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Predicting the 2016 Season for our Top 10 Braves Prospects

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Now that prospect list season is winding down (sort of), Garrett and I took a crack at predicting how the prospects in our top 10 will do next season

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2016 on the horizon comes the time where we all hope and wish that our favorite teams/players breakthrough and have stellar seasons. Now that many of the pundits and experts (but certainly not all) have weighed with their various lists of prospects and predictions, Garrett and I thought we would chime in with our generally expectations and predictions for the prospects in our top 10. We briefly considered doing the entire top 25, but we decided we wanted to sleep sometime in the near future so we kept it to ten. Feel free to post your own predictions in the comments, we love to hear from you guys.

Dansby Swanson

Garrett

Stats: .315/.390/.500 15 HR 20 SB

Swanson is going to put up some gaudy numbers this year, because quite simply he will be facing competition that is just not on his level. It won't take more than about 3 weeks to see that he is ready for Mississippi, but the Braves will hold in Carolina for a few more weeks before a promotion to Mississippi. He will again dominate, earning a couple of weeks in AAA Gwinnett to close the season.

Eric

Stats: .300/.375/.490

Its weird that this stat line feels like pumping the brakes on Swanson a bit, but Braves fans have extraordinarily high expectations for Swanson. He is a special talent especially at the plate, but he's not superhuman. I expect him to excel at first, get promoted, and come back to Earth a little at the level he ends the year at. This is not a bad thing, just the nature of development and playing a full season schedule. Bold prediction: Dansby is your starting SS for the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day in 2017.

Sean Newcomb

Garrett

Stats: 3.05 ERA, 150 IP 170K 60 BB

These numbers aren't as overwhelming as those Newcomb put up in the past, but as he advances he will face more hitters who can take advantage of him. That said he will still be quite fantastic, improving his walk rates some and advancing to Gwinnett in the last few months. Newcomb will lead the system in strikeouts quite easily.

Eric

Stats: 2.85 ERA, 150 IP, 185 K, 60 BB

I guess I'm just slightly more bullish on Newcomb than Garrett, but I'm comfortable with that. His strikeout rates were gaudy at every level this past year and opposing batters actually hit worse against him in AA than in the lower levels (small sample size warning here). Plus, Newcomb is not a finished product, the guy is actually getting better and still heading towards his ceiling. Count me amongst his fans. Bold Prediction: Newcomb is not promoted this season, but ends up as the Braves Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Ozhaino Albies

Garrett

Stats: .315/.385/.420 1 HR 40 SB

Albies isn't going to transform into a power hitter overnight, but the expectation should be that he will show an increase in doubles and triples. I expect his other numbers to just follow his career trends, and he will rise even more on prospect rankings. I expect half a season in A+, half in AA. The time Albies shares with Swanson he will play 2B on days both start, helping his versatility.

Eric

Stats: .305/.360/.410, 30 SB

It's fairly normal for a little bit of regression to happen as a player climbs the ladder towards the majors, especially a player as young as Albies. The above line is still a very good year and I expect him to improve as a fielder as well, especially with a possible move to second base and shorter throws to make. Ozzie was a bit streaky last year with multiple long hitting streaks, but at the same time I expect a little bit of rust coming off the hand/thumb injury and a possible position move. Bold Prediction: Ozzie gets a midseason promotion to AA and ends the year as a consensus top 20 prospect.

Kolby Allard

Garrett

Stats: 2.25 ERA, 120 IP 135 K 35 BB

I'm gonna give myself one word to describe Kolby Allard: Dominant. With shades of Lucas Sims full season debut, but better, the top prep pitcher from the 2015 draft class is going to solidify that title, showing enough to jump into the Top 25 on most Top 100 lists. All of his peripherals will be dominant, as will his stuff. With his back problems firmly in his rearview mirror, Allard will turn into the top pitcher in the system. Bonus points: The other half of Rome's top 2, Mike Soroka, will make up the best 1-2 punch in the South Atlantic League. Soroka will post an ERA around 2.60, and start making the Top 50 in lists mid season. Both players will make the South Atlantic League All-Star team. That's my 2016 Bold Prediction.

