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Atlanta Braves

Original Published Date: November 9, 2018

The rebuild of the Atlanta Braves has been well documented, but I don’t believe many people expected them to win the division.  But, as we saw with the Astros in 2015, sometimes the timeline gets accelerated when you have uber-talented players like Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman.  What’s encouraging for Braves fan’s is that there is more in the system, a lot more.

First, the pitching depth in the minor league system is impressive.  While I have Mike Soroka at the top if you told me Touki Toussiant, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright or even Bryse Wilson has the better career that would not surprise me.  All have top-of-the-rotation potential with floors of at least a number four starting pitcher.

While their positional player depth is not nearly as deep, there is still impact talent.  Both Cristian Pache and Austin Riley are just about ready and while I’m not as bullish on Riley as others, I do think the power is real and many in the Braves leadership believe he will be manning third very soon.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

1. Mike Soroka (RHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP

Mike Soroka got off to a fast start to begin the 2018 season showing a very polished delivery, quality stuff and the ability to throw strikes.  After five starts in Triple-A and a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the Braves promoted him to the majors.   While it wasn’t perfect, it was very, very good.

In five starts, he pitched to a 3.51 ERA striking out 7.3 per nine while walking less than 2.5.  On June 19th, he pitched poorly against the Blue Jays and then quickly hit the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.  He didn’t pitch the rest of the season.

Shoulder injuries are never good and as of the writing of this capsule, he has yet to throw in the Instructional League.  Assuming health though, and I know that’s a big if, he proved that he has the total package to be a number three or more pitcher in the big leagues.  While he doesn’t have a premium fastball (sits 92 to 93 MPH), it has great life and he has good command of it.  He also has a plus slider and change-up that miss bats.  Again, I’ve put his ceiling as a Top 30 fantasy pitcher and believe it’s possible he can achieve.  But the floor is very high and at worse, I see him as a Top 50 pitcher – assuming health.

2. Touki Toussaint (RHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP

When the Braves bought Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks in 2015 for what amounted to six million dollars, many cried foul.  While his stat line for Kane County that year showed the potential, he was very much a project.  Spin forward three years and those six million dollars looks like a bargain.

I saw Toussaint in high school and he had the electric arm.  He also had no idea where the ball was going.  The Braves were able to help him harness his premium stuff and now he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot with a chance to pitch at the very top of the rotation.  The athleticism was always there, he just needed time to grow into his long and lanky body. He’s only 23 and there will clearly be some ups-and-downs, but the stuff is for real and if his one major league outing is any indication, he’s just about ready to join the ranks of some of the uber-talented young pitchers in baseball.

3. Ian Anderson (RHP)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 35 SP

Ian Anderson quietly had a very good season in 2018.  Across 24 starts in High and Double-A, he pitched to a 2.49 ERA striking out 10.7 per nine but also walking 3.7 per nine.  He also kept the ball in the ballpark by only giving up two home runs.

When Anderson was drafted third overall in 2016, he was a 6-foot-3, 170-pound projectable high schooler.  Three years later, he’s filled out, his fastball has moved up two grades and his secondary pitchers are rounding into shape.  He still has trouble repeating his delivery but he’s athletic enough that he should be able to get his walk rate down to a low three walk rate.

I don’t believe the package is a number one pitcher, but more of a low-end number two to high-end number three pitcher.  He could see some time at the end of 2019 in Atlanta, but his full-time arrival should be in 2020.

4. Cristian Pache (OF)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF

In the first two years of his professional career, Cristian Pache played in 176 minor league games.  He had ZERO home runs.  He then gets promoted to the Florida State League, one of the best pitchers league in the minors and hits eight home runs in 93 games.  What he didn’t do was steal many bases.  He stole 32 in 119 games in Low-A in 2017 and only seven in 122 games across High and Double-A.  So, who is Christian Pache?  Let me break it down.

