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2016 Braves Minor Leagues and Prospects Thread


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Baseball America continued their Top 20 Prospects by league lists today with the Appalachian League. The Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Yankees Blake Rutherford finished #1 and #2. Here are the Danville Braves that made the list.

4. Kolby Allard, lhp, Danville (Braves) |
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—San Clemente, Calif., 2015 (1).

The Braves’ top draft pick in 2015, Allard made his debut in June, shaking off some rust for low Class A Rome before a quick stint in Danville. There, Allard made five dominant starts and earned a promotion back to Rome in less than a month.

Allard has arm strength, and his fastball works comfortably at 90-94 mph. As an amateur, his best pitch was his deep curveball, which showed late snap and 1-to-7 break this summer. It still projects as an above-average or plus pitch. This season, Allard’s changeup showed significant progress, giving him a third weapon in addition to his advanced pitchability and composure on the mound.

9. Cristian Pache, of, Danville (Braves)
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.

Signed for $1.4 million in 2015, Pache made a positive impression in his pro debut, showing increased strength and speed that earned him a promotion from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to Danville. Pache has a chance to develop into a solid all-around player, with average raw power and plus-plus speed.

Pache’s swing includes a long bat path, and he has some issues maintaining balance, but he showed bat control and natural bat-to-ball ability. Defensively, his quick first step, closing speed and above-average arm were encouraging signs for him to fit the center-field profile.

10. Joey Wentz, lhp, Danville (Braves)
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Prairie Village, Kan., 2016 (1s).

Wentz focused on pitching in the spring and showed significant progress, prompting the Braves to sign him for $3.05 million. He thrived in four starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to earn a promotion to Danville.

Wentz has a short, repeatable arm action and some athleticism in his delivery. His long limbs help him get deep extension towards the plate and pitch downhill. His fastball reached the mid-90s this spring but topped out at 93 mph and sat 87-91 with four days of rest. Some evaluators thought Wentz’s best offspeed pitch was his curveball, a deep vertical breaker that shows late depth and competes in the strike zone. Others favored his changeup, which earned above-average to plus reviews.

12. Derian Cruz, ss, Danville (Braves)
Age: 17. B-T: S-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.

Cruz earned a $2 million bonus as the Braves’ most expensive international signee in 2015. He made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League this summer and quickly earned a promotion to Danville. While he struggled statistically in the Appy League, he flashes an intriguing package of raw tools.

Cruz, originally a righthanded hitter, has become a switch-hitter as a professional. His lefthanded swing is raw and well behind his righthanded stroke. As a righty hitter, Cruz can drive the ball to the gaps with surprising thump; while he doesn’t project as a significant power threat long term, he should be able to impact the ball enough.

Defensively, Cruz has plus hands and smooth actions at shortstop, though he’ll need to improve the consistency of his glove work and get better at controlling his body. Multiple evaluators noted above-average arm strength for him back in extended spring training, but he showed a well below-average arm in Danville. His footwork and core strength are lacking at present. His weaknesses are concerning but not deal breakers, as he played the whole season at 17 years old and projects well as he matures physically and mentally.


20. Brett Cumberland, c, Danville (Braves)
Age: 21. B-T: S-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 205. Drafted: California, 2016 (2).

After the Braves selected three prep pitchers to start their draft, they popped Cumberland in the second round and signed him for $1.5 million. Cumberland was seen as a bat-first catcher during the draft, and the Braves believed in his ability to hit from both sides of the plate and improve his defense behind the plate. Reviews of Cumberland’s pro debut were largely negative; he didn’t perform, in part due to tiring over long spring and summer seasons, and scouts heavily criticized his defense.

Cumberland has a stocky build with strength, and he flashes plus bat speed from both sides. His swings from both sides have some holes, and he struck out in 26 percent of his plate appearances this summer. He has plus raw power and the ability to drive the ball over the fence to the opposite field, though he is still learning to get to his raw power consistently.

Several scouts projected a move to first base in Cumberland’s future due to his slow-twitch footwork behind the plate and difficulty blocking this summer. Others noted his framing ability and hands that showed well at times. His defense requires projection, as he’ll have to make himself more fluid behind the plate, but he has the work ethic and aptitude for the position.

