Welcome to the latest installment of our 2018 Pre-season top Braves prospects list and we are starting to get into harder and harder choices as we start to get into the cream of the crop of the Braves’ system. Before we get to the next players on the list, here are the players we have released so far.
16) Brett Cumberland
17) William Contreras
18) Dustin Peterson
19) Travis Demeritte
20) Tucker Davidson
21) Jean Carlos Encarnacion
22) Kyle Muller
23) Freddy Tarnok
24) Isranel Wilson
25) Lucas Herbert
26) Ricardo Sanchez
27) AJ Minter
28) Huascar Ynoa
29) Jefrey Ramos
30) Drew Lugbauer
Here are links to the write-ups if you are wanting to catch up
We will not tease you any longer as we get to prospects 11-15 which have representatives from nearly every level of experience in the minors from a high school draftee from the 2017 to a pitcher who was set to thrive in Triple-A before injury derailed his season. Enjoy!
15. Patrick Weigel
The first player in this section of our top 30 prospect list is RHP Patrick Weigel, the Braves’ 7th round pick from the 2015. Blessed with a strong 6’6 frame, there were questions from his college career as to whether he would be able to develop the control and secondary offerings to be able to stay as a starter and was seen as more of a flyer pick on a guy with a big, if inconsistent arm. Weigel repaid the Braves’ faith in him in spades in 2016 as he showed a fastball that touches the upper 90’s when he wants to, a plus slider that he varies the movement of well, a slow curve that he uses more as a change of pace pitch on occasion, and a changeup that plays up because of how good his fastball is. Weigel dominated low-A in his first season of full season ball in 2016 before getting called up to Mississippi late in the season en route to being named the Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
So we have a right-handed pitcher who moved quickly through the Braves’ farm system, with big-time stuff, a good head on his shoulders, and is built like how one would want any pitcher to be built, so why only #15? Unfortunately, arm troubles plagued Patrick’s 2017 season which saw him start the year at Triple-A Gwinnett and on the verge of a potential call-up to the big leagues. He had a string of starts which saw his velocity drop off and he did not look like himself. Not long after, he went to visit Dr. James Andrews and underwent Tommy John surgery which ended his season. He should return to action some time in 2018 assuming his rehab goes well and by all indications it is. Just on talent and arsenal alone, Weigel is a top 10 prospect no question and frankly, we are prepared to look back at this ranking and feel foolish for being even this pessimistic about him. While a future in the bullpen given his injury isn’t out of the question, Weigel has overcome enormous odds with multiple college transfers and not considered to be a top 5 round talent. Betting against him at this point seems foolish, so for now we are going to stand pat and see what 2018 brings for him.
14. Alex Jackson
Oh my goodness a catcher at 14! Coming in from the Mariners via trade Alex Jackson made his presence known right away in the organization hitting .272/.333/.502 with 14 homers in 66 games with the Florida Firefrogs. The downside of those offensive numbers? He collected just a 4.6% BB% while also collecting a 26% K%. The Braves liked enough what they saw out of him and promoted him to Mississippi where he hit .255/.317/.427 with 5 homers in 30 games along with collecting a much more respectable 8.3% walk rate. The word on his defense has been mixed with many scouts and people in the industry saying he still needs a lot of work behind the plate but the Braves are more than happy to give him the time he needs to develop there.
The tools are clear - he’s got a great arm and pop time but needs help with his footwork. His hit tool took serious steps forward along with his game power as his 19 homers last year were the most he’s had in a single season. He still has a lot of developing to do but the Braves may have their hands on diamond in the rough in Alex - especially if he continues to develop as a catcher. The stolen base numbers have to improve as he allowed 61 in 77 attempts but if his bat continues to develop into what it can be it’s fair to say Braves fans will overlook the current defensive deficiencies.
