The Atlanta Braves boasted one of the best farm systems in baseball for several years. Now, with much of the talent in Atlanta and the international signing scandal catching up, the Braves farm system has taken a slight hit. With the recent J2 signing that began last week, the Braves signed Ambioris Tavarez. It was the first time they spent over a million dollars on an international player since 2016. Still, the Braves have a solid farm system even though it is top-heavy. With that being said, let’s dive in on the Atlanta Braves’ top prospects.
Other Team Top 20’s: Arizona
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Atlanta Braves Minor League Affiliates
Advanced Single-A: Rome
Low Single-A: Augusta
Atlanta Braves Top-20 Prospects -2021
1. Ian Anderson, RHP
|DOB: 5/2/1998 (22.7 yo)||HT/WT: 6’3/170||ETA: Debuted|
|Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft: 1st Round||From: Shenendehowa HS (NY)||Highest Level: MLB|
Ian Anderson dazzled in his debut with the Atlanta Braves this season, posting a 1.95 ERA in 32.1 regular-season innings. He struck out nearly 30 percent of hitters while walking just ten percent. The crazy thing is Anderson was even more dominant in the postseason against some tough teams. In 18.2 postseason innings, Anderson posted a 0.96 ERA and a 31.2 percent strikeout rate. The 22 years old rookie held his own in his first taste of Major League ball.
Anderson’s arsenal features a fastball that averages 94 mph with lower spin rates. Despite not putting a ton of spin on the fastball, it plays well in the lower half of the zone. It does not get hit hard very often.
Anderson’s second most used pitch is his changeup, and it is no doubt his best pitch. You can make an argument that this is a near 70-grade pitch. It plays off his four-seamer extremely well. Last season, this pitch produced a 39.8 percent whiff rate.
Anderson’s command is something he has struggled with in the past, but it appeared improved this season. When he does not have his stuff, he struggles. Much of his future success will hinge on his ability to command and control his pitches. When he doesn’t have it, it is evident, and Anderson won’t make it deep in the games. It will be an interesting trend to watch over a full season.
Overall, Anderson is an extremely valuable pitcher. The high but consistent arm slot helps the deceptiveness of his pitches. The changeup plays so well off his fastball as they look nearly identical coming out of his hand. There will likely be bumps along the way as Anderson is still young and developing, but he has a bright future ahead of him.
2. Drew Waters, OF
|DOB: 12/30/1998 (22 yo)||HT/WT: 6’2/185||ETA: 2021|
|Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft: 2nd Round||From: Etowah HS (GA)||Highest Level: AAA|
Drew Waters is a smooth swinging switch hitter that the Braves selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. The best way to describe Waters build is athletic. He is a natural hitter from the left side of the plate but is a switch hitter. He is capable of hitting from the right side against lefties, but there are inconsistencies. For reference, in 2019, Waters slashed .319/.366/.486 from the left side. From the right side, his slash fell to just .258/.293/.371. The strikeouts were high from both sides but nearly five percentage points high from the right. You could make an argument that Waters is an above-average to plus hitter from the left side, but the approach from the right side leaves him as an average hitter overall.
From a power standpoint, Waters gets a ton of extra-base hits. In 2019, he had 56 in 134 games. Many have not translated to home run power, but you can see it coming. Waters was just 20 during the 2019 season was positing high exit velocities on occasion. Waters has 25 home run pop in his bat; it is just a matter of tapping into it.
From a speed standpoint, Waters is a great runner. It plays well in the field, as well as on the bases. Pache is the faster runner, but Waters is more efficient on the base paths. He has a career stolen base rate of over 76 percent.
Overall, Waters should be a solid all-around contributor. If he does not improve against left-handed pitching, he could end up in a platoon type role. I am confident that Waters is the type of hard worker who has spent the last year improving that aspect of his game. We will see how it plays up in games in 2021. If he improves against lefties, Waters could have seasons where he hits .280+ with 25 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
3. Cristian Pache, OF
|DOB: 11/19/1998 (22.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’2/185||ETA: Debuted|
|Acquired: 2015 International||From: Dominican Republic||Highest Level: MLB|
If you were looking at a prospect list that focused on real-life production over Fantasy Baseball, Cristian Pache would be the easy number one. He is an elite, natural centerfielder with an easy double-plus arm. Those skills are his best. Pache has been clocked throwing over 96 mph from center field. Unfortunately, those things don’t factor into Fantasy Baseball.
At the plate, Pache brings a solid approach that is contact-oriented. His approach has steadily improved throughout his career and now looks to have a better than average approach. Watching him, you can tell he is comfortable in knowing what pitch is coming. Pache posts solid contact rates, but unfortunately, it is not always hard contact. Pache possesses an average hit tool right now, but he does have room to grow.
