2019 Top 50 Braves Prospects – #31-40


Welcome back to this year’s preseason Top 50. We started our list last week with the bottom ten players, plus a player missing the ballot that we kind of liked. And while we won’t touch on the elite prospects this week, this system still sports some interesting players just outside the Top 30. Certainly, the system is now more top-heavy after trades, graduations, and sanctions. But there remains a good deal of prospect depth beyond the popular names that sprinkle overall Top 100s as the 2019 season nears. As those players graduate or are dealt, it’s these type of players that will be counted on even more.

Once again, with me is Ryan Cothran and Michael Francis. With each player, you get where we ranked them this year and their overall rank both in last year’s preseason and midseason rankings. Thanks for reading and be sure to share if you enjoyed this piece.

40. Jeremy Walker
Poe: #33, Francis: #42, Cothran: UR
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

When it comes to stuff, Jeremy Walker may not rank in the Top 50 pitchers in the Braves system. But stuff isn’t everything and Walker aims to prove that as he looks to tackle the upper minor league levels in 2019. Drafted out of Gardner-Webb in the fifth round back in 2016, Walker is essentially your prototypical pitch-to-contact guy. He has good control – though his walk rate did increase a skosh in 2018. He induces a lot of grounders and he won’t get a lot of K’s. Walker aims to hit his spots and hopes his defense does their job. Oddly, that kind of profile might play up better as he rises up the ladder. Defenses get better and playing surfaces become more pristine. Walker sports a four-pitch mix with low-90’s velocity on his heater, a pair of breaking pitches, and a changeup. None of them grade highly, but he can command all of them. If Walker makes it to the majors, he’ll need some luck and his typical guile. (Poe)

39. Odalvi Javier
Poe: #39, Francis: #34, Cothran: UR
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: #41

Like Walker, we’re talking pitchability-over-stuff with Javier – though Javier did strikeout 133 batters in 126 innings last year. Compared to the rest of the organization, only the much-more famous arms of Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, and Ian Anderson struck out more. Nevertheless, Javier is known more for his guts than his talent on the mound. After pacing the Appalachian League in hit batters with 11 in 2017, he led the South Atlantic League with 17 last year.

It’s not so much a lack of control, though he did uncork 14 wild pitches and his walk rate reached double figures at 10.3%. He generally knows where he wants to throw it. But he also knows he doesn’t have Toussaint’s curve or Anderson’s heater. He lives-and-dies on the outside corners and, judging by how many bruises he’s given the last two years, definitely the inside corner as well. As he continues to refine his control and approach, it’ll be interesting to see how far he goes. Though Braves fans hate this name – and Javier does show a better strikeout arm – Javier kind of reminds me of the Marlins’ Jose Urena. Too soon? Whatever the case, Javier maxes out as a bottom-of-the-rotation arm, but could land a recurring role in the majors. (Poe)

38. Justin Dean
Poe: #38, Francis: #50, Cothran: #39
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Justin Dean can absolutely fly. A 17th rounder out of Lenior-Rhyne College, Dean is fun to watch on the bases and in center field where he shows good range. His shelf life isn’t likely going to last long – much of his game is built on one tool in speed and that’s the tool that leaves the quickest. At the plate, Dean has a quick bat and flashes the occasional pop, though he beats the ball into the ground too often to expect regular double-digit home run totals. He strikes out a bit too much for a guy so dependent on speed, but he also walks a decent amount. His stolen base success rate wasn’t great after the draft, but he’s a guy I hope runs into Eric Young Sr. around the spring training complex starting next month. Overall, there’s enough to like here. He’s a faster, more-skilled version of Raysheandall Michel, who starred in Danville the year before. Michel hit a wall in A-ball last year. Dean’s got a better chance to excel, though. (Poe)

37. Drew Lugbauer
Poe: #30, Francis: #39, Cothran: #46
2018 Preseason: #30 , Midseason: #30

“Slugbauer” entered 2018 with a lot of hype. After being an 11th round pick in 2017, Lugbauer destroyed the Appy League while a member of Danville, bashing ten homers in just 29 games. He finished his first summer of pro ball in Rome, slashing .277/.338/.462 over 31 games. 2018 was supposed to be his year, but a funny thing happened – all of the concerning metrics from 2017 with Rome (lower walk rate, higher K-rate, .385 BABIP) came home to roost as he lost about 50 points off both his BABIP and AVG. He still slugged a dozen homers, but Lugbauer’s triple slash rested at .232/.317/.374 by season’s end.

To be fair, Lugbauer did make 65 starts behind home plate rather than rove around the infield corners and catcher like he did after being drafted. Lugbauer caught and played third base in college, mostly manning the hot corner because he wouldn’t have seen the field much otherwise. Defensively, what the Braves wanted to see this season was whether he had enough defensive ability to stay at catcher. Reports are mixed, though. If he has the athleticism, Lugbauer could become a fun Swiss army knife for the bench, capable of catching but also moving from behind the plate when you need him to. His bat will have to lead the way, though. In 2018, he stagnated at best. He’ll need a much better 2019 to maintain his prospect status. (Poe)

36. Andrew Moritz
Poe: #40, Francis: #40, Cothran: #32
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

At 5’11, 180 pounds, Moritz isn’t going to wow anyone with a Giancarlo Stanton stature. However, Moritz has used every ounce of his talent and size to rack up accolades throughout his collegiate career and is looking to build on that success in pro ball. Moritz doesn’t hit for power but what he does is use his speed and heavy contact approach to put the ball in play on a line and it’s worked well thus far.