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Braves-related excerpts from today's Appalachian League chat at Baseball America.

dave (grayson, ga): With reports of his 99 mph velocity, I was curious to see how Braves RHP Luis Mora would do this season. Does he have anything besides the velo?
Hudson Belinsky: Yes, he does have more than a fastball. There was a split-camp on him this summer. He’s kind of a late bloomer and his track record is shaky, but he shows a hard mid-80s slider that flashes above-average or better, but also flashed well below-average for some evaluators I spoke to. He’s also shown a pretty good changeup. There’s a lot to cook with here, but it’s raw. He’d certainly have been in the 21-30 group.

dave (grayson, ga): I was surprised to see Cumberland make the list after a terrible debut and with so many questions about his defense. The write-up wasn't particularly inspiring either. Does anyone outside of the Braves organization think he's a catcher long term?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s been playing since February and he’s a catcher. That’s an extremely long season. He requires some projection behind the plate, and there’s an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty to his profile, which dings his prospect status. But we can’t get too reactionary to a pro debut and forget how potent his offense was as an amateur. It isn’t a great debut, but we can’t ignore the complete track record.

Dave (DC): Thanks for the chat, always really enjoy these top 20s. Where would Anderson have wound up if he qualified?
Hudson Belinsky: He would be #1 for me. I love Ian Anderson. He has the potential for three plus (or better) pitches and command them all. His makeup is great. I’m excited to see how he develops.

Brad (GA): Hudson! Hypothetically of course, if there was a Braves late-round draft guy in the Appy League who didn't make the list and was a really good one, who would it be?
Hudson Belinsky: 27th round pick Corbin Clouse, a lefthander out of Davenport University in Michigan, has a chance to move quickly through the Braves’ system. His fastball ranged from 90-95 and the grades I got on his breaking ball from scouts ranged from 55 to 60. He’s a steal. The result of the Braves drafting deeply and recognizing the talent of their area scouts.

dave (grayson, ga): Did Drew Harrington, Jeremy Walker, Jhon Martinez or any other Braves pitchers impress?
Hudson Belinsky: I’ll give some reports on these three here. NOTE: The Martinez report is based SOLELY on my own evaluation and not information I got from a scout or professional evaluator.

| Jhon Martinez: Up and back, bow and arrow type of arm action with a half arm circle. Easy out front. Inconsistent with his drive off his back ankle and falls off early at times. Showed flashes with four pitches. FB was mostly 88-90, touched 91 early. Heavily pronated two-seam release; 84-87 with late life, ground ball offering. CB 70-75; breaks in line with his 3/4 arm slot, mostly above-average spin but flattened at times. Changeup used sparingly at 79-80 with arm-side run. Stuff flattened and command diminished in the 5th inning. Could be effective FB/CB reliever.
| Jeremy Walker: I actually took a long look at him for the top 20. When I saw him in college in early May, his fastball was up to 94 and it sat 89-93. He was an early hand breaker and he had a tendency to rush his front side and his kinetic chain was disconnecting. I thought he’d add a little more velocity if he could create more hip-shoulder separation and made himself more athletic. But he also lacked an average offspeed pitch that day; he’d short-arm his slider and sometimes snap it off with early length; at its best it looked like a potentially functional second offering but not a bat-misser for the highest level. His curveball was extremely soft out of his hand, too. So we had a player with a fastball, a lean, lanky frame. When I saw him in mid-July, he was pretty much the same thing, except he was out of the bullpen. Then I saw him in late August and he was A LOT better. His lower half was much more athletic, and he was keeping things connected; he had more of a hip swing out into foot strike, and he was more online and had a way more stable landing. He was snapping off a hard curveball at 78-80 that looked like a potential above-average pitch, and he was even showing a changeup too. I checked with some scouts, and some had seen him up to 95. These are new developments and track record is important to me, so I didn’t run him past some of those players with better history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps up rankings in the next year or so.
| Drew Harrington: He’s a competitor. Stocky lefthander with a compact arm action and ability to command the baseball. At least average command. Not going to blow anyone away with velocity but knows how to pitch. Has has an average slider. His changeup remains a work in progress. There’s a lot to like. He could be a #5 starter, but I see him more as an effective 6th or 7th inning reliever.

Keith H (Syracuse NY): Any chance Isranel Wilson hits? He was suspended at the end of the season. Have the Braves soured on him?
Hudson Belinsky: Isranel Wilson is a skinny and quick-twitch athlete. He needs more Ovaltine to get stronger and impact the ball with more consistent authority, but he has pure tools you can’t walk away from. He’s a lefty hitter whose hands work in the box and he’s a plus-or-better runner who plays good defense and shows plus arm strength. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out what drove that suspension. With a kid so young, I err on the side of empathy before dinging their makeup. Young people make mistakes and it’s up to each of us how we choose to learn from them. Wilson has exciting raw tools; hopefully the reason for his suspension isn’t too serious and he can learn from this experience as matures.

