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Atlanta Braves Top 20 2016 PRE-SEASON prospects, mid-season review

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Mallex Smith
Mallex Smith
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our mid-season reviews of the pre-season prospect lists, we turn to the Atlanta Braves.



This list was originally published November 11, 2015, and revised on February 14, 2016

1) Dansby Swanson, SS, Grade A: Age 22, first round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2015 out of Vanderbilt, traded to Braves in Shelby Miller deal. Hitting .285/.374/.443 in 305 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; good plate discipline, moderate power, excellent defense, everything expected.

2) Sean Newcomb, LHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, acquired from Angels in Andrelton Simmons trade, 2014 first-rounder out of Hartford, 4.64 ERA in 83 innings in Double-A, 83/48 K/BB, 77 hits; erratic particularly with his command. Not living up to the grade at present but upside remains very high.

3) Aaron Blair, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, another component of Shelby Miller deal, hit hard in major league trial, 7.99 ERA in 51 innings, 60 hits, 29/29 K/BB; components much worse; he's been strong in Triple-A so may not have much left to prove down there; still think he can be a mid-rotation starter in time.

4) Hector Olivera, 3B-OF, Grade B+: Suspended due to domestic violence charge; no point in saying anything further at this point.

5) Kolby Allard, LHP, Grade B+:
Age 18, first round pick in 2015, 4.05 ERA with 38/8 K/BB in 33 innings between Low-A and Appalachian League; small sample but promising, showing no ill effects from back surgery.

6) Ozzie Albies, SS, Grade B+: Hitting combined .304/.366/.427 between Double-A and Triple-A including .397/.461/.551 in 136 at-bats at Mississippi; it will be interesting to see who winds up as the shortstop and who winds up as the second baseman between Albies and Swanson; Swanson looks steadier at this point but Albies is more than two years younger; main question with the bat remains future power.

7) Austin Riley, 3B, Grade B:
Age 18, supplemental pick in 2015 draft, hitting .263/.308/.414 with 24 doubles, six homers, 21 walks, 99 strikeouts in 304 at-bats in Low-A at age 19, not terrific but holding his own overall. Some of those doubles should become homers in time. Glovework slightly improved compared to rookie ball but needs more polish.

8) Lucas Sims, RHP, Grade B:
Solid in Double-A (3.30, 45/21 K/BB in 30 innings) but hampered by poor command in Triple-A (7.56, 58/37 in 50 innings), continues to tantalize with arm strength but secondary pitches remain erratic, particularly the change-up. Needs more time. 

9) Mike Soroka, RHP, Grade B:
Age 18, Canadian drafted in first round in 2015, still just 18 years old; 3.38., 79/20 K/BB in 88 innings in Low-A; excellent performance given age and experience level, scouting reports are very enthusiastic as well. Would rate a B+ at this point.

10) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Grade B/B-:
Age 19, Arizona’s first round pick in 2014 unexpectedly traded to Braves last June, 4.34 ERA with 68/46 K/BB in 86 innings, 66 hits in Low-A; substantial improvement in command compared to last year but more needs to be done; retains extremely high ceiling.

11) Mallex Smith, OF, Grade B/B-:
Age 22,  Optimistic take: Ben Revere/Michael Bourn/Juan Pierre category of player. Pessimistic take: Jarrod Dyson type reserve. That's what I wrote pre-season, hitting .237/.312/.379 with 14 steals in 169 MLB at-bats; on DL with broken thumb. Right now he looks to be somewhere in between the optimistic and pessimistic takes but young enough to improve much further.

12) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 23,  2.91 ERA in 65 innings with 45/24 K/BB in Triple-A; promoted to majors, has 4.50 ERA in 15 innings with 7/7 K/BB; another guy with little left to prove in the minors but will need to sharpen command and consistency against big league competition. May end up in pen long-term.

13) Zachary Bird, RHP, Grade B-:
Seriously struggling in High-A; 7.78 ERA in 37 innings, 27/29 K/BB, 47 hits; ugly all-around and very disappointing for a guy who has an excellent arm and looked like he was taking a step forward in 2015. Pitching mainly in relief. Stock down considerably.

14) Braxton Davidson, OF, Grade B-/C+:
Hitting .246/.340/.380 with eight homers, 108 strikeouts in 274 at-bats in High-A; little growth in production since last year, will draw some walks but strikes out a lot and doesn't produce the home run power anticipated at this point. Still just 20 years old.

15) Max Fried, LHP, Grade B-/C+:
3.59 ERA in 80 innings in Low-A, 81/39 K/BB, just went on disabled list with a a blister; good news is that Tommy John recovery looks complete; stock moving back up.

16) Ronald Acuna, OF, Grade B-/C+:
Hit .300/.389/.391 in 110 at-bats in Low-A, just 18 years old, went on disabled list in May with thumb injury but looked very good before he got hurt.

17) John Gant, RHP, Grade C+:
Non-zero chance he turns into Collin McHugh type. He's shown flashes, posting a 4.45 ERA in 30 big league innings with a 31/11 K/BB; currently on DL with strained oblique, but I see no reason why he can't be a solid inning-eater and perhaps more.

18) Chris Ellis, RHP, Grade C+: part of the Simmons deal with Angels, combined 3.40 ERA in 98 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 80/50 K/BB, 77 hits; will need to see the walks come down as he doesn't have the pure overpowering stuff to get away with it in the majors, potential workhorse type.

19) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade C+:
4.75 ERA in 30 innings in Triple-A, 25/24 K/BB, 36 hits; at this point I see no objective evidence that he is anything more than a 12th man on a staff.

20) Josh Graham, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 22, fourth round pick from University of Oregon, converted catcher, 3.86 ERA in 26 innings in Low-A, 30/7 K/BB, could advance fairly quickly in relief role.

21) Juan Yepez, 1B-3B, Grade C+:
Age 18, hit .260/.315/.400 in 11 games in Low-A before going on disabled list.

22) Lucas Herbert, C, Grade C+:
Second round pick in 2015, just age 19, strong defensive reputation but hitting poorly, just .193/.245/.274 in 259 at-bats in Low-A; no power, poor strike zone judgment. Young enough to improve but there's a lot of work to do.

23) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade C+/C:
Hitting .276/.365/.385 with five homers, 40 walks, 77 strikeouts in 283 at-bats in Triple-A; not excellent but controlling the zone at least; defense at third base has been excellent. 

24) Andrew Thurman, RHP, Grade C+/C:
Hit hard in 63 innings in Double-A, 6.89 ERA, 52/47 K/BB; went on disabled list in early July, very disappointing season.

OTHER GRADE C+: Derian Cruz, SS; Luke Dykstra, 2B; Connor Lien, OF; Ricardo Sanchez, LHP, Rob Whalen, RHP; Isranel Wilson, OF

OTHERS OF NOTE: Jason Hursh, RHP; Kyle Kinman, LHP; Jonathan Morales, C; Christian Pache, OF; Wes Parsons, RHP; Dustin Peterson, OF; Randy Ventura, OF; Ryan Weber, RHP; Dan Winkler RHP

Not a great showing from the pre-season list. We will discuss current events and other players in the comments section.