A lot of Top 100’s have been rolling out of late and the Braves are well represented. In addition, organizational rankings often have Atlanta near or at the top. A big reason for that is the depth you will see in today’s ten players that are just outside our Top 10. Many of these players will replace the guys from the Top 10 that graduate by mid-season. They include top draft choices, shrewd trade acquisitions, and even an under-the-radar free agent pick-up.
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.
20. Travis Demeritte
Tommy: #20, Stephen: #17, Ryan: #21
2017 Preseason: #13, Midseason #12
Demeritte had an up and down season in 2017, at times flashing plus power and elite level defense. Where Travis has to improve is he has to come up with a better plan against right-handed pitchers and he has to continue to work on making more contact. At this point, Demerrite could be the weak side of a platoon given the way he crushes LH and plays defense, but he has to take a step forward if he wants a future as a full-time player. My guess is he starts 2018 back in AA but AAA wouldn’t be shocking either. If he can cut down on the Ks and tap into more of that power, he certainly could be Atlanta bound at some point this year. (Tolbert)
19. Kyle Muller
Tommy: #18, Stephen: #19, Ryan: #19
2017 Preseason: #16, Midseason #16
The Braves knew they were getting more of a project with Muller as opposed to Joey Wentz and Ian Anderson, both selected ahead of him. That’s why they were aggressively moved to Danville to end 2016 and Rome to open 2017. Meanwhile, Muller quietly stayed at the GCL for 2016 and Danville the following year. Some arm fatigue cost him time, but the results also weren’t quite on the level that the other drafted pitchers were putting up. The southpaw can sit in the low-to-mid 90’s and flashes a potential plus-plus curveball. He also has a change that he sometimes loses feel for. The Braves will go slow with him. He has a big frame and with maturity, he has the chance to develop into a #3 with a possible #2 ceiling. (Poe)
18. Jacob Lindgren
Tommy: #17, Stephen: #20, Ryan: #18
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason UR
Once a highly touted relief prospect out of the Yankees organization, Lindgren’s on the brink of full TJ recovery and the timing is as beautiful as a kitten riding a unicorn through a rainbow. Primarily a 2-pitch reliever (man, I LOVE those!) featuring a fastball and slider and both are scary good, like plus-plus good. Lindgren was moved to full-time relief his junior year in college and has been a different pitcher since. He’s got every chance to be a serious part of the bullpen during a pretty exciting time, he just has to stay healthy…that’s the rub.
Worth noting, Lindgren was snagged away from the Yankees on a bit of an “I got you!” move by Coppolella. After undergoing Tommy John, the Yankees chose to non-tender Lindgren with all intentions of re-signing him to a MiLB deal. That didn’t happen, and the Braves swooped and gave him a million bucks in a lost year in hopes that the juice is worth the squeeze. 2018 will tell. (Cothran)
17. Patrick Weigel
Tommy: #19, Stephen: #18, Ryan: #16
2017 Preseason: #17, Midseason #15
When players go down with Tommy John surgery, especially late-blooming players, it really puts a damper on their prospect status. Weigel is no different as he was in the back-end of the Top-10 last year and here he now sits at 17. I think Weigel would have made his Major League debut last year had he stayed healthy, but now his future is uncertain and so is his role.
While he’ll likely sit out the majority of the 2018 season, Weigel has already started throwing and will continue to rehab his way back to professional baseball, with one goal in mind: to reach the MLB. It’s my opinion that the Braves will really limit his innings and that could lead to bullpen work for Weigel. If he can show the dominant fastball and couple that with his wipeout slider, that’s a tasty back-end bullpen piece in the Braves pocket. Can his fastball recover? If so, look out people. (Cothran)
16. William Contreras
Tommy: #16, Stephen: #16, Ryan: #17
2017 Preseason: #39, Midseason #50
This is an aggressive ranking, but that’s fitting for such an aggressive player. If Contreras was a football player, you’d hear this from nearly every commentator – he has a motor. It’s a motor that doesn’t seem to slow down. His athleticism is one thing, but his cannon arm is worth the price of admission. By the way, he knows what kind of arm he has. I’ve never seen a catcher who guns it down to third base after a strikeout like Contreras.
