Atlanta Braves Mid-Season Prospect List 2017, Part Two

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02 MAR 2016: Ozzie Albies (88) of the Braves during the spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

Welcome to the mid-season prospect list for the Atlanta Braves, compiled by the team at Last Word on Baseball! Atlanta certainly has one of the best farm systems in baseball, and they have added to their system with a strong showing in the draft. What does remain to be seen is whether or not the club will buy or sell at the trade deadline. It is likely that the front office will continue to add young, controllable players while also making moves to bolster the minor league system. Here is the second half of Atlanta’s top-20 prospects at mid-season.

Atlanta Braves Mid-Season Prospect List 2017, Part Two

  1. Austin Riley – 3B

Riley has had an up-and-down sort of season in 2017. He began the year with the Advanced-A Florida Fire Frogs after hitting 20 home runs and posting a strong end to the 2016 season in Single-A Rome. In 81 games with Florida, Riley hit .252/.310/.408 with 12 home runs, 10 doubles, 43 runs, and 47 RBI. Strikeouts continue to plague Riley as he had 74 during his time in Florida, which resulted in a lower slash-line.

His numbers were not incredible, but management still decided to promote Riley to Double-A Mississippi. He has two home runs, 13 hits, and four runs in 14 games with Mississippi so far and is off to a good start. It is often easy to forget that Riley is competing in just his second full professional season. Despite his reduced numbers at Florida, Riley still possesses strong potential and is a decent power prospect moving forward. He has posted at least 12 home runs in each professional season, and he is just six home runs away from back-to-back 20 home run seasons in his young career.

  1. Luiz Gohara – LHP

Gohara was the prized prospect Atlanta received in the Mallex Smith trade. Smith was promptly traded to Tampa Bay where he is currently playing and has contributed decent numbers in 43 games this season. Nevertheless, Gohara is an impressive southpaw prospect that Atlanta was happy to add to their already stacked farm system of pitchers. Atlanta is even happier after the numbers he has put up this season.

Gohara began the season with the Florida Fire Frogs in Advanced-A where he was nearly untouchable. In seven starts, he posted a 1.98 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36.1 innings pitched. He quickly received a promotion to Double-A Mississippi where he has continued his great stretch. Gohara has notched 52 innings over 12 appearances (11 starts) with a 2.60 ERA, 60 strikeouts, and 18 walks with Mississippi. What is even more impressive is Gohara’s 1.15 WHIP and .218 BAA during his time in Double-A. The fact that Gohara only reached the ninth spot on this list is testament to the strength of Atlanta’s system, especially the pitching prospects in their system.

Gohara was recently promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. He struggled mightily in his debut, but there is no reason to doubt his progression so far.

  1. Ian Anderson – RHP

Anderson was Atlanta’s first round selection, third overall, in the 2016 draft. He was the first pitcher taken overall in that draft. Anderson has spent all of 2017 at Single-A Rome and has put up some promising numbers for a 19-year old in professional ball. He has made 17 starts with an ERA of 3.47 and a mind-blowing 94 strikeouts in just 72.2 innings pitched. Another impressive mark is that Anderson has yet to allow a home run this season while putting together a nearly three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio (94 strikeouts, 37 walks). Anderson has put together a 2.93 FIP, which gives the impression that his stuff is highly effective and well on his way to developing into a strong starter.

  1. Sean Newcomb – LHP

Newcomb is the lone prospect on this top-10 list that is currently on Atlanta’s major league roster. Newcomb made his debut following the release of Bartolo Colon with some varied results. He began the season with Triple-A Gwinnett where he posted a 2.97 ERA over 11 starts. In 57.2 innings pitched, he allowed just three home runs and posted 74 strikeouts with a .212 BAA. The issue for Newcomb all along has been his walk rate, and that continues to be his biggest weakness. Newcomb walked 33 batters during his time in Gwinnett that led to a 1.35 WHIP.

So far Newcomb has made eight starts in Atlanta. He is 1-6 with a 4.86 ERA and a .276 BAA, but his potential has been evident. He has struck out seven or more batters in four of his big league starts. Yet again it is the walks that haunt Newcomb, and he has walked four or more in three of his starts, and he currently holds a 4.1 walks per nine innings rate. Newcomb is talented, but his shortcomings are more evident at the MLB level. He will need to work on his command and fully develop a third and fourth pitch in order to stick around in Atlanta.

  1. Kevin Maitan – SS

Maitan comes in at sixth, but he may have the highest ceiling of any player on this list. Maitan was the prize international signee of Atlanta’s loaded 2016 international signing period. Despite being just 17-years old, he is already playing professional baseball and performing quite well. Maitan kicked off his professional career with nine games for the Gulf Coast League Braves. In those nine games, he slashed .314/.351/.400 with three doubles, three RBI, and five runs scored. His performance was enough for Atlanta to promote him to Danville.

