SportsTalkATL’s 2021 Summer Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 10-1

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We’ve made it to the end — the top 10 prospects of our new 2021 Top 30. If you’ve missed out on the first two installments, be sure to get caught up…

One thing that stands out to me, despite the inevitable turnover within the Braves system, is just the general diversity of this current top 10. There are six pitchers and four hitters, with four of the five top prospects featuring the latter group. That’s a bit of different dynamic considering the surplus in prospect pitchers over the last several years. Of course, only time will tell whether or not this transition will prove successful. 

Now… on to the 10-most talented players in the Braves system!

SportsTalkATL’s 2021 Summer Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 10-1

RANKPLAYERLEVEL
1Cristian Pache, OFMLB/AAA
2Drew Waters, OFAAA
3William Contreras, CMLB
4Tucker Davidson, LHPAAA/MLB
5Shea Langeliers, CAA
6Michael Harris, OFA+
7Kyle Muller, LHPAAA
8Braden Shewmake, LHPAA
9Jasseel De La Cruz, RHPAAA
10Bryce Elder, RHPA+

 

 

10. Bryce Elder, RHP ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 220lb
  • 5th RD / 2020 MLB Draft

Elder was looked at as an ultra-high floor type, though with perhaps less upside than some of the other Braves 2020 picks. Of the major sites within the industry, only Baseball America thought of him as a top 100 prospect entering last year’s draft and ESPN had him as low as 150. Still, as Chase opined back in January, for $850K this kid was an absolute steal for Atlanta, and therefore we had him pegged at no. 14 before he ever threw a professional pitch. The four-spot jump today stems from the fact that he’s done everything you could’ve hoped for so far with Single-A Augusta, posting a 2.93 ERA through his first eight starts. 

 

9. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP ↔

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-1, 195lb
  • INT signee / June 2015

It’s still hard to believe the Braves signed De La Cruz for just $55K back in 2015, especially considering what he’s developed into — which, to me, is one of the top prospects among the org’s next wave of starting pitchers. I think some of the problem with De La Cruz right now is that there seems to be a bit of prospect fatigue aimed his way. The righty has been in the system for so long now, and he hasn’t necessarily dominated Triple-A this season. So for some evaluators, De La Cruz’s stock has perhaps declined. I’m still a firm believer in his talent. 

 

8. Braden Shewmake, SS ↓

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-4, 190lb
  • 1st RD / 2019 MLB Draft

What? Did you expect me to push Shewmake out of the Top 30 because of his 2021 season so far? While I’ll certainly admit his performance has been disappointing this year (hence the down symbol), I’m afraid that’s not how this works. We had Shewmake ranked seventh on our January list, and I’m not prepared to move him outside of the top 10 unless his poor streak extends much longer. Sure, a .133 AVG in Double-A, especially for a college bat set to turn 24 in the offseason, is far from ideal. But if there’s any constellation, Shewmake has at least started turning this catastrophe around.

 

7. Kyle Muller, LHP ↑

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-7, 250lb
  • 2nd RD / 2016 MLB Draft

Don’t let Muller’s current numbers in Double-A Mississippi mislead you, for the big bodied southpaw is blowing by opposing batters right now. His six-inning gem last Wednesday gives him three consecutive outings with one earned run or less and four of his last six, resulting in a 3.18 ERA with 37 strikeouts in his last 28 ⅓ innings since that poor season-opening start. The turn-around in June has truly been remarkable; in May, opposing batters recorded a .924 OPS versus Muller… so far in June, that OPS is currently .368. It’s definitely not time to hop off the Muller train, and after making his major-league debut against the Red Sox on Wednesday, he is supposed to return on Monday to start against the Mets. 

 

6. Michael Harris, OF ↑

  • 20-years-old
  • 6-0, 195lb
  • 3rd RD / 2019 MLB Draft

I really wanted to reward Harris by ranking him in the top 5 as there’s no doubt he deserves it. But still, the kid moved up several spots since our last list (from ninth). The thing that’s so incredible about Harris — other than the obvious accomplishment of doing what he’s doing while just 20-years-old — is that he entered 2021 with a level of hype not seen since Ronald Acuna… and he managed to actually exceed expectations. That doesn’t hardly ever happen. I have a Harris post still in the works that goes into much more detail about his current season. Hell, I already did one here last month. But for now we’ll just keep it simple: this dude is the REAL DEAL. 

