2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – #10-#6

2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospects – #10-#6

Just ten prospects left in our yearly Top 50 and the elite of the elite get a bit more time to themselves. Instead of dropping all ten, we’ll milk this series and split the last ten into two final parts. What? It worked for Twilight.

While the punishment the Braves received from Major League Baseball was felt in each part of the Top 50, these final ten likely would have been the top ten regardless if the Braves still had a bounty of international talent – namely Kevin Maitan. They are among the Top 100 prospects in baseball depending on which service you read and all ten have sky-high expectations. When I did the Top 10 three years ago, guys like Braxton Davidson, Tyrell Jenkins, and Manny Banuelos were taking up spots as the best Braves’ prospects in the organization.

This group of players are especially talented and represent the reasons why hope is beginning to grow for Braves fans as they look forward to this season and beyond.

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.

Cristian Pache | Jeff Morris – @JeffMorrisAB

10. Cristian Pache

Tommy: #9, Stephen: #6, Ryan: #14
2017 Preseason: #26, Midseason: #19

Pache ended up 10th on our final rankings but on my personal rankings, I had him #6. And the reason is simple. He just has very little he has to do to become a major-league 2 WAR player. Even if the bat doesn’t advance much at all, his elite defense and baserunning means his floor is basically Billy Hamilton. Except it’s Billy Hamilton with an absolute cannon. Look at these non-hitting grades FanGraphs just put on Pache:

  • Run – Present 80/Future 80
  • Fielding – Present 70/Future 80
  • Arm – Present 70/Future 7

Those are Byron Buxton level skills. There are so many different paths he can take to become a solid major league player even if he never hits. There just aren’t many guys good enough to say that.

But where the excitement for Pache reaches another level is when you realize there are scouts who thinks he’s going to really hit. And maybe even for some above average power. That’s where we leave current production and go almost entirely to projection. In over 700 career PAs, Pache has never hit a home run. So projecting for above average big-league power is a bit of a dream right now but if he can start to generate a little more lift in his swing, who knows. He’s also working with a 6’2 frame so projecting more size and strength isn’t crazy talk.

I’ll be interested to see where they start him off in 2018. He didn’t set the world on fire with the bat in Rome last year so he could be back there to start the year. Given his young age and immense potential, there will be no rush. They’ll let him develop at his pace. And Braves’ fans should be excited. He’s basically the OF version of  Andrelton Simmons(Stephen Tolbert)

9. Joey Wentz

Tommy: #11, Stephen: #8, Ryan: #9
2017 Preseason: #14, Midseason: #10

The 2016 draft. Ah, you have to love when a plan comes together. After forty-four selections, the Braves had a trio of the best prep arms that year’s crop had to offer and Atlanta followed that up by signing all three. The middle child of this group of elite young arms was Joey Wentz, picked out of Shawnee Mission East High School in Kansas. And guess what? He might turn out to be the best pitcher selected from that draft.

A big lefty, Wentz has an effortless delivery that he repeats exceptionally well. He’s still growing a bit into his frame, but his mechanics are nearly flawless. He occasionally will have issues with release point, which can lead to uncontrollable or flat breaking balls, but no pitcher is perfect. His heater lives in the low 90’s and he gets movement off of it. His changeup is coming along, but his best pitch is a curveball that, when he controls it, is nearly impossible to hit and has hitters slowly walking back to the dugout perplexed.

Last season, Wentz was just 19 years-old. That should be repeated because it’s the kind of thing that too few people put enough value in. Wentz was facing 20, 21, and 22 year-olds. Holding his own would have been impressive in his own right. Wentz did so much more than that by striking out nearly 29% of opposing hitters while walking just 9%. That’s ridiculous! It was his first full season and he was facing guys who were battle tested in the SEC, Pac-12, and ACC – along with two or three seasons of rookie ball. And he was making them look not only bad but flat-out overmatched.