Barry (Atlanta): Jarrett Hellinger: prospect or suspect ?
Hudson Belinsky: Nothing explosive, but projectable lefthander with a decent arsenal. Not every scout I talked to considered him a prospect, but some did. Throws it over, competes, throws strikes, good body.

Leo (Atlanta): What are your thoughts on Braves 1B Ramon Osuna? Seems to have had an outstanding JUCO career and got off to a great start to his pro career before slumping a bit. The overall body of work for the season was still impressive.
Hudson Belinsky: There’s some hit there, but it’s a really tough profile and he’ll have to prove himself up the ladder. He was not a guy that scouts brought up on their own volition; he was a guy I had to ask people about specifically, and I sometimes got the “why are you asking me about this guy” tone in response. Not a zero, but not the guy that jumps out at scouts.


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Baseball America posted their Top 20 prospects of the Class A South Atlantic League this morning. While the Nationals' Victor Robles claimed the top spot, the Rome Braves were well represented with 7 selections, or 35% of the top 20 prospects in the league.

5. Kolby Allard, lhp, Rome (Braves) | 
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—San Clemente, Calif., 2015 (1).

Allard started late because the Braves held him out of action in spring training as he returned from a 2015 back injury. When he joined the Rome staff in June, he struggled in three starts before being demoted to Rookie-level Danville.

Allard returned to Rome after a month in the Appalachian League and finally got to show why he was considered by many the best high school lefthander in the 2015 draft. He went 4-0, 1.72 with 37 strikeouts and six walks in 31 August innings, and he then threw 12 scoreless playoff innings.

Allard sat 90-94 mph in his return to Rome with excellent life on his fastball. He does a good job of working down in the zone. His success is based more on his well-rounded repertoire than any one pitch. His breaking ball and changeup both are at least average and flash plus, and he already has advanced feel for mixing his pitches.

6. Max Fried, lhp, Rome (Braves) | 
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Los Angeles, 2012 (1/Padres).

The Braves acquired Fried from the Padres in the December 2014 Justin Upton trade at a time when the lefthander still was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The seventh overall pick in 2012, he returned this season to low Class A, the level where he spent a full season in 2013 before his elbow injury.

Now 22, Fried needed the first half of the season to shake off rust and return to form after Tommy John surgery, especially when it came to his fastball command. He left a mid-July start with a blister that forced him to the disabled list for a month, but when he returned, he was every bit the pitcher the Braves envisioned.

Fried struck out 10 in back-to-back starts to end the regular season and then fanned 11 in his first playoff start. He did so with a 92-95 mph fastball that touched 97, a plus curveball that acts as two distinct breaking pitches—a slow, early-count one and a harder strikeout pitch—and a changeup that has improved to an average offering that generates some swings and misses.

7. Mike Soroka, rhp, Rome (Braves) | 
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Calgary, 2015 (1).

A 2015 first-round pick, Soroka threw 143 innings during the regular season and added another 15 during the playoffs, giving him the heaviest workload of any high school first-round pick in his first full season in the past decade. But the Braves didn’t worry about Soroka’s innings because he is so efficient. He showed an ability to work six or seven innings on just 65-85 pitches.

When Soroka is rolling, everything starts with a 90-92 mph sinker that generates early-count ground balls. He can reach back for 95 mph when he needs it as well. His curveball and changeup are both above-average pitches, and he has above-average control of all three, giving him a chance to stay one step ahead of hitters.

One of the younger pitchers in the SAL, Soroka pitched like a much older veteran, showing an ability to read swings, make adjustments and diagnose delivery issues.

10. Patrick Weigel, rhp, Rome (Braves)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Houston, 2015 (7)

On a stuff basis, Weigel matched up with any righthanded starter in the SAL this year. His fastball sat 92-95 mph, but he showed an ability to find 98 consistently. The control troubles that had long bedeviled him in college seemed largely behind him, though he struggled at times to locate to his glove side. His wildness now is largely limited to throwing balls rather than pitches that catch too much of the plate.

