Braves Top Tools: Future Position Players

Today is Part 3 of a four-part series on top tools across the Braves system. The first two parts highlighted the top grade for each position player tool and pitch. Today’s topic, Part 3, “Braves Top Tools: Future Position Players”, will try to predict top tools 2 year from now while Part 4 will focus on top pitches.

As I’ve said before, if anything this will provide comic relief when we look back at this in a couple years. It’s an exercise in trying to predict which lower-level prospects will max out a certain tool, which is extremely difficult. Certain top tools may belong to prospects not even in the system yet.

Top Tools for Positions Players in 2 Years

Hit: Michael Harris – 55

Current: Drew Waters – 60

This is a complete guess. I have Harris’s hit tool potential at 40+ on my pref list, which means there’s significant potential to grade higher than 40, but I remain conservative on his report until he gets more pro reps. I list him here because I see him having the best chance at an above-average hit tool among prospects who will still be prospects in two years. He has a loose, easy stroke with natural bat speed and a feel for the barrel. It’s the type of swing he can manipulate to cover the zone while producing impact contact to all fields. He also shows an early ability to track pitches well. Harris gets the nod here because I see Braden Shewmake graduating by then. Stephen Paolini came in a close second.

Game Power: Bryce Ball – 55

Current: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson – 55

Ball could move quickly through the Braves system, but I could see a situation where he’s had his major league debut but is still technically a prospect in two years. Here’s what I wrote for his current power: “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.” If Ball has graduated by then, runner-up goes to Mahki Backstrom. He’s a huge kid with big, natural power, even with a present raw hit tool. Vaughn Grissom is also in the running here.

Raw Power: Bryce Ball – 70

Current: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson – 70

I can repeat everything said for the game power. Backstrom likely takes this tool when Ball graduates.

Run: Stephen Paolini – 60

Current: Justin Dean – 70

This tool belongs to Dean until he graduates. He posts consistent plus-plus times and flashes elite speed. Paolini has the future top run tool after Dean among current Braves prospects. He’s adding muscle since the draft and could be even faster as he develops. He’s a burner down the line from the left side and ranges well in center field. He could be an interesting prospect to watch in the future.

Glove: Beau Philip – 55+

Current: Cristian Pache – 70

This tool probably belongs to Dean after Pache graduates. Dean has a plus glove in center based on his range and quickness. Even if Dean hasn’t graduated by then, Philip will contend for this tool with a shortstop glove that flashes plus and is a steady 55. He was a second-rounder based largely on utility-type tools, showing the ability to play high-level defense across the infield. He may not have the bat for more than that, but his glove will help him move up. Paolini also deserves a mention here as a rangy center fielder who could develop past 55. This is all under the assumption that Shea Langeliers has graduated by then. I didn’t forget his crazy good glove behind the plate.

Arm: Michael Harris – 60

Current: Cristian Pache – 70

This one is also assuming Langeliers has graduated, because he’d easily take this tool. Harris isn’t that far behind, though, as a pitcher-turned-outfielder with a cannon left arm. He has more than enough arm for right field and it’ll be a weapon with which baserunners will have to contend. If Harris is able to develop into a solid center fielder, having that arm up the middle will be even more of a weapon. Philip gets a nod here for having a plus arm at shortstop. Grissom also has a strong arm for the left side of the infield.

If this exercise tells you anything, it’s that Harris has tantalizing potential with across-the-board tools. He just needs pro reps to see where he is developmentally, especially at the plate. If he hits, he could be a very solid prospect in short order. Paolini could be on a similar track, too, if he hits at the pro level.

Thanks for reading on Braves Top Tools, Future Position Players. If you enjoyed David’s work, look at supporting his newsletter over at If you’re a fan of Braves prospects, there’s no one out there better than David to support. Also, check out all of our Minor League coverage over the course of the offseason right here.

6 thoughts on “Braves Top Tools: Future Position Players”

  1. Major takeaway seems to be that the lower minors are a little thin right now – that is, if the lower minors even exist any more.

    David, would you agree with that? It’s striking to me that there are hardly any 60 grades to dream on in the lower minors.

  2. Ryan, who would you have pointed to, if you had written the piece? Do you think there are higher-ceiling prospects that David isn’t mentioning?

  3. Not to speak for Ryan, but for me there are several guys who could end up with 70’s but are currently listed as “40+” on scouting reports. For example, Ball is given a 55 on game power but the reality is he will either be nothing or a guy with much more power than that, with nothing being the best bet. Paolini is currently a 65 runner so seeing him improve with better fitness and conditioning is certainly possible, although he could also put on more muscle and slow down. Vaughn Grissom is just one big “what if’ at this point as he could turn into a good defender, a guy with a plus hit tool, or a power guy — hard to tell with gangly, athletic 19 year olds.

  4. @Alex
    David, who’s far more knowledgeable than me when it comes to our lower levels, agrees with your sentiment. While no one takes place of the above list, I’m a dreamer and here are some guys with potential for huge scouting grades as they age:

    Mahki Backstrom
    Vaughn Grissom
    Victor Vodnick
    Braden Shewmake
    Freddy Tarnok
    Tyler Owens
    Darling Florentino
    Kurt Hoekstra
    Kasey Kalich

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