Last year's Braves list

The State of the System: The big-league team is atrocious, which can have its benefits on the farm. Atlanta's has more pitchers than post-work happy hour.

The Top Ten

  1. SS Dansby Swanson
  2. LHP Sean Newcomb
  3. SS Ozhaino Albies
  4. RHP Aaron Blair
  5. LHP Kolby Allard
  6. RHP Touki Toussaint
  7. RHP Mike Soroka
  8. 3B Austin Riley
  9. LHP Max Fried
  10. RHP Lucas Sims

1. Dansby Swanson, SS
DOB: 02/11/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted first overall by Arizona in the 2015 MLB Draft, Vanderbilt University, signed for $6.5 million; acquired by Atlanta from Arizona in deal for Shelby Miller
Previous Ranking(s): No. 2 on Top 125 MLB Draft Prospects
2015 Stats: .289/.394/.482, 1 HR at short-season Hillsboro
Future Tools: 60 hit, 60 speed, 55 glove, 55 arm
Role: 60—First-division shortstop

Swanson gets the “more floor than ceiling” rap, but that should be viewed as a compliment because there’s as little volatility here as with any shortstop prospect in baseball. The swing is simple, and his ability to repeat it with above-average bat speed and line-drive plane allows him to make solid contact to every part of the field. He’s a very assertive hitter, and while he will jump on the first pitch, he also will work counts and draw plenty of walks. The strength limitations keep the power grade down, but because he transfers his weight and recognizes pitches early, he should be a double-digit homer guy with plenty of doubles thanks to his ability to drive the ball into the right-center gap. He’s also a plus runner, and his smarts on the bases give him 30-steal potential.

Though Swanson was a second baseman until his junior season, you wouldn’t know it from watching him play shortstop. He has excellent instincts, an above-average throwing arm, and shows outstanding footwork. Combined with that plus speed, the overall defensive skill set makes him as close to a lock to stick at the position as you can find. You could move him to anywhere else on the diamond, but I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Is he going to be a star? Probably not, but Swanson owns an incredibly high floor, and he’s the prototypical no. 2 hitter who also can provide above-average defense at a premium position.

Fantasy Impact: The combination of Swanson’s ability to hit for a batting average that flirts with .300 and steal upwards of 25 bases should go a long way towards making fantasy owners forget that he probably won’t hit more than 12-15 homers in a season (especially now that he’s out of Arizona). That said, if he hits those achievable numbers, he’s an easy top-10 shortstop even with this new crop that is taking the game by storm.

Major league ETA: 2018

2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
DOB: 06/12/1993
Height/Weight: 6’5” 240 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 15th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, University of Hartford; signed for $2.5184 million; acquired by Atlanta in deal for Andrelton Simmons
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (LAA Org.)
2015 Stats: 2.38 ERA, 136 IP, 97 H, 76 BB, 168 K at Low-A Burlington, High-A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas
Future Tools: 65 fastball, 60 curveball
Role: 60—No. 3 starter

Newcomb was a steal for the Angels in the 2014 draft, and he’s a heck of a coup for the Braves as well. He will consistently touch 97 with his four-seam fastball, sitting 92-94 with downhill plane and some sink. He complements that pitch with a plus curveball that now shows the spin and depth to be a swing-and-miss offering after appearing slurvy and inconsistent in college. The change doesn’t offer the same upside as the fastball or curve, but he has gained feel for the pitch and there is no longer a noticeable difference in arm speed when he delivers it.

If Newcomb’s stuff is close to big-league ready, the command and control are not. He’ll create self-inflicted damage with walks and he falls behind in the count too often—largely because he doesn’t always repeat his delivery and his three-quarters arm slot. The stuff suggests that Newcomb can pitch at the top of a rotation and pile up the strikeouts, but his command issues make it just as likely he pitches in the middle of the rotation, maybe even in the back of it if it doesn’t take a step up soon.