Weigel throws a pair of breaking balls. His best is a potentially plus, mid-80s slider with short, downward action that makes it resemble a power curveball. He also throws a slower, bigger mid-70s curveball on occasion. His changeup needs improvement, and with his fastball and slider, he didn’t need to throw his change much in the SAL.

Weigel spent most of his college career as a reliever, but with his physical 6-foot-6 frame an d ability to maintain his stuff, he is earning a look as a starter.

12. Ronald Acuna, of, Rome (Braves)
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2014.

Acuna missed the majority of the season with a thumb injury that sidelined him from mid-May to mid-August. But in the first and last months of the season he showed the well-rounded range of tools that make him a prospect with one of the highest ceilings in the Braves system.

Acuna is a plus runner who runs down balls in the gaps as an above-average center fielder. For example, he ran down a ball deep in the right-center field gap in the SAL playoff finals, then spun and threw out a Lakewood runner for a double play. His above-average arm will also play in right field.

At the plate, Acuna shows plus to plus-plus raw power and has demonstrated average power in games. He uses the whole field and makes enough contact to continue to hit for average as he matures.

13. Austin Riley, 3b, Rome (Braves) 
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Southaven, Miss., 2015 (1s).

Rome went just 27-42 in the first half, but the Braves recorded the best record in the Southern Division in the second half, going 43-27. Riley was a big reason for that. He went from being an easy out in the first half to the league’s most dangerous slugger in the second.

Early in the season, Riley could be retired by pitchers who located or threw hard in on his hands. But he shortened his swing load and focused on a more direct, downward path from setup to the strike zone, which speed up his bat. That allowed him to start turning on inside fastballs and driving balls on the outer half the other way. Riley cut his strikeout rate from 32 percent to 22 percent while hitting 17 of his 20 home runs in the second half.

Defensively, Riley is fringe-average at third base. His size and lack of reliability (he committed 30 errors) leave some to wonder if first base is a better fit, though he improved his angles to balls and has plenty of arm for the hot corner.

15. Touki Toussaint, rhp, Rome (Braves) | 
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS–Coral Springs, Fla., 2014 (1/Diamondbacks).

Early in the year, Toussaint had mid-90s velocity readings but little else. He struggled to locate his mid-90s fastball, and even when he did, it generated fewer swings and misses and more solid contact than expected.

Rome pitching coach Dan Meyer helped Toussaint lower his arm slot to more true three-quarters. The move gave his fastball more movement to turn it into a swing-and-miss offering for the first time. That also allowed him to get to his hard, jaw-dropping breaking ball more often. Toussaint’s strikeout rate jumped from 6.0 per nine innings in the first half to 11.2 per nine in the second.

Toussaint, whom the Braves acquired from the Diamondbacks in June 2015 in the Bronson Arroyo salary dump, has below-average control that needs improvement. His plus fastball and breaking ball give him a chance to be a dominating starter or closer, but his poor control makes him a high-risk prospect.

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Here's the relevant Braves chat from the Baseball America Top 20 SAL prospects.

Roger (Greenville, SC): Obviously this league was loaded, but what kept Acuna from ranking higher? I'd have him above Luis Alexander Basabe at 9 based on a better hit tool and raw power.
J.J. Cooper: You can make a case for Acuna higher, but he didn’t get much of a chance to show scouts/coaches what he can do. He barely got enough PAs to qualify thanks to a significant thumb injury. At this point, Basabe has significantly more track record, especially when it comes to productive power. Basabe has slugged .400+ and posted better isolated power numbers than Acuna has in their admittedly short careers. Both are interesting outfield prospects, but Acuna does get dinged a little because in a list that does take into account league context, he had an injury-plagued season.

Rich (Arlington, TX): Thank you for stopping by to chat J.J. What is your assessment of Ray-Patrick Didder? Is there anything there besides a strong arm in the outfield?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. Legit prospect of some sort. He is a plus runner and is a solid defender anywhere in the outfield. He is a table-setter as a hitter, but he gets on base because he likes to use himself as a human pin-cushion who takes plunk after plunk.

Ted (Charlotte): If Austin Riley had performed in the first half like he did in the second half, how would be have ranked?
J.J. Cooper: Not a ton different. He obviously was massively better in the second half, but the concerns that keeps him ranking where he did wouldn’t change much if he was as productive in the first half. The concerns with Riley revolve around his bat speed (which isn’t exceptional but also isn’t well below average), how his body holds up as he ages and the chance of his hit tool being above-average in the long term.

