The pitching continues to impress, but the bats are starting to heat up. Anyone who only thinks the Braves are developing arms is terribly mistaken. The biggest positive is that other than in a couple cases, none of the big names have disappointed – the hype doesn’t seem to be getting to them thus far and the lofty expectations for many of them may not be too much to ask after all.
As always, this isn’t a “re-ranking” of When Sid Slid’s Top 30, simply the hottest players in the system in any given week during the season.
1.) Ronald Acuna, CF, Florida Fire Frogs
Arguably the Braves’ position prospect with the most helium, Acuna’s bat began to catch fire this week. He slashed .407/.467/.630/1.096 with 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBis, and 4 SBs. Yes, “fan” is short for “fanatic”, but Ronald’s giving Braves fans real reason to go a little bonkers. I’ve seen some Andruw Jones comps thrown around when talking about Acuna, and weeks like this make you understand why.
2.) Lucas Sims, RHSP, Gwinnett Braves
Often overlooked when you go down the ridiculously long list of Braves’ pitching prospects, the 2012 pick looks as if he just might be finally turning the corner. Sims turned in another stellar start for Gwinnett this week – 7 IP, 4 hits and 2 earned runs with 3 Ks and 1 BB. It’s always been about being around the zone for Lucas because there’s no questioning his stuff – and now the peripherals are starting to line up: 23.2 IP, 21/6 K/BB Ratio, .138 BAA, 0.72 WHIP, and only 11 hits allowed thus far in 2017.
3.) Alex Jackson, C, Florida Fire Frogs
Jackson continues to impress, delivering a .276/.300/.552/.852 week with 2 more HRs and 2 2Bs. The plate discipline still needs focus, but the power everyone hoped the scouts were right about is for real when the contact is there. Alex is now up to 5 2Bs and 7 HRs on the young season, but the 2/22 BB/K Ratio will get him exposed against more advanced pitching if he doesn’t begin to tighten that up. Still, there’s been an awful lot to like about what we’ve seen from someone the Mariners had given up on.
4.) Max Fried, LHSP, Mississippi Braves
Fried has alternated stellar starts with a couple of clunkers so far this season, but this week’s was his best effort of the year early on. Max held Montgomery scoreless for 7 innings on one hit while striking out 6 and walking only one. Fried is the likeliest of the impressive group of starters at Mississippi to put himself in the hunt for a rotation spot in early 2018, but some of the others won’t be far behind him.
5.) Ozzie Albies, 2B, Gwinnett Braves
The Braves’ 2B of the not-so-distant future makes his first appearance on the Hot Sheet following a .300/.333/.400/.733 week while doubling twice, scoring four runs, and swiping a base. The Braves aren’t likely to start Ozzie’s clock this season since they’d like to stagger service-times for him and Dansby Swanson, but if Albies is playing really well and someone comes calling for Brandon Phillips around the trade deadline, all bets are off.
6.) Tyler Pike, LHSP, Florida Fire Frogs
Pike’s trying terribly hard not to be thought of as “the other guy” in the Alex Jackson trade with Seattle. Following seven shutout innings (5 hits, 5 Ks, 2 BBs) last night, he’s lowered his season numbers to a 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a .206 Average Against in 27.1 IP with a 29/10 K/BB Ratio. Tyler’s shaping up to be another of those diamonds in the rough.
7.) Randy Ventura, CF, Rome Braves
Ventura had another solid week, slashing .316/.381/.368/.749 with a double and 3 more SBs, bringing the speedster’s total to 11 on the young season (in 12 attempts) already. While he’s never likely going to develop much power, Randy projects as the type of burner that might make a good fourth OF in the future.
8. Joey Wentz, LHSP, Rome Braves
The 2016 draftee continued to “right the ship” this week, going 6 shutout innings while allowing three hits, striking out 7 and walking two batters against West Virginia (Pirates). Following a shaky outing to begin the campaign, Joey’s only allowed 2 earned runs in his last 16 IP with a 15/5 K/BB Ratio.
9). Juan Yepez, 1B, Rome Braves
Yepez had a good week down in Rome, slashing .300/.400/.500 with two 2Bs, 4 BBs, and 2 RBIs. Looking to rebound from a lost year in 2016, Juan has shown promise before – slashing .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old back in 2015 when he got his first taste of baseball stateside.
AND JUST BECAUSE HE’S THERE…
10.) Ryan Howard, 1B, Gwinnett Braves
The big fella suited up for 4 games in Gwinnett last week, delivering 4 singles and 2 RBIs in 14 ABs. Expect to see him in Atlanta as a lefty threat off the bench as soon as he gets his legs under him – finally he won’t be killing our Braves for once!!!