Baseball season is here, so without further ado, we present you with the Braves top 30 prospects for the 2018 season:
#1. Ronald Acuna
Ronald Acuna is the unquestioned top prospect in all of baseball. His ceiling is limitless as he is a true five-tool prospect. He has wheels, power and can hit for contact. He can play any position in the outfield at a high level.
Acuna’s 2017 was the stuff of legends. He began his season in A+ ball and ended it in Gwinnett, having played better after every promotion. Though just 20-years old, Acuna is on the cusp of being Atlanta’s new star to plug into the middle of the lineup alongside Freddie Freeman. The Braves will likely plug him in left field merely weeks into the season, barring any setbacks.
#2. Kyle Wright
Former Vanderbilt star Kyle Wright has the potential to have the quickest rise of any arm in the system. The 22-year old already made his way to A+ ball despite having just nine professional outings under his belt. Wright could get the call as soon as this season, but still has a lot to prove. Vandy has a great track record with pitchers in the recent years, however, and Wright has the makings of a future front-end starter. He leads the pack in what is an impressive arsenal of young starting pitching in the Braves farm system.
#3. Luiz Gohara
Luiz Gohara was acquired last season after a phenomenal 2016 in the Seattle Mariners farm system. Braves fans were pleased to see him continue his success in 2017, and he made his MLB debut by season’s end. Gohara was incredible in the minors, and while his 4.91 ERA in 5 starts at the big league level is not eye-popping, his peripheral stats translated to the next level and he worked with a small sample size. Gohara should be a lock for the Braves rotation in 2018 and has the potential to be the best pitcher on the roster. He is the prospect who is ready to contribute to the big league team soonest.
#4. Kolby Allard
It seems some around baseball are starting to question Allard’s durability as of late, leading to him being left off various top 100 lists. While he only averaged around 5 2/3 innings per appearance last season and his strikeout numbers decreased, Allard is nevertheless an elite talent. He has become the most slept on prospect in the Braves farm system and has a chance to contribute to the club as early as this season.
#5. Mike Soroka
Mike Soroka has been much more consistent than Kolby Allard and is more of a sure thing, but his ceiling is a bit lower. Nevertheless, he has been impressive despite playing against older competition all season. Soroka seems like a very safe bet to at least be a solid major league starter. Like Allard, he should start the season in AAA and could contribute to the Braves as early as this season.
#6. Austin Riley
Third base has been a revolving door for the Braves ever since Hall of Famer Chipper Jones retired. Austin Riley has the chance to be a real gamechanger at the hot corner. He has incredible power potential, something that is much needed in the middle of the Braves lineup. Though not viewed as a defensive asset, he is serviceable and has a great arm. The Braves will hope that Riley can provide similar results to when they opted not to go forward with a young man named Freddie Freeman as a pitcher upon being drafted. Riley reacted well to a promotion to AA Mississippi and seems to be the third basemen in waiting for 2019 barring a Johan Camargo breakout campaign.
#7 Ian Anderson
Ian Anderson joins the mix of arms the Braves have that possess front-line starter potential. Though he is just 19-years old he has impressed since being taken 3rd overall in 2016 and he seems likely to start in AA this season. He battled some control issues in 2017, but he also saw his strikeout numbers increase. It may just be a matter of time until he sits atop this list.
#8 Joey Wentz
Southpaw Joey Wentz rounds out the top tier of Braves pitching prospects. Wentz was every bit as good as Anderson was in A-ball, and it will be interesting to see the two rise through the system together. Projections seem to favor Anderson, but statistically, Wentz has outperformed him to this point. He can credit his improved control to his breakout 2017 in which he posted a 2.60 ERA in 26 starts.
#9 Alex Jackson
The rejuvenation project of the Braves farm system, Alex Jackson is a former top pick who responded in extraordinary fashion to a change of scenery and position change this past season. Now back behind the plate, he seems to be the long-term solution at catcher for the organization as long as he can build on his great 2017 campaign. Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers are great stopgap options but are not under contract for the long-term. Jackson projects as a rarity in modern baseball, a backstop who can hit for great power.
