Atlanta Braves Top Prospects by Braves Journal, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

In case you missed the first 6 installments of our Atlanta Braves Prospects Lists, you can find them here:

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.

Long live Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

29 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Top Prospects by Braves Journal, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”

  1. That’s a pretty stacked 1-5 considering how many elite players we’ve graduated. It’s this tier that I think you can weight by acknowledging players having been graduated. No farm system is going to graduate players like Acuna and Albies year after year. But Pache is definitely above the Albies tier and below the Acuna tier and Waters and Anderson probably are too.

    What excites me is that we are not in any way relying on 1, 2, 4, and 5 to impact the big league roster, but they could easily make a big impact this year. And that’s very different than even in these past couple years where we’ve had a lot of success but had question marks all over the roster hoping to be filled by unproven players.

  2. If the season started today, our rotation would be Soroka, Fried, Hamels, Folty, and Newcomb (IMO). The caveat to what I said earlier is that I could see one of Wright or Wilson beating out Newcomb for a spot, and they could break camp as the 5th starter. I’ve beat the drum on Newcomb pretty hard as a starter, so I’m hoping that he solidifies the 5th spot.

  3. I still like Wilson more than Wright mainly because they seem to be at the same level with Wilson being 2-3 years younger. I don’t like the idea of trading either Pache or Waters because one will solve our “Markakis” problem and the other will solve our “Ender” problem. Those two are likely slated for our weakest positions (not including catcher).

    I really like the idea of Newcomb, Wilson, and/or Wright rotating through the 5th spot and long relief. The more work they can get in lower leverage situations; the more likely one will break out and solidify their position.

    I don’t think Anderson or Waters will come up this year at all. Both will be Rule 5 eligible next year and will get 40-man spots either near the end of this year (as injury replacements) or after the end of the year. Without roster expansion, there’ll be no room for them.

    Pache, on the other hand, needs to break camp with the team if he shows well in the Spring. Especially if we use Ender as a major trade piece. Assuming Donaldson signs with us, our major trade should be for a top rotation piece using players like Ender, Camargo, Wright, Duvall, etc…

  4. The problem is that Pache only has 647 PAs above A-ball, so even just giving him an additional 200 PAs at AAA would probably have a big impact. He only had a .747 OPS in 105 AAA PAs, after all. Just because the team went cheap and signed 47-year old Nick Markakis to play a corner outfield spot doesn’t mean we should rush Pache.

    But if we get to June and Pache is hitting really well and anyone is not hitting well, whether it be Ender, Markakis, Duvall, whomever, then I’d say pull the trigger.

  5. I know I’m in the minority but I happen to think Muller is better than both Wright and Wilson. Time will tell.

    Thanks for making this list guys, enjoyed reading your opinions on the system.

  6. I would think that Muller has just as much, if not more, upside than Wright and especially Wilson. Muller is a big lefty with now a huge fastball, and he already pitched quite well at AA. And that’s why the rankings are so fluid. Is there a marked difference in confidence in #5 Bryse Wilson vs. #6 Kyle Muller? I say no.

    The advantage that Wilson has over Muller is that Wilson has demonstrated success at AAA and Muller has not. And Bryse is younger. But Muller is just so exciting, and I’ve felt that way since I saw him take a shutout into the 9th in person two years ago.

  7. Bryse’s FB was topping out at 98 last year and there’s still room to grow that arm of his. I think there’s big breakout potential with him, especially if that developed changeup shows up.

    Muller is a bit of a wild card right now. Yes, he’s got a big FB, but couldn’t control it. The jury is still out on his ability to control it at a higher velo. If he can, he could be elite.

    On Pache…don’t push the kid much. He’s not ready for MLB pitching. If Braves deal Ender, they can afford to let Pache see 200 PAs at Gwinnett.

    On Newk…I still think the Braves sign their 5th starter and that Newk goes back to the bullpen. They need the LH arm there and the 2nd year in the pen could prove to be a breakout as he could be programmed to let it loose, rather than holding back for longer outings.