Will he hit? He certainly did last year for Danville, posting a .374 wOBA with a very mild .326 BABIP. He showed an excellent understanding of the strike zone and pop to all fields. That pop will lead to more homers as he puts the ball in the air more. He won’t challenge some of the bigger thumpers the Braves have at catcher, but he might turn into the best all-around hitter of the group. You add that to his defense and Contreras has potential to start behind the plate for the Braves for a decade. (Poe)
15. Touki Toussaint
Tommy: #14, Stephen: #13, Ryan: #15
2017 Preseason: #8, Midseason #14
Touki combines one of the most talented arms in the system, and in all of baseball, with inconsistent results. Last year’s overall numbers ended really strong, 3.16 ERA; 3.69 FIP; 26% K rate, but it was an up and down road to get there. One reason for that is Touki’s command comes and goes and the 13% walk rate he put up last year isn’t going to work. Toussaint’s fastball/curveball combination might be the best in all of baseball, with both grading out at a 70. He just has to get more consistent in his performance. If he does, it’s an elite arm with limitless potential. (Tolbert)
14. Drew Waters
Tommy: #13, Stephen: #15, Ryan: #13
2017 Preseason: UR, Midseason #22
Picked #41 overall last June, Waters is a toolshed. He can do just about everything. Or, at least, he has that potential which is why he deserved all the Chevy Tahoe’s he wanted. John Coppolella and our buddies at Knockahoma Nation sure think so.
I kid, but it was that alleged offer from the former Braves GM that cost the Braves a 2018 draft choice. Oh, well, mistakes were made. We do know, though, that Waters could be a prime prospect for the Braves. After blitzing through the GCL, he landed in Danville where he struck out a ton, but also flashed his power. Over his final 74 PA, he smacked seven extra-base hits, including two homers. He also struck out two dozen times. Again, mistakes were made.
Moving forward, Waters is an exciting prospect. I think he can stay in center field, though I imagine he’ll be moved to left field considering the Braves have three guys with elite-level skills playing center field already ahead of him. Wherever he ends up, the comp that keeps coming to me when I see Waters – and it’s his high-end comp – is A.J. Pollock. How close he gets to that type of player will be something to watch over the next few years. (Poe)
13. A.J. Minter
Tommy: #15, Stephen: #14, Ryan: #11
2017 Preseason: #19, Midseason #24
Minter has been the talk of Braves fans every since he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2015. He’s a pure relief arm that racks up an absurd amount of strikeouts with a devastating fastball/slider combo. His fastball sits 96-97, easily touching 99 while his slider unfairly comes in at 89-90 with hard tilt. It will surprise no one if at some point in 2018, Vizcaino is traded and Minter steps in as the closer of the future. Showing he can handle the workload of a full season is the big hurdle for A.J., including working back-to-backs. If he can, Atlanta will have one of the best relief arms in all of baseball. (Tolbert)
12. Bryse Wilson
Tommy: #10, Stephen: #12, Ryan: #10
2017 Preseason: #46, Midseason #17
If the Bryse Wilson hype-train were an actual train, I’d have to say I’ve been the engine, or at least the coal car that fuels the engine. He’s been one of these guys that I’ve looked at for a while and said, “What gives? Why is he not receiving more attention?” Well, I think it’s safe to say that this cat is out of the bag and strutting around like he’s just devoured your tuna and everyone else’s. Back in July, I wrote a piece on Bryse and I stick to it. Keith Law went as far as to rank him 68th best prospect in the MLB and lays out that he could have 2 plus pitches with a ceiling as high as a number 2 starter and floor of an 8th inning reliever.
Like many of the Braves pitching prospects, they’re former 2-way baseball players and played other sports in high school. In my opinion, these are the best type of pitchers to bet on, and if if there was a tab on the roulette wheel that featured Bryse Wilson’s face, I’d go all-in and even let it ride. A great fastball, good curve, developing 3rd and 4th pitches, and features good control. There’s a whole lot to like. (Cothran)
11. Alex Jackson
Tommy: #8, Stephen: #10, Ryan: #12
2017 Preseason: #21, Midseason #11
The Mariners basically gave Alex Jackson to the Braves last winter as Jerry DiPoto believed the former sixth overall pick wasn’t going to be an impact player for their system. Atlanta moved the former catcher back behind the plate and watched him blossom. In 66 games with Florida, Jackson used a .230 ISO to pound his way to a .381 wOBA. He finished the year with 30 games in Mississippi where he showed a bit better plate discipline and still maintained a pretty solid .339 for a 21-year-old at Double-A. Yeah, that’s right. 2018 will only be his Age-22 season.
There were reports that Jackson improved behind the plate the longer the season went and that included a stint in the Arizona Fall League. I think Jackson can handle the position enough to be a bat-first catcher. I imagine the Braves will continue to work with him to fine-tune things like framing, footwork, and pop time. If Jackson can repeat his offensive effort in 2018, he’ll be a Top 100 prospect heading into 2019 with a chance to take over in Atlanta. (Poe)