Albies hurt his elbow late in the year, but should be ready to go for Spring Training as planned. The 20-year old Albies will have every shot at winning the starting second baseman job despite the likes of Jace Peterson and Sean Rodriguez on the roster. It is likely that he will be called up by the season’s halfway point, and this could give the Braves a huge boost at second with a strong rookie season. Albies has impressed in every league he has played in despite always being the youngest player on the field. He is exceptional defensively and has the potential to become one of the best pure contact hitters in the league. It is all a matter of when the Braves roll the dice, but it seems inevitable Albies will see MLB at bats in 2017.
The Braves have a wave of young potential aces in the farm system, and Newcomb is the closest to being MLB-ready of the bunch. Newk will likely begin the season in AAA, where he will be pitching alongside Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair. This trio will be on the outside looking in as the team will rely on stopgap veterans until proven worthy. However, no team has its five starters go all 162 games. Newcomb will have opportunities if he pitches well, and these vets can quickly be flipped if proven expendable. Tall lefty prospects have a tendency to take longer to develop, but if Newcomb can simply reduce his walk rate there is nothing stopping him from impressing at AAA with his arsenal of stuff. If he can put it together, he will get a crack at it.
Adonis Garcia and Sean Rodriguez will see time at third base, but Rio Ruiz may as well. Though he will likely begin the year in AAA, Ruiz has a real shot to unseat either as the starter. Like Albies, Ruiz has played most of his professional career against older competition. While it is unlikely he starts this season, it is certainly not out of the question. Ruiz projects to be far from a superstar, but should prove to be a regular if he meets his potential. He, along with Ozzie Albies, is one of a select couple that has the chance to start for the big league club this season, even if that chance is slight.
AJ Minter is the best relief prospect the Braves have had since Craig Kimbrel. Minter has dominated as he has recovered from injury in the Braves farm system. He compiled a 1.30 ERA across three levels last season. Relievers move through the minors fast, and considering his production and the fact that he is 23 years-old, he should be with the Braves in no time. AJ Minter could be the future closer for the Braves. The team will allow him to pitch on consecutive days this season, something he did not do last season, so that will be worth monitoring.
With Sims being placed on the 40-Man roster, there is a good chance we see him this season. Sims has always had the “stuff” but is still yet to really put it together, and it is a genuine concern as to whether he ever will. It would not be surprising to see the Braves have him make the transition to reliever, much like Jason Hursh did. I do not think it is out of question that Sims could be a regular out of the bullpen by season’s end.
Peterson is perhaps the most underrated bat in the Braves’ system, and is likely to begin the year with AAA Gwinnett. This means he is essentially a Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis 15-Day DL stint away from getting his first crack at the majors. It is very unlikely we see Peterson start, and he may spend the whole season in AAA. However, he could very well see playing time this season and could prove to be Nick Markakis’ replacement down the road.