BGS’s 2016 Prospect List

prospects2016

We know you love us. We get it. Our writing is top notch, our graphics are pretty, and the only thing about our devil-may-care attitude that you don’t like is the fact that we so rarely manage to put it aside long enough to actually talk about baseball. Well, over the last three weeks, our collection of baseball writers managed to sit down, sift through enough video and stats to make us all drink 1, and hash out the definitive organizational rankings. So enjoy our ranking of the top-30 Atlanta prospects in 2016, feel free to discuss it with us on Twitter 2, and take solace in knowing that this will all change when we unload Kelly Johnson in five months for Mark Appel or Corey Seager or Julio Urias or something equally insane that will probably involve Dave Stewart or A.J. Preller.

Roney, you free.

1. Dansby Swanson, SS
Acquired
: Trade (ARI), 1st round, 1st overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft (Vanderbilt University)
2016 projected level:
AA

K – Swanson, the number one selection in last year’s draft, was the haul in the trade that shipped Shelby Miller to Arizona. The Marietta native is a consensus top-10 prospect in the league and his brief play in the minors last year showed off the polish and approach one would expect of a seasoned collegiate bat. In 99 plate appearances, Swanson walked as much as he struck out and managed a .289/.394/.482 line.

Swanson’s bat should be a pleasant departure from the overly aggressive, swing-happy, light hitting shortstops we’ve grown accustomed to in Atlanta. At Vanderbilt he had a disciplined approach, with walk rates pushing 14%, and he was able to carry that into his short minors stint in 2015. He does a good job of keeping the bat in the zone, and in the limited amount I’ve seen him, has displayed quick hands, allowing him to generate a lot of contact and keep strikeouts down. On the other hand, at 6’ 0” his frame doesn’t have a lot of projection left to it, and his swing is more tailored for gap power. There’s not a lot of loft or elevation in his swing plane, so expecting more than 15 homers from him would be irresponsible. He also figures to supplement his good contact and gap power with good base running. Swanson has plus-speed, and while he didn’t attempt a steal in his minor league cameo last year, he was extremely efficient on the base paths in college, converting at an 83% clip.

That speed also serves him well in the field, where he’s capable of ranging deep into the hole at short. He is, in some ways, the anti-Andrelton, as Simmons played back in order to get to balls and used his ridiculous arm-strength to make up for it. Swanson’s arm plays average to slightly-above average, but his range in the field should make him a strong defensive asset. Swanson should move through the system quickly as a polished college player, and should see time with the team in 2016.

2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
Acquired:
Trade (LAA), 1st round, 15th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft (University of Hartford)
2016 projected level:
AA/AAA

Stephen – Newcomb was the highlight of the Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels, coming over with Erick Aybar and Chris Ellis. He was the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft and was consistently ranked as the Angels #1 or #2 prospect. A quick glance at his profile makes it obvious why: he’s a big (6’4” 240 pounds) lefty with a mid to high 90’s fastball and a plus curve. He complements the fastball/curve combo with a changeup that began as a work in progress, but lately has developed into a consistent offering that he can use to keep hitters off balance.

The raw stuff is close to big league ready and has allowed him to post above-average strikeout rates at every level. The only thing holding him back has been issues with his command: He averaged 4.6 BB/9 across 111 innings in A ball, and walked 6 per 9 in the 36 innings he spent in AA.

For a 22 year-old with his frame and raw stuff, some early command issues aren’t something I’d stress out about. Our coaching and development staff has established a good reputation for being able to work well with pitchers like him, and it wouldn’t take much for him to be ready as a mid-rotation starter by 2017. If the change keeps developing and the command improves enough, don’t be surprised to him at the top of the rotation.

