Wow. We’ve reached the Cream of the Crop. The Elite of the Elite. The Best of the Best. But not the Best of the Best sequels which were hot garbage.
For over a month, we have been counting down the Top 50 Braves Prospects. I fully expected this list to be wrecked by a trade midway through, but in case you have been under a rock, the Braves have had a really quiet off-season since December. So, the list we started with was the list that, ultimately, we settled on and finishes up today. At the end of this column, I’m going to go back over the Top 50 just to review what the list looks like. I strongly recommend, though, reading the individual articles as we have something to say about all 50 we ranked – plus three who missed the Top 50.
Thanks for coming with us on this journey and remember to share this on social media. Also, let us know what your Top 5 or Top 10 or, hell, even your Top 50 looks like. We don’t pretend to be experts here. We’re fans just like you. Also, if you missed a previous ranking, open a tab to one of the following links.
5. Austin Riley
Poe: #5, Francis: #2, Cothran: #5
2018 Preseason: #7, Midseason: #3
Austin Riley is still a Brave. After being involved in numerous trade talks for Marlins catcher, J.T. Realmuto, the young third base prospect remains with the organization as Realmuto was traded to the Phillies. This should go down as a smart move on the Braves part as Austin Riley should be a very productive player for the Braves in the years ahead.
Riley projects to be an above average hitter in the big leagues while also playing above average defense at third base. He has a missile for an arm that would allow him to also play in an outfield corner if need be, but his below average speed may make him a liability out there. The calling card with Riley however is his prodigious power that will play wherever the Braves want to use him in the field. He has power to all fields unmatched by nearly everyone in the Braves organization.
Riley was drafted with the 41st pick of the 2015 draft which was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade with the Padres, technically making him the last remaining piece from that trade. That deal has turned out to be a poor move as the main piece at the time, Matt Wisler, largely amounted to nothing for the Braves. However, Austin Riley still has a chance to make the trade a win for the Braves if he can develop into the long-term answer at third base the team has so desperately needed.
2019 looked to be the year that Riley would break into the big leagues and make an impact for the Braves until the team signed Josh Donaldson in the off-season. Since the deal is just for one season, Riley should only expect to be held back in AAA for one more year as he continues to develop his game. Expect Riley to have a monster season in Gwinnett this year and to make his major league debut at some point in 2019. 2020 will likely begin the Riley era in Atlanta, giving the Braves a long-term option at the hot corner for the first time since Chipper Jones. (Francis)
4. Kyle Wright
Poe: #4, Francis: #4, Cothran: #4
2018 Preseason: #3, Midseason: #2
We forget about Kyle Wright. He didn’t come up and immediately start like Mike Soroka, doesn’t have Touki Toussaint’s curveball, doesn’t blast triple digit heaters by befuddled hitters. But in many ways, Wright is the safest prospect to buy into on this list. You want a starter with four pitches that he can throw for quality strikes? A potential workhorse with not only prototypical size, but the ideal delivery and athleticism? Oh, and he went to Vanderbilt so you know he’s smart.
Every team in baseball wants a Kyle Wright. Now, yes, maybe his ceiling isn’t quite as high as others. But you know what? He may have the highest floor of any prospect in the minors leagues right now. At worst, he profiles as an innings-eating #4. For what it’s worth, those don’t grow on trees anymore than Allison Bries do. You know how much Mike Leake got paid to be an innings-eating, 2-3 fWAR pitcher? $80 million! That’s a reasonable expectation for Wright and that, I think, is if Wright doesn’t reach his full potential.
But he has the ability to be more and, despite being SEC tested, Wright still has the youth (just 23) to expect more. His best pitch is either his low-90’s heavy fastball – he can reach 97 mph – or his swing-and-miss slider. How far his potential takes him will probably depend on just how far his other pitches, a curve and change, develop into plus-plus options. They are already good enough to allow Wright to start from Day 1 of this season, though his competition is fierce.