Fantasy Impact: Given fantasy owners’ predilection towards hitters, it shouldn’t be surprising that Newcomb is not the top fantasy prospect in this system. However, with his SP2 upside (despite the considerable WHIP risk for his ceiling), he should be a hot commodity regardless. With his frame and raw stuff, a large innings count (yay wins) and 200-plus strikeouts is achievable, but he’d probably have to get pretty lucky with the BABIP to keep his WHIP below 1.20.

Major league ETA: 2016

3. Ozhaino Albies, SS
DOB: 01/07/1997
Height/Weight: 5’9” 150 lbs.
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired:Signed out of the Curacao July 2013 for $350,000
Previous Ranking(s): #6 (Org.)
2015 Stats: .310/.368/.404, 0 HR, 29 SB at Low-A Rome
Future Tools: 70 speed, 60 hit, 55 arm
Role: 60—First-division shortstop

You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that does a better job signing major-league shortstops than Atlanta. Albies appears to be the next in a line that has included Yunel Escobar, Elvis Andrus, and Andrelton Simmons, and that’s just in the past decade. Albies makes a ton of contact from both sides of the plate, and despite his small stature it’s not weak contact. There’s above-average bat speed with solid rotation, and his quick wrists allow him to flick the ball the opposite way or fire bullets up the middle. When he does make weak contact, his plus-plus speed makes him a threat to beat out anything to the left side, and once on base he’s a nuisance who can steal 40-plus bags a year. The wheels also help compensate for a complete lack of power—he might thank you for grading it a 20.

Albies is no Simmons with the glove, but there’s enough here to project a future shortstop. Those aforementioned wrists lead to plenty of zip on his throws, and while he is still prone to gaffes on the field (17 errors in 93 games last season), his ability to make the spectacular look routine compensates. This is a future top-of-the order hitter, and one who could move fairly quickly because of his rare skill set.

Fantasy Impact: He’s still a sexy name in some dynasty leagues, leagues, but where Swanson offers just average power production, Albies will be a flat-out value sink. If he’s actually hitting .280-plus with 30-40 steals, you won’t mind, but even the owners who have rostered Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar over the last half-decade haven’t been thrilled with their returns.

Major league ETA: 2017

4. Aaron Blair, RHP
DOB: 05/26/1992
Height/Weight: 6’5” 230 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted by Arizona 36th in the 2013 MLB Draft, Marshall University, signed for $1.435 million; acquired by Arizona from Atlanta in deal for Shelby MIller
Previous Ranking(s): #3 (Org., Diamondbacks), #43 (101)
2015 Stats: 2.92 ERA, 160.1 IP, 137 H, 60 BB, 120 K at Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 60 change, 50+ curveball
Role: 55—Mid-rotation starter

A prospect as talented as Blair usually headlines a deal, but then again deals don’t usually include the reigning first-overall pick. Blair isn’t overpowering, but his fastball is extremely heavy with plenty of plane, and at 90-94 mph the velocity is certainly enough to keep hitters from squaring up. There’s no discernable difference in his arm speed when throwing his change, and while it’s not a swing-and-miss pitch, the fade and deception make hard contact a rarity. The curveball has seen improvement in his two-plus years as a professional, with enough depth and spin to call it a solid-average offering.

Blair’s stuff reads more as a no. 4 than a potential no. 2, but his command allows it to play up significantly. His delivery is always balanced and there’s very little effort, allowing him to limit the self-inflicted damage while keeping the ball down consistently. He’s basically a finished product, and he should be helping the Braves rotation at some point this summer.

Fantasy Impact: There’s always a place for players like Blair on a farm team, but with the dreaded mid-rotation ceiling, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of over-investing in them. Blair is going to have to accumulate most of his value in wins and ratios, as we’re really looking at only around 140-150 strikeouts in a full campaign. Still, in the woeful NL East he’s capable of getting those ratios to 3.50 and 1.25—which would make him a viable mixed league starter even in shallow formats.