Nick (Atlanta): If he can tap into some of his plus-plus raw power, how far up prospect lists do you expect to see (a healthy) Ronald Acuna rise? Also, thanks for great minor league coverage all season long.
J.J. Cooper: Oh if he is healthy all next year, he could fly up our rankings lists. There’s a ton of potential there, he just hasn’t had a chance to show it in games all that often yet.

Steve (Kentucky): Was Anfernee Seymour given any consideration for Top 20?
J.J. Cooper: No. Not really. He can fly but right now that is it. He doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of his speed and he hasn’t really found a defensive position.

Steven (Atlanta): Was rome the most stacked team in A ball?
J.J. Cooper: Probably so. Very impressive rotation. Hard to remember a team with more legit starting pitching prospects than this one.

Doc (ATL): Devan Watts and Corbin Clouse of Rome were both excellent after getting drafted in late rounds --- any significant impact here, or just a couple of dudes?
J.J. Cooper: Clouse might be a find. He’s 91-95 with a good breaking ball. There’s something there.


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On 9/16/2016 at 3:41 PM, K26dp said:

Three Rome Braves were selected to play in the Dominican League this summer: IF Yeudi Grullón, 1B Carlos Castro, and OF Leudys Báez.

RHP Rob Whalen has tweeted that he too will be going to play in the Dominican League this summer winter.

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Some more than usual Braves chatter in the Fangraphs prospects chat today.

William: Does Dustin Peterson have enough power to hold down a corner outfield slot ?
Eric A Longenhagen: Yes but probably only as a platoon/low-end regular. Still a nice piece.

Lloyd: As long as he’s a Brave, Ozzie Albies is done at SS huh? Still as excited about him as a 2B?
Eric A Longenhagen: Yes, though I think it’s worth asking if the power spike we saw across baseball this year (which was especially strong at 2B) is here to stay and whether or not it should change the way we view baselines for player evaluations/valuation (which, it follows, would most impact 2B)

Wakawaka: Other than a decrease in K rate, is there anything specific you could imagine seeing from Travis Demeritte in the AFL (mechanical adjustments, more walks, better approach etc.) that would make you less bearish on his chances to become an average player in the majors?
Eric A Longenhagen: Just taking better at-bats and being more consistent defensively.

Joe: Were there any surprise sleepers at Braves Instructs?
Eric A Longenhagen: Yeah hold on let me grab my notes to make sure I don’t miss anyone….
Eric A Longenhagen: Okay, Jeremy Walker. 90-94 with heavy sink, above verage slider 86-88 with tight late movement, albeit short. Average curveball, mid-to-upper 70s. No changeups, but if he can locate those breaking balls he’ll get lefties out.
Eric A Longenhagen: Also this Acuna guy. Anyone heard of this guy, Acuna?

Fred: I know it was just one game and probably a few at bats, but what’d you think about Maitan?
Eric A Longenhagen: Rusty (it was his debut) but good. Definitely not a SS, though. More of a body thing than a skills one.

Wakawaka: How does a prospect that reportedly has just “okay” bat speed manage to hit for big-time power? I’m specifically thinking of Austin Riley who has showed a lot of game and raw power, but continues to have skeptics bc of a lack of “premium bat speed”. It seems like bat speed would be a prerequisite to hitting for power.
Eric A Longenhagen: So I agree with you that it’s hard to hit for power without good bat speed but there are other aspects of swinging a bat that lead to game power more than just how fast it’s going (like loft, the hitter’s timing, point of impact on the ball, etc). Also I think it’s worth considering mass, right? I don’t know for sure but if the ‘Force” applied to a baseball is what causes it to travel far and force = mass x accel and accel is bat speed, what’s mass? The mass of the bat? Do a hitter’s forearms/wrists factor into that? I don’t know. I also think it’s possible to misidentify swing length as poor bat speed. I’ve done that.

Colby: Will Kyle Muller emerge as the top pitching prospect for the Braves in 2017?
Eric A Longenhagen: Proabbly not. He’s a good prospect but Allard, Anderson, Fried, Touki…a lot of names to climb over there.

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MiLB.com rated the best organizational players in the Braves system by position. This is based purely on performance, not prospect status.