 

5. Shea Langeliers, C ↑

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-0, 205lb
  • 1st RD / 2019 MLB Draft

For roughly a week or so back in late-May and early June, I wasn’t sure if Langeliers would ever stop hitting. During that stint, he hit four home runs in a six-game span, including three in one game on June 2, and though he isn’t operating on THAT sort of level now, the prospect catcher has still been a consistent performer at the plate AND behind it. Beyond all of the talent and tools that come with Langeliers, this kid has demolished same-handed pitchers this season. At the time of this writing, as a righty batter, he’s hitting .298 against right-handed pitchers, including six of his eight total homers (compared to a .188 AVG vs. southpaws). It’s not necessarily a big deal with such a small sample, but it’s cool nonetheless. 

 

4. Tucker Davidson, LHP ↑

  • 25-years-old 
  • 6-2, 215lb
  • 19th RD / 2016 MLB Draft

I lied in my first installment of this series. Willie Carter isn’t my only 25-year-old prospect on this list as Tuck Davidson hit the quarter-century mark a couple of months ago. But which Davidson should we discuss? The one that has dominated Triple-A batters to the tune of a 0.90 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine?… or the one that has held MLB lineups to a cool 3.60 ERA? We already knew Davidson was the top lefty-arm in the system, but with Ian Anderson a recent graduate, he’s now the top pitcher altogether. 

 

3. William Contreras, C ↑

  • 23-years-old
  • 6-0, 180lb
  • INT signee / February 2015

We had Contreras at no. 5 back in January, and we knew the 2021 campaign would be a huge one for him, though perhaps for different reasons. Little did we know the 23-year-old — who had played just 60 games above the High-A level and none in Triple-A — would wind up Atlanta’s starting catcher due to injuries and ineffectiveness to both Travis d’Arnaud and Alex Jackson. Simply the hands-on experience alone is invaluable for Contreras, but what’s incredible is how well he has held his own with the bat, recording a 100 wRC+ and six home runs in his first 33 big league games this season. Yes, Contreras’ defense behind the plate has been costly at times, and base runners have ran on him fairly easily so far (9 for 13 on stolen base attempts). But it’s all a learning process, and one that he’s been able to go through while still being a solid producer for the Braves.

 

2. Drew Waters, OF ↑

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 185lb
  • 2nd RD / 2017 MLB Draft

Waters’ first month in Gwinnett was respectable for sure, but entering June, he hadn’t made the strides we were hoping he’d make with his approach at the plate, and through those 20 games in May, his .253 AVG really seemed a bit underwhelming. Well, since the calendar turned over to June, the former 2nd round pick has noticeably made some improvements on offense, and though his K rate has still been higher than ideal, Waters is slashing .344/.417/.406 (130 wRC+) in June to go with a walk-rate in the double-digits (11.1 BB%). Obviously, he needs to sustain this success for a longer period of time, but if Waters is still hitting like this next month, perhaps it’s time to give him an opportunity to translate his success at the MLB level.

 

1. Cristian Pache, OF ↔

  • 22-years-old
  • 6-2, 215lb
  • INT signee / July 2015

Pache started 2021 in the majors, but he was very much overmatched at the plate. A hamstring injury sort of provided a bit of a blessing in disguise as it allowed him some time off and a chance to rebuild his confidence in Gwinnett before trying again with the Braves. The star outfielder was activated back on June 1, and entering this past weekend he had logged six games with the Stripers, sporting a .348 AVG and coming off a two-homer, four RBI game from last Thursday night. I don’t know how exactly you approach Pache’s situation. It’s evident the Braves need outfield help at the big league level as the team’s outfield has been below-average all season. But I tend to lean towards it being more beneficial for him as a prospect to maybe log a month or so worth of games in the minors before they decide to start Round 2 with Pache. This is still the org’s top prospect, no doubt, but he really doesn’t need to be exposed like that again if the Braves can help it.

 

Soon we will put out a post with all 30 prospects listed together.

 

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