Major league ETA: 2016

5. Kolby Allard, LHP
DOB: 08/13/1997
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 14th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, San Clemente HS (San Clemente, CA); signed for $3.0424 million
Previous Ranking(s): No. 8 in MLB Draft top 125 prospects
2015 Stats: 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 12 K at Gulf Coast League
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 60 curveball, 55 command
Role: 55—No. 3 starter

You could argue that with the addition of Newcomb and the selection of Allard, the Braves picked up the pitching steals of the last two drafts: one scout called Allard “a Brady Aiken starter kit.” That’s a good thing. Allard would have gone much higher if not for a stress reaction in his back, but he appeared plenty healthy in his limited time in the Gulf Coast League. His four-seam fastball sits 91-93, topping out at 96, but it plays up because of how easy the delivery is. The curveball is another plus offering—the best curveball I saw from a prep last season—and its tight spin and two-plane break make it a put-away pitch. He’s still gaining feel for the change, but he has improved his arm slot and has added deception .thanks to plus arm speed, and the aforementioned repeatable delivey helps him throw strikes with all three offerings.

The only question marks are size and health. Back injuries are a son-of-a-you-know-what, and because he doesn’t have prototypical size, there are already concerns about whether he can handle 180-200 innings. Still, with a chance for three 60 tools, there’s an awful lot to like here, and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he’s a top-50 prospect in 2017.

Fantasy Impact: The upside for Allard is high enough that it’s almost tempting to take him over Blair right now (that said, it may not be long before that’s the “right” move). He should be the first prep pitcher off the board in dynasty league drafts this off-season and makes for a really strong early second round pick (or late first in a deep league).

Major league ETA: 2019

6. Touki Toussaint, RHP
DOB: 06/20/1996
Height/Weight: 6’3” 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 16th overall by Arizona in the 2014 MLB Draft, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Coral Springs, FL); signed for $2.7 million; acquired by Atlanta in deal for Phil Gosselin.
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org., Diamondbacks)
2015 Stats: 4.83 ERA, 87.2 IP, 71 H, 48 BB, 67 K at Low-A Kane County and Low-A Rome
Future Tools: 70 fastball, 60 curveball
Role: 50+—Mid-rotation starter/high-leverage reliever

In 10 years, the most shocking thing might be how little the Braves had to “give up” to get one of the most talented right arms we’ve seen: Bronson Arroyo wasn’t even owed all that much. But for taking on the rest of his contract, the Braves got a guy whose electric stuff is led by a hard four-seam fastball that can get up to 97 mph and features explosive life. His curveball is often his best pitch, with two planes of break and silly amounts of spin. Unfortunately it moves so much that it is rarely a strike, so hitters looking for it will get themselves a free ball. The change is still in the developmental stages with a noticeable drop in arm slot. Given the rest of the arsenal, however, he need only mold it into a fringe-average compliment in order to stay in a rotation.

Toussaint’s command, however, may have other ideas about his future role. He struggles to repeat a delivery that consistently appears to be in a rush, and when he isn’t missing the zone entirely, he’s wild within it. If he’s moved to the bullpen he could be Tom Gordon, but if he can stay in the rotation, he could be Tom Gordon.

Fantasy Impact: Pray for content. Settle for free rent. If you’re a Toussaint owner, your fingers are constantly crossed that the light will flip and he’ll step forward to an SP2 ceiling. However, with a high-end relief (and likely closer) floor, there should be some payoff at the end of this journey. He could be a 200-plus strikeout starter with a WHIP in excess of 1.30.

Major league ETA: 2018

7. Mike Soroka, RHP
DOB: 08/04/1997
Height/Weight: 6’4” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 28th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Bishop Carroll HS (Calgary, AB); signed for $1.9747 million
Previous Ranking(s): No. 77 in MLB Draft top 125 prospects
2015 Stats: 3.18 ERA, 34 IP, 33 H, 5 BB, 37 K at Gulf Coast League and short-season Danville
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 55 change
Role: 50+—Mid-rotation starter

When the Braves selected Soroka in the bottom of the first round, I thought it was a fairly significant reach. Here’s my mea culpa: I’m an idiot. The Canadian right-hander was very impressive as a pro, with one scout saying he looked like the best pitcher in the Atlanta system in 2015. There’s still some projection left, but his 90-92 mph fastball with good plane is already a plus pitch, and he’ll reach 94. The arm speed and fade also make his change a borderline plus pitch, and he can locate it for strikes or bury it out of the zone. The curveball has taken major strides: A pitch some had as a 40 in high school now routinely flashes average, and there’s just enough depth to keep hitters off the other two offerings. He repeats his arm slot and delivery as well as you can for an 18-year-old, and though the command will never be elite, it’s good enough to start.

