In case you missed the first 6 installments of our Atlanta Braves Prospects Lists, you can find them here:
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospects: Just Missed
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospect, 30-26
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospects, 25-21
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospects, 20-16
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospects, 15-11
- Braves Journal’s Top 30 Prospects, 10-6
A reminder that this is a cumulative list from 3 Minor League followers, Karl Ehrsam (snowshine), Matt Pocza (@Braves_Rumors), and Ryan Cothran (@baldheaded1der), and the rankings might not be reflective of each person’s opinion, of which I hope they’ll share their thoughts in the comments! Let’s get to it, shall we?
Like our 10-6 list, each contributor will give their own insight into each player in the Top-5.
Braves Journal’s Prospect #5, Bryse Wilson
(Snowshine) Wilson may be suffering a bit of prospect fatigue. While his MLB results lacked this season he made up for it by being one of the best starters in AAA. The change is developing as a real weapon which gives him mid-rotation upside. My personal comparison is Kevin Millwood.
(Matt) Wilson has been great at almost every stop, until he got to the big leagues. He struggled in his 4 MLB starts, but he was amazing in his 121 innings in AAA. He still has three plus pitches and a lot of talent, he should get another shot in the majors soon. I expect him, Wright or Touki to earn the 5th spot in the rotation coming out of Spring Training. Fangraphs has him projected to throw 48 innings with a 4.21 ERA in 2020, and those projections seem like modest expectations, but I wouldn’t be too upset with those numbers.
(Ryan) As Snowshine stated, if that changeup is developing, Bryse could be in for a real breakout in 2020. Among qualified starters, Bryse led the International League in ERA, but like Wright, the beauty is in the sample size where the changeup finally took hold and helped keep LHHs honest down the stretch. In Bryse’s last 6 starts at AAA, his line was remarkable: 40 IP, 37K, 7BB, 0.99 ERA, 1 HR.
Braves Journal’s Prospect #4, Kyle Wright
(Snowshine) Made real progress as the season went on in turning his 4 potentially plus pitches into actual plus pitches. Needs more work in turning his spin into useful spin and, with Mike Fast (the “Spin Doctor”) in the organization will get every opportunity to do so. I’m hoping for a structured bullpen role in 2020 where he is throwing every 5th day for 2-3 innings and then looks at the film and data with the coaches and learns to get better. Officially, the Braves say he is in the mix as the 5th starter. Still has workhorse #2 upside.
(Matt) I like Wright a lot, I even wrote his 2019 Player Review. His short stint in the MLB wasn’t great, but around mid-June he fired it into gear in AAA and was great the rest of the year. He has shown growth with four plus pitches and I think I would give him the best odds to start the year in the 5th spot in the rotation. Let’s not forget Wright had three great seasons at Vanderbilt; there’s a whole host of great MLB pitchers from Vandy and I hope Wright can join them this season.
(Ryan) Gosh…I like Wright a lot, but I feel like he’s going to take longer to reach his ceiling than most college pitchers selected high in the draft. However, like Snowshine, there’s no doubt that he made real progress this season at AAA and it started showing up mid-June through the end of the season. Looking at his overall numbers, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the silver lining, but believe in the sample size and growth/maturity that was seen from mid-June on, where is ERA hovered around 2.5 and was striking out a boatload of people. He’s still a very exciting prospect.
Braves Journal’s Prospect #3, Drew Waters
(Snowshine) Had a remarkable year that included the Southern League MVP. He wore down as the season went on and the power disappeared in the 2nd half. There are three main concerns with Waters: he hits far better from the left side; his BABIP was .434 which isn’t going to happen in the show; and the 27% strikeouts in AA (higher in the small AAA sample) is more than a little troubling. I’m guessing he gets a full season in Gwinnett unless we have a crisis on the MLB team. ETA Sept 2020. If we must part with 1 of our top 4 in a trade, it should be Waters as his bust potential is the highest in this group, albeit with the chance to develop into an MVP as well.
