA over 31 games with Rome, which is probably where he’ll start 2018. Baez has always had the potential as a switch-hitting corner outfielder with pop. Injuries have sapped him of some of his quickness, but he’s still got enough speed to cover right field with a good arm. The Braves have time to be patient with Baez, but it would be great to see him figure things out over a full season. (Poe)

–For more on Baez, check out this profile and scouting report from last summer.

46. Dylan Moore@d_moore22

Tommy: #46, Stephen: #47, Ryan: #50
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Dylan Moore was drafted in the 7th round by the Texas Rangers at the age of 22. In his last year at the collegiate level, Moore dominated at the University of Central Florida (who was no slouch that year ranking as high as 6th in the nation in 2015) compiling a .333 batting average, 80 hits, 45 RBI to go with a .542 slugging percentage, 14 doubles, 3 triples, and 10 home runs.  Upon being drafted, he continued his success in Low-A seeing time all around the infield. In 2016, he did the same at Texas’s High-A and AA affiliates, posting an OPS right below .800. Then late August,  Moore was traded to the Braves in a deal that sent Jeff Francoeur to the Marlins and international slot money to the Rangers. In the 10 games with the Braves organization, Moore put up great numbers (.872 OPS) and still showed the plug-n-play defensive versatility that’s become so valuable in today’s game. He carried that success over to the Arizona Fall League and everything was peaches and cream for Moore going into the 2017 season.

But 2017 was not very kind. Actually, it was bloody awful. He still showed that defensive versatility, playing all over the infield, but put up a .584 OPS. There’s expected dropoff in production when advancing in the minors, but not .240 points in OPS. There is a silver lining in Moore’s stats and that is from July on, Moore put up a .730 OPS. Many offensive numbers come to die at Pearl, Mississippi and Moore’s was no exception, however, I’m not ready to give up on him. Remember, when these guys struggle for the first time in the minors, it’s likely their first time in life they’ve struggled in athletics, and that can get a guy downtrodden, so in essence, I’m giving Moore a pass. If he can bounce back at the AAA level and mirror his performance from his first 2 professional years, I could see him having a good career as a super-utility type. (Cothran)

45. Braulio Vasquez

Tommy: #38, Stephen: #49, Ryan: UR
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Braulio is one my favorite under-the-radar guys in the system. He came up a shortstop so there are some defensive chops but since has added some serious muscle to his frame and moved over to 3B. He had a double-digit BB rate in 2017 so he has an idea at the plate but the power is going to be the last thing to come for him so it’s logically the thing to monitor. One solution would be getting the ball off the ground more as his 55% ground ball rate last year was way too high. I’m guessing Braulio starts with Danville in 2018 and if he can start driving the ball more, he’s going to start shooting up this list. (Tolbert)

44. Jared James@JaredDJames

Tommy: #47, Stephen: #46, Ryan: #49
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

What does hitting .302/.380/.500 over just 27 games in Rome get you? A promotion all the way to Double-A. Less than a year after being a late round pick, James opened last spring with Mississippi and held his own to the tune of .279/.352/.415 and a .351 wOBA over 383 PA. He missed some time, but that’s still impressive in his first full season as a professional. James has never been a big prospect. Colleges didn’t recruit him and he landed at a DII school. 33 rounds of the 2016 draft transpired with nobody calling his name. Even now, we don’t rank him highly among other outfielders. James will be a guy who has to prove himself with every level. So far, so good. (Poe)

43. Tyler Neslony@Tyler_Neslony7

Tommy: #43, Stephen: #41, Ryan: #48
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: #46

I’ve liked Tyler Neslony since the moment I saw him in Rome. I think the kid can rake. The question is – Can he rake against advanced pitching? Furthermore, can he improve his defense?

Once Neslony advanced to double-A Mississippi last year, he didn’t look great. In 43 games at Gwinnett, he slashed .194/.289/.243. This was after he tore the cover off the ball at advanced-A.

So far during the winter league in Australia (which is actually summer), Neslony is slashing a respectable .286/.381/.486. He’s looking good, and he’s even making some solid defensive plays. But, how good is the Australian Baseball League? Is it comparable to advanced-A ball? Or is it tougher than that? Former Brave Jair Jurrjens is currently sporting a solid 3.35 ERA in the Land Down Under. If that’s any sort of baseline, the ABL might not be that good. Or, Jurrjens is back.

Neslony will be 24-years-old once the 2018 season rolls around. So, I think he has only one year to prove himself. That’s just the cold hard truth. Will he be the Nick Swisher 2.0 like I’ve been expecting him to be? Or will he be selling insurance in three years? I think we’ll find out this year. (Josh Brown. You can find Josh Brown on Twitter @santaniobrown and at Knockahoma Nation.)

