Keith Law of the Athletic has released his preseason top prospect list, and three Braves made the cut:
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) January 31, 2022
Kicking off the list is Cristian Pache at 38, who Law still thinks very highly of:
Pache has only had 72 plate appearances in the majors so far, far too few to change his long-term outlook, but there’s no sugar-coating just how not-ready for big-league pitching he is. Good fastballs got him and so did offspeed stuff, after which there isn’t much left to hit. Pache came into 2021 with less than a month’s worth of games above Double A, and the lack of reps against real pitching in 2020 may have hurt him more than most players, given how immature his approach and pitch recognition are. Pache remains an elite defender in center, and he has power if he can hit enough to get to it, so the bar for him to clear to be a regular is not that high — a .300 OBP and 20-25 homers would make him an above-average regular given his defensive value. I firmly believe he’ll get there, but it may take another 400 plate appearances in Triple A before he’s ready to contribute in the majors.
Next, Law has Michael Harris clocking in at 68:
He started 2021 like a house on fire in High A, struggled in mid-summer, then started to make some adjustments at the plate, notably seeing more pitches to finish strongly. If this top 100 were something I did weekly (please, no), he probably would have surged on the list, dropped off in July and then re-entered around Labor Day. Harris is tooled out, a 70 runner who played 70 defense in center and showed plus power against fastballs. He struggled with pitch recognition, especially against offspeed stuff, and his production dipped as a result in midseason. There’s some reason to think he made a real adjustment later in the year, however, with a 10 percent walk rate in the second half as well. He doesn’t have to be Eddie Yost to have value; he’s going to save a bunch of runs in center, and the 25 homer/20 steal upside I discussed in my comment on him last February is still very much in play.
Finally, Law has Shea Langeliers at 80:
Langeliers hasn’t risen to the status of the many elite catching prospects in baseball, but it’s not a mark against his defense — he can throw with the best of them, he’s a solid-average receiver and he has plus power, just lacking the hit tool upside of the likes of Gabriel Moreno and Francisco Alvarez. At the plate, he’s more of a mistake hitter right now, but during the pandemic he gained the strength to punish those mistakes, with 22 homers in 92 Double-A games before a late promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. Langeliers threw out 42 percent of opposing base stealers last year, after throwing out 41 percent in his debut season in 2019, but he’s somewhat stiff behind the dish, so while his hands are good he may never be more than an average or slightly better than average glove man. He’s close to major-league ready and could probably be a backup for Atlanta right now, with everyday upside as long as he keeps crushing mistakes.