Now that Talking Chop's Top 25 Prospect List is done, we wanted to spend some time talking about our favorite prospect sleepers. These are guys who didn't make our Top 25 list for whatever reason, but still have some potential to make an impact in the system. The talent is there, but, right or wrong, these guys have yet to generate the hype of the Top 25 prospects.
These four prospects all have two things in common: they've been in the system for at most a year, and they've all produced well so far. And, if they keep it up, they may force their way onto the list by next year. So, without further ado:
Shae Simmons | Right-Handed Pitcher | Age: 22 | Rome
38.0 IP, 14 BB, 59 K, 1.000 WHIP, 1.86 ERA
Shae Simmons was drafted by the Braves in the 22nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Southeast Missouri State. The 5’9” right-hander whips his arm through at a ¾ slot, sitting mid-90’s with his fastball and ability to touch 97. He also offers a hard mid-to-low 80’s slider as a secondary pitch, something that will need improved command as he advances levels. Simmons is a bit old for Southern League prospect standards, but expect him to get promoted soon considering how well he’s performed this season. In 37 innings, he has sported a 1.70 ERA and 1.31 FIP to go along with a 59:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Simmons also benefits from keeping the ball on the ground – he has yet to give up a home run in 2013. The obvious player comp many will probably throw out, because he is short in stature, is Craig Kimbrel. While even in a perfect world he will never reach this level, he could turn into a solid back end arm. If he can improve his secondary stuff, look for him to progress rather quickly. You can check him out for yourself here (courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz).
- Andrew Sisson
Victor Reyes | Left Fielder | Age: 18 | Gulf Coast League
88 PAs, 0 HR, 3 SB, 10 BB, 13 K, .365/.437/.473
Signed on the July 2, 2011 international signing day for $362,000, Victor Reyes is a talented 18-year-old outfielder from Venezuela. If I was Ethan, I would go on and on about his 6' 3"/180 frame that oozes projection with broad shoulders and lithe limbs. Reyes has some current speed, but as he fills out, he’ll likely slow down a touch. The Braves have already moved him to the corners during his stay in the GCL, and that’s where he’s likely to end up. The hope with Reyes is that he turns into a solid defensive outfielder with a good batting average and at least solid secondary skills, but he’s, of course, a long way away. But he’s off to an amazing professional start, and he’s doing well in the GCL, especially looking at the .353/.432/.471 line and 10/13 BB/K ratio. Again, it’s early, but he could very well start popping up on prospect lists in the next year or so.
- Mark Smith
Connor Lien | Center Fielder | Age: 19 | Danville
96 PAs, 4 HR, 4 SB, 7 BB, 34 K, .258/.316/.528
A 12th round pick in 2012 out of Windermere, Florida, Lien possesses massive sleeper potential due to a broad assortment of tools that could make an impact at the highest level. The 6’3”, 205 pound outfielder possesses a large frame with room for upper- and lower-body development, currently resembling a Division-I wide receiver in a baseball uniform. As of now, he’s a center fielder and projects to stay there in the near future thanks in part to his plus speed. His future defensive home is still up in the air and will be determined by how his body develops down the line. At the plate, Lien is quite raw, but has all the ingredients for a good hitter with plenty of power are present. At the moment, his swing is geared for hard line drives to the gaps, but the hope is that as he continues to physically mature and add loft to his swing, the power will start to manifest itself in the form of over-the-fence pop.
Lien showed a great eye with very little power in his professional debut last season. In a small sample so far in 2013, the outfielder has shown quite the opposite, posting a .518 slugging percentage — good for sixth best in the Appalachian League — despite walking in only 5.6 percent of his plate appearances. It’s fewer than 100 plate appearances, but it’s a trend worth noticing. Another issue is the propensity for swing-and-miss (35.6 percent this season), but it’s way too early to write him off completely based on this fact. The potential is there for plus power, so striking out at this level while making the necessary swing adjustments can be overlooked to a certain extent. Batters at this stage of the game are of the see-ball, hit-ball mentality, so the fact that he’s driving the ball with authority when he hits it is a definite positive; look for the other skills to develop later. He’s a ways away, but Lien may very well be worth the wait.
- Ethan Purser
Kyle Wren | Center Fielder | Age: 22 | Rome
73 PAs, 1 HR, 13 SB, 6 BB, 7 K, .348/.403/.515
After the 2013 MLB Rule 4 Draft, few players caught the eyes of fans like 8th round pick Kyle Wren. Wren's last name made him somewhat of a known commodity; if you haven't heard by now, he's the son of Braves' GM Frank Wren. But don't let that fool you, because Wren was drafted on his merits. In fact, Baseball America ranked Wren the 210th best prospect of the 2013 draft; The Braves got him at pick #253.
On the diamond, Wren's best tool is his speed. With what two different scouts label as 70 speed, he's the fastest guy in Atlanta's system right now. That speed allows him to cover wide swaths of center field easily, making him an above-average defender at the position. That speed also plays very well on the base paths, where Wren has excellent basestealing instincts. The reads and jumps he gets are impressive and have led to him swiping 13 bases in 17 minor league games without being caught a single time. For an idea of his instincts on the base paths, check out this video of him stealing third base earlier this week.
While Wren's speed has been as good as advertised so far, the bat is what's most surprising. Through 17 games, Wren's putting up a scalding .348/.403/.515 line. The power is what's truly impressive, as he's already smacked 9 extra base hits. His speed certainly aids him in that department too. Wren will never be a big home run guy, but the hope is that he can put on a little more muscle to give him decent gap power - his speed should do the rest.
The biggest caveat with Wren right now is that he's 22 years old in Low-A. He'll have to prove himself with the bat in higher levels, and I imagine the Braves will be aggressive in promoting him, given his age and stellar results so far. But, regardless of how well his bat plays, his speed and instincts (both on the bases and in the field) should make him an asset.
- Dan Simpson