Eric

Stats: 2.90 ERA, 110 IP, 145 K, 35 BB

Kolby is in all likelihood going to have a great year, but lets not forget the guy is coming off back surgery. I don't believe the procedure was major, but at the same time this is the guy's first season of pro ball and he had a year where his back gave him trouble and he didn't get to pitch much. I expect a few hiccups with fatigue and being a bit rusty, but still an outstanding year from Kolby. His stuff will still be elite, just will take a bit to hit his stride. Bold Prediction: Named to the All-Star team and probably has the best outing of those who pitch in that All-Star game.

Lucas Sims

Garrett

Stats: 3.40 ERA 160 IP 160K 55BB

Lucas Sims will come into 2016 firing, dominating AA hitters and showing what once made him one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He will earn a call to Gwinnett, where he will see a drop in numbers as he adjust. Just a year after losing time to injury, Lucas will pitch a career high in innings, which will lead to late season fatigue that leaves him struggling through his last 2 or 3 starts. Still, a great bounce back year.

Eric

Stats: 2.90 ERA, 150 IP, 165 K, 68 BB

Lucas has been in our top 5 Braves prospects since midseason last season and this year will make or break that expectation. Despite being injured in the Carolina Mudcats bus crash, Lucas surged late in the season giving up a total of 3 earned runs in his last five starts. He then dominated the competition in the Arizona Fall League and started in the league's All-Star game. Do I think he will replicate his line from the AFL? No, although that would be awesome. I see a pitcher who has his timing and mechanics figured out again and is going into the season with a head of steam: Bold Prediction: Lucas is a top 80 prospect by season's end on several lists.

Austin Riley

Garrett

Stats: .260/.360/.500 25 HR 3 SB

There are going to be some strikeout problems for Riley as he jumps the levels, and I think that plagues him early in the season. He will struggle to hit .220 in that time. Some time in July, he will make adjustments and go on a near-impossible tear. Riley will lead the system in home runs, and the sheer fear factor of facing Riley will drive up his walks even more than normal, as young players will pitch around him. Expect some impressive BP performances.

Eric

Stats: .270/.350/.500, 18 HR

I'm as high as anyone on Riley, but 25 homers is a lofty, lofty feat in the minors especially at Rome where balls don't exactly fly out of the park. Freddie Freeman hit 18 during his stay in Rome, so lets start there in terms of power expectations. I'm not there yet in terms of thinking that Austin is ever going to be a particularly high average hitter, but I also don't think that the pitchers in single-A will be able to stop him from doing what he does on a consistent basis. I expect to see a fair bit of swing and miss from him, but improvement in the field as well as just beginning to show his ceiling as arguably the best power-hitting prospect in the Braves system. Bold prediction: Austin also gets a call to the Single-A All-Star game and leads the system in home runs.

Aaron Blair

Garrett

Stats: 3.90 ERA 180 IP 160K 65BB

If I'm down on any player on this list I expect it will be Blair. He won't take long in AAA to earn a call up to Atlanta, maybe a month and a half of below 3 ERA pitching. There will be ups and down in the major leagues, and I'm not willing to make outrageous predictions of rookie success for him. I don't think it's unlikely, so for him to be well under my expectations would not surprise me in the least.

Eric

Stats: 3.50 ERA, 165 IP, 140 K, 45 BB

I like Blair in that he appears to be a very steady force in the middle of the rotation who gives you 6 or 7 strong innings and keeps his team in every ball game he pitches. He has been the model of consistency in the minors despite being promoted aggressively. He is definitely among the most ready of the Braves' prospects to make the jump to the majors and while it's silly to assume he will instantly charge forward into Rookie of the Year contention especially with Steven Matz and Corey Seager lurking, I expect him to be a solid contributor splitting time between Gwinnett and the big leagues. He probably should make more starts in the majors than he will, but the Braves will probably try to get more value from some of their veteran signees before they flip them and give guys like Folty, Ryan Weber, and Williams Perez one last good look before making a decision on what to do with them. Bold Prediction: Blair is a rotation mainstay by season's end.