3. Ozhaino Albies, SS
Acquired
: 2013 International free agent (Willemstad, Curaçao), $350,000 bonus
2016 projected level: A+

Ian – In 2015, Albies did what he was expected to do after a tantalizing pro debut—he made lots of contact, got on base a ton, ran around, produced almost no power, and played quality defense up the middle until his season was cut short early with a fractured thumb. All of this is made even more impressive when one considers that the switch-hitter played the season at the ripe old age of 18, making him the third-youngest position player at the A-ball level. Although it’s rare to say this about a player of Albies’ age and experience level, we pretty much know what to expect of him. At the highest level, he figures to be a high-average hitter whose contact ability would make him a valuable commodity at the top of a lineup. He’s a 70 runner and plays with oodles of energy, giving him the ability to provide added value on the base paths. With the Braves’ offseason acquisition of #1 prospect Dansby Swanson, however, it seems likely that he’s destined to be the team’s second baseman of the future due to his slightly less complete defensive skillset, despite the fact that he’d project as an average or better shortstop at the highest level. What would that make him? Well, a top-tier defensive second baseman. There’s a lot to like about Albies, and he’ll look to continue to fly through the system with his eyes on Cobb County after a season or two more of refinement.

4. Kolby Allard, LHP
Acquired
: 1st round, 14th overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft (San Clemente, CA)
2016 projected level: Rookie/A

Brandon – In a draft that saw the Braves with five picks in the first 75 selections, Kolby Allard was the prized pick at 14th overall. While many had projected him as a top-ten pick, his stock began to slip after a March back injury. And just like that, Allard fit right into the mold of the Braves rebuild–find the questionable high upside, buy low.

While he was able to bounce back and make his professional debut in 2015, the injury concerns returned in November when the organization announced Allard had undergone back surgery following the end of the Gulf Coast League season. While false reports surfaced that there was a vertebrae fusion involved, the Braves quickly put that fire out and it is now believed the procedure was minor.

Injury concerns aside, Allard is still considered one of the top LH pitching prospects in baseball. He doesn’t turn 19 until August and has two pitches (a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and hard curve) that are already regarded as above-average to plus, and a changeup with a high upside. He lacks size, but more than makes up for it with his arsenal. There’s tons to like, but durability is going to be a red flag until he proves he can handle a starters workload.

5. Aaron Blair, RHP
Acquired
: Trade (ARI), 1st round, 36th overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft (Marshall University)
2016 projected level: AAA/MLB

Dan – As good a prospect as Blair is, he’s almost been an afterthought for many Braves fans. That’s what happens when you snag a #1 overall draft pick in the same deal. Blair, along with Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, came over from Arizona during the offseason in exchange for Shelby Miller. Many writers proclaimed this was a coup for the Braves, and you won’t see the BGS prospect team argue with that.

Blair actually reminds me a good bit of Swanson, in that they are both high floor players who (probably) won’t be perennial All-Stars, but should be of great value to any major-league team. Blair is the closest major-league ready pitcher in Atlanta’s now-impressive prospect stable; I’d expect him to start in Gwinnett, but don’t be surprised if you see him in Atlanta during the second half of the 2016 campaign.

Blair’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, with a heavy amount of sink and solid run away from right-hand hitters. His changeup is his best offspeed offering, and he can deliver it consistently with impressive deception. He also throws a curve, but it’s more of a “show me” pitch. None of Blair’s pitches profile as true swing-and-miss offerings at the major-league level, but he makes up for it with impressive command and movement. He won’t strike out a ton of guys, but he also won’t give up much solid contact, nor will he issue many walks.

Blair’s ceiling reminds me a good bit of late-career Tim Hudson (think 2010-2011). At his best, he’ll be an innings-eater with a clean, repeatable delivery who gets tons of ground balls, limits walks and home runs, and strikes out around 140 guys in 200 innings of work. His floor would be closer to a #5 starter. But that’s not a bad thing at all; guys like Blair almost always end up on major-league rosters. If Swanson hadn’t been involved in the Shelby Miller deal, I believe Atlanta would have still come out ahead. That’s how much I believe in Blair.

6. Austin Riley, 3B
Acquired
: 1st round, 41st overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft (Southaven, MS)
2016 projected level: A

Dan – No Braves prospect on this list has exploded onto the scene quite like Riley did. Riley was Atlanta’s third pick in last year’s draft, where they selected him as the 41st overall pick. A two-way player in high school, Riley was viewed by many teams as a pitcher. But Atlanta liked his bat, and drafted him to play third base. Early returns are very, very good.