42. Adam McCreery@ADAMmcCreery51

Tommy: #49, Stephen: #40, Ryan: #42
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

McCreery is a massive LH relief prospect, 6-8/195 lbs,  who’s made his chops in pro ball by striking out an obscene percentage of hitters faced. Last year in Rome, he stuck out a ridiculous 34% of the batters he faced which earned him a promotion to the Fire Frogs. There he proceeded to strike out 31% of opposing hitters and certainly opened some eyes in the org. We know the new regime thinks highly of him because they made the somewhat surprising move of adding him to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft in December. The big hurdle for McCreery is he doesn’t always know exactly where he’s throwing the ball when it leaves his hand. His walk rates alone are enough to keep from ever sniffing a major league bullpen so improving command is the name of the game for him. Still, with that frame, and those strikeouts, it’s easy to see the potential. But he’s 25 now, and he’s reaching sink or swim time with his control. He needs to take that big step. (Tolbert)

41. Ray-Patrick Didder

Tommy: #42, Stephen: #43, Ryan: #40
2017 Preseason: #31, Midseason: #39

When someone sees RP Diddy play live, the first thing they notice is his athleticism. He has the ability to play all over the field and play it better than most.  It was less than a year ago that he was deemed the best defensive outfielder in the Braves organization by Fangraphs and now he’s adding positional flexibility to his arsenal. The one infinite chasm in Didder’s game is the lack of power… there’s no way around it. He has to add some. His average took a hit in 2017 which lowered a great OBP into a merely average OBP. From there, since there’s no slugging to speak of, the OPS looks unplayable. If Didder can put on some muscle, get his SLG% into the .400s, all the other skills that have been present since the day he started his professional career will look mighty nice. Like Moore, RP Diddy gets a pass from me for his poor 2017 as I think there’s more to him than a fizzling prospect. (Cothran)

2018 Preseason Top 50 Prospects
On the Outside

15 Comments

What has happened to reliever Matt Custred? I read that The Braves released him DESPITE dude pitching 38 2/3rd innings in Rome in 2017….only giving up 19 hits, 1.16 ERA, with 15 walks and 48 strikeouts!

Sure, he’s 24 years old..however with those numbers why not see what he can do in Double A to start 2018? I dont understand just releasing him.

Re: Custred – It’s a confusing release, definitely. Reminds me of the Steve Janas release last spring. Highly productive player, but randomly gets cut out of nowhere.

The fact that Custred hasnt been signed by another team….suggests that more is at play here (like maybe he wanted to retire, for some reason).

While 24 is an age that you’d like to see ‘prospects’ at least at Triple A/knocking on the MLB door….I find it hard to fathom that The Braves wouldnt at least try him at Double A (with a plan to promote him to Triple A midway through the 2018 Season) before releasing him. Doesnt make much sense.

I was looking at Custred (along with Clouse and Watts) as possible future relief prospects for The Braves. Some ‘look’, lol!

I’m surprised Braxton Davidson isn’t a bit higher. I realize how he might’ve lost his shine to some- but I feel as if the power potential still has to pull him ahead of a guy like Ramos.

King….Davidson has a career high of 10 homers….with High Class A being the highest level he’s played in. 10 homers AINT SHIT dude..especially when you’re striking out over 150 times a year!

This will probably be Davidson’s make or break year. He’ll probably start at Double A with Riley….and see what happens to him. I’m surprised that he’s in The Top 50!

Paul, I can’t argue the stats… but I can argue that we’re still talking about a guy who some claimed had the best bat in his draft class coming out, with enormous power potential. To me the potential alone still puts him somewhere in the mid 40s, even if the stats aren’t there. Yes there are flaws in his game, but maybe he’s just ends up being a bit of a late bloomer, similar to Gattis?

King…it isnt that I ‘want’ Davidson to be a bust, lol! I’ve been following him (along with a number of our best prospects) the past couple of years, checking out his stats on a daily basis/reading up on each game recap on The TalkingChop Site (while I have issues with a couple of their writers/as well as a number of their egotistical regular posters who get all ADD-ish on you if you post something that is longer than 144 characters….I do appreciate the time/effort that they put into posting the daily recaps/break down the stats from each MILB game).

Davidson’s ‘routine’ is to basically SUCK for 10 games (or so) with terrible stats (going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and 1 walk)….then have one game where he’s 4-5 with 1 homer/2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 RBIs….then go back to the same SUCKY Stretch before having one monster game sprinkled in between SUCKY Stretches.

I know, I’m kind of exaggerating here a bit…but the disappointing thing here is that a kid with his kind of power, should have a FAR HIGHER career high of homers in a season..than 10. Striking out 150 times a season..would not be so bad IF he was jacking 30-plus homers a year. But 10?