From a power standpoint, Pache has really developed over the last several years. It took Pache 833 professional plate appearances before finally hitting a home run, which I am sure was a weight off his shoulders. Between 2018 and 2019, Pache hit 21 home runs in 1034 plate appearances, but the home run drought ran into the 2018 season. He has developed and grown into his body and gained 30 pounds of muscle in recent years. Pache still has room to add more muscle in his frame, so don’t be surprised if he ends up being a 20 home run hitter per season.
As he has grown into his frame, he has lost speed, but Pache is still a near 70-grade runner. His speed plays up much better in the field than on the base paths. While being an elite runner, Pache has been far from an efficient base stealer. In his MILB career, he has 58 steals but has been caught 38 times. A 60 percent success rate is not going to get you the green light very often. If he can get his timing down, Pache could easily steal 20 bags per season. But don’t count on it.
Cristian Pache is still extremely young but growing into his own. Even though his stats won’t wow you from 2020, Pache really held his own in the postseason against some excellent pitching. As things currently stand, he should be the everyday centerfielder for the Braves in 2021.
4. Braden Shewmake, SS/2B
|DOB: 11/19/1997 (23.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’4/190||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 1st Round||From: Texas A&M University||Highest Level: AA|
It surprised some when the Braves selected Braden Shewmake with the 21st pick of the 2019 draft. The former Texas A&M Aggie was one of the better pure college hitters in the draft class. In 188 games with the Aggies, Shewmake posted a .323 average, and in his worst season, he slashed .313/.375/.474.
Shewmake has a great feel to hit and has a good feel for the barrel from the plate’s left side. He hits to all fields well. There is also solid power in his build. His swing generates a lot of loft, and given his ability to barrel the ball, it comes with power. It would not surprise me to see Shewmake be a Kevin Newman type of player at the plate that can hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bags while posting a solid batting average.
5. Kyle Muller, LHP
|DOB: 10/7/1997 (23.2 yo)||HT/WT: 6’7/250||ETA: 2021|
|Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft: 2nd Round||From: Dallas Jesuit HS (TX)||Highest Level: AA|
Kyle Muller intimates hitters with his large 6’7, 250 lb frame. His fastball sits 93-95 mph but plays up with his extension and steep downhill plane. Muller’s curveball and changeup are both solid secondary offerings that play well off the fastball. His command has been an issue in the past, as walks have hindered him. The strikeout numbers are solid but not great. Despite that, Muller has been highly productive at each stop of the Minors.
Muller is a workhorse type starting pitcher who can keep his velocity deep into starts. Ultimately, his command and lack of a put-away secondary could keep him from developing into a great starter. But right now, Muller projects as an SP4 for me. Worst case, he could be a solid high leverage reliever.
6. Jared Shuster, LHP
|DOB: 8/3/1998 (22.4 yo)||HT/WT: 6’3/210||ETA: 2023|
|Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft: 1st Round||From: Wake Forest University||Highest Level: NCAA|
Some were surprised by the Braves using their 25th in the first round on the Wake Forest lefty Jared Shuster. Based on his freshman and sophomore year performance, he would never have been drafted this high. His 7.41 and 6.49 ERA’s with poor command and walk numbers did not lead many to believe he was ready for professional baseball. But in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2019, Shuster pitched 32 innings with a 1.41 ERA, nearly 10 strikeouts-per-nine, and just 1.4 BB/nine. The performance continued into his shortened college season in 2020.
So, what changed for Shuster? First, his velocity made a jump. During his 2019 college season, Shuster’s fastball sat 88-92 mph. By 2020, his fastball sat between 92-94 mph and topped at 97. Much like Ian Anderson, Shuster relies heavily on a changeup, and it is a true plus pitch. He rounds out his arsenal with a slider that is a solid but developing pitch. If the command improvements we saw in 2020 continue, Shuster has a chance to develop into a solid starting pitcher.
7. Bryce Ball, 1B
|DOB: 7/8/1998 (22.5 yo)||HT/WT: 6’6/240||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 24th Round||From: Dallas Baptist University||Highest Level: A|
Bryce Ball is a physical monster, standing at 6’6 240 pounds. He was also a monster at the plate in 2019 after being drafted in the 24th round. In 263 plate appearances, Ball slashed .329/.395/.628 with 17 home runs. The approach was also impressive as Ball struck out 19 percent of the time while walking nearly ten percent. While the batting average makes it appear that Ball is a more than capable hitter, there are question marks about his ability to hit breaking balls. Pitchers are likely to expose him at higher levels of the Minors.