All Riley did after being drafted was hit .304/.389/.544 with 14 doubles and 12 homers (in only 217 at-bats!) across two levels of rookie ball. Riley pairs impressive bat speed with some serious strength to give him plus power. And the scary thing is, he’s only 18 and not yet fully filled-out. He can certainly add some more muscle.

His arm is definitely strong enough to stick at third, but he’ll need to work on improving his hands and range if he wants to stay at the hot corner long-term. Otherwise, he’d almost certainly be a first baseman, which would put significantly more pressure on his bat to continue to develop. If he sticks at third and reaches his ceiling, we could be looking at a future all-star and heir-apparent to Chipper Jones. But, as with all young players, there is significant risk involved; he may not even make it out of the minors. Regardless, Riley will be the most exciting hitter to watch in Atlanta’s system this year (Unless you like bunting).

7. Lucas Sims, RHP
Acquired: 1st round, 21st overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (Snellville, GA)
2016 projected level: AA/AAA

Ian – Despite being 21 years old and a 2012 draftee, it seems like we’ve been seeing Sims on these lists for years. The Gwinnett County native has ridden a roller coaster as a prospect, but looks to be in the process of revitalizing himself and making a convincing argument that he’ll be a future rotation stalwart for the Braves. The righty was involved in the mid-season Mudcats bus crash that knocked out a third or so of his season, but after his injury, he ascended to Mississippi and struck out a bunch of hitters, and then looked downright dominant in the notoriously hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. Sims has a two-pitch combo that’s a tough draw for hitters, with his fastball running anywhere from 93-97 with run and a mean 12-6 hook to back it up. However, the questions for Sims continue to be the development of his changeup and his ability to consistently locate and command his pitches. There’s still big reward here—if he can check off those final two marks, Sims could be a #2 starter in the mold of someone like Shelby Miller. If not, he could be destined to be a mere workhorse, or even a back of the bullpen option. He’ll look to spend 2016 refining his repertoire at the upper levels of the system with a possible 2017 debut looming.

8. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Acquired: Trade (ARI), 1st round, 16th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft (Coral Springs, FL)
2016 projected level: A/A+

Brandon – Phil Gosselin. Bronson Arroyo. These are the names who will likely be the answer to a trivia question one day. In the storied trade history between the Diamondbacks and Braves these past few seasons, this will likely be the one we all look back on with fondness in our eyes. When you can go out and get one of the most electric arms in the minors for a 25th man and taking on a sunk contract, you do it every day of the week.

The numbers weren’t great after joining Rome in late June, but Toussaint doesn’t have a full season worth of innings under his belt and repetition is going to be the key over the next couple seasons. While it’s not sure where he will fall on a major league staff, if he can master his command, a middle of the rotation spot is certainly viable. If not, he already has the stuff to be a back-end reliever.

9. Max Fried, LHP
Acquired
: Trade (SD), 1st round, 7th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (Los Angeles, CA)
2016 projected level: A+/AA

K – Fried was acquired for Justin Upton last year, and is one of the more intriguing arms in the system to me. He’s lost two development years to Tommy John surgery, but the package is tantalizing. He’s a big lefty capable of big velocity, sitting 91-94 and occasionally topping out around 96 MPH. He supplements his fastball with a curve that flashes plus, and a changeup that projects to be average. In his only full minor league season he was able to use this mix to generate a decent amount of K’s for a prep pitcher while racking up ground balls with a strong 1.87 GO/AO rate.

Fried generally has clean, low-effort mechanics, but repeatability has been an issue to this point. In watching some video while putting this together, he occasionally has issues in repeating both arm slot and landing point with his stride leg which has led to command issues, as he’s walked almost 13% of hitters he’s faced in the minors. The Braves development staff has done a good job in helping guys reign in their control, and if Fried can cut back the walks and harness the raw stuff, it’s not hard to envision him as a front of the line starter.

