The Rome Braves, the Braves' Class-A affiliate, have been the focus of significantly more scrutiny this offseason than in its recent history. With a large amount of focus related to the Braves rebuilding, the prospects that are supposed to usher in this Braves renaissance are getting quite a bit of interest and exposure.
With several of the higher profile players drafted in the past year as well as acquired in various trades expected to play in Rome, talk of a really stacked Rome roster has built over the last several months. Well, the roster has been announced and it definitely has a LOT of interesting prospects as well as its fair share of surprises.
Notable Players at Rome
Well, lets start with the new additions to Rome's roster. High octane prospects Mike Soroka, Austin Riley, Lucas Herbert, Max Fried, and Ronald Acuna all join Rome's roster this season. Soroka and Fried will join a rotation that will also include holdovers Chad Sobotka, Touki Toussaint, and Caleb Beech...a rotation which will likely be among the best in the league. Offense plagued Rome (and most of the Braves minor leagues to be fair), but that shouldn't be a problem with this year's crop. Riley, Acuna, and Herbert (as well as notable catching prospect Jonathan Morales as well), will boost a lineup that will also feature holdovers Matt Tellor, Luke Dykstra (who finished at Rome last season), and Stephen Gaylor.
There are several players on this roster who could feasibly compete for the best in the league or even at the level. The Braves typically want their players to complete one full year at Rome before any aggressive promotions (Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies are examples here) so players like Herbert, Riley, and Soroka are likely to be at Rome the entire season. However, college guys such as Taylor Lewis and Matt Custred as well as players with experience at the level including Touki, Sobotka, and possibly Fried could move up before the year ends. This is arguably the most talent-laden roster in the entire farm system (and among the top ones talent-wise in all of baseball probably) and that is with some not-insignificant roster departures and exclusions.
Lets start with the big names first. Braxton Davidson, despite some struggles in the batting average and game power departments, got bumped up to Carolina this year. The Braves will want to see how his working deep counts approach plays against higher quality pitching and arguably better umpiring crews (his eye was, at times, seemingly more advanced than the umps behind the plate). Kolby Allard is also notably not on Rome's roster to start the season. It seems likely that his limited time in rookie ball in addition to offseason back surgery likely sent him to extended spring training to start the year.
There are other names of note that some thought would be on the roster to start the season. Leudys Baez and Juan Yepez are both players who hit well down in rookie ball, but did not make the roster right out of the gate. Baez was actually called up to Rome late last season and did struggle a bit in his first taste of Class-A and may need a bit more seasoning. Yepez is much less clear as he would arguably upgrade the first base position at Rome with his bat and had a line of .299/.364/.458 between both levels of rookie ball.
Some exclusions, though, were happy ones. Rookie ball alums Ryan Clark and Chase Johnson-Mullins were thought to join Rome this year but had strong springs and made the jump all the way to Carolina (Garrett will tell you all about high-A in that preview). Ryan Lawlor and Matt Withrow also skipped Rome altogether and will be in Carolina.
Also, some guy named Ozhaino Albies has left Rome and will be playing at Double-A. After a fantastic spring with the big boys in ST, the club skipped a level with him and is on track to make his major league debut in 2017 sometime in all likelihood. Rome Braves' fans will miss him, but its doubtful we have seen the last of him.