Wentz had a case of dead arm in high school. It affected his draft stock, but he threw 131.2 innings as a 19-year-old with little problem. If that dead arm scared off teams and allowed the Braves to grab Wentz where they did, it was the most advantageous dead arm in history. Wentz seems ready to follow Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka and make the jump to Mississippi next year, though opening the year in Florida wouldn’t be that bad either. (Tommy Poe)

8. Ian Anderson

Tommy: #12, Stephen: #9, Ryan: #5
2017 Preseason: #9, Midseason: #10

It’s odd to say that a player who was just drafted in 2016 with the 3rd overall pick and put up a 3.14 ERA in Low-A in 2017 with 11 K/9 is already experiencing prospect fatigue, but it’s happening. In fact, it seemed like every offseason trade proposal by a Braves Armchair GM had Ian as the centerpiece of the deal. Why? What happened? I’m glad you asked.

In 20 starts at Low-A, Anderson only pitched to the 6th inning 3 times. His fastball control came and went over the course of individual starts but when he was controlling it, he was the dominating force the Braves thought they drafted. When he wasn’t, the walks racked up and that’s where he’s got to improve. A 3-pitch mix, Anderson’s fastball is his torch sitting 93-96, the curve his numero dos, and his changeup is a work in progress. However, like Tommy discussed above on Wentz, Ian is 19 years old and only faced younger competition 8 times in 2017. When I was 19, I was making poor decisions and nearly failing out of college. The Ian, Wentz, Wilson trio kept each other in check and showed a maturity that dwarfed mine at 19.

My favorite prospect guru, John Sickels, said that Ian could easily be the best pitching prospect by this time next year with just a bit of refinement as his stuff outranks many ahead of him. I can agree with this statement. Look for Ian to start at High-A with his buddies Bryse Wilson and Joey Wentz, and if all goes well, they could be knocking at the door of MLB by mid-2019. (Cothran)

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7. Austin Riley

Tommy: #5, Stephen: #11, Ryan: #8
2017 Preseason: #12, Midseason: #13

Aside from Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley has been the talk of Braves country. The current debate is to sign or not sign a 3B free agent. Johan Camargo is seemingly plugged into the spot in 2018, but really it sounds like he’s just holding it warm until Riley is ready. Riley is listed at 6’3 220, but reports were that he started pushing near 240 last year.  Recent pictures show that maybe the 220 is now right as rain again as he’s trimmed down the fat and looks like a sculpture of muscle (especially in the gluteus maximus which has some of Braves Fam female twitterers all hot and bothered).

His 2018 tale is 1/3 disappointment and 2/3 elation. In High-A, Riley put up meager numbers but was rumored to be focusing more on defense (we will get back to that later) and the offense took a hit. However, in what would be his last 2 weeks in High-A, Riley looked to have turned a curve, the Ks lessened and the power came back in droves. I’ve already made it clear that I put more emphasis on the value of a small sample in growing players over established players, and that sample made me pay attention. From there, his season and post-season in the Winter Leagues couldn’t have gone better. He hit 14 home runs in 65 games between AA Mississippi and the Arizona Fall League and compiled a .932 OPS in that time.

As stated before, Riley had a goal of improving his mobility and defense. Adding muscle and subtracting fat resulted in a player that went from defense being criticized to defense even becoming part of the whole that made him jump up on everyone’s list. At Low-A in 2016, Riley was charged with 30 errors. Between High-A and AA in 2017, Riley cut that number down to 20 in more innings. Watching him quite a bit on MiLBTV, I can attest that his defense passed my eye test, but still felt like he had some work to do on backhanding balls hit down the line. Admittedly, this is a small sample and just an observation, not a scouting report.

