Braves Minor Leagues: Top Tools

David Lee has been studying and scouting the Braves Minor League system for years His knack for nailing player’s tools before most has made him a longtime trusted voice for Baseball Prospectus. David has now taken to focusing solely on the Braves and puts out a newsletter 3 days/week for subscribers. However, many pieces he does is free to the public. We will be featuring those pieces here at Braves Journal. Find his work over at BravesProspects.com. Here’s one of his latest Braves Minor Leagues: Top Tools

Braves Minor Leagues: Top Tools

Today marks the beginning of a fun exercise that I’ll likely bring back each season. Scouting reports consist of the traditional five tools for position players (hit, power, run, glove, arm) and pitch/command grades for pitchers. This exercise is a four-part series highlighting the top tool and pitch across the entire Braves system.

The first two posts will detail the current top tool and pitch/command grade in the system. The final two posts will attempt to name the top tool and pitch/command grade two years from now. I’ll probably be way off on the tool predictions, so if anything it’ll provide comic relief in a couple years.

On to the current top tools:

Hit: Drew Waters – 60

This will probably be the grade that is questioned the most from this four-part look at top tools. It’s perhaps the most up-for-debate grade I have on my Braves prospect list. Some will look at Waters’ aggressive approach and swing and miss, and they’ll go at least a half-tick below my plus-potential hit tool. It’s understandable considering Waters is going to strike out a lot. He also has an innate ability to find the barrel when he makes contact, and it’s consistently impact contact. He’s going to live on average exit velocity leaderboards during his career. He may have the most swing and miss of any prospect I’ll ever tab as a plus-potential hitter, but he’ll toe the line with consistently hard contact to remain productive at a high level. Waters has made strides from the right side of the plate to at least continue hitting there, but there remains a notable difference between his two strokes. His left-handed stroke has plus potential. His right-handed stroke does not. I’m giving him an overall 6 hit tool because of the majority of plate appearances from the left side.

Game Power: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson – 55

I’ve compared the power of Ball and Jackson since my first look at Ball immediately after the draft. Their raw power is very similar and can be seen through batting practice looks. Their game power is a different exercise. Ball’s game pop is still very much a projection and could increase exponentially if his hit tool develops properly. The current 55 grade is conservative until he sees more advanced pitching. He’s capable of producing plus power in-game, and that’s true impact power for a lineup. Jackson’s game power, on the other hand, is maxed at this point. He’ll continue to have a sizable gap between his game and raw pop because of severe swing-and-miss issues. His below-average hit ability limits his power by quite a bit. It’s still above-average pop, though.

Raw Power: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson – 70

I don’t have to add much here. Ball is a massive human capable of sending baseballs out of the park to all fields with ease. It’s a natural, grown-man strength from having a huge frame. Jackson is also a huge person with huge natural strength. He may have a slight edge on Ball for bat speed and flicks the ball out of the park a little more quickly. His power is also carrying to all fields, capable of sending BP shots over batter’s eyes.

Run: Justin Dean – 70

Dean is one of the best athletes in the Braves system and is the best runner among prospects. If he had an everyday role over the course of a major league season and got on base at an average clip, he’d steal 70+ bases. He flashes elite times down the line and consistently posts plus-plus times out of the box. It also translates well on defense, where he’s a solid defender in center with tons of range. Dean may not have the bat for a major league role, but his speed and defense will get him to the upper levels and perhaps a shot at the majors.

Glove: Cristian Pache – 70

There’s nothing more I can say on Pache’s defense that hasn’t already been chronicled. He’s a generational talent in center field. He’s probably the best defender to come out of the Braves system since Andrelton Simmons. He ranges exceptionally well and has excellent body control when the ball is in the air. He’s made great strides on his reads and routes to round out his defensive profile. He’s likely already one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and should become the best as he establishes himself in the majors. The Braves know how to find and develop up-the-middle defense.

