2021 Braves Top 30 Prospects List: 5-1

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The moment you’ve all been waiting for! If you’ve missed any of our previous entries, I’ve linked them below:

2021 Braves Top 30 Prospects List: 30-26

2021 Braves Top 30 Prospects List: 25-21

2021 Braves Top 30 Prospects List: 20-16

2021 Braves Top 30 Prospects List: 15-11

2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List: 10-6

 

Jake Gordon’s List:

 

5. Kyle Muller (LHP)

I’ve been high on Kyle Muller for a long time, and it feels like he’s finally about to breakthrough. He had a good 2019 in Mississippi, posting a 3.14 ERA over 111.2 innings with a 9.7 K/9. His 5.5 BB/9 is a little concerning, but his control has always been what’s held him back. Muller’s been training hard during the quarantine, and I fully expect him to tear up Gwinnett in 2021. The bottom line is you can’t teach 6’7″ throwing 98 from the left side. If he gets the walks under control and continues to develop his secondary offerings, he’ll be a staple of a big-league rotation for a long time — hopefully in Atlanta.

 

4. William Contreras (C, R/R)

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of the younger Contreras brother. He shined in very limited action for the Braves in 2020, and if Tyler Flowers isn’t retained — William won’t be a prospect for very long. While a .900 OPS in 10 ABs isn’t a massive sample size, his upside points to a very talented defensive catcher who won’t be a slouch with the stick. Catcher is one of the toughest positions to learn because you have to become elite defensively while also adjusting to upper-level pitching. You can already bet I wrote a while back about reuniting William with big brother Willson in Atlanta, too.

 

3. Drew Waters (OF, S/R)

Drew Waters is one of the toolsiest prospects in all of baseball, and he’ll likely be first on this list before the season ends with graduations. The former Southern League Player of the Year has done nothing but tear the cover off of the ball since being drafted in the second round by the Braves. Waters can do it all, and his switch-hitting ability is just the icing on the cake. His power is effortless; he plays gap to gap and uses his speed to burn other teams on the basepaths. A future outfield of Waters, Pache, and Acuña Jr would be the most exciting and youngest in all of baseball. We may not see Waters in 2021, but I really hope we do. He’s going to be special.

 

2. Cristian Pache (OF, R/R)

Some may not like this position, but the next guy and Pache are 1A & 1B. I can’t say enough about this kid. The Andruw Jones comparisons are warranted. He held his own against the Dodgers when forced into action during the NLCS, and he’s only 22. Pache is easily the best defensive prospect in baseball, and I think he’s Atlanta’s center fielder for the next 10+ years. 

 1. Ian Anderson (RHP)

You can slot Pache at #1, and I won’t complain. However, the guy who came in at 22 years old and dominated en route to historic playoff performances isn’t going anywhere but first on my list. When Atlanta was barely holding onto their 2020 World Series aspirations, Ian Anderson became a folk hero. His story isn’t done. Forget his six starts to finish the regular season in which he posted a 1.95 ERA; he refused to fold as a rookie in the playoffs. He threw two shutouts spanning 11.2 innings with 17 Ks in the Wild Card Round & NLDS that propelled Atlanta to the NLCS. He then went toe to toe with a dangerous Dodgers lineup and only gave up two earned runs over seven innings in a heartbreaking Game 2 loss. This kid has some chops, and he gives the Braves a third ace on an already incredibly young and talented rotation.

Chase Irle’s List

5. William Contreras (C, R/R)

If you keep up with prospects from year-to-year, you might have been slightly low on William Contreras entering 2020 after a disappointing 2019. However, even though the sample size was minuscule, he showed enough last season to warrant top-five prospect consideration. The younger brother of Willson Contreras was impressing in spring training, but little did we know the Braves would need him so early in the season after Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers showed symptoms of the coronavirus. Contreras split time with Alex Jackson while he was up, going 4-10 with a double. I expect him to begin the year with the Stripers, but it may not be long before he is in Atlanta permanently.

4. Kyle Muller (LHP)

Muller may not have the minor league track record of a pitcher like Tucker Davidson, but the lumbering lefty’s upside is what earns him the fourth spot on this list. In 2019, he posted a 3.14 ERA in AA Mississippi, striking out 120 batters in 111.1 innings. We didn’t get to see him in 2020, but apparently, he was hitting triple digits with his fastball. If Muller can find some more control this season, he could definitely become apart of Atlanta’s roster down the stretch.

3. Drew Waters (OF, S/R)

It’s crazy that the last time we saw Drew Waters, he became the first Braves prospect to win the Southern League MVP since Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez did it in back-to-back seasons, yet somehow it almost feels like we’re a little down on him entering the 2021 campaign. I guess that’s what COVID will do to you. Waters experienced a bit of trouble making contact when he was promoted to AAA at the end of the 2019 campaign, but the sample size was tiny. Right now, he is the Braves best hitting prospect and could contribute in Atlanta as early as this season.

2. Cristian Pache (OF, R/R)

For the first time in a while, the Braves have a new top prospect because that is a spot Pache has owned for a couple of years now. Moving Pache down isn’t a knock on his performance last season, but we just barely got to see him. Meanwhile, Ian Anderson became one of the Braves top pitchers. More on Anderson in a second; Pache remains the best defensive prospect in all of baseball. That alone will make him extremely valuable, and he looks to be growing into his frame and developing more power. It shouldn’t be done often, but Pache is deserving of the comparisons to Andruw Jones.

1. Ian Anderson (RHP)

After what Anderson did last year in the shortened season and into the playoffs, it almost seems unfair to call him a rookie. But since he’s still technically a prospect, he has to be atop the list and should be the favorite to take home the NL Rookie of the Year award. Anderson had a 1.95 ERA for the Braves in six regular-season starts, which paled in comparison to his postseason performance — 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four starts. He may still be considered a rookie, but he very well could be the best pitcher on the Braves staff entering 2021.

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