Lastly, both Dale Murphy and Chipper Jones joined the complimentary train on Riley using terms “light-tower power” and “his (mental) makeup’s incredible”.  With everyone boarding the Riley Express, including 2 of Braves finest, there’s a lot to watch for in 2018. (Cothran)

6. Kolby Allard

Tommy: #6, Stephen: #7, Ryan: #7
2017 Preseason: #5, Midseason: #5

How unreasonable are our expectations? Kolby Allard spent most of 2017 as a 19-year-old pitching in Double-A ball, put up a 3.18 ERA with a 3.27 FIP, improved his walk rate as it dropped to 7.3%, and Fangraphs Top 100 has no room for him? Wow.

To be fair, as much as it may hurt for me to say this, players are more than just numbers. For Allard, the big issue has been an inconsistent fastball. At times, he’s gunning it in at around 93-94 mph. Others, he’s stuck in the high-80’s and can’t seem to reach 90. There is no consensus from game-to-game, though more often, he was struggling with the latter last season. Now, that may mean nothing. Certainly, velocity isn’t everything. However, losing 2-4 mph off your fastball before you’re even 21 is worrisome.

If that’s corrected, Allard’s ceiling again starts to climb. That ceiling, this time last year, was very high. What makes Allard so good is that despite his age, he has the pitchability of a guy who has been around the game for 30 years. He gets “it” in a way that often cannot be taught so much as learned the hard way. And the Braves let him go in 2017 and he tossed 150 innings. That’s quite a lot of innings for a guy who didn’t turn 20 until last August 13.

Allard’s fastball has questions – we covered that – but his changeup is excellent. He throws it out of the same motion and arm speed of his fastball and hitters just hate it. He also has a curveball that, while not as good as many other curveballs in the system, is still a pretty dang good one. Allard can throw all three pitches at any moment with confidence and precision. That, my friends, is why people still remain high on Allard.

This will be a big year for the lefty. Either we are right to keep him in our Top 6 or we were slow to downgrade him appropriately. I think we’re closer to the former than the latter, though. (Poe)

Forty-five names down and just five more to go. I’m sure you think you know the top prospect in our rankings. But do you really know?

Yes. Yes, you do.

2018 Preseason Top 50
On the Outside Looking In
#50-#41
#40-#31
#30-#21
#20-#11

16 Comments

Our #6-#10 ranked prospects…would EASILY be ranked #1-#5 on most teams rankings! Wentz and Allard would both be ranked #1-#2 on teams with DOGSHIT-like prospects like The Angels, Mariners and Marlins (the BUMS they got back in those trades this winter…probably will end up being as fruitful as ‘the bounty’ The Padres got back in The 1993 Fred McGriff Trade).

Coppy may not be around to get ‘the rewards’ that result from THIS BOUNTY of talent that he amassed! I just hope that our GM, AA, doesnt get trigger happy! I’m not saying that all 10 of our Top 10 Prospects are destined for The Hall of Fame someday. I’m saying that we SHOULD NOT be risking dealing away a potential Hall of Famer…..that we should just keep our guys and let them show us which ones ‘have the MLB goods’ (sure, we risk not getting ‘anything’ in return for the few that flame out…however as long as the right ones produce…I could care less about the ones that flame out).

Paul, the Angels farm system really isn’t that bad. There’s no way Allard or Wentz would top their system, because Otani’s still technically eligible there. They also drafted Jo Adell last season- and he looks really, really talented.

I like what Allard brings to the table, though. Maybe even more than some of the other pitchers in the Braves system. He’s getting dinged in a lot of rankings for his fastball, which is silly. The guy has a feel for pitching, it would seem. I’d think that’d have more value than just being able to throw 99mph down the pipe, with no feel for locating or movement.

King….Othani is already a Major Leaguer (he wasnt drafted/developed by The Angels…he basically, for whatever reason, ‘chose’ The Angels). Adell is far from a finished product. I would take either Allard or Wentz over Adell.

Even if you counted Adell and Othani…would you take The Angels’ #3 ranked prospect…over The Braves #10 Pache?