#10 AJ Minter
Relievers usually do not get much love as far as prospect lists go, but at this point, AJ Minter projects to be a future elite closer at the big league level. He was absolutely phenomenal in his first major league play, posting an absurd 15.6 K/9, albeit a small sample size. He will be on the big league roster to start the season and won’t be on this list for long, but one thing is certain: AJ Minter will be one of the best assets the Braves will have going forward, thus locking him in for a spot in the top 10.
#11 Max Fried
Max Fried has the same kind of ability as some of the top-flight pitching prospects in the system, but his durability has knocked him into the second tier of arms. A blister issue held him back early in 2017, but when healthy he flashed big upside, even at the major league level. He may be used as a swingman of sorts in 2018 with the big league club, rotating between starts and long relief, but they may opt to keep him down early in the season as well due to an unexpected early promotion. The lefty looks like he can at the very least be a nice reliever at the big league level, but the Braves will hope for more.
#12 Cristian Pache
Pache is the prospect with the most room for growth in his stock this upcoming season. His great contact bat, speed and ability to play an elite center field have garnered the attention of scouts. Some say he may even be better than Ender Inciarte in the field. The only thing that Pache is missing from his profile is the ability to hit for power, but he is an elite athlete who still has time to grow into his body at just age 19. A big 2018 will put Pache into the consensus top 100 prospects.
#13 Drew Waters
The infamous Braves prospect who was rumored to be offered a car by John Coppolella, Waters name popped up during the Braves investigation. The local product has all the makings of a future top bat in the system and has a very well rounded game. The switch-hitter got off to a nice start in his first stint in pro ball in 2017.
#14 Bryse Wilson
Though he was buried in a stacked draft class of pitching, Wilson has been very impressive for the Braves and has put up incredible production. He may be the most slept on arm in the system. He has held his own with the likes of Joey Wentz and Ian Anderson within his draft class.
#15 Kyle Muller
Another member of the second tier of pitching prospects is 2016 draft pick Kyle Muller. Muller is still making the full-time transition to pitcher, but his raw stuff and huge 6’6″ frame has the team excited. 2018 will be a huge year for Muller.
#16 Brett Cumberland
When Brett Cumberland was drafted in 2016, the Braves were looking for a catcher with an advanced bat who could project to the majors at a relatively fast speed. Though he disappointed in Rookie ball, Cumberland has a great 2017 campaign and seems on track to begin 2018 in Mississippi. While Cumberland may be one of the streakiest bats in the system, he is a serious dark horse to push Alex Jackson for the backstop job in 2019. If he can repeat his 2017 success at a higher level, he will be a rising prospect in the system.
#17 Touki Toussaint
When it comes to pure talent, Touki has as much ability is any in the system. His fastball and curveball are both a joy to watch. Still just 21-years old, he responded well to a promotion to AA despite a rough start to the season. Toussaint will likely start the season at Mississippi, but the organization has shown that they express confidence in him. Still, he will have to work on some control issues and his consistency if he ever wants to maximize the potential of his great “stuff.”
#18 Freddy Tarnok
The second 2017 draft pick to appear on the list, Tarnok is a very promising young right-handed starter selected straight out of high school. Though he has only made eight appearances, he has flashed what the Braves saw in him when they took him in the third round. After all, there is still a very small very overall sample size for Tarnok, who has only been pitching now for a few years. It is now up to the Braves to properly develop Tarnok, but he has a nice three pitch mix. He has a lot of room to rise in the rankings if he can sustain the success he had over the course of a full season.
#19 Travis Demeritte
Travis Demeritte is kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, he has tremendous power for a second baseman. Unfortunately, with that power has come big strikeout numbers. Demeritte had a down year in 2017, seeing his average dip to a lowly .231. However, a positive was that he still displayed great raw power and drastically cut down on the strikeout numbers. Many are counting out Demeritte as a big leaguer after a down season, but this is a make or break year for him.
#20 William Contreras
Yes, you have read this list correctly. The Braves have finally addressed their needs at catcher, as three of their top 20 prospects are catchers. Of the three, William Contreras likely has the highest potential. The younger brother of Cubs star catcher Willson Conteras, William’s numbers in his first three professional seasons actually put his brother’s to shame. His older brother was a late bloomer, and the Braves can hope the same of young William. He is still just 20-years old and has the potential to be one of the biggest risers in the system when he gets his first shot at a full pro season in 2018.
