Braves: Three prospects rank within FanGraphs 2021 Top 100 List

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Because of some top-tier players graduating and a shortened 2020 MLB Draft that did very little in re-stocking the organization (though some of it has been expected), the Braves farm system has taken quite a step back in 2021. After ranking within the top-three this time last year, just days ago, ESPN’s prospect expert Kiley McDaniel had Atlanta’s farm all the way down to 13th, the third-largest year-to-year drop by any organization this year. This was just days after McDaniel listed four Braves prospects in his 2021 Top 100 Prospects list, which is at least one more than the guys at FanGraphs this offseason.

As Prospect Week continues over at FanGraphs, prospect-guru Eric Logenhagen released his most recent Top 100, and unfortunately, the narrative surrounding Atlanta’s farm continues as just three Bravos made the cut:

  • #8, Cristian Pache (60 FV)
  • #13, Ian Anderson (60 FV)
  • #47, Drew Waters (55 FV)

The amount of depth, detail, and consistency on FG’s prospect lists are incredible, and for many in the industry, it’s the most-trusted destination for anything prospects (and definitely my favorite list to read through). However, as with all other trends concerning the Braves farm system lately, FanGraphs is another site that believes the quality is deteriorating. Just consider Atlanta’s number of Top 100 players in each of the last three lists: 10 top 100 players in 2019, 5 in 2020, and now just 3 in 2021. As mentioned above, some of this decline was expected, given the graduations of prospects such as Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Mike Soroka, and Austin Riley. But with how successful the Braves have been in this particular department, you would’ve assumed another influx of top-tier players would re-emerge. So far… that just hasn’t happened yet.

Regardless, here’s a look at the three Atlanta prospects to make FG’s Top 100 on Wednesday. For each player, I’ve provided the excerpts from the list written by Logenhagen at FG, followed by my own bit of commentary:


#8, Cristian Pache

Logenhagen’s analysis: “Pache is an elite defender in center with 20/20 potential on the offensive side. Pache played in two 2020 regular season games before he was thrust into the Braves’ NLCS lineup due to Adam Duvall’s oblique injury. Even though he hit .278/.340/.474 as a 20-year-old at Double-A Mississippi, there are still some level-headed, long-term questions about Pache’s offensive ability. He had a 17% swinging strike rate last year (if we 20-80’d swinging strike rates, that’d be a 30), and you might quibble with elements of the swing, most notably that the bat path only allows for power in certain parts of the zone, and that Pache’s pitch recognition is only okay. But the bat control to make a ton of contact and the hand speed and rotational ability to hit for power are all there, and he’s athletic enough to make adjustments in order to get to that power (selectivity might also be an issue), which, coupled with some of the flashiest, most acrobatic defense in pro baseball, gives Pache a cathedral ceiling.

Even though he’s already started to slow down a little bit, Pache’s reads in center, his contortionist’s ability to slide and dive at odd angles to make tough catches, and his arm strength combine to make him a premium defensive center fielder, and he’s a likely perennial Gold Glover barring an unexpected, precipitous physical regression. Even if he’s not posting All-Star offensive statlines, I think he’ll provide All-Star value overall because of the glove, and hit about 20 annual pull shots, perhaps with below average OBP. (Alternate site, MLB)

My take: Some are ready to swap them given Ian Anderson’s ridiculous performance last year, but I still believe Pache is the best overall prospect in the Braves system, and the 2021 campaign should be a lot of fun as we hopefully watch him evolve into a big-league star before our eyes. Sure, the swinging-strike issue Logenhagen mentions above is a problem, but luckily the offensive expectations regarding Pache have always been quite moderate. The star outfielder jumped 12 spots compared to last season’s FanGraphs Top 100, and considering Baseball America has him at about the same place (at no. 7), and MLB Pipeline has him 12th, I’ll say the FG ranking is just fine. Regardless, 2021 is the year the organization’s investment in Pache pays off.


#13, Ian Anderson

Logenhagen’s analysis: “After announcing his presence with authority in the 2020 postseason, Anderson is primed to make a young, good Braves rotation even younger and better. Anderson made a half-dozen regular season starts in 2020 and while he had some strike-throwing hiccups throughout, he struck out a ton of big league hitters and was nails when the lights were brightest in October. Everything he throws comes out of a very deceptive overhand slot that makes it difficult for hitters to parse his curveball from his fastball, and Anderson knows how to use each to set the other one up for a finishing blow. But Anderson’s best weapon is his changeup, which has a lethal combination of tail and dive. He’s no sniper, but Anderson can throw all three pitches for strikes and induce chases with all of them. He’s a high-probability mid-rotation starter and is likely to graduate from rookie status just a few weeks into the 2021 season. (Alternate site, MLB)”

My take: Anderson allowed a 1.2% barrel-rate overall in 2020, easily the best in the majors once you cut the innings threshold down to 30 IP. And that offspeed Logenhagen’s talking about?… a .104 AVG allowed to go along with a 39.8% whiff-rate. We’ve seen how dominant he was last season, though there’s bound to be some regression in his game in 2021. Still, there’s a lot to love about the Braves starting rotation this year, and much of the attraction stems from the fact that Anderson appears to be the real deal on the mound. He moves up a whopping 31 spots on FG’s annual list, going from no. 44 to 13th.


#47, Drew Waters

Logenhagen’s analysis: “A true center fielder loaded with tools (other than power), there are concerns that Waters’ approach will catch up to him as he moves up, but it hasn’t happened yet. Waters’ epicurean approach makes him a scary prospect. I watched him see a total of nine pitches in two games leading up to the 2019 Premier 12 tournament. It only became a problem during Waters’ late-2019 jump to Triple-A, when he was still only 20 years old. He also has 55-to-60 grade tools across the board and, until that month of struggles, had performed since high school. His sweet lefty swing, bat speed, and underlying data indicate an elite ability to manipulate the bat as well as relevant power. One club told me his percentage of balls hit with a 95 mph-plus exit velo and a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees (i.e. hard hit line drives and fly balls) was in the top 3% of the entire minor leagues. And, again, that came as a 20-year-old in the upper minors. The window dressing is plus speed and a plus arm. Some teams were and remain turned off by Waters’ loud personality, while others just see him as a colorful guy. The broad strokes skills comp here is a version of Starling Marte. The return of Marcel Ozuna makes Waters a potential mid-summer trade candidate. (Alternate site)

My take: I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Logenhagen’s excerpt on Waters. When so many people are jumping on the Let’s Doubt Drew Waters Bandwagon, Logenhagen delivers with some common sense. Yes, the approach at the plate does give some cause for concern, as Waters’ K rate spiked by nearly 10% after making the jump from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2019. But c’mon, folks… he was barely 20-years-old!… literally six years younger than the average Triple-A player. And the personality? Yeah, I’m not even going to get into that. It’s amazing how people can create the most ridiculous narratives about players. Sure, Waters is confident and likes to have fun out there, but many in Braves Country forget that not too long ago, he went through a pretty significant swing change, a process that certainly takes patience and humility. I’m not even remotely worried about his personality/attitude yet. Let’s talk when he’s actually done something more than maybe throwing a fit after a strikeout.



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