I don’t really disagree that Ohtani shouldn’t technically be considered a prospect, but he is. Your question is somewhat hard to answer though, Paul, because there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on who the Angels #3 prospect is- some might say it’s Adell, and some might say it’s Maitan.

Pache’s bat does worry me some, though. I’ll throw that out there now. If it doesn’t come around, I don’t see how he can be a ML starter. On the other hand, he’s still got plenty of time to develop though, too. I just wouldn’t say our 6-10 could “easily” be ranked 1-5 on most teams rankings because prospects are largely projections. And Pache is currently sitting outside of the top 100 lists. I’m not trying to knock him. I just feel like he needs some bat to make that jump.

King……I just feel that The Braves got HELLA LUCKY (combined with some very astute drafting by Coppy and company from 2015-2017).

A big part of what set our rebuild back a couple of years…was Wisler and Blair both struggling in 2016 and NOT being ready to be LEGIT MLB starting pitchers in 2017 (forcing Coppy to spend $33 mil on the trio of Garcia, Dickey and Colon…INSTEAD of on some position players with power to solidify our line-up). Even so, Coppy did get lucky with Flowers and Suzuki (both, if they can stay in shape/healthy/continue to feed off each other’s production….can extend their rebounding careers a few extra seasons (biding time for our collection of ‘not sure of how they are going to fit in/work out as MLB caliber catchers’ Minor League Catching Prospects….to ‘do their thing’).

The list of Top 50 Braves…..could be historic in nature. Just bide it time! This year is the LEGIT 1st step towards Greatness! Albies, Acuna, (yes, even Swanon..in a role supporting/leader-like influence at short)….along with Gohara, Newcomb, Fried, Minter (even Sims)….as well as the likes of Soroka, Allard and even Wright!

I’m HELLA EXCITED to see how this INFLUX of young/high ceiling/cost controlled talent is going to ‘Announce Their Presence with Authority’ in 2018 for The Braves! Come 2019, depending on how things progress at Double A and even High Class A…..we could be having ANOTHER WAVE of young talent knocking on the door (or maybe slowing it down a bit with a little more seasoning in Triple A for 2019). If that is the case..then 2020 will absolutely be the next HUGE WAVE (especially if Christian Pache, Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson, Ian Anderson, Austin Riley and Patrick Weigel are all ready to make their own ‘announcements, lol’).

MLB is going to be HELLA ENVIOUS of The Braves. They are DESPERATELY going to want out Starting Pitching. My response: FUCK’EM! Go draft your own pitchers..you SORRY MOFOs!!!!!!!! If you want one of ours…it’s going to COST YOU A HELLA LOT MORE than you’re going to be willing to give up (guess what…when you have something that is in SHORT SUPPLY…which QUALITY STARTING PITCHING IS…..in short supply……..you get to SET THE MARKET for what it is TRULY WORTH! FUCK BEING FAIR!

I hope that AA plays HARD BALL with our competitors!

I think I’m in agreement with the players union. Owners and GM’s need to try to put together a winner every year. I am quite sure Liberty Media is happy hording scads of cash and NEVER spending it. Not one person has mentioned that Frazier probably decided he wanted to play in NY (he’s from Newark) and took a team friendly contract to do it (Mets low-balled him and the Yankees offered nothing). My guess is the Braves offered more and he still chose the Mets. No one is going to sign on with the Braves until AFTER we start winning. That’s why it’s crucial to field a competitive team this year and try to start the winning now. I just hope that AA has one big trade up his sleeve and is willing to part with an excellent asset to do so.

” I am quite sure Liberty Media is happy hording scads of cash and NEVER spending it.”

So? Why couldn’t they do with THEIR money whatever they like?

Because the game is played for the fans. They buy the tickets. They buy the merchandise. They crave the competition and the prospect of winning. It is cheating pure and simple to go all out to deny the team a chance to win especially when they are so close like this one. The moves to sign Colon, Dickey, and Garcia may have been token but they did show a willingness to make the team better right now. And two of those three moves paid off. And the Braves were very close to being competitive last year.