C - Jonathan Morales, Rome
1B - Carlos Castro, Rome
2B - Ozzie Albies, Mississippi/Gwinnett
SS - Dansby Swanson, Carolina/Mississippi
3B - Austin Riley, Rome (HM: Rio Ruiz, Gwinnett)
OF - Dustin Peterson, Mississippi
OF - Ray-Patrick Didder, Rome
OF - Emilio Bonifacio, Gwinnett
UT - Keith Curcio, Carolina
RHP - Patrick Weigel, Rome/Mississippi
LHP - Sean Newcomb, Mississippi
RP - Stephen Janas, Mississippi/Gwinnett

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Baseball America is out with their Carolina League review, and not surprisingly the Carolina Mudcats only got a couple of entries. Boston's Yoan Moncada was their #1 pick.

17. Max Povse, rhp, Carolina (Braves) |  
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-8. Wt.: 185. Drafted: UNC Greensboro, 2014 (3).

A healthy shoulder made all the difference for Povse, who was 1-3, 9.33 while pitching hurt in 18 innings with Carolina in 2015. He averaged more than a strikeout an inning with the Mudcats this year before pitching more economically after a promotion to Double-A Mississippi.

His fastball velocity varies, at times sitting in the upper 80s but getting up to 94 mph on occasion. When he’s at his best, Povse leverages his size and his ball gets on top of hitters with extension out front in his deliver, making for an uncomfortable at-bat.

“He went to Double-A after he was a little up-and-down here, and he really pitched well,” Wheeler said. “He throws 92-94 mph and he mixes in his changeup and curveball well.”

19. Travis Demeritte, 2b, Carolina (Braves) |  
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Winder, Ga., 2013 (1/Rangers).

Demeritte, who joined the Braves in a trade that sent righthander Lucas Harrell to the Rangers, comes with high risk (175 strikeouts in 455 high Class A at-bats this year). However, he also has plus power, with strong, fast hands, and has improved as a defender.

After hitting .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs in 331 at-bats at hitter-friendly High Desert, some of his homers became doubles in the Carolina League, but he still showed pull power and the quickness to catch up to good fastballs.

Demeritte has power to all fields but needs work on pitch recognition and plate discipline. He made up for development he lost last season, when he was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for Furosemid, a diuretic used to flush the system.

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I was listening to a Baseball America podcast, and they were talking about the Angels farm system. They were theorizing that if the Braves traded the 25-man Rome Braves roster for Mike Trout, how many Rome Braves would make the Angels Top 10 prospects. The answer they came up with: 9.

In no order, Allard, Fried, Toussaint, Morales, Sanchez, Riley, Didder, Acuna, and Soroka would all be Top 10 prospects for the Angels.

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Here's the Braves-related items from the Baseball America Carolina League chat. 

@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for chatting, Lacy. Where would Swanson have ranked on this list, had he qualified?
Lacy Lusk: Good to hear from you. I didn’t bother asking around about Swanson since I knew he didn’t qualify, but I still had some positive comments on him obviously. I’d say he would’ve been in the top 5, perhaps as high as No. 2.

Dave (Atlanta, GA): What do we make of Braxton Davidson at this point? Prospect or suspect?
Lacy Lusk: At this point, maybe more suspect. Though I think he hit the longest home run I saw in the league this year. 184Ks is quite a lot, even in today’s game.

Warren (New London): I was intrigued by a recent comparison of Travis "The Thumper" Demeritte to Ron Gant, who was one of my favorite players of his era. Does that sound reasonable to you, or would you suggest someone else?
Lacy Lusk: I’m sure the Braves would be thrilled with that, but I definitely see where you’re coming from in terms of their ability to play infield and outfield and show a speed/power combination.

Dave (DC): If Swanson is eligible, is he ahead of Benintendi for you?
Lacy Lusk: That would be a tough call. Both were stars in the SEC and have shot to the big leagues quickly. Swanson was No. 7 on BA’s midseason top 100 and Benintendi No. 9. Just because of position, I might go with Swanson, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either one.

Dave (DC): Not sure how (or if) relievers qualify for your list, but was Minter considered. His numbers were pretty incredible this year and he seems like he has the potential to be an elite reliever.
Lacy Lusk: He just pitched eight games in the league but didn’t allow a run. Was impressive at low A and Double-A, too, in the Braves organization.

Roger (Greenville, SC): I know they didn't qualify, but did you have any reports on AJ Minter, Dylan Moore, and Kade Scivicque?
Lacy Lusk: Most of the managers saw little of those guys on their way to Mississippi, so I didn’t get much on them, but the Braves certainly have numbers on their side for their rebuilding process.