10. Mike Soroka, RHP
Acquired:
1st round, 28th overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft (Calgary, AB, Canada)
2016 projected level:
A

Stephen – After watching the world become infatuated with Drake, Justin Bieber, and Ryan Gosling, the Braves decided to jump on the bandwagon and snatch up their own Canadian. Soroka is a 6’4” right-hander with a plus fastball, a slightly above-average changeup, and a quickly improving curveball. If that sounds good but not top-10 prospect good, consider the fact that he’s only 18 years-old. He’s already shown solid command for a guy his age–walking just 5 batters in his first 34 professional innings–and he’s developed a reputation for being a hard worker and a thinker on the mound. It’s easy to get excited about high-ceiling guys with filthy stuff that leaves guys guessing, but I’d take the guy with the high floor and foundation to develop further almost any day of the week.

11. Mallex Smith, CF
Acquired: Trade (SD), 5th round, 165th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (Santa Fe Community College)
2016 projected level: AAA/MLB

Ian – Ah, the great Mallex Smith conundrum. Is he the leadoff-hitting center fielder of the Braves’ future, or merely a light-hitting, but speedy, fourth outfielder? I lean strongly towards the latter, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Acquired by Atlanta in the December 2014 Justin Upton trade, Smith split his 2015 between Double-A, which he annihilated, and Triple-A, where some of his warts were exposed. Let’s get one thing out of the way about Mallex, though—he can fly. He is an 80 runner and stole 57 bases last season at an 81% clip. This also gives him the range to play a quality center field, although Smith still must improve his routes and angles to balls. His arm is also somewhat lacking, and might make him better suited for a corner. Now, the real point of contention when it comes to talking about Smith is his bat. And I get it—he’s hit for an average north of .300 the past two seasons, yada yada. But, his inability to drive the ball due to his size, strength, and swing will hamper him severely at the Major League level. He’s likely a singles hitter all the way. Also, the left-handed hitter doesn’t have elite, or even above-average, contact skills, which is a huge red flag for a hitter of his ilk. Smith could very well see Atlanta in 2016, and I’m sure he’ll be more than eager to prove me wrong.

12. Braxton Davidson, RF
Acquired: 1st round, 32nd overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft (Asheville, NC)
2016 projected level: A+

K – Braxton Davidson confounds me. I constantly have to remind myself he was drafted as a 17 year-old prep player, and despite this being his third year in the system, he’ll only be 19. At the time he was drafted, he was considered one of the most polished prep bats in the draft, with a great batting eye, good bat control, and the kind of power potential that scouts love to dream about. The batting eye has been plenty evident, as he’s walked in 17.4% of his PA’s. In 2015, the power started to come, as he hit 10 homers in a full season of Class-A as an 18 year-old. He’s certainly exhibited the bat control, as he has a quality line drive swing and has managed high BABiP’s—when he’s made contact.

Whether he can make enough contact or develop enough power will ultimately decide his usefulness. He struck out in over 27% of his PA’s last year, and unless he’s planning on become a poor man’s Adam Dunn, he’s going to need to get that under control. But unless he retools his swing, he’s much more a gap doubles and 15-20 homer guy than he is a prototypical slugger, even once he fills out his frame. He doesn’t rotate well through the ball, and his hands tend to lag behind his body. As an outfielder/first base type with very little athletic ability, he’s either going to have to cut the K’s and become the kind of line drive, high OBP guy Freddie Freeman is, or you have to hope that a few more years of development, gym time, and refinement can bring out what some see as 60-65 grade power potential. Either way, a 19 year-old with his strike zone command and hit tools is enough to land him in the top-15.

13. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
Acquired: Trade (STL), 1st round, 50th overall pick of the 2010 MLB Draft (Henderson, TX)
2016 projected level: AAA

Stephen – If character translated into value the way Joe Simpson thinks it does, Tyrell would be the next Sandy Koufax. You couldn’t ask for a genuinely nicer, good spirited, respectful, and hardworking guy. We here at the General Store can’t say enough good things about him. But I’m gonna go ahead and admit that there’s question marks around Tyrell. His clean delivery, mid-90s fastball, and plus curveball all point toward future success, but over the last three years it hasn’t manifested itself in any noteworthy numbers. He generates enough weak contact to keep his ERA under control, but he hasn’t been able to consistently miss bats or limit free passes. In addition to that, his changeup isn’t good enough to keep lefties on their toes, so he has to rely heavily on his fastball to try to bail himself out. There’s certainly some development left in the tank for this 23 year old, but even if everything comes together perfectly he’s not going to be more than a mid-rotation starter. I want to be hopeful of that, but realistically I think it’s only a matter of time before he starts looking like a bullpen option–an inning eating reliever with a 60 grade fastball, a 70 grade twitter account, and 80 grade socks.

