A Midseason Top 30 List in August, you ask? Absolutely. I’ve always preferred to wait until after the signing deadline for players selected in the Rule IV Draft and the non-waiver trading deadline to pass before trying to race everyone else to get my rankings out there. Everyone else typically has to make multiple changes to amend their lists when the handful of draftees that don’t sign show up on campus somewhere or following the non-waiver trading deadline when someone makes a big “win now” deal. I’d rather take my time reading as many reports about newly drafted and traded prospects as I can so I’ll hopefully have a better feel for who and what some of these kids are. A couple of other differences you’ll likely notice in our rankings are:
1.) Our Midseason Top 30 excludes ANY players already promoted, regardless of whether they’ve reached AB or IP limits or not. The main reason for that is that the Braves have historically been an organization that doesn’t “rush” prospects they feel aren’t ready unless absolutely necessary. There are always exceptions, but the organization usually doesn’t like to shuttle players up-and-down if they don’t absolutely have to – SPs in particular. Recently promoted players like Williams Perez, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, and Arodys Vizcaino aren’t likely returning to the farm unless they struggle mightily or John Hart & Company decide to change their roles moving forward (which could conceivably happen if they decide to try to transform Foltynewicz into a late-inning weapon), so they don’t qualify for When Sid Slid’s summer list.
2.) I also tend to be more aggressive when it comes to ranking younger players who are further away from making an impact on the team’s MLB roster than many others. Ceiling is usually the main fallback criteria for this list. You’ll see names here you might not have heard much (or anything) about when comparing this list to others you’ll see elsewhere. This is (of course) a bit of a double-edged sword – I may hit on some fast-risers you don’t see chatted up in other places, but I’ll also miss more often since some of these players don’t have much of a track-record at the professional level. It’s always much safer to talk about players that have more experience because you can always use the crutch that those players can still be useful pieces as utility players, 4th or 5th OFs, and bullpen swingmen or middle relievers. I’ll never say that that type of player isn’t important to winning organizations, but I will say that those players develop when they show that they’re not quite good enough to be everyday players, high-leverage RPs, or have enough of an arsenal to stick in a MLB rotation.
Neither of those points make this list “better” or “worse” than other lists you’ll see elsewhere – just different. You’ve likely read a bit about many players on our list already, so our more-detailed capsules aren’t published until the offseason, but there may be bits of information here about some of the players you haven’t heard much about as yet.
So now, here’s When Sid Slid’s Atlanta Braves’ Top 30 Prospects – Midseason 2015…
1.) Hector Olivera, 3B – (AAA – Gwinnett Braves – 30 years old) – ETA: Late 2015.
The organization’s betting that he’s the right-handed slugging 3B bat they can put behind Freddie Freeman so other teams will have to pitch to him. The Braves’ scouts loved him before the Dodgers threw their Monopoly money at him this winter – so much so that they were willing to give up Alex Wood to get him. Unless Adonis Garcia keeps coming up with Gold Glove caliber plays on defense and late-inning heroics on offense, we’ll begin to find out in the next few weeks when he returns from a hamstring strain.
2.) Ozhaino Albies, SS – (Lo-A Rome Braves – 18 years old) – ETA: Early 2017.
Albies has rocketed up prospect lists all spring, creeping into the Top 30 overall on some of the more widely-credited ones. The switch-hitting speedster may well be the organization’s most exciting sparkplug/leadoff type of hitter since Rafael Furcal. Hart & Company believe in him enough to have included another Top 30 overall middle-of-the-diamond speedster (Jose Peraza) in the Olivera deal to entice the Dodgers to swallow the entire signing bonus (and overage tax) they gave up when they signed Olivera.
3.) Touki Toussaint, RHSP – (Lo-A Rome Braves – 19 years old) – ETA: Early 2018
The great imagination of the front office allowed the Braves to effectively “buy” a TOR talent by simply agreeing to take on a bad contract in a rebuilding year. The deal with the Diamondbacks to get the young fireballer with an absolute hammer of a breaking ball will be a template rebuilding clubs will try to follow for years to come.
4.) Kolby Allard, LHSP – (Rookie – GCL Braves – 17 years old) – ETA: Early 2018.
The return to the old “Braves Way” continued with the selection of Allard in the First Round of the Draft. The top ranked high school arm before a bit of a lost Senior season slipped to the Braves at #11 overall, and Hart & Company pounced on him. A lefty with premium velocity, projection remaining, and wipeout breaking ball was a no-brainer in June.
5.) Tyrell Jenkins, RHSP – (AAA – Gwinnett Braves – 23 years old) – ETA: Early 2016.
The “throw-in” in the preseason deal that sent Jason Heyward to St. Louis has been pitching like he wants to make Braves fans forget the Adam Wainright for J. D. Drew deal from years ago. The extra years of control over Shelby Miller seemingly made the deal a “no lose” proposition for one year of local favorite Heyward to many on the surface. Add a few healthy seasons of a potential #2 SP in Jenkins and you’re looking at a slam-dunk winner for the Braves – regardless of how far Jason helps the Cards ultimately advance in 2015.
6.) Max Fried, LHSP – (Lo-A – Rome Braves DL – 21 years old) – ETA: Early 2018.
Much like Kolby Allard, the organization would have had no shot at acquiring a healthy Fried. The lanky lefty was already showing three above-average offerings before having to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Armed with a fastball that routinely touched 95 (with projection to improve as he grows), a nasty power curve, and a changeup that was rapidly developing, the former #7 overall pick drew comparisons to a younger Clayton Kershaw prior to undergoing surgery.
7.) Mallex Smith, CF – (AAA – Gwinnett Braves – 22 years old) – ETA Late 2016.