Arm: Cristian Pache – 70

As if Pache’s glove isn’t special enough, he also has a cannon arm that’s a true weapon capable of disrupting run games. It’s even more impressive coming from center field, where arm strength is generally inconsistent at the position. Pache is going to cause lots of headaches for opposing teams both in tracked-down fly balls and throwing out runners or holding them up.

Other Notables:

Makeup – Shea Langeliers

Athlete/Frame – Cristian Pache

Bat Speed – Drew Waters

Swing – Shea Langeliers

Thanks for reading Braves Minor League, Top Tools by David Lee. Catch his work over at BravesProspects.com and check out our Braves Journal Prospect list here.

15 thoughts on “Braves Minor Leagues: Top Tools”

  1. I love me some underdogs and I’ll be rooting hard for Justin Dean. He’s doing everything that a player of his stature (5’6, 180ish pounds) should do:

    •Plays a defensive first position at an above average clip
    •Gets on base at an elite level (.384 OBP in MILB career)
    •Steals bases at an elite level

    The sneaky thing about him is his power. Had 9 HRs last year at Rome. While he could be the latest to compare to former Braves MiLBer Matt Young, I have higher expectations for him and I believe he could be a great 26th man on a deep roster.

  2. Imagine a scenario where the DH sticks and Bryce Ball takes over that position in 2021. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities as he’ll be 22 in July.

  3. Also, sticking to your guns and giving Waters a 60-grade hit tool gets me excited. I’ll not lie, I let the sample of spring training get in my way this offseason as both his inability to recognize strikes and demeanor really disappointed me. I’ll hold out judgment for now.

  4. I thought Water’s spring training was a good thing long-term. He really has never before faced adversity or been in a position where his natural athletic ability couldn’t carry him and yet his attitude remained upbeat and positive. Him saying it would only take a little while to adjust and refine his approach was far better than someone stating they don’t need help cough (Bettencourt) cough

  5. Hi snowshine. I’m going to send you a message directly to get this resolved. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. As we saw with my love of Mallex, I love elite speed. I could be wrong, but that’s just the one elite tool that you can’t teach. So Justin Dean has me also excited. My dream for all these guys is to put on a little weight, lose a little speed, and become Kenny Lofton. I appreciate what Ender has done for Atlanta, but we’re also seeing what lacking elite speed does to that profile of player. In fact, you could make the argument that is Ender is already on a steep decline as he enters his age-29 season.

  7. Snowshine:

    I’ve been blocked out of sending emails to your account, likely by your spam filter. There’s a good chance this is also why you haven’t received the new subscriber email. If there’s a way to unblock me and the newsletter as senders, that may fix the problem. Please email me directly if you need further assistance.

  8. David, it’s so great to see you on Braves Journal!

    I actually draw a slightly different lesson from Inciarte’s career: it shows that elite speed is actually not a prerequisite to extraordinary defense, but player decline is inevitable and most players have their best years behind them by the time they reach 30.

    So, if a guy is a starting player thanks to one skill that’s very good and one skill that’s pretty fringey, he has very little margin before that fringe skill renders him unplayable and he’ll have to spend the rest of his career as a bench defensive caddy.

  9. I would think that, where Justin Dean is, you’d want to just go ahead and get the speed and hope they develop good instincts.

    But you’re right. Ender Inciarte will probably make around $35M in his career without having a single elite tool. Very much a testament to his development.

  10. The tools guys are so tricky to predict. Lofton, as I’ve discussed before, is one of the great tools success stories of our times; so was Matt Kemp. But a lot of guys turn out more like Anthony Gose, or Anfernee Seymour, or Terrence Gore or Jarrod Dyson. It’s just so freaking hard to learn the strike zone well enough to both hit the ball and take a walk and you could have the best sprint time in the world and never do it.

    That said, this is a nice interview and suggests that he’s got a really thoughtful plate approach, he’s not just up there hacking.

  11. I think Langeliers has a higher chance of getting 5 WAR, but if Waters clears 0 WAR, he has a higher chance of getting 20.

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