Max Fried

Garrett

Stats: 4.20 ERA 100 IP 90 K 40 BB

It's almost impossible to predict how a player will perform coming off if Tommy John surgery. I expect there to be some inconsistencies from Fried, some due to trying to get back into playing form and some due to the inevitable doubts that will sometimes cross through his mind. I think there will be some wildness as a result of his time off, but it is nothing more than temporary. Most importantly, be will show the stuff that made him a top prospect, even if that doesn't yet translate on the stat sheet.

Eric

Stats: 4.00 ERA, 110 IP, 90 K, 50 BB

Max hasn't pitched since July 2014, so it's likely we won't see the best he has to offer this season, especially with word that it's likely the Braves will wait until the weather warms up a bit before they let him go free from his recovery from Tommy John. What we need to see is progressive improvement during the course of his season and I do think that will happen. He will struggle with rust and getting a feel for his pitches again and towards the end of the year he could string together some really strong performances. Bold prediction: As soon as he demonstrates he is healthy and strings together some good starts, the Braves will promote him...possibly to AA to get him back on track with his age group.

Mallex Smith

Garrett

Stats: .270/.330/.360 0 HR 50 SB

My slash line predictions seem extremely pessimistic, however that's not the entire story. I expect Mallex to hit quite well in Gwinnett, somewhere around the .300 mark. He will then be called up to Atlanta after the all star break, because the Braves will be competing just enough to use him to replace one of the outfielders (someone is bound to struggle or get injured). I expect some immediate struggles from Mallex, who will be facing some tough pitching. Typical rookie pitfalls will face him, but I expect a resurgent September giving hope to a strong future.

Eric

Stats:.285/.335/.380

First off, I don't expect Mallex to spend much time with the big league club this year. I think Olivera will hit enough to keep the outfield at Olivera/Inciarte/Markakis for large chunks of the year. As a result, I expect Mallex to keep being Mallex in Gwinnett for most of the season but refining some of his skills while down there. He is a very slappy hitter, but I do expect to see at least an attempt for him to adjust his swing and hit more line drives so his speed can lead to extra bases without having to get a steal. This could lead to some more strikeouts, but also potentially more walks as Mallex works counts and works to get pitches to hit as opposed to defending the zone with a slappy swing that generates enormous amounts of groundballs. He'll probably steal right around 50 bases as well, because Mallex is fast....if that was the over/under line I would probably take the over for what it's worth. Bold Prediction: Mallex hits an inside-the-park home this season, but only after going deep the old-fashioned way within the first month of the season.

Touki Toussaint

Garrett

Stats: 4.40 ERA 115 IP, 125 K, 55 BB

This is another stat line that looks extremely pessimistic, but when mirrored with Touki's career numbers are quite an improvement. The obvious point I want to draw attention to is the expectation of improvement in his walks. It's not great, but it is an improvement. Along with his walk I expect his strikeout rate to improve as he begins to use more of his arsenal. It's gonna be slow, but Touki should begin to show what was expected of him out of high school.

Eric

Stats: 3.75 ERA, 130 IP, 155 K, 60 BB

I'm getting more and more bullish on Touki when I look at his starts after he came over to Atlanta. Walks were a constant issue in varying degrees, but in those 10 starts, Touki had two where he gave up 7 and 9 earned runs respectively. Those are obviously bad...but he also had five where he gave up 1 earned run or less including four where he gave up 2 hits or less. His time in Arizona was very similar where a bad game (usually a road start) would undo the progress of several good to great ones. I expect Touki to become more consistent this year, even if he is never going to have Maddux-like control. Bold prediction: Touki leads the system in starts where he gives up no earned runs (not complete game shutouts).