Ball has monster power that will play anywhere. He produces good bat speed and creates effortless power. There is easy 70-grade power in his profile. For the power to play up long-term, Ball will need to show his continued development with his bat. But if he progresses against breaking pitches, his power will play up, and Ball could be an everyday type player at first base or designated hitter.
Bryce Ball is another intriguing hitter in the #Braves system. The 2019 24th rounder had 263 PA between RK-A ball in 19 & he slashed .329/.395/.628 with 17 HR. He has easy raw power from his 6’6 240 frame.pic.twitter.com/Pq7vqK3oQP
— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) January 18, 2021
8. Shae Langeliers, C
|DOB: 11/18/1997 (23.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’0/205||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 1st Round||From: Baylor University||Highest Level: A|
Much of Shae Langelier’s value comes from his ability to play behind the plate. His arm is his best tool as he posts elite pop times. Behind the plate, Langeliers is extremely polished. Being an elite catcher only helps his chance to play most days, therefore helping his bat value.
At the plate, Langeliers has made several changes and adjustments since being drafted. He has solid pitch recognition and good bat-to-ball skills. If his hit tool develops to average, he will have some solid Fantasy value thanks to his glove keeping him in the field regularly. The power projects as a 15-18 home run type bat.
Worst case, Langeliers ends up in a strong side platoon thanks to his glove and arm. But he could develop into every day (or most days) type of role.
9. Michael Harris, OF
|DOB: 3/7/2001 (19.8 yo)||HT/WT: 6’0/190||ETA: 2023|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 3rd Round||From: Stockbridge HS (GA)||Highest Level: A|
After being selected in the third round of the 2019 draft, Harris’s value really soared. His pro debut was awesome, slashing .349/.403/.514 with two home runs and five stolen bases in 31 games. Harris’s skill set at the plate is raw, but he is much more polished in the field.
At the plate, Harris has a fairly linear swing and makes solid contact. He drives the ball to all fields well. He is a switch hitter but looks much more natural from the left side. There is potential above-average to plus raw power when Harris pulls the ball. He still has room to fill out his frame and develop more power. If the contact skills improve, Harris could be a 20 home run bat with the speed to steal 15 bags.
10. William Contreras, C
|DOB: 12/24/1997 (23 yo)||HT/WT: 6’0/180||ETA: Debuted|
|Acquired: 2015 International||From: Venezuela||Highest Level: MLB|
There will likely be debates for several years to come on who is better between William Contreras and Shae Langeliers. It comes down to the ceiling versus the floor. Currently, for me, I think Langeliers’ defense helps him play more consistently, even though Contreras could develop a better bat. Sure, the defense does not factor into Fantasy Baseball, but playing time certainly does.
The younger brother of the Cubs, Willson Contreras, made his MLB debut with Atlanta in 2020. It was just a four-game sample, but Contreras did have four hits in ten plate appearances. In 1318 MILB plate appearances, Contreras slashed .279/.345/.402. The hit tool is solid, but right now, the power is minimal. Contreras has 22 home runs, but it averages out to just over ten per 162 games. While the home runs have not been there, Contreras does drive the ball to all fields well and has many warning track power. While Langeliers and Contreras likely end up hitting for similar batting averages, Langeliers likely has slightly better power long-term.
11. Tucker Davidson, LHP
|DOB: 3/25/1996 (24.8 yo)||HT/WT: 6’2/215||ETA: Debuted|
|Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft: 19th Round||From: Midland College (TX)||Highest Level: MLB|
With Tucker Davidson’s solid MILB performance throughout his career, many have asked why he is outside of my top ten? Between double and triple-A in 2019, Davidson made 25 starts, posting a 2.15 ERA in 129.2 innings. For his MILB career, he has a 2.86 ERA in 381.1 innings, so what is the catch?
First, Davidson is extremely fastball heavy. It sits in the low 90s and tops around 94 mph. He does induce a lot of weak contact with the pitch, which plays best at the top of the zone. Davidson does not appear to have much confidence in his secondaries based on the reliance on his fastball. The issue with the heavy fastball use is that Davidson could struggle to get through the order multiple times. His best outcome could be out of the bullpen, but I am not ruling out the potential to stick as a starter.
12. Patrick Weigel, RHP
|DOB: 7/8/1994 (26.5 yo)||HT/WT: 6’6/240||ETA: Debuted|
|Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft: 7th Round||From: University of Houston||Highest Level: MLB|
It has been a long journey for Patrick Weigel, from being drafted in 2015 to his short 2/3 of inning debut with Atlanta in 2020. Weigel flew through the Braves Minor League system, reaching triple-A by 2017. He dominated every level outside of his rookie ball pro debut in 2015. Unfortunately, after settling in with Gwinnett (AAA) and having an ERA of 1.21 of a stretch of five starts, Weigel had to undergo the dreaded Tommy John Surgery.