TRad, I agree with Roger on this. If Liberty Media funded that beautiful new stadium entirely on their own dime, you might have a point. When these MLB owners are going to city leaders with their hands out though, begging and pleading for new ballparks that’ll only increase the value of THEIR franchises when they sell- no, you shouldn’t be allowed just to hoard prospects. Their should be a salary floor., with a loss of revenue sharing if you don’t hit it.

Spending public money for stadiums is idiotic (but I’m a libertarian so basically about 95% public spending is idiotic for me).

However it does not put any responsibility on Braves owner above what’s written in the deal. If Liberty Media decide to cut salaries to, lets say, $30M, it’s THEIR decision to make and nobody has nothing to say.

Love seeing such passionate Braves comments, some made in the middle of the night (3:06 a.m!!) and optimism for the future. So glad this site exists; it’s the best Braves site anywhere. As far as Coppy is concerned, he apparently could draft, but had little idea what he was doing in the evaluation of minor leaguers. Astute guys on this site could look at the differentials on Wisler, Blair and Newcomb and know that they were marginal, certainly not a reasonable return for Andrelton and Craig Kimbrel, and making a guy with Jeff Blauser-type ceiling the “face of the franchise” was as unwise as allowing Kevin Maitan to advertise to the world that he was committed to the Braves long before the signing period. But a new more exciting Braves team is on the horizon. Let’s watch the young guys gradually begin to resemble Glavine, Smoltz, and Avery.

I know, I’ve been harping on The Braves keeping their wealth of pitching prospects since I’ve been posting on here. However, nothing has really changed regarding my reasoning: The Braves DO NOT have a settled starting rotation!

If Blair and Wisler showed in 2016 that they were ‘the real deals’…Coppy DOES NOT go out and spend over $30 mil on the likes of Garcia, Dickey and Colon (perhaps he spends that cash on improving the offense). Instead, Coppy had no choice but to go out and get those three, because Gohara started 2017 in High Class A, Soroka and Allard started in Double A, Weigel didnt get promoted to Triple A until about a month into the season (only to suffer a season ending elbow injury a few weeks afterward), Newcomb started 2017 in Triple A. In other words, NONE of our prized ‘next wave’ of pitching prospects were ready to open 2017 in Atlanta’s Rotation.

However, other than Weigel getting hurt…..2017 turned out to be pretty good for The Braves pitching prospects.

1. Gohara rose from High Class A to Atlanta’s Rotation by the end of 2017.
2. Newcomb got promoted to Atlanta’s Rotation the 2nd half of 2017.
3. Lucas Sims (while not a ‘high end prospect’) basically showed us in 2017 that if he sticks with Atlanta long term, it’ll be as a long relief bullpen arm/spot starter should one of our ‘better arms’ need to miss a start or two.
4. Max Fried has the potential to either be a quality #3-#4 starting pitcher…OR someone who can ultimately succeed in an Andrew Miller-like role in The Braves Bullpen (which I feel he’ll end up serving in).

While Blair and Wisler basically STANK up the place in 2016…there is hope that AT LEAST one of Gohara, Newcomb, Fried and Sims will turn out to be a Rotation Mainstay for years to come!

Having Teheran, Folty, McCarthy with the above pitchers in The Braves Rotation…bides time for Soroka, Allard and Wright to excel in Triple A/work their way up to Atlanta before 2018 ends. Those three (along with some of the relief arms we have in Double A/Triple A who’ll be working their way to Atlanta’s Bullpen in 2018) are ‘the next wave’ auditioning for a long term role in Atlanta’s Rotation. While most teams would be happy with having 1 of those 3 end up excelling long term as a Starting Pitcher…..I have to be honest and say that if at least TWO of those three dont end up excelling, I’ll be HIGHLY DISAPPOINTED!

