Braves: Prospects that need a big 2021

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Our latest 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List is almost complete, and it is filled with all kinds of interesting storylines. There are the newcomers, including players selected in the 2020 MLB Draft, as well as numerous guys that have spent several seasons as ranked prospects. However, one thing they all have in common is the hope to one day become a contributor in Atlanta. Here’s a list of the Braves prospects most in need of a big 2021 season…

 

Drew Waters, OF

During the last couple of months of the 2019 season, Waters and Braves top prospect Cristian Pache looked like prospects no. 1 and 1A. However, Pache created some separation when he put together a stronger performance in Triple-A Gwinnett to round out the campaign. The 2020 season was more of the same. Waters sat idle during a canceled minor league season while his outfield mate made his highly anticipated MLB debut (including an appearance in the playoffs) and showed that he’s ready for The Show. After seeing a rather substantial increase in his K rate while in Gwinnett two seasons ago (by roughly 10%), it’ll be crucial for Waters to show he can handle Triple-A pitching in 2021. If not… it may be time to cash in on the 22-year-old and use him as a trade chip for big league help.

 

William Contreras, C 

It feels as if it has been forever since the Braves produced a homegrown catcher. Back in 2018, it looked as if Contreras was set to be that guy, considering he hit .285 with 11 home runs as a 20-year-old in Single-A and High-A. Although a rough 2019 in the upper minors created some doubt and even resulted in the Braves using their no. 1 pick in that year’s draft on a college catcher (Baylor’s Shea Langeliers). Contreras made a nice first impression during his MLB debut last season and finished 2020 with four games under his belt, going 4 for 10 (.400 AVG) during a late-July call-up. However, his 2021 needs to look more like three years ago, or Langeliers could quickly take over The Catcher of the Future title.

 

Greyson Jenista, OF 

A 2nd round draft pick in 2018, Jenista immediately wowed the Braves organization when he lived up to the hype by hitting .265 with 17 XBH (4 homers) in 61 games across three minor league levels (Rookie, Single-A, High-A). By late 2018, FanGraphs pegged the Wichita State product as the organization’s no. 13 prospect, and we here at SportsTalkATL had him at 14th. For a brief period, Jenista was considered one of the top prospect outfielders in the Atlanta system. However, at 22-years-old and starting out in High-A Florida, Jenista took a step back in 2019, hitting just .233 overall in 130 total games, which featured a poor 74-game stretch with Double-A Mississippi where he was overmatched and struck out in 34% of his at-bats. An invite to the Arizona Fall League that year didn’t help matters either as Jenista struggled to the tune of a .214 AVG in 12 games, and his regression resulted in a huge drop in the Braves rankings by the end of last season (he was listed no. 23 in FG’s final prospect report in 2020). With the minor leagues canceled, Jenista never had a chance to redeem himself last season, but he could really use a big 2021. 

 

CJ Alexander, 3B 

Like Jenista above, Alexander hit the ground running during his draft year, hitting .352 with 17 XBH in 52 games across Rookie ball and High-A in 2018. But regression and injuries ruined his 2019 season, allowing him to play in just 43 games total and post a .117 AVG. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Alexander has massive power and was even given a 70 rating by Talking Chop when the Braves selected him in the 20th round three years ago. However, his ability (or inability) to make enough contact was also a big question mark at the time of his selection. Given he’s a 24-year-old headed into Year 3 of his pro career, it’s imperative that Alexander put up solid numbers in Mississippi in 2021. Just about anything should be better than the .103/.195/.206 slash-line he managed there in 24 games in 2019. 

 

Tucker Davidson, LHP

Don’t worry about Tucker’s 1.2-inning disaster versus the Red Sox back in September (a start in which it took him 53 pitches to get five outs). Trust me… this is still one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves system. And with Ian Anderson apparently onto bigger and better things at the big league level, Tuck could very well become the top arm in the organization once Anderson graduates from his prospect status. Tucker proved plenty when he put up a big year in 2019, posting a sparkling 2.15 ERA in 129.2 innings across Double-A and Triple-A Gwinnett. The fact that he cut his ERA in half and bumped his K rate up by roughly 20 points (compared to the season prior) — all while going from High-A to the top of the minor leagues — is impressive by itself. However, Tucker also added a ton of velocity to his fastball and improved his already-strong command. Another strong start in 2021, and I think it’s safe to project an Ian Anderson-like path for the Braves top left-handed prospect pitcher. 

 

Terone Harris, OF

It’s crazy, especially after the ridiculous season he had in 2019, but some don’t feel Harris is much of a prospect. In fact, FG had him all the way down to no. 26 at the end of last season, after Harris hit .323 with 14 homers and 26 doubles in 131 games across three minor league levels. Sure, he hasn’t faced Triple-A pitching yet, and Harris doesn’t really have the body-makeup or tools of a top-tier prospect (5’11”, 220 lbs.), but those numbers shouldn’t be overlooked. A big 2021, featuring similar production in Gwinnett, should drive it home and show the industry that Harris is the real deal. 

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