First, he’s a double-plus runner, so I just don’t know what happened to the speed last year.  I expect 20 plus stolen bases going forward.  He also has good bat speed, so he’s not void of power.  Also, he just turned 20 over the summer so he has yet to grow into his “man-power” plus he noticeably added loft to his swing this year.  I think it’s reasonable to project 12 to 15 home runs in the future.  While he makes good contact, he’s very aggressive at the plate and will eventually need to tone that down.

If you add it up, there is 15-30 potential with a .270 batting average.  Plus, he’ll play given his glove.  I had one person compare him to Jackie Bradley Jr. with speed.

5. Kyle Wright (RHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP

When the Braves drafted Kyle Wright with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, they hoped he would move through the minor leagues quickly. In September, he made his major league debut.  So, the plan worked.

I’ve been a big fan of Wright since his days at Vanderbilt.  He has the size (6-foot-4) to log innings and the stuff to sit at the top of a rotation.  He has a four-pitch mix with a fastball (93 to 94 MPH), slider, curveball, and change-up.  Both of his breaking pitches are quality pitches with his change-up lagging behind.  In fact, he only threw it six percent of the time in his major league debut.

While the Braves had him work out of the bullpen in his major league debut, he’s a starter.  In fact, I would expect him to log significant time in the big leagues in 2019.

6. Bryse Wilson (RHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP

If you told me that Bryse Wilson becomes the best pitcher on this list, I would not be shocked.  He has one of the best fastballs in the system, a plus slider that misses bats and he throws strikes.

He started the year in Double-A and struck out 89 batters in 77 innings while only walking 26.  Once he was promoted to Triple-A, the same stat line emerged.  He did see time in the majors, pitching seven uneventful innings.

I believe the floor for Wilson is a solid number three starter with a chance to be more.  He’s got a quality arsenal, throws strikes and is quickly learning pitch sequencing to move through a lineup.

7. Drew Waters (OF)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF

If Drew Waters were in many other systems, he would be talked about in the same vein as many other top prospects.  But, in the Braves system, he gets lost.

Taken in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Waters really broke out in Low-A to begin the season.  In 84 games, he hit .303 with nine home runs and 20 stolen bases.  The effort earned him a late-season promotion to High-A.

Look, Waters is not Ronald Acuna or even Cristian Pache, but he’s a tooled up kid with plus speed and plenty of bat speed.  While he’s aggressive at the plate, he does make good contact.  The ceiling is a 20-20 performer with a .260/.330 average.

8. Austin Riley (3B)

 Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B

After a slow start to his tenure in Triple-A, Austin Riley played much better as the season wore on.  In fact, as his stat line improved, the drumbeat started for a promotion to the big leagues.  But Johan Carmago played well enough to hold him back an in the end, I think he’ll be a better player for it.

Riley’s carrying tool is his double-plus power that has shown up as more doubles-power so far, as opposed to over-the-fence power.  However, there is legitimate 25 to 30 home run pop in the bat.  The problem is his penchant to strikeout.  He’s averaged over a 25% strikeout rate in his minor league career and in Triple-A, that ballooned to 30%.  He also does not walk a lot and together, it’s conceivable that he could hit .230 or less and struggle to receive consistent playing time.  That said, I do believe he will see considerable playing time in Atlanta next season and 2020.  If he can cut down his strikeout rate, then he’ll be a full-time regular, perhaps an all-star.  If he can’t, then he’s not going to get full-time at-bats for a potential Championship team.

9. Luiz Gohara (LHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

After Touki Toussaint, Luiz Gohara might have the best pure stuff in the Braves system.  He can run his fastball up to the upper 90s with an 84 to 85 MPH slider that can miss bats.  His change-up is clearly behind the other two pitches.  His problem has always been throwing consistent strikes and fastball command.  But, he’s only 22-years-old and by the way, has already pitched in the major leagues.

The other thing of note is Gohara’s size.  At 6-foot-3 and a listed 265 pounds, conditioning has always been a concern.  With his size also comes concern that he will ever be able to repeat his delivery consistently.  That, of course, gives him some reliever risk.

For now, Gohara is a starter with a chance to be a number three or even better ceiling.  He did end the season of the disabled list with shoulder discomfort, so fantasy owners will need to monitor.

