We love this time of year. The NFL playoffs are reaching the end, college football is done, and nobody really cares about the regular season for basketball and hockey. You know it’s true. That leaves baseball, which is still a month away from spring training kicking off. Right now, everyone is a contender. Well, not the Marlins, but if you squint your eyes, everybody else could be a contender if everything went right. That does include the Braves and if you have any hope of those dreams becoming a reality, you know it’s because of the farm system.
Last week, we started our Preseason Top 50 Prospects by looking at the bottom ten. Today, we reveal ten more names and by the end, we’ll be ready for the Top 30 starting next Tuesday. A lot has been said and written about the punishments MLB gave the Braves and certainly depth is hurt by it. Probably three-to-five of the players in this section would have been in the #41-#50 range without those punishments. Be that as it may, the prospects today still have some interesting qualities. Most of the players in this group are “next-wave” players. That means these guys will climb the charts as more spots ahead of them open via graduations and trades. Don’t expect to see many of today’s players in 2018, but don’t sleep on them either.
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.
40. Huascar Ynoa – @theynoaa
Tommy: #41, Stephen: #44, Ryan: #49
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR
A lot of people were upset when trading Jaime Garcia only brought back Ynoa, though I wasn’t one of them. Ynoa is a project, no doubt, but he’s a project worth taking a gamble on. After the trade, Ynoa struck out nearly a quarter of the hitters he faced – that’s not too shabby. That’s not to say that Ynoa’s 2017 was a great season for Ynoa – he was much better in 2016 in the Gulf Coast League. What I like about Ynoa, though, is his maturity and pitch selection. The Twins tried to get him to focus on three pitches and that’s fair – sometimes, less is more. But I really like his repertoire and believe he does have the potential to have three plus pitches – four if he keeps throwing his splitter, which I believe he used with Danville after the trade. Give him time and Ynoa could be a real climber on this list. (Tommy Poe)
-For more on Ynoa, check out this scouting report from July.
Tommy: #44, Stephen: #39, Ryan: #38
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: #35
Harrington is a big kid at 6-2/225 and had a really good year for the Florida FireFrogs in 2017. A 3.13 FIP and almost a 60% ground ball rate is enough to get you on this list. The Braves system has several pitchers that are potential over polish at this point, so you need guys like Harrington with a little more pitchability to balance it out. With so many pitchers ahead of him in the system Harrington seems to me like a prime candidate to be included in a trade this offseason but we’ll see what Anthopoulos has planned. If he stays, I’m guessing he starts 2018 in AA Mississippi. (Stephen Tolbert)
38. Anfernee Seymour
Tommy: #39, Stephen: #37, Ryan: #36
2017 Preseason: #47, Midseason: #28
Acquired for lefty Hunter Cervenka in August of 2016, Seymour struggled after the trade in Rome, but was off to a good start in 2017 (.287/.345/.352, 8 steals, 28 games) before he was promoted to Florida. His bat slowed down a bit, but he turned it on late, hitting .337 with a .382 OBP and nine extra-base hits over his final 112 PA. He was on his way to an appearance in the Arizona Fall League, but was suspended for a “violation of team rules.” Seymour’s 2017, while it ended on a sour note, was an improvement over his 2016. He showed a better understanding of the strikezone, though he will strike out a lot. The speedy switch-hitter was caught 20 times trying to steal in 45 attempts. That just cannot happen. On the bright side, a move away from shortstop back to the outfield seemed to take a lot of pressure off him. Though Seymour is 22, he seems like a very raw player. Coming off a career-high .699 OPS in 2017, his fourth season, it would be nice to see him advance further this year or he could tumble down the charts. (Poe)
Tommy: #45, Stephen: #33, Ryan: #34
2017 Preseason: #37, Midseason: #UR
A lefty out of the University of Alabama, Burrows was the “other guy” the Braves acquired in the Luiz Gohara deal. He landed in Rome in 2017 and was superb with a 33% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate. Burrows works off a good, though not great, fastball and a change-up that basically only exists to keep righties a bit off-balanced. Burrows does have a potential plus-plus pitch with his slider. That pitch alone gives Burrows a floor projection of a left-hand specialist. What I hope to see from Burrows in 2018 is advancement. Atlanta played it safe with him in 2017, but it’s time to get him moving. He could be a guy who skips Florida and lands in Mississippi to begin the season with an outside shot of seeing Atlanta by the end of the year. (Poe)
36. Lucas Herbert – @lucasherbert_
Tommy: #32, Stephen: #38, Ryan: #41
2017 Preseason: #32, Midseason: #36
Left in the dust by his more famous former battery mate in high school, Kolby Allard, Herbert spent a second season in Rome after being pushed a little too much to figure out the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old in 2016. He showed improvement across the board, with 50-90 points game in his triple slash. That said, his numbers remained mediocre in a system that is deep behind the plate. Herbert’s bat has always been a question, though the defense remains very solid. For him to not get completely lost in the shuffle – he has William Contreras gaining on him – Herbert is going to have to build on his 2017 numbers and improve them once again. If he can get to the .265/.340/.400 range, he’ll be a prime prospect with his defense. If that doesn’t happen and his Age-21 year looks a lot like his Age-20 year, he could become more of an organizational guy than a prospect. (Poe)
35. Ricardo Sanchez
Tommy: #31, Stephen: #32, Ryan: #35
2017 Preseason: #33, Midseason: #31
Sanchez is your classic young arm without a lot of polish. Fastball can range anywhere from 90-95 and he misses his share of bats but he struggles to know where it’s going a lot of the time. It’s pretty simple for him. Learn to command it and he’s a big leaguer. The team pulled a bit of a surprise this offseason when the they added Sanchez to the 40 man roster so clearly they see potential. I’m guessing he starts 2018 in high A ball, but a significant improvement in control could push him up the ladder. (Tolbert)
34. Tucker Davidson – @TuckTuck6
Tommy: #29, Stephen: #36, Ryan: #33
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR
This section of the top 50 is our young LH with potential as next we have Tucker Davidson. Davidson, a 19th-round pick in 2016, has been lights out so far in his career for Atlanta posting a 2.32 FIP in 2016 and a 2.97 FIP in 2017. Most of that work came as a reliever but was moved to starter last year for 12 games and maintained his numbers.