The sample size of the curve is small, but there’s a chance Soroka becomes 60-60-50, and that would make him a no. 3 starter.

Fantasy Impact: Pitchers without high ceilings who have yet to pitch in full season ball are just one big collective yawn to most dynasty leaguers. Those in deep leagues could take a shot on him using his strong start as a jumping off point to increased trade value, but given the depth of the 2015 class (from a fantasy sense), he profiles as a late-round pick.

Major league ETA: 2019

8. Austin Riley, 3B
DOB: 04/02/1997
Height/Weight: 6’3” 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 41st overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, DeSoto Central HS (Southaven, MS); signed for $1.6 million
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: .304/.389/.544, 12 HR, 2 SB at Gulf Coast League and short-season Danville
Future Tools: 60 power, 60 arm, 50+ hit
OFP: 50+—Above-average regular at third base

Well, this certainly qualifies as a surprise. Most of the scouts I spoke with before last year’s draft thought Riley profiled best as a pitcher. The Braves saw a hitter, and in a limited sample it appears they may just be on to something. His impressive combination of bat speed and strength give him plus power from the right side, with a chance for more as he fills out his frame. This is not your typical “swing for the fences” hitter either, as Riley commands the strike zone well. The length of the swing creates some contact issues, but he stays through the zone well enough to project a potential above-average hit tool.

Defensively, Riley has more than enough arm strength to handle third base—he was clocked in the mid-90s during his senior season—but the rest of the defensive profile isn’t ideal. He’s a below-average runner, doesn’t have elite range, and his hands are only okay. That could mean a move across the diamond, dropping his value precipitously. If he can stay at third, this is a potential all-star, with as much offensive upside as any prospect in the system.

Fantasy Impact: Now here’s where we have some fun. Riley has tons of potential at the plate—in fact, his fantasy ceiling is probably the highest in this entire system. The glimmer of hope for a .270 hitting third baseman with near 30-homer power is exciting, even if he does come with a very long lead time and some positional risk.

Major league ETA: 2018

9. Max Fried, LHP
DOB: 07/30/1993
Height/Weight: 6’4” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted seventh overall by San Diego in the 2012 MLB Draft, Harvard-Westlake School (Los Angeles, CA); signed for $3 million; Acquired in deal for Craig Kimbrel
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: DNP
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 60 curve
Role: 50—mid-rotation starter

Fried missed all of the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so this is a somewhat risky ranking—if you believe these things can be risky, anyway.

When healthy, Fried shows impressive stuff, led by two- and four-seam fastballs that will hit 96 mph and sit comfortably in the low 90s with downhill plane. His curveball also flashes plus, with solid spin and hard downward break, but he hasn’t thrown it for strikes as often as he did in high school. The same can be said of his average change. His smooth delivery lacks much effort, which certainly won’t hurt his attempts to avoid future injury. We never know how a guy will recover from Tommy John, but if he comes back looking like the same guy we saw as a prep and for most of 2014, he’ll shoot up this list and contribute to the Braves rotation in the coming seasons.

Fantasy Impact: I’ve long been an advocate for Fried, and how much that continues depends on how the stuff looks when he returns this year. If he carries the same ceiling, it’s an SP2/SP3 peak, not too far off from what Newcomb is capable of with a little more in the ratios and a little less in the whiffs. We’re just in a holding pattern for now.