Wright’s another of these arms that could work into a multiple-inning relief role for the time being. He also could be a prime trade candidate if the Braves need to upgrade. Whatever the case, Wright could play a pretty big role for the 2019 Braves. (Poe)
3. Touki Toussaint
Poe: #3, Francis: #5, Cothran: #3
2018 Preseason: #15, Midseason: #5
Touki, Touki, Touki
Can’t you see
Sometimes your curveballs hypnotize me
And I just love your flashy name
Guess it’s why I’m broke and you’re so paid
Johan Camargo. Huh? Why ya talking about Johan Camargo on a Touki Toussaint piece? Cristian Pache. Uh, Ryan? You high? No. I’m not high, I’m just a little stubborn and untrusting of words that don’t support stats and this is why I mention Camargo and Pache so leave me be.
I was told by people smarter than me that Camargo’s bat would come around and have been told the same with Pache. It’s hard to trust the words when I’ve seen with my own eyes (MiLB TV is a wonderful thing) the lack of the skillset I’m supposed to trust, but I was dead wrong on Camargo, will likely be wrong about Pache. And now, the vomited truth:
It looks like I was wrong on Touki when I said his likely ceiling is the bullpen.
I was able to watch Touki in the minors several times and saw the same thing: a devastating curveball, a 95 MPH fastball, and an inane ability to lose his mind under pressure. However, the stats don’t fully back this up and I feel like I was judging him based on the sample size my eye caught and not the whole picture that was a full body of work and a player, just like the aforementioned Camargo and Pache, that was (and still is) in development.
There’s no doubt about it now: Touki holds the best overall stuff in the Braves system. With a curveball that immediately becomes top-10 in MLB, a fastball that hits 95-96 pretty regularly, and a change and cutter that continue to rise, that total package tallies up to a frontline starter that needs to get battle tested in the bigs. This is the sole reason why I think it’s important to find real innings for our young starters. They’ve done what they needed to do to get their shot in the show, and pitchers (such as Julio Teheran) that are known back-end starters on this team, need to be moved to let the system that was built by pitching show its fruit. With Folty, Gausman, and Newk slotted in at 1-3, I hope Touki gets one of the last 2 spots and shows the same potential he possessed in his 5 MLB starts in 2018.
He could be the ace in the hole. (Cothran)
2. Ian Anderson
Poe: #2, Francis: #6, Cothran: #2
2018 Preseason: #8, Midseason: #6
Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright are the two prospects that I most equate to the fruit of our suffering as Braves fans. They were the third and fifth overall picks of their respective drafts and are in the Braves organization because of the on-field futility of the past few years. I understand that there are countless other prospects that the Braves acquired during this rebuild, but these are the two prospects that were specifically acquired because of how bad we were in 2015 and 2016. Those teams were very hard to watch, and these are the prospects that we have to show for it. They are our reward for sticking with the team through the bad times. Luckily for us, they both seem to have the potential to lock down rotation spots for the Braves for the better part of the next decade.
Since getting drafted third overall in 2015, Ian Anderson has largely succeeded at every stop of the minor leagues. His strikeout rate has gone up at every level he has climbed while his FIP has gone down. His walk numbers are not excellent, but minor league umpires are typically lousy, and the numbers are not alarming in any way. Anderson has also been a relatively fast riser through the system, despite being a cold weather kid out of New York. His current pace leads you to believe that he could reach the majors in 2019, but I would pump the brakes on that notion. With all the talented young hurlers ahead of him in the current pecking order, Anderson would have to have a remarkable season to get the call ahead of all of them. I would imagine a mid-2020 ETA is more realistic as he still has some things to work on and has very little experience above A ball.
Anderson has a tremendous arsenal of pitches to work with. Everything starts with his plus fastball that sits 92-94 and touches 96 at times. The fastball features good movement and he commands the pitch well. He already shows the ability to locate the pitch in and out, up and down with intent, and he should develop at least above average command of the fastball at his peak. His breaking pitch is an 11-5 curveball that he currently uses as his out pitch, especially against right-handed hitters. I am not as high on his curveball as is seems to lack bite and has been reported to have an incredibly low spin rate. Most scouts love the pitch however, and rate it as being a plus pitch in the future. He also features a change-up which he started using more often in 2018 and should be a third plus pitch for him to use. He maintains his arm speed well when throwing the change and the pitch features good fade and a substantial velocity difference from his fastball.