    No one’s talking Touki right now…and rightfully so. However, I think this is finally the year that the Braves convert Touki to a back end reliever and just let him sling the FB that can touch 100 in short stints then buckle the knees with the ridiculous curve.

  8. Yeah, I feel like people just don’t know what to make of Touki. He’s got 40 high minors starts now but hasn’t gotten big league hitters out consistently.

    I have to re-train my mind to not let Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims ruin it for me to have the mindset of “well, if a starting pitching prospect doesn’t work out, just stick him in the pen and it’ll be fine.” These guys have better stuff than those guys did.

  9. As for Newcomb, it obviously would just depend on how much it’ll cost to acquire someone who can provide the delta between Newcomb as starter vs. Newcomb as reliever. If you feel like Dayton or Minter can do the job of being the second lefty reliever, then Newcomb will not only provide more value as a starter, but you’ll also be wasting another player, in theory.

    I do really like the Alex Wood idea, but I’m not sure how big of a deal he’ll get and how much left we have to spend.

  10. I like Wood as an NRI but somebody is going to give him a guaranteed contract. Touki will be as good as the new ball will allow if that really was the problem last season. I believe he would get more benefit from robot strike zones than any other pitcher as his curve moves so much.

    The new technology allows more or less instant analysis of pitches. Wright as long reliever would get 45-50 2+ inning stints after which he could see the effects of various adjustments in real time. I believe that learning would be quicker than he would get from a year in the rotation and then he could return to being a starter in 2021 — much as I hope the same process was used on Newk last season.

  11. I’m excited to see how all these guys fit into the plans for 2020 and beyond. It’ll be clearer closer to the start of the season and as the year progresses. Muller and Waters are probably my two personal favorites, but it’s hard to choose they’re all great.

  12. I see someone saw my Twitter post on Pache’s stat line for his last 15 games in AAA considering I randomly picked the 15 game window and the exact same stats I used were posted here :)

  13. Considering that’s when he started hitting at Gwinnett, I’d say that’s a pretty good round number to choose to show that he was hitting well as he got comfortable.

    What’s your Twitter handle?

  14. Twitter handle is @Zargrove… here’s the reply tweet I made when someone was talking about Pache struggling at AAA when he got there… tweet made on 12/20/19:

    “Actually he ended the year scorching hot. Last 15 games at AAA:

    .926 OPS
    134 wRC+
    .214 ISO

    He had 26 games at AAA”

  15. New update on Phil Pfreakin Pfeifer: 34.1 IP, 1.57 ERA, 41K, 9BB, 1.19 WHIP

    Last outing: 8 IP, 0 R, 6K, 1BB.

  16. Go Phreakin’ Phil! What happens if he sees his shadow on Feb 2? 6 more weeks without baseball?

  17. @ 20,

    My understanding is that the southern hemisphere summer league is somewhere around A+ to AA level competition.

    My feeling is the low walk rate may be significant. The other stuff doesn’t mean he is great, but it does mean he isn’t crap.

  18. It is somewhat an offense-oriented league, with a league OPS of 728 and a WHIP of 1.42. Tyler Neslony had a 900 OPS down there a couple years ago (Acuna had a 1300+). The walks and the WHIP are really good for Australia, especially seeing as he is with Canberra which plays in the Coors Field equivalent of the league

  19. Problem is that the season long success of starting pitchers has nothing to do with Spring Training. Didn’t Wright look like Cy Young the first few weeks of spring but immediately regressed when the season started?

  20. @13/16 yep, I did see your tweet. After checking it out 15 was a good round number and that is when he started hitting, so figured I’d make it easy!

  21. @24… no worries. Want to make sure you know I wasn’t trying to be combative or disrespectful… sometimes I can accidentally come across that way. Was just cool to see it on the write-up. I really believe Pache is going to be a monster. Maybe not Acuna like, but maybe not as far behind as some think. I have really enjoyed your rankings and analysis guys… it all seems lined up with my thinking with only a few minor tweaks here and there. Keep it up!

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