Travis Demeritte, until 2017, had great power numbers to go along with his high strikeout numbers. The hope with TD…was that he would be able to lower his strikeout numbers over time….while keeping up the power numbers. 2017 turned out to be a big disappointment with TD in that regard. The strikeouts for TD went from 175 in 2016 to 134 in 2017 (a good thing). However the homers went from 28 to 15, doubles from 29 to 21, triples from 9 to 6, RBIs from 70 to 45…even his walks dropped from 67 to 49 (while basically having the same number of at-bats, 455 in 2016/458 in 2017).

Still TD’s struggles look MVP-ish..when compared to Davidson’s numbers. 2017 was Davidson’s WORST season by far (.213 average with 7 homers, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 36 RBIs, 66 walks with 155 strikeouts in 362 at-bats for an OPS of .651). Ugly numbers. The past three years…he’s hit 27 homers COMBINED…in total of 1,191 at bats over 363 games. 27 homers with 474 strikeouts during that span..simply IS NOT going to cut it.

Again, it isnt like I dont want to kid to succeed. It’s just hard to invest anything emotionally/have any expectations/harbor any realistic hope regarding Davidson…with numbers like those! Right now..it doesnt look like Davidson is ‘blocking anyone/taking playing time away from a legit prospect’. It looks like Davidson will open 2018 in Double A Mississippi (not exactly a ‘haven’ for home run hitting outfielders, lol).

I’ll be HELLA surprised if Davidson does anything at Mississippi in 2018. I hope he proves me wrong. However, I challenge anyone to show me a legit MLB player who put up the kind of numbers Davidson has put up the past 3 seasons in MILB…who went on to ‘get it together’ and have any kind of career in MLB!

Paul, I totally get you’re arguing based on stats, and aren’t hoping for the guy to be a bust. I’m sure we all want all fifty of these guys to turn into all-stars, unless someone maybe met a player in a Wal-mart somewhere, and the dude was just a real jerk. Lol.

I just figure he’d be higher on this list when the system has lost so much depth after Coppygate. It’ll be interesting to see how 31-40 shakes out.

By the way, Paul, challenge accepted- Garret Jones of the Pirates struggled mightily in the lower minors before putting things together in AA, and he was a solid big leaguer for a few years.

In regards to Davidson, some of why he was ranked so low is related to prospect fatigue, I’m sure. After all, he’s done so little with a great deal of time. Other players have passed him because they often did more with less time. Ramos was mentioned and is a perfect example. In one – albeit abbreviated – season, Ramos looked better than Davidson has looked since he was drafted. That isn’t to say Davidson is a bust. He’s still young and you have to believe eventually the power shows up…right? But until it does, players that do hit and do get outs will continue to pass him. Prospect rankings are definitely built on potential, but with a plethora of bad results to look at, Davidson has fallen considerably in our rankings. He wouldn’t have made these rankings if Maitan, Severino, and company were still in the system. Again, it’s not impossible for him to turn it around. At this point, though, that would be a shock.

Tommy Poe….if Davidson wasnt a former 1st round pick…I cant help but think he’d be cut right now.

Still havent come up with anything that justifies/explains why Matt Custred was released by The Braves.

Here it is deep winter and there are Braves’ fanatics (like me) who want to debate the chances of Braxton Davidson and Matt Custred. It lifts my spirits when we are still in early January. Tommy, thanks for constantly putting up the most interesting Braves material anywhere.

I can’t take all the credit. This site wouldn’t be where it is now without the contributions of Ryan Cothran and Stephen Tolbert. Most of all, thank you to you, Paul, King, Bryce, and all of the readers who leave us comments – whether you liked what we wrote or disagreed greatly. We love your comments and they give us more reason to keep putting out material.

Tommy…you are welcome. I appreciate not only reading Braves related info, but also debating the merits of the info/potential Braves moves/players worth!

Not all writers take too kindly to being disagreed with. Increasingly, we live in a ‘play pretend’ world (where if you dont ‘play agree’ with people, they dont want you around them).

I’ve always felt that if one is willing to put forth your opinion/position of something (whether it is sports/politics)..then one should have no problem (actually should RELISH the opportunity) with defending one’s position/belief/etc. Personally, I feel that if I’m in ‘the right’ about something, then I should be able to make a case/back up my position/belief about a particular topic.

I know that Bryce and I disagree on a number of things…but I appreciate the back and forth with him (because he’s willing to make an effort to explain/back up how/why he feels the way he does). If I’m wrong about something, I feel that I have it in me to take a look at it and accept access to new facts I had been previously unaware of. However, baring that, I’m right most of the time, lol!

Tommy, I second what Ben said- I really appreciate what you, along with Ryan and Stephen, do on this site. It’s one of my favorite Braves sites on the web. And the beauty of baseball, and sites like these, is rather you agree or disagree with someone else’s take, baseball can spark some fun debates.

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