#21 Patrick Weigel
Patrick Weigel not even being a top 20 prospect in the system is a testament to just how stacked Atlanta is. Weigel would be one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in most systems around baseball. Unfortunately, his stock did take a hit in late June when he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Prior to this, however, Weigel was the 2016 Braves minor league Pitcher of the Year. He was one of the best stories in the system, transferring from college to college while dealing with extreme control issues. He fixed these issues and flew through the system until hitting a bit of a speed bump in AAA, where he was finally tested by hitters, and unfortunately, sustained the terrible injury.
#22 Tucker Davidson
Tucker Davidson has started to make a serious name for himself on the farm. After all, flamethrowing lefties with great control do not grow on trees. Davidson has been terrific in his first two pro seasons with the Braves, enough so that they elected to transition him into a starter in 2017. A full season of making starts with AA could be the true test of Davidson’s ability, but if he can sustain this level of success, he will be one of the quickest risers on this list in 2017.
#23 Drew Harrington
Another lefty, Drew Harrington was a third-round pick by the Braves last season. Many believe he could be destined for the bullpen, but he still has a lot of projectability. His performance in 2018 could dictate his future role.
#24 Ricardo Sanchez
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Braves acquired Ricardo Sanchez from the Angels, but he is still just 20-years old. The former big-time international signing became a bit of an afterthought after having to repeat low-A ball in 2016 as well. He has not quite lived up to his billing but Sanchez does still have potential.
#25 Drew Lugbauer
Another catcher who can hit for power. It is yet to be seen whether Drew Lugbauer can stay behind the plate, but the 2017 11th round pick made his name known across the farm in his eye-popping rookie ball stint. After hitting 10 homers in his first 102 professional at-bats, the Braves rewarded him with a promotion to Rome. It will be interesting to see what Lugbauer can do what the lumber in 2018.
#26 Thomas Burrows
Another high-upside relief prospect, the southpaw Burrows impressed with Rome after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last offseason. The former University of Alabama closer showed displayed elite strikeout stuff. Burrows definitely has the stuff to be a big league closer, though he is not nearly as impressive as A.J Minter.
#27 Akeel Morris
The Braves bullpen was not great in 2017, which made it a headscratcher as to why Akeel Morris did not get more playing time with the big league team. When he finally did get a shot he impressed, giving up just one earned run in seven innings of work. It is time for Morris to be in the big league ‘pen. He turned in nice work with Gwinett last season and it is simply his time. Morris is a great strikeout guy and though his control has room for improvement, he projects as a solid reliever in the big leagues, perhaps a set-up man.
#28 Caleb Dirks
Dirks had a down year in 2017 when he reached AAA, but his pure dominance throughout the minors still makes him a very intriguing prospect. He still struck out batters at an elite rate last season and has a sub-2.00 ERA in the minors. He will certainly start 2018 with Gwinnett but has a chance to be a contributor to the big league bullpen as early as this season.
#29 Anfernee Seymour
Anfernee Seymour has made the transition to the outfield, which makes sense given the Braves plethora of young middle infielders. It also makes sense because Seymour has elite speed, the fastest in the system according to most. Seymour will never be able to hit for power, so he will rely on hitting for contact if he plans to make it to the next level. What is encouraging is that Seymour had his best season with the stick to date. Seymour should get a crack at AA this season, and if he can continue to hit in the .280s he could start to garner some serious consideration as a prospect. He has an outside chance to become a leadoff man and starting centerfielder in the big leagues, but I would not bank on it.
#30 Dustin Peterson
Dustin Peterson came into 2017 with a shot to make the Opening Day roster, but unfortunately, he sustained an injury that required hand surgery. Here we are a season later with the left field spot up for grabs on Opening Day, and he is getting little to no consideration. He never quite bounced back after surgery last season and his low power output suggests that perhaps his hand was not exactly fully healed during the season. Peterson was terrific the year prior and is still just 23-years old. He just barely makes the top 30 after his forgettable 2017 campaign, but I expect a bit of a bounce back performance.