The exciting thing about Davidson is, early on in his career, he’s combining missing bats and keeping the ball on the ground while having a decent idea where he’s throwing the ball. When you add that to the overall numbers he’s putting up, you can see the potential. If he has another year like he just had in 2017, he’s going to be much higher on this list than #34. (Tolbert)
33. Corbin Clouse – @Corbin018
Tommy: #40, Stephen: #29, Ryan: #28
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR
There’s a lot to like about CC and there’s still work to do. Clouse racks up the Ks with the combination of a sinker/slider, but he also has a hard time controlling the zone which causes whole outings of not finding it. He hasn’t pitched long (started late in college, I believe) therefore the control will likely come, but it’s an absolute necessity if he wants to make it to the next level. I compared his ceiling to Eric O’Flaherty before, and I feel that’s about right. By no means am I calling this a comp though as a lot has to go right for this to happen. Look for Clouse to put some work into command, but don’t expect for his numbers to show well while he’s working on it as he’ll likely find more of the plate at first before he can master the corners. However, when it finally clicks, he’ll move quick. (Ryan Cothran)
32. Devan Watts – @D_Watts7
Tommy: #37, Stephen: #31, Ryan: #27
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason: #48
I wrote about Watts in our Relief prospects piece and he’s not the reliever that I ranked at the top, but he’s likely my favorite type reliever. I’ve suggested on several occasions that it’d likely be in Mike Foltynewicz‘s best interest to drop a pitch from his 4-pitch arsenal and work on perfecting 3. If Folty was a reliever, I’d even suggest to drop to 2. That’s what Watts is…a 2 pitch relief pitcher and both of them are frickin’ nasty. With a fastball sitting mid-90s, and a slider that dances up and down on the velo chart, he’s reminiscent of a healthy Shae Simmons and there was one point in time where Shae was predicted to become a back-end bullpen guy for many years before injuries sidelined his career. I think Watts gets his shot in Atlanta sometime this year and I think Atlanta’s going to really like him. (Cothran)
31. Brett Cumberland – @bcumboslice
Tommy: #23, Stephen: #34, Ryan: #37
2017 Preseason: #25, Midseason: #26
I’m lower than the other 2 on Cumberland which leads you to likely wonder why I chose to write about him and this is the reason: I could be totally wrong. Cumberland was drafted in 2016 out of UC-Berkley 76th overall as a catcher. Right away, many thought he was a good pick as he was considered the best (or next, depending on your source) hitting catcher available. But this deserves an asterisk as many that were stating the above also thought he’d likely not make it to the bigs as a catcher. That’s one sticking point that brings his prospect luster down. If he’s not a catcher, he’s likely a 1B and a LFer and if that’s the case, he has to hit A TON! But there are also other aspects of his game that leave me scratching my head:
- Carried a crazy high BABIP, but also carries a high fly-ball rate. Most of the time screams fluky.
- Power dissipated upon promotion to High-A
- As a 22 year old, he carried a high K-rate considering he’s been facing younger talent.
But there’s also the fact that he works his butt off, is seen as a team leader, has a good BB-rate, and is currently sporting a .980 OPS in Australia. Point being…he confounds me and when that happens, I error on the side of caution. There’s a lot to like here and I hope, for the Braves sake, he can stick at catcher and continue hitting at an elite level for a catcher. If not, a 3rd catcher, LF/1B backup that can come off the bench and provide quality at-bats could be his path to the MLB. (Cothran)