10. Kyle Muller (LHP)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Kyle Muller worked very hard in the off-season to improve his velocity and it worked.  He touched three levels in 2018 (Low-A, High-A, and Double-A) and seemed to get better at each stop.  He struck out 8.4 per nine while walking less than two including an impressive 27:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 innings in Double-A.

Drafted as a projectable high-school lefty, Muller is now touching 95 MPH with a plus slider.  At 6-foot-6, he has great downward plane which should help him keep the ball in the ballpark.  He’ll likely start 2019 back in Double-A with an outside chance to see Atlanta later in the year.

11. Kolby Allard (LHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP

After being selected in the first round (14th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft, Kolby Allard has been on an accelerated path to the big leagues.  For good reason too…he’s posted a 2.93 ERA while striking out over eight per nine and walking just over 2.5 per nine.  He’s also kept the home runs in check.  Ok…so, why then do I have him down on the list with his ceiling has a number four starter?

It’s the stuff.  He just doesn’t have an elite arsenal.  The fastball that once sat in the low 90’s and could touch 95 is now sitting 88 to 89, touching 91 MPH.  He still has the plus curveball, but when you consider his size and overall stuff, the ceiling is more a number four starter than what we thought two years ago.

12. William Contreras (C)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 C

William Contreras is the younger brother of Willson Contreras and is starting to gain some prospect helium as he works through the Braves system.  He doesn’t yet have his brother’s overall offensive package, but a .463 SLG with 11 home runs in Low-A was nonetheless a good start to full-season ball.

Contreras has good bat speed with a nice compact swing.  While I don’t see plus power, I would not be surprised if he hit 15 to 20 home runs annually.  He also makes excellent contact with a good understanding of the strike zone.  Defensively, he’s solid and has the receiving skills to be a full-time regular in the big leagues.

13. Greyson Jenista (OF)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF

After the Braves could not come to an agreement with their first pick, Carter Stewart, last June, Greyson Jenista became their highest ranked player out of the draft.  While Stewart was about upside, Jenista is a college player with a high floor.

He’s a big kid at 6-foot-4 and a listed 210 pounds, with plus natural power.  He doesn’t have elite bat speed but does have enough raw power to suggest 20 home run future power.  He’s currently a good runner, but as he matures, I don’t believe there will be a ton of stolen base potential.  The hit-tool is where the problem might exist.  While he makes good contact, he can become passive at the plate and this puts him into poor hit counts which is limiting his opportunity in seeing good pitches.

Net-net, there is a Top 45 outfield potential, but likely not much more than that unless his raw power really accelerates as he moves through the minor leagues.

14. Joey Wentz (LHP)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP

Lost in the plethora of high-end pitching talent in the Braves organization is lefty Joey Wentz.  He doesn’t have the stuff of Soroka, Touki or Wilson, but instead pounds the strike zone with a fastball that sits 89 to 91 MPH with good movement and deception.  His curveball and change-up are quality pitches that miss enough bats to post a seven to eight K/9 rate.

It might be easy to characterize Wentz as a command-and-control pitcher, but I believe the stuff is better than that.  Additionally, command-and-control guys usually never walk anybody.  While Wentz can pound the zone, he lives on the edges and therefore will walk guys.  Plus, guys don’t get a good luck at his pitches and therefore he keeps the hard-hit balls down.

Wentz is a Top 200 player for me and therefore should be owned in most Dynasty League formats.  Again, think of a number three or four pitcher with upside.

15. C.J. Alexander (3B)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 3B

The Braves system is so deep that we could have easily put 25 names on the list. Who is the 15th best?  I’m not sure, but I did want to include C.J. Alexander on the list.  He was drafted in the 20th round last June and has been the surprise of the draft class to date.  In 52 games, he slashed .325/.429/.495, ending the year in High-A.  He has plus raw power that I’ve personally seen on display in batting practice but managed to only hit two for the year.

He did control the strike zone well by striking out less than 20% and walking 12% of the time.  Granted, everything was propped up by a .400 plus BABIP, but he crushed the ball at every level and the Braves believe they have something in Alexander.

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