The stats, the scouting reports and the pedigree all agree that Ian Anderson should be an excellent starting pitcher at the big-league level. While he likely won’t develop into a true “ace”, he should be an excellent #2-#3 starter in the big leagues for years to come. Braves fans will have to be patient a little while longer for everything to fully come together for Anderson, so it’s a good thing there are so many other exciting pitching prospects to keep our attention until then. (Francis)
1. Mike Soroka
Poe: #1, Francis: #3, Cothran: #1
2018 Preseason: #4, Midseason: #1
Miyee, Miyee, Miyee, Miyee, Miyee
Anytime you walk into the Cothran household, you’re in danger of having fun at the expense of my daughter Murphy. She is a carbon-copy of my fun side and it’s rare that she’s ever quiet. Last year, when Soroka debuted for the Braves, I was so excited, I started singing The Knack’s “My Sharona” but replaced My Sharona with Mike Soroka. For some reason, that has lodged into my little girl’s brain and she’s been singing it for nearly a full year, and no…I’m not discouraging it! She belts it out and it’s wonderful!
Touki might possess the best stuff in the Braves system, but there’s simply no pitcher in the system with as much “between the ears” sense as Soroka. People call it pitchability, but it breaks down to usable intelligence. Following a game plan, locating pitches, and knowing when something’s working makes Soroka the most complete pitcher in the system…yes, that includes the Major League team. The shoulder issue was scary but it sounds like it’s been alleviated through a mechanical adjustment and strengthening (and if you don’t follow Soroka on media platforms, the dude works tirelessly to improve his body). If Soroka stays healthy, I think he’s the best pitcher on the staff by July. He possesses good velo, 3 above average pitches, and the ability to locate said pitches. He’s the closest thing to a Maddux mind that we will likely see out of the minors, and that is exciting (no I’m not saying he’ll become Maddux so shove off). Be excited, Braves fans. He and Touki could be the aces we’ve been waiting for and 2019 is an exciting time. (Cothran)
Well, that’s it. I want to think Michael and Ryan for helping me with this and we’re all set for camp to open later this week. Once again, here’s our complete list.
1. Mike Soroka
2. Ian Anderson
3. Touki Toussaint
4. Kyle Wright
5. Austin Riley
6. Cristian Pache
7. Drew Waters
8. Luiz Gohara
9. William Contreras
10. Bryse Wilson
11. Kyle Muller
12. Joey Wentz
13. Kolby Allard
14. Patrick Weigel
15. Grayson Jenista
16. Huascar Ynoa
17. Tristan Beck
18. Freddy Tarnok
19. Chad Sobotka
20. Alex Jackson
21. C.J. Alexander
22. Izzy Wilson
23. Jacob Webb
24. Trey Riley
25. Corbin Clouse
26. Thomas Burrows
27. Tucker Davidson
28. Jasseel De La Cruz
29. Ray-Patrick Didder
30. Travis Demeritte
31. Jefrey Ramos
32. Riley Delgado
33. Victor Vodnik
34. A.J. Graffanino
35. Josh Graham
36. Andrew Moritz
37. Drew Lugbauer
38. Justin Dean
39. Odalvi Javier
40. Jeremy Walker
41. Troy Bacon
42. Hayden Deal
43. Nolan Kingham
44. Jeremy Lawson
45. Jacob Higginbotham
46. Lucas Herbert
47. Trey Harris
48. Matt Rowland
49. Braulio Vasquez
50. Braxton Davidson
Also receiving consideration: P Walter Borkovich, Connor Johnstone, Dilmer Mejia, Luis Mora, Jose Olague, Gabriel Rodriguez, Kelvin Rodriguez, Ryan Shetter, Brandon S. White, and Brooks Wilson; C Victor De Hoyos; IF Derian Cruz, Greg Cullen, Carlos Paraguate, Alejandro Salazar, and Luis Valenzuela; OF Asmin Bautista, Jeremy Fernandez, and Gary Schwartz.