He returned for just four innings of work in 2018 before dominating double and triple-A in 2019. Weigel pitched less than an inning with Atlanta in 2020, surrendering three walks and two hits. Weigel has great stuff and the potential to be a solid starter if he could harness his command. Walks have also been a big factor in his game, but he has been able to get away with them in the minors. Those walks will come back to haunt him in the majors. Weigel’s fastball and slider are both above-average offerings, while the changeup is solid and still improving.
If we see command improvement from Weigel in 2021, the chance of sticking as a starter greatly increases. His fastball and slider could really play up in a bullpen role if that is where he ends up. It would be awesome to see Weigel stick as a starter, though, especially after his success in the role throughout his Minor League career.
13. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP
|DOB: 6/26/1997 (23.5 yo)||HT/WT: 6’1/195||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2015 International||From: Dominican Republic||Highest Level: AA|
If you were looking at the Braves pitching prospects from a stuff standpoint, Jasseel De La Cruz would likely be ranked the highest. His fastball is dominant and his most used pitch. It usually sits close to 95 but can get up to 99 mph when he has it working. He can generate a lot of swings and misses on the fastball. His slider also is an extremely deadly pitch. When he has it working, the sliders get a ton of movement and spin and make hitters miss.
De La Cruz does need to continue to refine his changeup and control if he wants to be a starter long term. Between the fastball and slider, De La Cruz could be a great bullpen asset. In 292.1 MILB innings, De La Cruz has posted a 3.63 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.
Starting pitcher Jasseel De La Cruz starts the season on 🔥🔥🔥, striking out 9 batters in just 4.1 innings. #MiLBAtHomeOpener pic.twitter.com/WvZxNBbMbD
— Rome Braves (@TheRomeBraves) April 9, 2020
14. Vaughn Grissom, SS
|DOB: 1/5/2001 (20 yo)||HT/WT: 6’3/180||ETA: 2024|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 11th Round||From: Paul J Haggerty HS (FL)||Highest Level: RK|
You might not know the name yet, but Vaughn Grissom could be fast-rising in rankings. After being selected in the 11th round of the 2019 draft, Grissom slashed .288/.361/.400 with three home runs and three stolen bases in 44 games. You have to take rookie ball numbers with a grain of salt, but it was still a solid performance from the youngster. Reports out of the alternate training site were that Grissom was very mature at the plate and took a huge step forward with his game. If Grissom continues to grow into his 6’3 180-pound frame, the power will come. Don’t be surprised if Vaughn Grissom is a well-known name come this time next year.
Vaughn Grissom will be a known name in 2021. The 2019 11th round pick was impressive in the GCL & a standout at the alt site despite being one of the youngest there. According to reports, Grissom was very mature at the plate against solid pitching..pic.twitter.com/sgHFR2qoTq
— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) January 17, 2021
15. Mahki Backstrom, 1B
|DOB: 10/10/2001 (19.2 yo)||HT/WT: 6’5/220||ETA: 2023|
|Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft: 18th Round||From: Junipero Serra HS (CA)||Highest Level: RK|
Another member of the Braves impressive 2019 late-round selections, Mahki Backstrom, has the chance to be a power threat. You look at him and see an impressive, strong build for a younger player. He has added a ton of muscle since signing with the club.
Backstrom’s best asset is his power. He has a shorter swing, but that does not hinder how massive raw power. He gets a ton of bat speed from the left side of the plate and posted exit velocities that reached 109 mph in high school. There are some swing and miss concerns, which limit his overall potential. Backstrom is still young and has a chance to improve on his bat-to-ball skills and enable him to tap into his power more. For right now, Backstrom is a strikeout, home run, or walk type player.
16. Freddy Tarnok, RHP
|DOB: 11/24/1998 (22.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’3/185||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft: 3rd Round||From: Riverview HS (FL)||Highest Level: A+|
Freddy Tarnok is an interesting pitcher who has seemingly regressed since being drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft. Tarnok is pretty average across the board with three pitches in his fastball, curve, and changeup. His fastball is lacking, and the velocity tapers off fairly quickly. The regression has ultimately come in his control and command. He really struggled to hit his spots consistently.
If Tarnok can increase his fastball velocity to the mid-90s and hold it in starts, there is potential for him to be a starter long term. Right now, he looks to me like a long relief type pitcher.
