There are few organizations in Major League Baseball that have a more impressive farm system than the Atlanta Braves. In fact, the Braves rank No. 1 according to MLB Pipeline and Bleacher Report, among others. They took over the No. 1 spot over the winter despite graduating their No. 1 prospect, Dansby Swanson, at the end of last season.
A legitimate case can be made for any one of the Braves’ top five prospects being deserving of the No. 1 spot. They have teenagers making names for themselves, MLB-ready talent as well as overall depth that make them one of, if not the most, exciting system in all of baseball. The season is winding down and players are looking to get on hot streaks to end the season, and perhaps earn themselves a cup of coffee before the year is over. Here’s how the Braves’ top 10 prospects have fared in 2017.
10. Max Fried, LHP
The Braves acquired Fried from the Padres in the 2014 Justin Upton trade. The first-round, seventh overall pick in 2012 has had a tough battle with injuries. He missed most of 2014 and 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery but has shown flashes of dominance since. Fried features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and an impressive curveball that generates plenty of swings-and-misses. His changeup has improved as well and gives him a third average or better offering.
2017 stats: (Double-A Mississippi): 86.2 IP, 2-11, 5.92 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 85 K, 43 BB.
Fried’s 2017 season has had its ups and downs, but the 23-year-old has shown enough to earn his first cup of coffee in the Majors. He was promoted from Mississippi earlier this week and will be used out of the bullpen for Atlanta. Fried struggled mightily in June, ultimately landing on the disabled list at the end of the month. Since returning, he hasn’t given up an earned run and has a struck out nine in his last 10 innings.
9. Joey Wentz, LHP
Almost two years into his professional career, Wentz is showing good development with his pitches. He’s always had an impressive feel for pitching and is a competitor, but the development of his curveball and changeup is something to get excited about. He’s just 19 years old and has already worked his way to Single-A Rome after a solid first season in rookie-ball.
2017 stats: (Single-A Rome): 107.1 IP, 7-3, 2.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 124 K, 33 BB.
It’s hard to find a flaw in Wentz’s season up to this point. He’s given up just three homers all year and is sporting a very impressive 2.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 3.76 K/BB ratio. At just 19, he likely won’t throw too many innings this year, but he’s done more than enough this season to raise his stock. His last two starts have been two of his best this season, going seven innings in both, striking out 17 combined and giving up just three runs.
8. Luiz Gohara, LHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#94), Top 10 LHP Prospects (#8)
[the_ad id=”384″]The Braves have no shortage of left-handed pitching prospects, and Gohara can easily be considered one of the best. He signed with the Mariners out of Brazil in 2012 and made his way to the Braves this past offseason. Despite work ethic concerns, Gohara has terrific raw talent. His velocity continues to trend upwards, with his fastball hitting triple digits on occasion this season. His slider and changeup have both developed into average-or-better pitches and has gone a long way in his 2017 success.
2017 stats: (High-A Florida): 36.1 IP, 3-1, 1.98 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 39 K, 10 BB. (Double-A Mississippi): 52 IP, 2-1, 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 60 K, 18 BB. (Triple-A Gwinnett): 10.2 IP, 0-1, 4.22 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 13 K, 6 BB.
You have to make quite the impression to scale three levels in one season, and Gohara has done just that. He’s given the Braves a reason to be excited at each level, and he may not be done just yet. The 21-year-old has shown maturity and improvement over last year, and it isn’t hard to believe that an MLB debut is a possibility this year. He left much to be desired after his first start at the Triple-A level but bounced back in his most recent outing. He threw six innings of one-run ball, walked a batter and struck out eight.
7. Ian Anderson, RHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#57)
Anderson was taken as the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft. He has since moved all the way into the 57 spot on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. The righty has great sink on his fastball thanks to his tall frame. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s and has great control with it, along with his other pitches. At 19 years old, Anderson already has all the makings of a future top-of-the-rotation starter.
2017 stats: (Single-A Rome): 76.2 IP, 4-5, 3.40 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 96 K, 39 BB.
It’s been a solid first full season for Anderson with the Rome Braves. He’s made 18 starts and has yet to give up a home run. His ERA and WHIP, while good, are both inflated by a couple of short, five-run outings back in May. He has since been effective in lowering both, allowing just three runs in his last 26.1 innings pitched. Anderson likely has a few more starts to work with before the Braves start watching his innings, but he’s done more than enough this season to make the Braves happy.
6. Kevin Maitan, SS
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#44), Top 10 SS Prospects (#9)
Maitan was ranked the No. 1 international prospect heading into 2016, leading to the Braves giving him $4.2 million to sign with the team. He’s the full package with the ability to hit for both average and power and plays solid defense up the middle. While his speed isn’t anything special, he has plenty of it, along with great instincts, to be a threat on the base paths as well. It’s not often that a 17-year-old draws comparisons to Miguel Cabrera or Chipper Jones, but Maitan has done both.
2017 stats: (RK-APP Danville): 13 games, .216/.259/.297, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 17 K. (RK-GCL Braves): 9 games, .314/.351/.400, 3 RBI, 1 SB, 2 BB, 10 K.