A Todd Cunningham type player, Moritz does everything on the diamond pretty well with over the fence pop being the exception. He can run, walks his fair share, hits for average, and can play all 3 outfield positions. Cunningham seems a good comp, although with some good breaks, I could see Moritz having a Gregor Blanco type career. Already 22, I’d bet Moritz starts at Rome next year with eyes toward a quick promotion. (Cothran)

35. Josh Graham
Poe: #36, Francis: #31, Cothran: #42
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR
2019 Top 50 Braves Prospects - #31-40
Josh Graham | By Jeff Morris. Find him on Twitter @BIRDIESnBRAVES

Josh Graham was the Braves’ fourth round pick in their loaded 2015 draft class. After converting to the mound as a junior at the University of Oregon, Graham has developed into a high upside reliever. Graham is equipped with a plus fastball that can reach up to 97 mph, a plus slider and a near elite change up. This three-pitch mix could lead Graham to become a dominant late inning reliever who could be effective against both righties and lefties.

The issue that has held Graham back to this point in his professional career is his poor command. As a recently converted pitcher, it isn’t terribly surprising that he has yet been able to harness his elite stuff. However, at 25-years-old time is not on his side and he’s yet to find success above high-A. With the stuff that Graham possesses, his command doesn’t have to be perfect, but it must be better than it’s been so far. In 52 innings in AA over the past two seasons Graham has had a 16.5% walk rate with only a 21% strike out rate. These numbers will have to improve for him to continue to progress up the minor league ladder. If they do and he finds more consistency with his command, it wouldn’t be surprising at all for Graham to finish the 2019 season in Atlanta. (Francis)

34. A.J. Graffanino
Poe: #31, Francis: #32, Cothran: #44
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Son of former Brave, Tony Graffanino, A.J. was drafted by the Braves in the 8th round of the 2018 draft out of the University of Washington. After a successful yet injury shortened junior season at Washington, Graffanino had a strong start to his pro career with a 104 wRC+ in 153 plate appearances for Rome. He even saw a slight uptick in power, hitting a home run after not hitting a single long ball in his college career. While Graffanino is likely never going to be a big power threat, he is going to need more thump in the bat to succeed at the upper levels of the minors.

Graffanino is a plus defender at shortstop with above-average arm strength and speed. However, his bat has lagged behind these skills to this point. He has an aggressive, singles-oriented approach that does not lend itself to much offensive upside. Graffanino has a tall, lanky frame that could potentially add some more strength. With a refined approach and more muscle, Graffanino could become a good enough hitter to make it to the big leagues as a low end regular at shortstop. 2019 will be a big season to see if Graffanino can make these adjustments and progress toward a viable hitting profile. (Francis)

33. Victor Vodnik
Poe: #35, Francis: #41, Cothran: #26
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: UR

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a new Touki in town and his name is equally fantastic. Electric, raw, talented, intelligent, and likely somewhat frustrating, VV will bring all the ups and downs of TT to Braves country in hopes that it will provide the same end result. Already throwing mid-90s regularly and teasing triple digits, Vodnik was a two way star in high school. He was taking his talent to college until he Braves coaxed him out of it with a well over slot 200K bonus.

From a personality perspective, it sounds like Vodnik is going to be easy to root for as his past coaches brag on his respect and work ethic and his mom (who was a busy woman, as Victor has 6 brothers and 1 sister) calls him “the sweetest kid alive” relaying a story about a kid at school with Down Syndrome getting picked on and Victor was distraught by his classmates actions.

  • Good kid.
  • Good work ethic.
  • Heck of an arm.
  • 80-grade name.

Get your jersey, folks. Victor Vodnik’s going to be a whole lot of fun to watch grow. (Cothran)

32. Riley Delgado
Poe: #37, Francis: #27, Cothran: #34
2018 Preseason: UR, Midseason: #38

Everyone knew he was going to flash the leather but what most didn’t think would translate is Riley Delgado’s bat. Thus far, Delgado looks like a Phil Gosselin clone at the plate, and while that won’t wow many, managers appreciate a player that will make a pitcher throw 5-6 pitches per at-bat. He’s not really walking that much, but by-golly he ain’t striking out either. In fact, his K-rate is 9.1% and that’s remarkable.

I think Goose is a good ceiling comp for Delgado. He has the ability to play anywhere on the infield and provide good defense and hold his own with the bat. A baseball rat who never missed a game in his college career, Delgado might not make the show as a player but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him stick in baseball for years as a coach. (Cothran)

31. Jefrey Ramos
Poe: #25, Francis: #33, Cothran: #37
2018 Preseason: #48, Midseason: #28

Jeffrey Ramos was signed by the Braves in 2016 as an older international prospect out of the Dominican Republic. After successfully navigating the lowest levels of the Braves minor league system, Ramos’ age is no longer an issue as he should play next season in High A as a 20-year-old. Ramos had a strong full season debut in 2018 as he had a 102 wRC+ in 503 plate appearances for the Rome Braves. While Ramos didn’t walk much he also maintained a healthy contact rate and showed good power on contact which bodes well for his future.

Ramos is going to have to hit and hit a lot as he already looks limited to left field defensively. He was a below average runner as a 19-year-old and will likely only slow down with age. Ramos has plus raw power that has already shown up in games and the makings of an average hit tool. However, the upside for Ramos is likely a low-end regular who plays a below average left field or the lesser half of a left field platoon. There is a chance for more if the hit tool continues to progress beyond average, but that seems unlikely at this point. (Francis)

Twenty down, thirty still to come. Unlike last week, this batch of players mostly appeared on all three ballots, though of course there were disagreement as to where each player should be slotted. If I had to pick a player to watch more closely than any other from this group, it would be Vodnik. I fully expect him to be Top 30, perhaps even higher by this time next year or even midseason 2019.

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