The Atlanta Braves are leading their division but have not nearly lived up to their potential this season, and the biggest issue has been their starting rotation. Insert Ian Anderson, the Braves top pitching prospect, who will make his debut on Tuesday.
Anderson was selected third overall out of high school just outside New York’s capital city, and he has faired well since. His fastball runs up to 96 with a good amount of run and even some sink to it. This combination of velocity and movement gives it plus potential while sitting just above-average currently.
The best offering for Anderson may be his big 12-6 curve that is a true swing and miss pitch. It sits high 70s and he is not afraid to double up on the pitch to help keep hitters off-balance. His change is much better than you often see from a 22-year old righty, and could flirt with plus in the future, but definitely be an above-average pitch.
All three are at least big league average offerings currently, although the command is a bit of a concern. The arm slot is very high, and the front leg can be stiff at times, causing him to miss up in the zone, which resulted in an uptick in long balls a season ago. If he can manage the north-south command and utilize his advanced off-speed offering well, he should stick in the rotation for the rest of the season and be a quality number three in future seasons.
Before I even got this posted Alex Reyes exhausted his rookie eligibility (needed a single out to do so and pitched an inning on Friday) so I updated my top 150 before it went live. Reyes was at 22 but is now removed making room for Ryan Weathers, giving the Padres two more than any other team with 12 players making the top 150. 15 players on the list open the season in the big leagues, with 14 of those in the top 80 and the Padres and Mariners both starting with two players in the big leagues.
Quick Report: Quite possibly the best defensive player at any position of the minors, Pache can be a high-quality contributor even if he had a terrible bat. He has enough pop in the bat to call it above average raw power, although the approach at the plate needs work if that is ever going to translate to game power. The swing is inconsistent, varying from no leg lift to a long leg lift, and the bat is short armed but direct at times, while others it is long and looping. A guy who could win the Gold Glove every year is worthy of being near the top of any prospect list, add to that the upside his bat holds and he could be a true star at the big league level
Quick Report: Two years ago in the Arizona Fall League, Ronald Acuna won the MVP and secured his status as the top prospect in a loaded Braves organization and in all of baseball. What was scary for the rest of baseball that year was the guy playing third base and putting up impressive numbers in his own right was also a Braves farm hand, Austin Riley, launching 6 home runs in just 17 games. Riley was once thought to be a potential liability at third but has worked to improve his glove to become at least average, allowing his plus arm to play well. There is plenty of swing and miss in the bat, but he has plus power that could be 35+ home runs at the big league level in time. With the Braves bringing in Josh Donaldson this off-season, Riley has been getting some work at first his Spring to add positional flexibility in an attempt to find himself in Atlanta early this season.
Quick Report: After missing most of the start of 2018, Soroka quickly earned himself a promotion to Sun Trust where he showed well in just under 26 innings. He has a sinking fastball and sharp but slurvy breaking ball that both grade out above-average bordering on plus. He has really improved his change to be a viable third offering that also works above-average a good amount. His delivery is, well, odd. He is stiff before releasing the ball out of a low 3/4 slot but manages to pitch with good command and control despite this. He does not have ace upside, but his floor is higher than most, making him as close to a lock of a quality third starter as it gets.
Quick Report: Coming out of the New York prep ranks, Anderson was a rare cold weather pitcher with real polish and good feel for off-speed stuff. Scouts raved about his plus curve, which may have taken a half a step back since turning pro, but he has developed a change that now works plus regularly. Add to that a fastball that regularly touches 96 with the ability to spot all three pitches, and you have a high quality pitching prospect who saw success at AA at the age of 20.
Quick Report: Toussaint arrived in Atlanta in one of the stranger deals in recent memory, essentially dumping Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Toussaint, and eating Bronson Arroyo’s salary. He has as much raw stuff as anyone in baseball, but the consistency hasn’t been there. His fastball easily sits mid-90s, touching 97 a few times a game, with a plus curve that shows the flashes of being one of the better curveballs in the game. He has really improved his change, making it a viable third pitch that gives him the upside of being a frontline starter, although the command continues to be of some concern. If he improves the command, even at the cost of dialing back the stuff some, he can be a legitimate number one or two starter, but if the command doesn’t improve he may fall back into a reliever role, where he could be a dominant high leverage guy.
Quick Report: Another in the long list of Vandy arms taken in the first round in recent years, Wright found himself in the big leagues just 14 months after being drafted. He can pump his plus fastball in sitting in the mid-90s and often touching 97-98 to go with a slider that is a true plus pitch when at its best, but it can be inconsistent. His curve is more reliable but isn’t necessarily as big an impact pitch while he has a solid change that has late run to it. He has suffered from walking too many batters at times, but the delivery is repeatable and the command should improve. He has a higher upside than Soroka does, but there is some risk of him becoming a heavy work load reliever in time which is why his sits behind Soroka an Anderson for me.
Quick Report: Waters would be the top centerfield prospect in almost any organization outside of the Braves. He has plus speed and arm with solid instincts that should allow him to stay in center until he is on the same field as Pache. At the plate he has an advanced approach for a switch-hitter who found himself in High A as a teenager a season ago. He is better from the left side of the plate, possessing better bat control, but he makes plenty of contact and possesses plus raw power from both sides.
Quick Report: A guy who has been overlooked at times as he came into pro ball with the least amount of fanfare as any of the other arms in the Braves top 10, he made it to the big leagues at age 20 last season and has the biggest fastball of the six on this list. He can run the heater up to 98 without losing the run and sink that makes it even heavier than the radar gun readings. He has a solid breaking ball, although it is slurvy and inconsistent in its shape, it is effective regardless. The change has improved every year to the point it is a solid average pitch and shows better at times. He shows no fear on the mound, attacking hitters with solid command which allows him to make all his pitches play above their raw grades. He is a future number three or four starter, although the great depth of arms the Braves currently have could make him a reliever in the short term.
Quick Report: The younger brother of Cubs backstop Wilson Contreras, William has all the tools of his older brother, but lacks the consistency. He can get a little lazy behind the plate at times, while showing the skills of an advanced receiver at others. The arm is plus allowing him to really control the running game. Without the ability to play the most demanding of positions, Contreras would be a quality prospect based purely on the bat. He has no leg kick, instead having a more rocking motion at the plate to generate movement. His bat has a power approach and plane despite the power currently being more raw than game, but the quickness of the bat allows him to his for a good amount of contact as well.
Quick Report: Gohara has long been an odd prospect, possessing high quality stuff, but a rare elite prospect from Brazil has proven to come with some concerns. He has had real health problems and family trouble, which isn’t helped by the fact he is an entirely different hemisphere than his home. Regardless, he has a big fastball that can touch 98 from the left side and a plus slider to go with a change that is coming along. He is one of the wider bodies of any pitcher in baseball currently, but he has a surprising amount of athleticism and control in his delivery despite the size. He came into camp this season having lost a good amount of weight, but he was also cut from big league camp on Friday, heading back to AAA where he hopes to regain the stuff that once had many tabbing him as a frontline starter rather than a guy who is currently on the fringes of being an impactful big leaguer.