Major league ETA: 2018

10. Lucas Sims, RHP
DOB: 05/10/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 225 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 21st overall in the 2012 MLB draft, Brookwood HS (Snellville, GA); signed for $1.65 million
Previous Ranking(s): #1 (Org.)
2015 Stats: 4.37 ERA, 92.2 IP, 75 H, 54 BB, 100 K at Gulf Coast League, High-A Carolina and Double-A Mississippi
Future Tools: 70 fastball, 60 curve, 50+ change
Role: 50—Back-end starter/high-leverage reliever

You may recall that Sims was listed in my “Say Something I’m Giving Up On You” article to end the 2015 season. He said something: In the Arizona Fall League, I saw a right-hander with two borderline plus-plus pitches. He can get his four-seamer up to 97 with mild run and decent plane. He paired it with a nasty curveball with good depth and spin that made a couple of hitters look silly. His change has quality movement with deception, but it’s so rarely in the strike zone that it’s hard to call it more than an average offering at this point.

As impressive as the stuff is, Sims’ control and command both leave a lot to be desired. It’s not a case of failing to repeat the delivery, but more a question of feel; he creates too much self-inflicted damage to project as more than a back-end starter. If he starts throwing more quality strikes he could become a no. 2, but there’s no evidence he can do that at this point, and the bullpen is very much a realistic landing spot.

Fantasy Impact: If you’re into name recognition and risk, Sims might just be your guy. He has enough still in that arm to profile as a mixed league starter with a step forward or two, but we’re getting close to the point where he’ll be drop-worthy in leagues that roster 250 prospects if that doesn’t happen at some point in 2016.

Major league ETA: 2017

Five who are just interesting:

Mallex Smith, OF – Smith is a true 80 runner who is a threat to steal a base—or two—anytime he reaches. The question has always been whether or not he can get on base enough to put that speed to use, but he’s made progress over the past few years, shortening the swing and making more consistent hard contact. His diminutive frame and linear swing path give him no chance for power, and there’s a frustrating amount of swing-and-miss for someone who should be focusing on putting the ball in play to make use of his speed. He also takes questionable routes in the outfield and possesses a below-average throwing arm, so sticking in center field isn’t a lock. But running fast is running fast, and there’s a great chance Smith shows up as a competent fourth outfielder in Atlanta as soon as next year.

John Gant, RHP Gant was acquired by Atlanta in the trade that sent Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson away, and the former 21st-round pick settled in nicely. The right-hander doesn’t have an overpowering fastball—sitting 89-91, with some sink—but he gets downhill from his 6-foot-5 frame. He gets that same sink on a solid-average change, and he’ll throw both pitches—and an average curveball—for strikes with improving command. The upside is somewhat limited, but Gant is as likely as any name here to be pitching in the rotation this summer.

Mauricio Cabrera, RHP – The Braves made the decision to move Cabrera to the bullpen, and while the stat line illustrates how much work the 21-year-old needs, there are flashes of brilliance that suggest he can become a dominant reliever. His fastball is a double-plus offering that has been clocked in the triple-digits, and he complements it with an above-average slider with enough hard tilt to spin hitters around when they’re sitting on the heater. He’ll also show a fringe-average change, though that pitch might get scrapped as he advances through the system. If he can figure out where his two best pitches are going, Cabrera could become a future closer. If he can’t, he’ll be an up-and-down reliever.

Johan Camargo, SS – Camargo doesn’t have a standout tool, but as a shortstop with a chance for four average tools he does have an outside shot to become a starter someday. He controls the strike zone and uses the whole field from both sides of the plate, and his short swing allows him to make consistent contact. That contact isn’t always the hardest, as Camargo’s frame is slight and the lack of loft to his swing essentially eliminates any chance for power. There’s work to be done defensively, but he has the athleticism to stay in the middle infield and his plus throwing arm gives him a chance to play the majority of his career at shortstop. The upside here is bottom-of-the-order hitter who helps you with the glove; a floor as a quality bench bat with utility is valuable, too.