Andy (Dallas, GA): Thoughts on Mudcats RHP Matt Withrow, who finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in his last 7 outings and 45 Ks in 34 innings?
Lacy Lusk: That 11-strikeout game sure was a nice finish. I had done a lot of my interviewing by then, but his name did come a bit. Throwing more than 120 innings was a real nice step forward for him.

Tom Carey (Lafayette, La): Any other prospects from Carolina? Maybe McLaughlin or Withrow?
Lacy Lusk: Sean McLaughlin had a good year. It’ll be interesting to see what the former Georgia Bulldog does in Double-A. He’s a good athlete.


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Baseball America posted their Southern League top prospects, and to the surprise of no one (especially since he was on the cover of their print edition), the Braves Dansby Swanson was rated #1. Ozzie Albies took the 3rd spot, right behind Rays prospect Willy Adames of the Montgomery Buiscuts 

1. Dansby Swanson, ss, Mississippi (Braves) | 
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2015 (1/Diamondbacks).

The Diamondbacks made Swanson the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, only to trade him to the Braves for Shelby Miller five months later. While Miller fizzled in Arizona, Swanson moved in the opposite direction.

Swanson, who grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Ga., began the season at high Class A Carolina but quickly hit his way to Mississippi on April 30 and then to Atlanta on Aug. 17. He is a well-rounded player whose ability to hit, run and defend stand above his other tools. Swanson profiles as a first-division shortstop and probable No. 2 hitter.

Swanson produces hard contact to all fields and exercises the patience to draw walks, making him at least an above-average hitter. He drives most of his extra-base hits to his pull side and has average power. His plus speed will enhance his offensive value by helping him take extra bases, including the occasional steal. SL managers recognized Swanson as the circuit’s best defensive shortstop, lauding him for his above-average range and arm. He led all full-season minor league shortstops with a rate of 3.27 assists per game.

“He’s way more mature defensively than anybody else in the league at the position,” Biloxi manager Mike Guerrero said.

3. Ozzie Albies, 2b/ss, Mississippi (Braves) |
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 160. Signed: Curacao, 2013.

The Braves jumped Albies from low Class A Rome in 2015 directly to Mississippi, much as they once fast-tracked middle infielders Andrelton Simmons and Rafael Furcal through the system. The teenager even spent May and June at Triple-A Gwinnett following Dansby Swanson’s promotion to Double-A.

While Albies faltered in the International League, he returned to the SL in July and did what he always does: hit. He claimed the circuit’s batting (.321) and on-base percentage (.391) titles with terrific barrel control, contact ability and timing. He has the bat speed to turn around any fastball and the patience to wait for his pitch. The 5-foot-9 Albies even began to show power in 2016, with a .143 isolated slugging percentage that was 32 points higher than the SL average. He won’t ever be a masher, but he he could approach average power.

A plus runner and prolific basestealer who needs to be more efficient, Albies moved to second base in deference to Swanson. Above-average range and arm strength make the position a good fit, though he needs to improve his double-play pivot. His season ended with an injury when he fractured the tip of his right elbow in the SL playoffs.

8. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Mississippi (Braves) |
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 255. Drafted: Hartford, 2014 (1/Angels).

The Braves traded Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Angels last November for Newcomb, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft. Given a full year at Double-A, he led the SL with 152 strikeouts and placed second with a .224 opponent average. Erratic control translated into 71 walks, second-most in the league.

While Newcomb’s control grades as below-average, he isn’t wild so much as he falls out of his delivery at times, inhibiting his ability to get back into counts or put batters away. He sits 92-93 mph and dials his fastball up to 95, and opposing batters struggle to pick up the ball out of his hand. A broad-shouldered, 6-foot-5 lefthander with an easy motion, he throws deceptively hard and hides the ball until the last instant, which makes him difficult to hit and almost impossible to take deep. He allowed just four home runs in 2016, for a rate per nine innings (0.26) that led all league qualifiers.

Newcomb misses bats with a tight, high-spin curveball that plays as plus with upper-70s velocity. His mid-80s changeup has improved to solid-average in pro ball, though it doesn’t feature as much action as his fastball or curveball.

12. Dustin Peterson, of, Mississippi (Braves)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Gilbert, Ariz., 2013 (2/Padres).