(Matt) I actually disagree with Snowshine here, as I prefer Waters to Pache. I find him a more polished all around hitter with plus defense. I don’t expect to see him this year other than September, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on Opening Day 2021. After earning the Southern League MVP last year, the sky’s the limit. While Pache is faster, Waters is the better base runner and base stealer. He has the power and speed to crush doubles and triples, with the occasional home run. At just 20 years old I’d bet on him gaining more strength over the next few years. His K% is concerning as Snowshine pointed out, but the Braves have an MLB outfielder that struck out a lot last year that I would say is pretty good… if he can learn to be a little more patient and make some more contact this season in AAA I’ll be very encouraged.
(Ryan) I’m going to straddle the fence on my opinion on Waters. I do agree with Snowshine that he’s likely the big trade chip the Braves would be willing to part with in a deal, but I don’t think he has the bust potential as his work ethic is remarkably strong. Albies has shown, with hard work, that one can close the gap a bit when switching sides and I bet we see year to year improvement in his RH swing.
Braves Journal’s Prospect #2, Ian Anderson
(Snowshine) Ian walks too many guys but the sky is still the limit. National prospect gurus still somehow underrate this guy. I expect him in Atlanta shortly after the likely Super-2 cutoff date, so mid to late June.
(Matt) Anderson has a good shot to make the majors this season. He struggled with walks upon promotion to AAA, but that should be an easy fix. If he can increase consistency with his changeup he will have an elite three pitch arsenal. While I think he needs some more time in AAA, around the all-star break could be a realistic target date. An interesting fact, Anderson was taken 3rd overall in the 2016 draft. Steve Avery was taken 3rd overall by the Braves in 1988. Many 3rd overall picks have gone on to be very successful major leaguers, and the Braves hope they found another one in Anderson.
(Ryan) Groundball rate dropped severely at AAA and he couldn’t keep the ball in the park. For now, we should chalk that up as an anomaly, not the norm. The command and changeup have got to come around in order for him to be the number 2-3 starter that he’s projected to be. I’m going to detour from Snowshine’s prediction due to other players on the 40-man, and say we don’t see Ian until August.
Braves Journal’s Prospect #1, Cristian Pache
(Snowshine) One of the 5 best outfield prospects in baseball along with Waters, Luis Robert of the White Sox, Houston’s Kyle Tucker and the Angel’s Jo Adell. Pache hit 12 homers this year (plus 2 more in an exhibition game at Suntrust) after hitting none previously. Accordingly, his ISO jumped to .185 which given that AA Trustmark Park played as a 48 this year for home runs (higher is easier — this is unreal!) is a welcome development indeed. He also added 12 triples and 36 doubles to the mix. Hitting is all well and good, but the guy’s actual calling card is defense as he has incredible range, plus speed and a cannon for a right arm. He is still working out the kinks in his new power swing putting his ETA at late June 2020.
(Matt) Defensively, Pache has been MLB ready for awhile. He plays some of the best defense I’ve seen and it will be amazing to see him roaming CF for the Braves. Hitting wise, he just keeps improving. Last season he made his way up to AAA where he struggled a bit at first, but then found his groove. In his last 15 games at AAA (out of 26) he slashed .339/.373/.554 with a 134 wRC+. Pache is also one of those players that just needs an adjustment period when they’re promoted then they really get rolling. Based solely on wRC+ his numbers have been: 110 in 2016 rookie league, 98 in 2017 A, 109 in 2018 A+, 79 in 2018 AA, 134 in 2019 AA, 92 in 2019 AAA (but that was weighed down a lot by those first 11 games before he adjusted. I think he starts the season hot and we see him in Atlanta around June or July.
(Ryan) Not enough is being said about Pache’s offensive breakout at Double-A Mississippi, one of, if not THE hardest park to hit at in professional baseball. He carried an .815 OPS while there, which was a .098 point increase from his 2018 numbers…and he’s still getting stronger and bulking up. I can’t emphasize enough how stoked Braves fans should be for this player. He might not be Ronald Acuna, but he’s got a real chance to be an above average hitter and an elite MLB CFer.
As always, thanks for reading!
If you liked this piece, here’s Matt P’s Player Review on one of the Atlanta Braves Top Prospects, Kyle Wright.