14. Manny Banuelos, LHP
Acquired: Trade (NYY), 2008 International Free Agent (Durango, Mexico), $450,000 bonus
2016 projected level: MLB

Brandon – Remember when you saw him for like 25 innings last year? While Banuelos is just shy of 25 years-old, his is a name that has been kicked around since the days of yore. Banuelos is Banuelos.

15. John Gant, RHP
Acquired: Trade (NYM), 21st round, 642nd overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft (Wesley Chapel, FL)
2016 projected level: AA/AAA

Dan – Gant was the main return from the New York Mets in the trade that sent Juan Uribe (we miss you) and Kelly Johnson (K misses you) off to Queens to help the Mets’ World Series run. Gant isn’t a top-shelf prospect by any means, but he’s almost a finished product. Think of him as a (very) poor man’s Aaron Blair.

He doesn’t have overpowering stuff at all, relying instead on weak contact to generate ground balls. At 6′ 6” with a high three-quarters delivery, he gets good downhill break on all his pitches. His fastball sits right around 90, but it has enough sink to keep hitters from squaring it up frequently. He also sports an average changeup and an average curveball. Neither pitch is an out pitch, but Gant can throw them both for strikes to keep hitters honest.

The upside here is low, but the floor is high (at least for a prospect of this caliber). It wouldn’t surprise me if Gant got a long look in Spring Training, nor would it surprise me if he broke camp with the big-league club, either as the #5 starter or a swingman in the bullpen. If not, look for him in Gwinnett, to be standing by should Atlanta need a quick call-up.

16. Rio Ruiz, 3B
Acquired: Trade (HOU), 4th round, 129th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (La Puente, CA)
2016 projected level: AA/AAA

K – Ruiz was acquired from the Astros in last year’s Evan Gattis deal after being drafted as a prep player in 2012. Despite a pretty abysmal 2015, he’s still one of the more intriguing guys on this list for me. Ruiz profiles as a bat-first guy, with what some would generously call questionable athleticism, but a solid hit tool. He’s shown good plate discipline with double-digit walk rates throughout his minor league career while continuing to develop power. A slightly below average year for a 20 year old getting a full season in AA is nothing to sneeze at, especially as he managed to maintain good plate discipline peripherals (12.9%/19.2% BB/K%).

Ruiz has a swing that looks incredibly easy and lazy, and in video his swing plane can at times look extremely level and at others he has high loft through the zone. His ability to generate solid contact and power the other way bodes well for his offensive profile despite lacking raw bat speed. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in his age-21 year, as most of his issues last year are the result of a power and BABiP drop. He doesn’t project to have much more than average power, and he’s already pretty well filled out at 21, so whether his hit tool plays up to its potential will decide whether he can contribute in the long run, as his defensive value is non-existent.

17. Zach Bird, RHP
Acquired: Trade (LAD), 9th round, 296th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (Jackson, MS)
2016 projected level: AA

Brandon – Bird, like almost everyone else on this list, was acquired last season. As part of the massive Braves/Dodgers/Marlins trade at the deadline, Bird came over as the piece that wasn’t Hector Olivera. He’s a little older and a little more developed than a lot of the arms acquired over the past fifteen months, but even at 21 and topping out at Double-A Mississippi, there’s a lot to work with. He has a very heavy arm and like so many other arms in the system, there is tons of risk and reward. Yet another one of those back-end starter or reliever types.

18. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP
Acquired: Trade (LAA), 2013 International Free Agent (Puerto Cabello, Venezuela), $580,000 bonus
2016 projected level: A/A+

Dan – Ricardo Sanchez is one of the forgotten additions to Atlanta’s minor league pitching stable. He’s like the toy you get right before Christmas and then forget about after your Christmas haul (I’m sorry).