As with any highly touted teenager, patience is key. This is the case with Maitan, who will be 17 for the entire 2017 season. He played nine games in the Gulf Coast League and hit well before moving over to the Appalachian League. It’s far too early to look into any of his numbers, as he’s appeared in just 22 games, but Maitan has an unbelievable amount of hype surrounding him. He has plenty of value in dynasty leagues, as he has all the makings of a future star for Atlanta.
5. Mike Soroka, RHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#38), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#9)
In 2015, the Braves took Mike Soroka with the 28th overall Draft pick. Soroka was one of many high school pitchers taken by the Braves over the past few seasons. He has a solid arsenal consisting of a fastball, curveball, and changeup that he can all throw for strikes. His command of all three helps him pitch deep into games.
2017 stats: (Double-A Mississippi): 124 IP, 10-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 106 K, 28 BB.
Soroka has been one of the best young pitching prospects in the Southern League. He just turned 20 and has continued to dominate despite being significantly younger than his competition. His solid 2016 campaign has transitioned into an even better one at a higher level. Soroka put together his worst start of the season on July 30 but bounced back with six solid innings in his last start.
4. Kyle Wright, RHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#35), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#8)
Wright was taken with the fifth overall selection in this year’s Draft. He was a contender to be the top overall pick but ultimately landed with the Braves. He’s consistently added velocity over the years, reaching 97 mph his last year at Vanderbilt. Wright can target lefties with a hard curveball, while righties are susceptible to his slider and cutter. He has one of the best combinations of floor and ceiling in the organization and could easily develop into a frontline starter.
2017 stats: (RK-GCL): 5.2 IP, 1.59 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8 K, 2 BB. (High-A Florida): 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 2 K, 1 BB.
His first five outings in professional ball have gone smoothly for Wright. He’s given up just four hits, an earned run, has walked three and has struck out ten. The 21-year-old is being eased in, so it shouldn’t be until next season that we see him get a longer leash.
3. Kolby Allard, LHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#25), Top 10 LHP Prospects (#1)
The Braves have yet another top left-handed pitching prospect in Kolby Allard. In fact, Allard is the top left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. He was drafted with the 14th overall selection in 2015, but a minor back injury kept him from jumping right into it. Allard’s fastball has cutter movement that he can command well and pairs with an elite curveball. The 6-foot-1 lefty also has great deception on his pitches, which adds to his effectiveness.
2017 stats: (Double-A Mississippi): 117.1 IP, 6-10, 3.61 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 92 K, 42 BB.
It was a tough month of July for Allard. He gave up 18 earned runs in 31.1 innings, which inflated his ERA to 3.61. Before July, Allard was enjoying a solid season and was showing everyone why he’s the top lefty pitching prospect in all of baseball. He still is, and he’ll look to finish the season on a high note.
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#19), Top 10 2B Prospects (#2)
While he was signed as a shortstop in 2013, Albies has transitioned seamlessly into a top-notch second baseman. He’s a switch-hitter that can hit for great contact at both sides of the plate. His legs are his best weapon, as he has well-above-average speed that allows him to take extra bases and steal regularly. Pair that with his great instincts and high intensity, and Albies has all the makings of a great top-of-the-order hitter in the big leagues.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Gwinnett): 97 games, .285/.330/.440, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 67 R, 21 SB, 28 BB, 90 K.
Albies tore up Triple-A before earning his first cup of coffee at the Major League level. In 97 games, he showed off all of his tools, hitting 21 doubles, eight triples, nine homers and was 21-for-23 in stolen base attempts. He made his MLB debut on August 1 and has started every game for the Braves since. He recorded his first MLB hit, a home run, on August 3 and has collected three more hits since.
Albies has been an enticing stash in dynasty league for a couple of years now. With his recent promotion, he’s starting to gain traction in other leagues, as well. His speed and aggressiveness make him an exciting option in all formats, and he’s likely to continue seeing regular playing time from here on out.
1. Ronald Acuna, OF
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#8), Top 10 OF Prospects (#3)
In just two short years, the 19-year-old Acuna has skyrocketed to the top of both the Braves’ prospect list as well as MLB’s. After making his full-season debut in 2016, he’s followed it up by climbing three levels in 2017. Acuna is a good a bet as any to become a true five-tool player in the Major Leagues. He doesn’t have a single stand-out skill but does everything well, both at the plate and in the field.
2017 stats: (High-A Florida): 28 games, .287/.336/.478, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 21 R, 14 SB, 8 BB, 40 K. (Double-A Mississippi): 57 games, .326/.374/.520, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 29 R, 19 SB, 18 BB, 56 K. (Triple-A Gwinnett): 27 games, .349/.425/.566, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 19 R, 3 SB, 13 BB, 24 K.
It’s really been a dream season for Acuna in 2017. As the competition has gotten stiffer, Acuna has only gotten better. He’s significantly reduced his strikeout rate at each level while continuing to hit for both average and power. In 112 games across three levels, Acuna is slashing a combined .321/.377/.520 with 16 homers, 62 RBI, and 36 stolen bases.
Acuna is a must-own in dynasty formats and could be an interesting stash in other formats as early as next year. The Braves are being aggressive with the 19-year-old, and he could be in the Majors before we know it. He’s a star in the making and should move even farther up prospect lists before the start of next season.