Smith is another impressive speedster Hart was able to pry away in the deals with the Padres prior to the start of the 2015 campaign. The 22 year old started to answer a lot of questions early on this season, earning a promotion to Gwinnett. He’s struggled initially since arriving, but appears to be adjusting of late. The organization will not rush him again, and smartly held onto Cameron Maybin to buy plenty of time for him. An eventual pairing of Albies and Smith at the top of the lineup could be very exciting to watch – possibly by the time SunTrust Park opens in 2017.
8.) Rio Ruiz, 3B – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 21 years old) – ETA: Early 2017.
The organization challenged Ruiz by sending him to Mississippi after getting him from Houston in the Gattis deal. He has struggled a bit, but is young for his level and has still displayed a good approach with an OBP that’s .118 points higher than his batting average. The acquisition of Olivera will give Rio plenty of time to continue his development and hopefully provide additional flexibility as the team moves into its new digs.
9.) Lucas Sims, RHSP – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 21 years old) – ETA: Early 2017 .
The Braves’ 2012 First Round pick still flashes the premium stuff that made him a Top 100 overall prospect at times, but his star has faded slightly. Sims mirrors Shelby Miller at times, with a smooth delivery that consistently produces easy mid-90s gas, but he still needs to work on tightening up his offspeed pitches. He was initially sent back to the Carolina League to begin 2015 – having started last year as the youngest player there – and was recently promoted to Mississippi despite rather pedestrian numbers before being hurt in the Mudcats’ early season bus crash. With the addition of so many premium talents ahead of him, he’ll be given all the time he needs to see if he can eventually reach his #2 SP ceiling.
10.) Braxton Davidson, RF – (Lo-A- Rome Braves – 19 years old) – ETA: Late 2017.
Davidson possesses the best eye at the plate in the system, and projects to have plus power as he develops. Both tools have been on display at Rome this season. He works deep into counts looking for pitches to drive and do damage with, and his advanced approach has delivered 68 walks to go along with his .389 OBP. While he’s only hit 7 HRs thus far, it’s easy to dream on his power when you see him in person while he sprays line drives all over the field. The former 1B reminds you a bit of a young Ryan Klesko.
The Next Ten (With Calling Cards/Best Tools)
11.) Ricardo Sanchez, LHSP – (Lo-A – Rome Braves – 18 years old) ETA: Late 2018. Potential premium velocity as he fills out – #2 SP upside.
12.) Mike Soroka, RHSP – (Rookie – Danville Braves – 18 years old) – ETA: Late 2018. His low 90s fastball is backed up by an above-average curve and change. If he adds a little velocity, his ceiling is as a marginal #2/good #3 SP.
13.) Dustin Peterson, LF – (Hi-A – Carolina Mudcats – 20 years old) – ETA: Late 2017. Above-average raw power, and has made strides with his approach in 2015.
14.) Austin Riley, 3B – (Rookie – Danville Braves – 18 years old) – ETA: Late 2018. The 2015 #41 overall pick blew through the GCL with 7 HRs and 5 2Bs in 106 ABs to earn a quick promotion to Danville after only 30 games.
15.) Lucas Herbert, C – (Rookie – GCL Braves – 18 years old) – ETA: Early 2019. Kolby Allard’s high school battery mate is a solid defender with a plus arm and some offensive pop as well.
16.) A. J. Minter, LHSP – (Rookie – GCL Braves – 21 years old) – ETA: Late 2017. The Braves used the pick acquired from the Diamondbacks to gamble on the injured Minter. Premium velocity (touching 98 before Tommy John Surgery) with movement. Was on his way to becoming a First Rounder before the injury. Could turn into a potential Closer if things don’t work out.
17.) Zachary Bird, RHSP – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 21 years old) – ETA: Early 2017. The Braves landed Bird in the deal with the Dodgers. Yet another premium velocity (upper 90s with movement) righty who projects as a dominant late inning arm if his secondary offerings don’t pan out.
18.) Andrew Thurman, RHSP – (Hi-A – Carolina Mudcats – 23 years old) – ETA: Early 2017. Another piece of the Gattis deal, Thurman is at his best when working with average velocity (although he can touch 95). #3/#4 SP upside with a good changeup and average curve/slider mix.
19.) Connor Lien, CF – (Hi-A – Carolina Mudcats – 21 years old) – ETA: Late 2017. The Braves’ 2012 12th Round pick has begun to put it all together this season. A true 5 tool threat, he’s beginning to grow into his power (slugging .434 in 2015) to go along with 28 swipes.
20.) Mauricio Cabrera, RHRP – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 22 years old) – ETA: Early 2017. Cabrera’s already impressive stuff has played up even more since transitioning to the pen. With a plus-plus fastball that has touched 100) and 55 grade slider (which is improving) Mauricio projects as a potential Closer in the not-so-distant future.
The Final Ten
21.) Daniel Winkler, RHSP – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 25 years old) – ETA: Late 2016.
22.) Randy Ventura, OF – (Rookie – DSL Braves – 18 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.
23.) Derian Cruz, SS – (Rookie – DSL Braves – 16 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.
24.) Christian Pache, OF – (Rookie – DSL Braves – 16 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.
25.) Ronald Acuna, OF – (Rookie – GCL Braves – 17 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.
26.) Juan Yepez, 3B – (Rookie – Danville Braves – 17 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.
27.) Chase Johnson-Mullins – LHRP – (Rookie – Danville Braves – 21 years old) – ETA: Late 2017.
28.) Kyle Kinman, LHSP – (AA – Mississippi Braves – 24 years old) – ETA: Late 2016.
29.) Wes Parsons, RHSP – (Hi-A – Carolina Mudcats – 22 years old) – ETA: Late 2017.
30.) Anthony Guardado, RHSP – (Rookie – GCL Braves – 17 years old) – ETA: Early 2019.