Anywho, Sanchez came over from the Angels last year in the trade that sent Kyle Kubitza out west. Sanchez may be the biggest lottery ticket in Atlanta’s system right now. At 18-years-old, the left-handed pitcher is incredibly raw. At Rome last year, Sanchez was a whopping 4 years younger than the average league player and had his fair share of struggles.

While Sanchez deals with the inconsistencies of youth, he has all the tools to be a top-flight prospect one day. His fastball sits solidly around 95 with some erratic, yet impressive, action. He also flashes an above-average curveball, albeit without much command. As he ages, the Braves hope Sanchez can fill out his frame, find consistency with his delivery, and develop a third offering (probably a changeup). If he can do all these things, you could see Sanchez at the top of this list in a few years. If he’s unable to develop thusly, as is the case with many 18 year-olds, he could be completely off the radar in a few years.

Sanchez is certainly a player to keep an eye on this year, but until he’s developed further, we have little idea where his career may take him.

19. Chris Ellis, RHP
Acquired: Trade (LAA), 3rd round, 88th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft (University of Mississippi)
2016 projected level: AA/AAA

Stephen – The other prospect in the Andrelton Simmons trade is a tough one to get a read on. He was first drafted in 2011 but decided to spend a few years at Ole Miss before being drafted in the 3rd round in 2014. He had an impressive year in high-A ball in 2015, which earned him a promotion to AA halfway through the year and caused him to start showing up on people’s radars. AA wasn’t as kind to him, as he saw his K/9 drop to 7.15 from 10.05 in A+ while his BB/9 went from 2.87 to 4.96. He’s got a solid build at 6’4” and 190 pounds and three borderline plus pitches to choose from, but he hasn’t shown the consistency and the command needed to maximize his offerings. It’s too early now to tell if he ends up at the back of a rotation or transitions into a bullpen role.

20. Ronald Acuña, CF
Acquired: 2014 International Free Agent (La Guaira, Venezuela)
2016 projected level: A

Ian – I was the high man in our initial rankings discussion on Acuña, an 18-year-old Venezuelan outfielder, and I’m convinced that this ranking will look way too low at this time next year. Of course, there’s great inherent risk in teenagers who haven’t played above Rookie ball, but I’m a believer in Acuña. Here’s why: how many legitimate center field prospects with a chance to get on base at an above-average clip with pop, all while possessing 60 speed and good athleticism do you know? I’m guessing it’s a small number. He isn’t a physical specimen at around 6’0” and 180 pounds, but his strength makes it feasible to dream on him as a 15 homer guy with quality gap power who could hit .280 or so. Also, fun fact: the first time I watched the guy swing a bat, I could’ve sworn that it was Adam Jones. Their swings look nearly identical, which doesn’t mean anything, but if you want a mental image of what’s to come, think of that. He doesn’t have swing-and-miss issues, and while there are a lot of levels and years to go until he could see the big leagues, I’m all aboard the Acuña train, full-speed ahead. Look for him in Rome in 2016.

21. Derian Cruz, SS
Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent (Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic), $2,000,000 bonus
2016 projected level: Rookie

Dan – If Ricardo Sanchez is one of the biggest question marks on our top prospect list, then Derian Cruz is right there at the top with him. Cruz was Atlanta’s top international signing last July, and was ranked as the 5th best international prospect by Baseball America. But here’s where ranking Cruz gets tricky: he hasn’t taken a single at-bat stateside to date.

On film, and in conversation with international scouts, the first thing that stands out about Cruz is his speed. Several scouts I’ve spoken with have slapped an 80 grade on Cruz’s speed; that’s not a grade that scouts give lightly. That would make him the fastest runner in Atlanta’s system, with only Mallex Smith even being able to sniff him.

Cruz is a lanky switch-hitter who projects to stay up the middle long-term, most likely in center field. He has solid contact skills and developing power, and could very well end up being a first division center fielder should everything go his way. But for now, there’s just too much unknown and too much risk to justify ranking him higher. But, like Sanchez, this could be a guy who catapults his way up the list in a few years, or he could be off the radar all together. We’ll just have to wait and see.

22. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP
Acquired: 2011 International Free Agent (Las Matas de Farfan, Dominican Republic), $400,000 bonus
2016 projected level: AA

K – The fastball man. Cabrera does one thing very well: he throws hard. I watched one of his outings in which he lit up the radar gun with fastballs clocking 99, 99, 100, 100, 100, 100, 98, generating two swings and misses. His fastball has tons of life, with healthy arm-side run that can generate weak contact. The list of things he doesn’t do well can be described as “most everything else.” He has as little of an idea of where the ball is going as the hitter does. He made some mechanical changes in 2015, turning his back to the batter in a bit of a “Nomo” type move, which I can’t imagine helps repeatability. He has a 90-91 MPH slider, which is more of a show-me pitch right now, though it does flash plus at times. He has a plus change with good fade that clocks in around 90-92. He regularly gets 9-10 MPH of change off his fastball, which he’s capable of running up to 102 MPH, and as such this has been his most valuable off-speed weapon to date. The potential for a shutdown reliever is there, but the walks and command issues are an overwhelming concern, and given his large build, bigger velocity, and command issues, it’s not difficult to see a little bit of Joel Zumaya here.

23. Dustin Peterson, LF
Acquired: Trade (SD), 2nd round, 50th overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft (Gilbert, AZ)
2016 projected level: AA

Stephen – Peterson came over with Mallex Smith, Max Fried, and Jace Peterson in the Justin Upton trade after being drafted in the 2nd round by the Padres in 2013. His brother, DJ Peterson, was drafted just a few spots ahead of him that year by the Mariners. DJ has been flying through the majors thanks to his 60 grade power, above-average hit tool, and smooth glove. Dustin, on the other hand, has been putzing around the minors thanks to being about as average as a player can get. Average height, average build, average hit tool, average power, average plate discipline, average speed, average glove, average arm. There’s nothing to knock the kid on, but there’s also nothing about him that sets you on fire. He’ll make a valuable bench player as he develops.

24. Johan Camargo, SS/3B
Acquired: 2011 International Free Agent (Panama City, Panama)
2016 projected level: AA

Brandon – Camargo is the type of player who doesn’t standout in any specific way, but also doesn’t really do anything that is going to kill you either. He has all the athleticism and ability to be a contributor as a utility piece, it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s going to develop enough to stick. He’s absolutely that type of player who you could blink and miss an entire ten year career of replacement level production.

25. Lucas Herbert, C
Acquired: 2nd round, 54th overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft (San Clemente, CA)
2016 projected level: Rookie

Ian – Herbert was the second graduate of San Clemente High School in Southern California taken by the Braves in the first 54 picks of the 2015 Draft, along with his battery mate Kolby Allard. The right-handed backstop, who was lured away from UCLA to the Braves organization with a $1.125 million bonus, just turned 19 and is the only catcher on this list. Although that in and of itself is a bit unsettling when considering the Braves’ future at the position, Herbert’s skill set could allow him to develop into a valuable asset for Atlanta in the (fairly distant) future. We didn’t get to see much of Herbert in 2015, as his season ended prematurely after he suffered a torn meniscus in his third GCL game after being drafted. However, reports on Herbert suggest that he possesses a quality defensive tool set, including good hands, mobility behind the plate, and a usable arm. He’s a strong guy, especially for his age, which suggests that he could provide pop as a hitter, but his overall offensive game is a work in progress. Check back again next year after we have a better and more complete idea of what Herbert may become, although early signs could point towards success.

26. Bradley Roney, RHP
Acquired: 8th round, 253rd overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft (University of Southern Mississippi)
2016 projected level: AA

Ian – I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tickled pink at the sight of a BRoney in our top 30. Roney, a 2014 eighth-round draftee out of Southern Miss who split time between the infield and the mound as an amateur, split the 2015 campaign between Rome and Carolina. Roney’s relative lack of pitching experience means that there’s still a lot of refinement left until he’s a viable big league bullpen option. His 18.1% walk rate last season speaks to this. With that being said, Roney possesses a dynamic arm and is on a path to being a future member of Atlanta’s bullpen. His fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and is paired with two legitimate secondary pitches: a sharp, two-plane slider and a split change with considerable fade. Bullpen guys with three legitimate swing-and-miss offerings don’t grow on trees, and his repertoire could make him effective at the back of a bullpen against right and left-handed hitters alike. He needs to improve his mechanical consistency and his control, but Roney could end up being a member of Atlanta’s bullpen sooner rather than later if he continues to iron out his inconsistencies.

