Keith Law upset a lot of Braves fans last week when he left Drew Waters off his top 100 prospects list. Waters, who made it to AAA as a 20-year-old last season, won the Southern League MVP and is widely considered a top 50 prospect in baseball, apparently isn’t Law’s cup of tea. But aside from that, Law is exceptionally high on the rest of the Braves system, as six other prospects made his top 100:
- #5 Cristian Pache
- #27 Ian Anderson
- #61 Kyle Wright
- #65 Bryse Wilson
- #75 William Contreras
- #94 Braden Shewmake
Another notable absentee was last year’s #9 overall pick Shea Langeliers, who has had a fantastic spring thus far in Florida. Still, when Law released his list of the top farm systems, the Braves came in at #2, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say about Atlanta’s youngsters:
The pipeline in Atlanta continues, even though the team has been effectively out of the international prospect market for two years now. That’s thanks to the last fruits of the previous regime’s efforts and several very productive drafts in the time since, including a 2019 draft class that already looks like it’s yielding positive results.
The fact that the Braves are still regarded as one of the best farm systems in baseball after so much talent has graduated to the bigs over the last couple of years is a testament to the job Alex Anthopoulos has done since taking over and the ex-communicated John Coppolella. However, I’d be lying if I said Law’s rankings aren’t a little perplexing.
While Bryse Wilson shouldn’t be judged too harshly for his failed stints in the bigs thus far, ranking him #65 while Waters remains off the list altogether is a bit absurd. He’s also still extremely high on William Contreras, who had a .669 OPS between Florida and Mississippi last season and looks to have lost the inside track towards being the catcher of the future with Shea Langiliers now on board.
One thing I will give Law credit for is his faith in both Kyle Wright and Braden Shewmake, two guys I’m extremely high on. I know Wright suffered some lumps last season, but he has the type of stuff you can’t teach and is showing it off early in Spring Training. I still have all the confidence in the world he can become a top of the rotation arm, and this should be the year the Braves give him an extended look to find his footing at the major league level.
Many people did not like the Shewmake selection 21st overall in last year’s draft, but he’s quickly begun to prove his doubters wrong. In 51 games for Rome, he slashed .318/.389/.473 with 18 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 home runs while also racking up 11 steals before receiving a quick promotion to AA Mississippi. If Dansby Swanson can’t prove to be the future at shortstop, the Braves might have quite the backup plan in their back pocket. At the very least, Shewmake should be a valuable utility player in the majors.
As far as the Drew Waters hate goes, it’s a bit laughable. All prospects are projects, even the best ones, but there is no way last year’s MVP of the Southern League should be left off a top 100 list. While his strikeout rate may be concerning, he still possesses one of the best contact bats in the minors, and as he fills out, I expect the power to come. Remember, he was only 20 years old last season. I can’t begin to explain his thought process, but knowing Drew Waters, this is only going to be used as motivation heading into the 2020 campaign.