Zachary Bird, RHP – Bird was acquired from the Dodgers in the Hector Olivera/Alex Wood deal in July, and while he doesn’t have the talent of those names he does have a chance to become a big-league pitcher. The impressive arm strength that made him intriguing as a prep now allows him to consistently hit the high 90s with some sink. He’ll show a solid-average slider with hard tilt, and a softer curveball and change. Neither of the latter pitches grade as average yet, and the control and command are not where they need to be. If the command does take a step forward, there’s back-end starting potential in Bird’s right arm, with high-leverage relief also a possibility.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/90 or later)

  1. Ender lnciarte
  2. Julio Teheran
  3. Dansby Swanson
  4. Sean Newcomb
  5. Ozhaino Albies
  6. ​Aaron Blair
  7. Jace Peterson
  8. Arodys Vizcaino
  9. Matt Wisler
  10. Kolby Allard

First, a moment of silence for those lost in the pursuit of the Next Great Braves Team. Since last year’s list went live in November of 2014, Jason Heyward (no. 1 that year), Alex Wood (no. 4), and Andrelton Simmons (no. 5) have been shipped out of town, leading to much ink-and-paper handwringing among the Atlanta commentariat and also to their absence from this list. The only other big-league player on last year’s list not eligible for consideration in 2016 is Freddie Freeman (no. 2), who, despite his many other virtues, turned 26 in September, making him an Old Man and not worthy of further discussion here.

Do you feel appropriately solemn yet? Well, stop it, because there’s an embarrasingly rich collection of talent up for consideration here, headlined by new number one in Inciarte. The industry consensus—which I’m happy to contribute to—is that the Braves fleeced the Diamondbacks good and proper in acquiring Inciarte (alongside Swanson and Blair) in exchange for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier. That’s partly on the strength of Swanson and Blair’s potential, which you’ve already read about, but also on the back of Inciarte’s actual, honest-to-god performance in 2015, which made him the most valuable Diamondback not named Paul Goldschmidt or A.J. Pollock and one of the very best center fielders in baseball.

The problem with Inciarte, insofar as there is a problem, is the lack of a track record, and the degree to which his performance is driven by a sterling but possibly unsustainable defensive record (he’s at a +27.4 FRAA over the last two years) and a largely power-free offensive profile. If Inciarte puts up another season like his 2015, he’ll be on lists like this until he’s too old to feature. If his knocks find fewer holes in 2016, though, or he loses a step in the outfield, he’ll have to prove himself all over again in 2017. For now, though, I’m impressed enough with a 4.1 WARP season as a 24-year-old position player that I’ll put him just above Teheran, who may never reach his potential but who’s pretty darn good nonetheless.

A quartet of brilliant prospects follow the two big-leaguers, followed by a trio with intriguing upside, moderate present value, and second-half-of-the-alphabet last names (I’m a fan). Peterson I rank behind Blair because Blair, at his best, could be a pretty good big-league starter and Peterson, who appears to be somewhere near his best, is a relatively ok big-league infielder. That’s not a bad thing to be—remember, this is a good list in general—but if I was forced to pick one of the two (for the record: I’m not) I’d take the high-floor mid-rotation starter over the low-ceiling second-division infielder. So I did.

Vizcaino, who’s been racking up Delta SkyMiles shuttling between Atlanta and Chicago for the past few years, is a tantalizing case. He’s always had talent—just take a gander at some of his BP Annual comments over the years—but he’s consistently struggled to put it together when he’s on the mound, which hasn’t been that often over the last few years. He remains on this list because the upside is so darn high, but each passing year he fails to break out is progressively more damaging to his case for inclusion.

Wisler had some previously unknown command issues in the second half last year and likely profiles as no more than a mid-rotation starter. That (and I’ve used this phrase before) is not a bad thing to be at all, and it gets him a place right above Allard, who might one day be what Wisler is now, but doesn’t get him past the hope and dream that is Vizcaino. In a year, though? Braves fans may be happier to have Wisler than Vizcaino on their roster. Heck, they might be at that point right now.