27. Connor Lien, CF/RF
Acquired: 12th round, 389th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft (Windermere, FL)
2016 projected level: AA

K – Lien was a 12th round prep draftee in 2012 out of Florida who has an exciting profile and intriguing skillset, but the overall package screams fourth outfielder. Lien’s calling card has been his plus speed. He uses it to wreck havoc on the base paths and it is likely his strongest asset as a strong defensive center fielder. He also has shown off a plus arm in center, and at a minimum this skill set should earn him a job as a defensive specialist. The bat is interesting, as coming out of high school he projected to have decent raw power, but it hasn’t shown up in game, though he’ll only be in his age 22 year in 2016. Otherwise, his plate discipline is lacking and the biggest knock on him has always been his propensity to strike out. Indeed, he’s struck out in over 27% of his PA’s in his minor league career while posting a 6.5% walk rate. The floor is relatively high, as defense-first center fielders with speed in their game seem to always find jobs, but if he can’t cut back on the strikeouts, make quality contact, and put the speed to use, there’s not much more there.

28. Cristian Pache, OF
Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), $1,400,000 bonus
2016 projected level: Rookie

Stephen – Trying to project a 17 year-old outfielder prospect from the Dominican Republican seems all but impossible, but Pache sounds like a good one to bet on. Considered one of the top-30 international prospects in 2015, the Braves signed him on July 4 after seeing him at MLB’s international showcase. Everything is obviously pretty raw with the kid, but he has a mature approach that pairs well with his above average contact ability. There’s not much to write about him for now, but keep an eye on him as he moves through the system.

29. Juan Yepez, 1B/3B
Acquired
: 2014 International Free Agent (Caracas, Venezuela), $1,000,000 bonus
2016 projected level: A

Brandon – Yepez was the Braves big international signee in 2014, way back during a time when the organization wasn’t keen on dropping international dime. He’s still a couple days under 18 and only has a half-season of pro ball under his belt, so there’s still a lot of questions. The one thing we have learned is he is likely to end up across the diamond from where he was signed, having spent his month at Danville as a 1B. The book on Yepez is his bat. He has pop and consistent contact, and showed a nice amount of both in Rookie ball despite being considerably younger than the talent around him.

30. Andrew Thurman, RHP
Acquired
: Trade (HOU), 2nd round, 40th overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft (University of California, Irvine)
2016 projected level: AA/AAA

Dan – Thurman was the third piece – along with Mike Foltynewicz and Rio Ruiz – in the deal that sent Evan Gattis to Houston. A second-round pick in the 2013 draft, Thurman’s career has been unspectacular thus far. At 6′ 3” and 225 pounds, he has the build of a major-league innings-eater, but hasn’t been able to find any consistency in the minor leagues.

Thurman throws four different pitches, the most impressive of which is a mid-90s fastball. None of his breaking offerings are anything more than average though, which holds his projection down. With his build and pedigree, he will be afforded every opportunity to find consistency in the minors. I would expect him to start the year in Mississippi.

Another thing to keep an eye on with Thurman: he was used solely as a reliever during his offseason stint in the Arizona Fall League. This may have been out of necessity, but Atlanta may also feel that such a role would help him to find consistency. Time will tell.

  1. Maybe just me
  2. Don’t actually do this
About

K believes in very few things that don’t adhere to the transcendentalist manifesto prescribed by Henry David Thoreau. He is a stat head who loves numbers and spreadsheets, but after a 7 year fight against the Chip Carrays and Joe Morgans of the world, his online presence has spiraled downward into a depressing series of long-cons and trolls.

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One comment on “BGS’s 2016 Prospect List
  1. Jimbo says:

    Who would be the 69th rated prospect? I’ll hang up & listen

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  1. […] I wrote about both of these guys for our 2016 Prospect List, so go back over that if you want to read their profiles. The important thing we need for this analysis is a reasonable grade on their future value. In this […]

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