Still…..as long as at least 1 of those three pan out, The Braves will be fine because of the NEXT WAVE of pitching prospects who will be coming up by 2020. Sure, Tooki Tousiant will start 2018 in Double A ahead of those High Class A pitchers. While I have hopes for Tooki, the book is unsettled regarding Tooki (because of his lack of control….he could end up being groomed for a closer like role. However that would be disappointing too, because his curve ball is nasty)….just check out who will open 2018 in High Class A Florida: 1. Joey Wentz…2. Bryce Wilson….3. Ian Anderson…4. Tucker Davidson…5. Kyle Muller…6. Ricardo Sanchez! From there, we should be able to fill out the rest of our rotation.

I’ve been reading on other blogs about how now is the time to start trading away from our ‘surplus’ of starting pitching prospects for some hitting prospects!

1. We DO NOT have ‘a surplus’ (in the sense that they ‘need’ to be traded). What we have…are a WEALTH of potentially high ceiling pitching prospects that all need opportunities to show that they can 1. stay healthy..2. consistently get out MLB hitter…3. make adjustments/develop another out pitch after MLB hitters ‘adjust’ to them…4. Avoid the bad luck that is ‘variance’.

In 1991, if I had to pick which Braves starting pitcher would become a Hall of Famer, I’d have EASILY picked Steve Avery. Easy delivery, nasty change, clutch in the post season. You never know how one’s career ultimately will turn out. I feel that by the end of The 2020 Season (3 years from now) The Braves ‘should’ have their Starting rotation settled. Once that occurs, then it would make sense for our GM to start making trades with the ‘excess’ pitching prospects we have left (whether to get some hitting OR some lower MILB depth who can take a few years to rise up, perhaps by the time some of our pitchers get ready for Free Agency).

I know that there are still a lot of Free Agents out there/that there is a slow news cycle all winter long, lol…..however, Braves fans need to be reminded that what we have with our young pitching prospects..is HELLA SPECIAL! I feel that 2018 will show some RAPID development/potentially Gohara-Acuna like rising up from several of our prospects!

No one really expected our pitching in 1991 to rise up like they did! Avery was 3-11 after his 1st cup of coffee in 1990…..only to finish 1991 with an 18-8 record. Tom Glavine won The Cy Young Award. John Smoltz finished the 1991 Season on a 11-2 tear!

Whose to say that Teheran and Folty, in their age 26 seasons, wont ‘take it to the next level’ in 2018…or that Newcomb finally figures out how to harness his stuff and bring down his walk rate….or that Gohara will potentially have a Steve Avery like year after his ‘cup of coffee’ in 2017…or that McCarthy could very well fill The Charlie Leibrandt role in 2018?

Teams that get really good pitching..tend to have offenses that sometimes ‘rise up’ beyond their normal capabilities. The key..is for Snitker to put Albies and Acuna (after he gets called up 2 weeks into the 2018 season) at the top of the order (to take advantage of Freeman’s bat in the #3 slot. Markakis could very well have a resurgence in his Free Agent year (it wouldnt be the 1st time something like that has happened). Flowers-Suzuki show in 2018 that 2017 was NO FLUKE. Inciarte continues to hit .300 (perhaps with a little more power IF Snitker drops him down into the order).

Every contending team has a surprise that comes from nowhere. Perhaps Rio Ruiz will be that surprise! Regardless, pitching will be the key IF Atlanta is going to ‘surprise’ in 2018.

Still, I would rather use 2018 as a springboard into 2019! I would hate to see 2018 end WITHOUT Soroka, Allard NOR Wright getting their own ‘cups of coffee’! The amount of money that AA will have to play with to DRASTICALLY improve the offense going into The 2018 Free Agent Offseason…..along with THE PLETHORA of our young prospects filling The Pitching Staff……should position The Braves to be LEGIT LONG TERM CONTENDERS for years to come!

We may end 2018 with a losing record…but it’ll be with a purpose AND it’ll be The Last Losing Record for A LONG TIME!

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