The Braves acquired Peterson along with three other prospects from the Padres in the Justin Upton trade following the 2014 season. San Diego had selected Peterson, who is the younger brother of Mariners prospect D.J. Peterson, in the second round of the 2013 draft as a third baseman, but Atlanta promptly shifted the error-prone infielder to left field.

Peterson led the SL with 38 doubles while ranking second with 88 RBIs and fourth with a .431 slugging percentage. League managers see the righthanded batter as having the bat speed and plate approach to become at least an average hitter with above-average power. He probably fits more as a lineup contributor rather than a focal point unless he can shorten his swing to combat elite velocity.

Peterson tried center field briefly this season but is a below-average runner who fits in left field with near-average range and an average, accurate arm.


18. Lucas Sims, rhp, Mississippi (Braves) |  
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Snellville, Ga., 2012 (1).

The Braves may be best known for stockpiling first-round power arms through trades with other organizations—think Max Fried, Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint—but they’re actually developing one of their own in Sims, the 21st overall pick in 2012 who hails from suburban Atlanta.

Sims experienced a seasons of extremes in 2016. At Mississippi to begin the year he struck out 41 percent of the batters he faced through three starts to earn a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. International League batters rang Sims’ bell (7.56 ERA, 12 home runs in 50 innings), but he returned to the SL on June 26 and continued to excel at missing bats and limiting hits. He ranked fifth in the minors with 159 strikeouts.

The issue for Sims will be control—he walked 5.4 batters per nine innings in the SL—and finding a third pitch to stay in the rotation. A thick-bodied righthander who bumps 97 mph and sits 93-95, he isn’t afraid to challenge batters with his plus-plus fastball. He uses it as a strikeout pitch and also to set up an above-average, high-70s curveball that now flashes plus more frequently than it once did. Feel for a changeup continues to elude Sims, which coupled with poor control leads many to project him to the bullpen, where he could be a high-leverage power arm.



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Here's the accompanying Braves-related chat:

Greg (ATL): Where do you stand on Sean Newcomb's future? Can he harness the control?
Matt Eddy: By ranking him where I did, I'm betting that Braves LHP Sean Newcomb can solve his control problems, but not everybody is so optimistic. History indicates that young power lefthanders often need a season or two in the majors for their feel to catch up to their stuff -- see David Price or Clayton Kershaw or Scott Kazmir. They are accustomed to simply out-stuffing batters, but that doesn't always work at the highest levels. Carlos Rodon is going through the learning curve right now in Chicago.

Larry (SD): Does Dustin Peterson project as a big league regular in a corner OF spot? How much power is in the bat?
Matt Eddy: Yes, I would project Dustin Peterson to an overall grade of about 50, meaning he's not a lineup focal point but he's not somebody you would be eager to replace. Mississippi plays as one of the worst HR parks in the high minors, so I would expect Peterson to have at least 15-homer power in a more neutral setting.

Lio (Atlanta, GA): What are your thoughts on Rob Whalen? Had a strong season at Mississippi and a few good starts in AAA before going to Atlanta. Seems to have a great sinker and decent enough secondary stuff mixed with command to potentially be a middle of the rotation starter (a bit surprised he didn't make the list). Also, potential slash line for Dustin Peterson as a starter in the Show?
Matt Eddy: The more I work on prospect lists like this, the more I bias my selection process toward pitchers with plus inputs rather than plus outputs. Rob Whalen is a good example. It's hard to argue with a 2.49 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 101 innings -- not to mention two healthy knees this year -- but Whalen doesn't throw a separating pitch, and most successful big league starters and relievers have at least one plus pitch. For this reason, Montgomery RHP Jacob Faria was the starter closest to making the grade. He throws a plus changeup and has missed plenty of bats for two seasons in a row.

John (Raleigh): So what do you think is going on with Sims' 'extremities' btw AA and AAA? I have some theories, but it's odd to see such striking differences across the two levels.
Matt Eddy: Feel free to share your theory with me on Twitter. Sims is a perplexing prospect. I think he has a great fastball but not one that he can pitch with exclusively. When he's not locating or landing enough sliders for strikes, Triple-A batters are more than willing to wait him out for a walk or a fat 3-1 pitch.


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2B Travis Demeritte has been impressive early in the AFL. He went 2-for-4 with a home run last night. On Tuesday, he hit another fly ball to deepest centerfield, about 420 feet but the ballpark is stupid big. Keith Law was scouting the game and tweeted that Demeritte has become an "outstanding defensive second baseman". 

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