On Wednesday, FanGraphs released its long-awaited Top 100 Prospect List for the 2020 season. If you don’t already read their stuff, check it out; it is always full of knowledgable information about every major league team and their respective farm systems. This year, only five Braves made their list after they had a ridiculous ten make their Top 100 (Top 72 actually) in 2019.
No. 100: Bryse Wilson
Rounding out the Top 100 is Bryse Wilson, who was ranked No. 72 in 2019’s prospect rankings. The reason for his fall is rather simple; however, after starting the year in the Opening Day rotation, he quickly fell out of favor in Atlanta because of an ERA north of seven. His inability to trust his secondary offerings was apparent, and while his fastball was fantastic, that’s not going to cut it at this level, especially as a starter. Given that he is still just 22-years-old, plenty of reason for optimism remains, but his changeup and breaking pitches must evolve.
No. 95: Kyle Wright
Like Wilson, Wright took a tumble down the ranking thanks to a forgetful 2019, going from No. 49 to No. 95. He also began last year in Atlanta thanks to multiple injuries to the starting staff but was quickly demoted back to AAA, where his struggles continued. It’s understandable to be down on Wright, but some mechanical issues held him back last season, and he seemed to figure them out at the end of the year. Wright is still the second-best pitching prospect in the Braves’ system, and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he had a breakout 2020. It’s not at all uncommon for pitchers to hit a speed bump in their first taste of the majors. Wright has the type of stuff that will allow him to battle through these growing pains.
No. 44: Ian Anderson
Despite a spectacular season that saw Anderson named the Braves minor league pitcher of the year, he fell in these rankings as well after being 38th in 2019. In 21 starts for AA Mississippi, Anderson posted a 2.68 ERA with 147 strikeouts in just 111 innings, which led to a promotion to Gwinnett in August. He did suffer some growing pains there, recording a 6.57 ERA in five starts for the Stripers, but that is commonplace and no reason to doubt what the future holds for this 21-year-old. Anderson might be the most highly-touted pitching prospect the Braves have had since beginning this rebuild.
No. 43: Drew Waters
Finally, a prospect that moved up in the rankings! Waters came into 2019 as a freshly-turned 20-year-old ranked as the No. 49 prospect, according to FanGraphs, and was able to move up six spots after winning the Southern League MVP. He is an elite contact bat and a doubles machine, and some executives believe he is the most underrated prospect in the majors. If Waters can grow into his frame and add a little more pop, he is going to be an outstanding bat in the majors. He also projects to be a plus defensively.
No. 20: Cristian Pache
Not even Braves’ unanimous #1 prospect could move up the overall list in 2020. Pache was ranked 19th last year and moved back just a spot in these rankings. The toolsy outfielder is regarded as the best defensive player in the minor leagues. That’s fantastic and all, but to be a top prospect, you have to have a lot more than that, and he has begun to show off those attributes over the last couple of seasons.
Just looking at him, you can tell Pache has gotten progressively stronger. He’s already bigger than Braves’ slugger Ronald Acuña Jr., and that’s beginning to show at the plate. Prior to 2018, Pache didn’t have a professional home run. Over the last two seasons combined, he has 21. It may not sound like much, but this 21-year-old has Andruw Jones-like potential — a guy who could be a Gold Glover every year while hitting 30+ bombs. And he should receive his first taste in the big leagues this season.