The Atlanta Braves farm system is one that just about every team in baseball should be envious of. Rich in elite talent, the Braves farm also goes deep with young, promising future stars.
Yesterday we began our look at the system, dissecting the “next five” and No. 15 through 20 of the Braves midseason top-20 prospects. In case you missed it, you can see those prospects and how they were graded right here:
So, without further delay, on with the system. These are just quick snippets on each prospect. I have attached any scouting profiles I have done for you to go into further detail.
14. Greyson Jenista, Rome Braves (Rome debut report, July 3, 2018)
Numbers to like: Just 17 strikeouts over two levels
Numbers of concern: Just nine walks
Jenista is the big hitting outfielder the Braves nabbed in the second round of this year’s draft. He made a quick impression in his first ten games in Danville, blasting three home runs before earning a quick promotion to Rome. There, he started off going 6-for-11 in his first three games, tripling in his first at bat.
Here’s what we know about Jenista. We know his bat is very much for real, as he excelled in the Cape Cod Summer League twice, nabbing MVP honors his final summer there. He can hit for both average and power, but he is, admittedly, a free-swinger. Luckily, he controls the bat well and barrels up often, so his aggressive attack doesn’t hurt him. He’s surprisingly quick for someone of his size (his 6’4”, 210 listing may be short selling him), and he has the baseball smarts to climb the ladder quickly.
The biggest concerns have been how he handles breaking balls and his spot in the field. Thus far, he’s handled both relatively well at the professional level.
13. Max Fried, Gwinnett Braves (August 2017 scouting profile)
Numbers to like: 47 strikeouts in 46.2 big-league innings, 3.86 MLB ERA, 53.2% MLB GB rate
Numbers of concern: 25 in same MLB span, .267 BAA against big-leaguers
It’s really hard, and quite frankly misleading, to have Fried this low. When he is on and comfortable, he still seems like one of the top pitching prospects in the system. However, inconsistencies have hurt him. That said, on any other team, he’s arguably a top-5 prospect.
Fried is now 24. He has the pitching frame that gets people drooling, standing at 6’4” and 190, with nice, repeatable mechanics (usually) for a lefty. He has a mid-90s fastball, a big, looping curve and a change up. Some will say the change is still behind, but it serves it’s purpose of keeping hitters off balance. The issue is commanding his arsenal. There are games you think he is about to throw a no-hitter, and there are others that he can’t get out of the third inning.
At this point, we know the stuff is real, the mechanics are, for the most part fine. The injuries seem to finally be behind him, so a lot of his “issues” (that term is used very loosely), may simply be in his head. When he works it out, and finds that consistency, the Braves already know they have a big-league ready pitcher.
12. Bryse Wilson, Mississippi Braves (2017 Rome Braves home debut)
Numbers to like: 0.66 ERA in July, 34:4 K:BB over those four starts (27.1 IP), career-high 10.13 K-per-nine in AA
Numbers of concern: A misleading 4.13 ERA in AA (2.88 FIP)
Wilson was the Braves breakout star of 2017. Selected in the fourth round of a draft that saw Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller go ahead of him, Wilson was arguably the best of the bunch.
The 20-year-old righty (listed at 6’1”, 225) picked up right where he left off last season. It wasn’t fair to Florida State League pitchers as he allowed one earned run while striking out 26 and walking seven in his 26.2 innings before a promotion to Mississippi. He struggled to start his Double-A tenure, but has been the Wilson of old since thanks to a new grip on his already electric fastball, per Doc Herbert.
Wilson features a mid-90s fastball, an above-average slider and a change that I particularly like a lot. His ability to adjust and seem unfazed on the mound shows he has the baseball mind to continue to be successful on his rise to the top.
11. Joey Wentz, Florida Fire Frogs (August 2017 scouting profile)
Numbers to like: Career 2.65 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 252 strikeouts in 237.2 innings
Numbers of concern: Big velocity drop in his last start which he left early
Wentz is at it again. The 20-year-old lefty is amid a big tear in the Florida State League, although he did leave his last start early after two innings. Up until then he was on a run that deemed him one of Minor League Ball’s prospect of the week honors.
The big southpaw, standing at 6’5”, 210, features a fastball that frequently hits the mid-90s (reported in the upper 80s when he left that aforementioned last start), a beautiful breaking curve and a well-above average change for a 20-year-old that he has confidence in, allowing him to be an aggressive pitcher by his own admission.
He already missed a month of this season, but when he came back he showed the stuff that makes him the special pitcher he is and made him a first-round talent. Prior to his most recent two-inning start, he did not allow an earned run over his last five starts, with a 21:3 K:BB ratio in 27.6 innings. Simply put, when Wentz is healthy he is one of the best left-handed prospects in the game.
10. Kolby Allard, Gwinnett Braves
Numbers to like: 101 walks in 348 career innings
Numbers of concern: A lower than expected velocity, diminishing K-rate, low GB %
We know the deal with Allard by now. The 2015 first-rounder was one of the premier left-handed talents in the MLB Draft, and the Braves nabbed him 14th overall. While he has been a very good pitcher as a pro, his velocity and strikeout rates have raised concerns the past two seasons.