Since arriving in Danville, Maitan has appeared in 10 games. He has cooled off and is struggling a bit with a slash of .214/.267/.286 with 14 strikeouts. He did notch his first professional home run to go along with four RBI and four runs scored, and there is no reason for concern with a 17-year old struggling to open his professional career. There is obviously no telling when, where, or what position Maitan will be playing when he finally debuts for Atlanta, but the early indications are positive ones. His growth and development over the next few years will be fun to watch for all Braves fans.

  1. Kyle Wright – RHP

Wright is the newest member to the franchise on this list, but he has the ability to rise quickly through Atlanta’s system. Wright played three years a Vanderbilt, including back-to-back seasons as the team’s top starter. He made 61 appearances, 35 starts, during his time and Vanderbilt. He finished his collegiate career with a 19-11 record, 2.79 ERA, 290 strikeouts, and just nine home runs allowed in 255 innings pitched. With just 86 walks issued, he left Vanderbilt with a greater than three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Wright has all the makings of a workhorse starting pitcher and looked like a sure top-three pick in the draft.

As it worked out, Wright fell to the Braves at number five. Even for such a high draft choice, obtaining Wright feels like a steal for an organization still preparing for the future. Wright is not expected to pitch much this professional season due to a heavy workload at Vanderbilt. He has debuted with the Gulf Coast League Braves where he has allowed one earned run with eight strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings.

  1. Mike Soroka – RHP

Soroka has spent all of 2017 at the Double-A level despite the fact that he is still just 19-years old. His numbers have been nothing short of fantastic across the board. Soroka has gone 10-5 in 19 starts with a 2.32 ERA. He has notched 112.2 innings pitched with 97 strikeouts, a 1.01 WHIP, and .224 BAA. Atlanta has many strong pitching prospects, but Soroka’s blend of potential and strong results have put him in a great position heading into the 2018 season.

Tie-2. Kolby Allard – LHP

Allard is another 19-year old pitching prospect who has spent 2017 at the Double-A level. He has not had the same level of success that Soroka has had, but Allard has definitely demonstrated he can pitch at a high level. Allard has logged 105.2 innings pitched in 20 starts with a 5-9 record and 3.75 ERA. He has 86 strikeouts to 39 walks with a .268 BAA this season.

Every fan wants to see results, but there should be no cause for concern over Allard’s numbers this season. He has posted an extremely solid year in what will be just his second full professional season. He has already set career highs in starts and innings pitched, and he will likely set a new career high in strikeouts.

Tie-2. Ronald Acuna – OF

Acuna has had the kind of season one dreams of. His performances at the plate have conjured up comparisons to former Atlanta great Andruw Jones. Acuna began the season at Advanced-A Florida, but it was quickly apparent that he would not end this season where he started. He posted a line of .287/.336/.478 with 11 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases, and 21 runs scored in 28 games played. He was promptly promoted to Double-A Mississippi where he performed even better. Over 57 games in Mississippi, Acuna slashed .326/.374/.520 with nine home runs, 14 doubles, 30 RBI, 19 steals, and 29 runs scored.

Acuna is currently with Triple-A Gwinnett where he has played 16 games so far. His average is off to a slow start at .279, but his other numbers have maintained despite his promotion. He has a .371 OBP to go along with three home runs, four doubles, nine RBI, and 10 runs scored. It is natural to question whether or not Acuna will debut with Atlanta this season, but it still seems unlikely that management will cut corners with his development. Either way, Acuna has developed into one of the top prospects in all of baseball with an incredible blend of power, speed, and defense that will anchor Atlanta for years to come.

  1. Ozzie Albies – SS/2B

Last year it was Albies who played the role of Acuna for Atlanta’s farm system. It was Albies as a 19-year old prospect that advanced all the way to Triple-A at one point and won the Southern League batting title at the Double-A level. Unfortunately, fans have been hearing about Albies heavily for the past two and a half years. Expectations have risen to almost unrealistic levels that it is easy for fans to forget that Albies is just 20-years old and about to complete his third complete professional season.

Albies has continued to play at a high level and boost his value this season. He has played in 95 games for Triple-A Gwinnett with a slash line of .285/.330/.444 with 21 doubles, eight triples, 66 runs scored, 41 RBI, and a career-high nine home runs. What makes Albies’ numbers even more impressive is his quick turnaround from a broken elbow at the end of last season. Brandon Phillips started the season on a strong tear but has cooled off down the stretch. Fans should remain hope that Atlanta’s top prospect may debut at some point this season.

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