17. Terone Harris, OF
|DOB: 1/15/1996 (25 yo)||HT/WT: 5’11/220||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft: 32nd Round||From: University of Missouri||Highest Level: AA|
You may have known him as Trey Harris before, but he now goes by Terone. Another late-round draft pick, who it seems the Braves have hit on, Harris, was selected in the 32nd round of the 2018 draft. Harris has hit at every level after having a fringe-average career at Missouri. In 184 career Minor League games, Harris has a slash of .317/.395/.480 as he has worked his way up to double-A.
Harris is a hard worker and classified as a great teammate. He is a line-drive hitter than is confident in using all parts of the field. He has good plate discipline and walks at an efficient rate. There have been flashes of substantial power to the pull side, but Harris has a contact-first approach. He won’t be much of a stolen base threat, but there is a possibility Harris’s power can tick up. Right now, he projects as a 15 home run type of hitter.
18. Jesse Franklin, OF/1B
|DOB: 12/1/1998 (22.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’1/215||ETA: 2023|
|Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft: 3rd Round||From: University of Michigan||Highest Level: NCAA|
Jesse Franklin was the Braves’ second pick in the 2020 draft, even though he was a third-round selection. The team lost their second-round pick due to the signing of Will Smith before the 2020 season. Franklin performed at a high level in both his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Michigan. He was also a solid performer in the Cape Cod league.
Franklin has a solid set of tools and has also performed well at a high collegiate baseball level. He has solid power and could reach 20-23 home runs annually, but Franklin will need to continue to refine his hit tool. He has shown the ability to barrel the ball well in college, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to professional ball.
19. Greyson Jenista, OF
|DOB: 12/7/1996 (24.1 yo)||HT/WT: 6’4/210||ETA: 2022|
|Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft: 2nd Round||From: Wichita State University||Highest Level: AA|
The 2018 second-round pick, Grayson Jenista, seemed like a slam dunk pick after a fantastic career at Wichita State. Unfortunately, the pro results have not been there as Jenista has slashed .244/.322/.365 in 191 career pro games. This comes after having a .318/.430/.487 slash in three seasons at Wichita State.
Jenista has a pretty swing, and you can see the ability to add loft and power. He stands at 6’4 210 pounds and generates solid raw power. He has quick hands and a great bat speed through the zone. If he can get the hit tool dialed in as he did in college, he could rise back up rankings and be a top-1o prospect in the Braves system.
20. Bryce Elder, RHP
|DOB: 5/19/1999 (21.6 yo)||HT/WT: 6’2/220||ETA: 2023|
|Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft: 5th Round||From: University of Texas||Highest Level: NCAA|
Bryce Elder was the Braves’ final pick of the 2020 MLB Draft. Elder is still newer to baseball and was known for his golfing ability in high school. He did not pick up an offer from Texas until late into his senior season. He grew from a reliever into the Longhorns number one starter within his first year. His slider is his best pitcher and projects as plus as he generates plenty of whiffs on that pitch. His fastball and curve are also solid pitches. If Elder does want to stick as a starter, he will need to develop more feel and command on his changeup. His current projection is a back-end starter or middle reliever.
Atlanta Braves Honorable Mentions
Victor Vodnik, RHP | Justin Dean, OF | Tyler Owens, RHP | Thomas Burrows, LHP | CJ Alexander, 3B | Ambioris Tavarez, SS | Phillip Pfeifer, LHP | Stephen Paolini, OF
Media Credits: Baseball Savant, Rome Braves
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I like your profile on 1B Bryce Ball.
I just traded 1B Pete Alonso for CF Trent Grisham, trying to improve my defense. I moved Bellinger from CF to 1B. I am now looking for the next stud 1B on the pipeline.
Is Bryce Ball the best 1B prospect on the “NL” side? or do you have another name or two i should consider? Thanks.
Thank you. I wouldn’t say Ball is the best 1B prospect in the NL. Hes up there though. Lewin Diaz and Mason Martin are also up there.
Michael Toglia would like a word 🙂
Haha wow, totally forgot about him. Definitely the top choice of NL 1B.
I read a nice profile on Toglia this morning on Baseball Prospectus, they had the Rockies top 10 list.
I liked that they say he is a very good defender, witch will keep him on the field. I also like that he is a switch hitter, that keeps him from platooning. He also walks a lot and his power is developing.
The biggest positive is he is headed for Coors field and he is not blocked as far as I can see.
He just moved to the top of my list. He doesn’t have a Freddie Freeman to contend with.
Thanks to both of you guys for the excellent work that you do.
You’re very welcome! Next up for me in my top-20s is Colorado. Toglia is #2 there behind Veen. Out soon!
I will keep my eyes in all this guys and see what happens.