The broader point, though, is that fans should be happy they have both, and those that come after them: talent like Shae Simmons, Paco Rodriguez, and all the prospects you just read about. The Next Great Braves Team has already claimed some victims, sure, but it’s got some victories in its future as well. – Rian Watt

The Executives

General Manager: John Coppolella
Director, Scouting: Brian Bridges
Director, Player Development: Dave Trembley
Special Assistant to the General Manager: Roy Clark

Outside of perhaps the Cardinals, there is no team that has done a better job over the past 25 years with player development than the Braves—particularly with pitching and the middle prospects. Not all of that is due to continuity—there have been plenty of changes in that time frame — but they’ve also promoted from within a great deal, and that has helped keep a consistent process in the organization. Despite rarely spending massive amounts of cash on international free agents, and usually picking in the middle or back of the first round, they find a way to consistently churn out productive players, a reason you don’t see many Braves prospects bust.

I’m slightly biased, but even if i didn’t call Kiley McDaniel a friend, I’d call him a tremendous addition to the front office as the Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. There are few people I’ve spoken with who do a better job scouting the draft, and he’ll be a big help to an already strong scouting department that includes Bridges and Roy Clark. Clarks is recognized as one of the most respected Scouting Directors of the 2000’s, having led the drafts that saw Atlanta procure Brian McCann, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and others.

Thank you for reading

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Seems like this system has gone from about 23rd to like 9th in a year ... is that about right?
Going deep-cuts here, but Randy Ventura had some very nice numbers before the car accident that put a few of the DSL Braves' best players on the DL. His steals and average especially looked pretty. Any reports on him to this point? Or is he just someone we wait to see debut in the US?
I've talked to a couple of people about him throughout the year, particularly after he was present during the Fall Instructional League.

Plus runner with instincts on the bases, lacks the strength to consistently drive the ball at present, and that may remain the case long term, approach in the box is raw, solid defensive potential that could leave him in CF. Certainly an intriguing prospect but there's a lot to overcome to make the profile work.
Where would Hector Oliveira fit here?
My recollection is that I read some positive things on BP about Braxton Davidson around the time of the mid-season Top 50. I expected that he'd fall out of the top 10 with all the trades, but was hoping for a few words in the "interesting" section. Any thoughts on his potential going forward?
What a deep system, there is a good handful of players not mentioned that would rank on most teams' top tens. Does Tyrell Jenkins crack ATL at some point this summer?
He could certainly make an appearance given some of the flotsam and jetsam in front of him (I mean Bud Norris is in their rotation at present). That said, it's not clear he's better than the guys ahead of him either. You can't miss that few bats and put that many guys on via walk and have any extended period of success. He's got good raw stuff, he's not yet 24 years old, and he's at Triple-A, so there's plenty to work with here, but there are some definite areas of improvement for Jenkins to address before he can meaningfully impact the MLB roster.
Hector Olivera not listed because?
1) Too Old
2) Foreign pro
3) Too many days on MLB roster
Historically we've not ranked older foreign imports alongside prospects because they tend to be different beasts, so to speak.
If Hector Olivera were a pitcher, he'd be the third oldest pitcher on the Braves 40-man roster.
the reason we all read these articles isn't because these guys are young, though. it's because we want to know what all the new fellas coming into the league are going to do. olivera's one of those
Olivera has been covered extensively in regards to his skills, including this Call Up article, among others. If there's a specific question about him and what one of us may think of him, we're happy to answer it, of course. But his status as a rookie isn't really synonymous with the above players' status as prospects, at least in our view.
sure. not trying to be argumentative here, and you're not the only ones to hold this position. it's just always seemed pretty arbitrary to me.

what exactly is the difference? the task seems exactly the same - projecting the MLB performance of new players, based on scouting looks and their performance outside of MLB.

certainly olivera's been mentioned elsewhere, just as this year's draftees were covered in various other draft articles and so on. but this is theoretically the all-around braves checkpoint. but we're going to leave this one guy out, because he's 30. it's your website, of course, but, it doesn't make any sense to me at all. and the arguments for doing it - "different beast", "not synonymous" etc all seem incredibly vague tbh. allard isn't -precisely- synonymous with blair either but you guys made it work.
Certainly, I do not think you come off as argumentative. It's a fair question with a possibly unsatisfying answer. To some extent, all of this is arbitrary. Why is someone with 49 innings a rookie but someone with 51 innings not? I don't really have an answer.