Allard is 6’1”, 190 and knows how to pitch. There is no denying that his velocity has not jumped, and is in fact much lower than what was anticipated, but he has responded by learning how to pitch, as evidenced by his 2.61 walks-per-nine rate. This is what keeps him slightly ahead of both Wilson and Wentz, for now at least. (Incidentally, the Fried, Wilson, Wentz, Allard run here was pretty much interchangeable and could easily be 10A, 10B, 10C, and 10D.)
The strikeouts have dropped tremendously at each level, currently striking out just 6.99-per-nine in Gwinnett, and without being an aggressive ground ball pitcher, that may come to hurt him eventually.
There is still plenty to like with Allard. He’s just 20-years-old and has been successful at every level, always amongst the youngest at each stop. With the rise of other talent around him, he has seemed to become a more rumored trade chip each season. With an abundance of lefties trending in the right direction, it will be interesting to watch how the Braves handle Allard from here on out.
9. William Contreras, Rome Braves (quick hits from July 7, 2018)
Numbers to like: .284/.349/.429 slash line, 10 home runs, throwing out 35% of runners
Numbers of concern: 11 errors, four passed balls
Contreras was an exciting prospect after a big season in Danville in 2017. The 20-year-old backstop out of Venezuela has baseball in his blood, brother to Willson Contreras, and his baseball pedigree is shining through in Rome.
He didn’t start the season there, but whatever he was working out in extended spring training seems to have worked. Plenty big for a catcher (6’1”, 180), Contreras looks very much the part behind the plate. Sure, he has to work on his blocking, receiving and framing, but what 20-year-old catcher doesn’t? He has a heck of a cannon, able to throw out runners by a wide margin, and quick and accurate on snap throws to first.
Contreras is an all-out ultra-aggressive player behind the plate and at it. He can hit for average and is really honing into his power this season. He has an advanced awareness at the plate, able to draw walks and limit his strikeouts. Contreras is easily the best catching prospect in the system, and is quickly becoming one of the best, and most exciting, prospects on the farm.
8. Ian Anderson, Florida Fire Frogs (scouting profile August, 2017)
Numbers to like: 2.85 ERA, 102 strikeouts in 82 innings, going six innings more often
Numbers of concern: 3.84 walks-per-nine
Anderson has been solid as a pro since the Braves took him third overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. The Braves have gone slowly with their 6’3”, 170 pound righty, and it looks like it’s paying off in the Florida State League.
The 20-year-old is even better than he was in his Rome debut, when he was shut down early after just 83 innings pitched. He’s been particularly good of late, allowing just five earned runs over his last five starts and striking out 40. The walks are still somewhat a problem, as he’s had five games with three walks in his last 10 starts alone. That said, he’s going into the sixth inning of ball games and that’s a great look.
Anderson has mid-90s heat with a sharp breaking ball and a change with some nice sink to it, allowing him to be a big-time ground ball pitcher. The skills are all there, and are quite frankly amongst the best in the system. It’s just a matter of getting him to that workhorse stage and Anderson will fly up the end-of-season rankings.
7. Drew Waters, Rome Braves (scouting profile, April, 2017)
Numbers to like: .301/.348/.520 slash line, 35 extra base hits, 18-for-22 in SB
Numbers of concern: .605 OPS from right-handed side
Waters has been a steady presence atop the Rome Braves lineup since Opening Day. He went 2-for-3 in that game and has yet to relent.
The 19-year-old wunderkind has been impressive in every aspect of the game. A switch-hitter, he’s definitely more comfortable as a lefty but he seems to be coming along on the right-handed side. It’s a nice swing that generates good contact and seemingly easy power as he’s an extra-base machine thanks to his impressive speed.
That speed plays well in centerfield where he is seamlessly adjusting. A big arm, sound instincts and great range seem to indicate that he’ll stick at the position with little problem. He plays with a lot of fire, and if he strikes out, which he has a tendency to do especially from the right side, the bat and helmet are in trouble.
If Waters play is for real, which there is nothing to indicate, his offensive ceiling is higher than anyone else in the system. Waters is a special talent and should only improve with age.
6. Kyle Wright, Mississippi Braves
Numbers to like: Mid-90s fastball that touches 98, 9.06 strikeouts-per-nine as a pro, 55% ground ball rate
Numbers of concern: 3.58 career walks-per-nine, walking 41 in 101.1 Double-A innings in ‘18
This one will likely get me in trouble. And to be fair, he is too low. Wright remains the only Braves top 20 prospect I have not seen live as a professional (sans Tristan Beck who has not yet pitched as a professional), and I simply can’t put someone in the top 5 based on other people’s scouting reports and comments.
On paper, Wright is sensational. Our own John Sickels gave him a B+/A- in his midseason update. Here’s why:
Age 22, first round pick from Vanderbilt in 2017; 4.10 ERA in 94 innings in Double-A, 97 hits, 96/40 K/BB; not a terrific season but not bad, either; has had several dominant games but gets hit hard enough often enough to keep his ERA a tad elevated; inconsistent command seems the biggest issue, strikeout/grounder combination is promising; watch for any improvement in K/BB over the second half; stock down a bit but still a fine talent.
Anywhere you look, Wright is a top three prospect in the system. The stuff is there. Hopefully when he gets to Gwinnett, I can see the consistency that makes him special and give a more fair ranking to the pitcher he seems to be.