Our policy on imports such as Olivera, Matsuzaka, Darvish, Abreu, etc is consistent with the policy used in the past. Certainly this doesn't mean it couldn't change, but I won't deny it was part of the consideration.

I think the difference between Olivera and the Allard/Blair situation is that there isn't really development left in front of Olivera. He is a finished and complete product, in essence, who has displayed his talents in a professional league. Half the value assigned to many prospects is whether they will be major league players. This is almost not a consideration with Olivera, as well as the others mentioned above. One can argue, validly that there are prospects who are drafted with limited or no development (physical or otherwise) left to be had, and that's fair, but they are generally not 30 years old.

I don't disagree that he could be included in prospect lists, so it is my turn to hope not to be argumentative. Baseball America does so (or has done so) and there's little issue with it. I think it ultimately comes down to philosophy on how these guys should be treated, with no one correct answer. As Minor League Editor, it is my opinion that treating someone like Olivera, or those imports mentioned above, as in the same situation as a Kolby Allard or Lucas Sims isn't a useful exercise. If our team or management felt strongly otherwise, I wouldn't stand in the way of it being done, though, because I can certainly see the argument for it.

I don't presume to convince you, but hopefully you can see where we're coming from with our choice here.

certainly. thanks for taking the time to discuss it, at least.
I think a footnote at the bottom of the Top10, something along the lines of "If Olivera were considered for this list, he would be around #4" would be all that is necessary. I like using about 6 different websites to compile Top 10-20 team and Top 100-500 prospect lists to aid my fantasy draft. So omitting a Top100ish "prospect" from a team prospect list makes me have to invent a number for what BP thinks he would slot in as on ATL's Top10 list. I'd rather you do that for me. It doesn't have to be a full-blown account, but to not mention him at all seems short-sighted.
In that case, Bret Sayre annually releases his top 101 for fantasy (and recently posted his top 50 international signees), which should serve the same purpose as the one you're describing.
Yes it will. And Olivera will be eligible for my Dynasty 101, which is going to be released later this off-season, leaving no fewer than three places at BP where he will be ranked w/r/t his value in dynasty leagues.
Quite a collection of #1 draft picks here. Nine of the Top Ten (including compensation picks). Granted that many of them seem to be high floor guys. There's no commodity as tantalizing as a Starting Pitcher prospect with the potential to breakout and the Braves have proven quite adept in the past at identifying who to trade and who to keep. Doing so again could help them fill out the rest of the roster.
Dansby, Mallex, and... what's the deal with Braxton? Any thoughts?
Seems like we've been waiting for Zachary Bird to breakout since he was drafted. With good K numbers, bad BB numbers, and a solid batted ball profile. Still just going into his 21yo season at the AA level, he was always supposed to be slow burn project, with his arm talent he could wind up being the gem of the trade. He could also wind up being a middle reliever. Will the real Zachary Bird please stand up?
"Inciarte’s actual, honest-to-god performance in 2015, which made him the most valuable Diamondback not named Paul Goldschmidt"

...or A.J. Pollock.
Naturally, you're correct. We've updated it to reflect that. Thanks for the note.
You're entirely correct. I'm a pillock for forgetting him. Thanks for catching it, and thanks to Craig for fixing it.
While the 2016 Braves are going to make a run at the 1962 Mets record it was eye-opening to go down this list of prospects and see all the first round picks, many of whom actually performed well. Somewhere in that list the Braves might find the next Maddox, Smoltz and Glavine.
Wrong conjunction. There's a chance the Braves might find the next Maddux, Smoltz OR Glavine.
Move over Swanson, I'm driving!