13. Drew Waters
Tools for days! Coming in at 13 is Georgia’s own switch hitter Drew Waters - the newly turned 19 year old out of Woodstock. Drew is a gifted athlete that displays all five tools (60+ across the board) during a game. He possess great zone awareness and an advanced approach at his age. Drew also possesses a real hit tool and should hit for average along with power if everything continues to develop as it does and he learns to lay off more advanced offspeed offerings. Not only is Drew gifted at the plate, he is a pure center-fielder who has a great knack at getting reads off of bats, and uses his speed well to get to balls in the gap. Drew will likely stay in center, unless he bulks himself out of the position, and provide plus defense at the position. Drew also has a fantastic arm that grades out at 65, so if he does bulk out of center-field he could easily be an incredibly gifted defensive right fielder.
After hitting .347/.448/.571 in 14 games in the GCL after he was drafted where he showed his potential in nearly every category of tools, the Braves liked what they saw and moved Drew up to Danville where he struggled at times - hitting .255/.331/.383 over 36 games and displaying that zone awareness that scouts praised him for, although he had his fair share of getting fooled by advanced breaking balls that led to a big jump in his strikeout totals. There is real concern over his swing and miss issues at times, but we are also talking about a guy who is fresh out of high school in his first look at professional competition. Keep a close eye on Drew in 2018 because he could be yet another hitter in the organization that could absolutely breakout next season.
12. Bryse Wilson
Coming in at #12 we have a pitcher from a draft class that could end up being a historic one in terms of pitching for the Braves right along with the highly lauded 2015 class. Bryse Wilson did not come with the same high expectations that came with the Braves’ signings of draft classmates Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller, but he has thus far outperformed those expectations and could very well be the best of the bunch from that draft. Featuring a strong, athletic frame, Bryse has a fastball that generally lives in the low to mid 90’s and he holds that velocity late into starts, a breaking ball that has multiple planes of movement, and a changeup that made big strides in his first season of pro ball although he still needs more experience with the pitch to get a better feel for it and to use it in more situations.
To say that his 2017 full season debut was a success is an understatement. Despite getting tagged with the dreaded “destined for the bullpen” tag by many before the draft, all Bryse did as a starter was throw 137 innings with 139 strikeouts against just 37 walks while posting a 2.50 ERA. Scouts marveled at his work ethic as well as some subtle changes to his mechanics (in particular during his windup) that paid big dividends for him. It is fair to say that the number of people who think he ends up as a bullpen arm has diminished quite a bit.
How well Bryse’s changeup develops as well as how he fares against more advanced, experienced hitters will be telling in 2018. The stuff is there for him to succeed at the higher levels and he showed that he is more than capable of the workload as a starter despite his early detractors’ projection. The biggest challenge for him may be that he was so good in 2017 that he could see a Soroka/Allard-esque jump to the higher levels of the minors (although with a new front office regime in place, that is far from a certainty). Regardless, Bryse will be put to the test in 2018 and if performs similarly to his 2017 campaign, this ranking will look rather low.
11. Touki Toussaint
Touki Toussaint has been a source of frustration, as his elite talent never made consistent appearances in games, but all of that made a turn in his 2017 season. While his ERA this season was inflated due to ridiculously bad stranded runner rates, Toussaint made major steps forward in every other important category. His 3.39 FIP ranked 5th among qualified Florida State League pitchers, and he led the league with a 26.3% strikeout rate that along with his 9% walk rate blew away his career bests. On the last day of July Toussaint earned a call up to Mississippi, making him one of the youngest players in the league. While his walk rate regressed near career norms, he continued to pile up strikeouts and posted a 3.18 ERA in Double-A.
Toussaint’s scouting report is well known at this point-an electric fastball, a soul-destroying curveball, and a developing change up round out his three pitch mix. The main progression for Toussaint this season was the command of his fastball and his ability to work ahead in counts. While he still had times where his control failed him, he was much more consistent in working his fastball in the zone and towards the corners of the plate, and was able to dive into his strong secondary stuff more often. His curveball was as advertised and few players did more than peer aimlessly at the double plus bender that has confounded batters and physicists alike. His changeup was seldom used, but as usual showed flashes of brilliance intermingled with his inconsistency in controlling the pitch. Overall his strides this season give strong hope that he can remain in a starting rotation going forward, at least as a back end starter with his ever present #1 potential. Even if starting doesn’t end up working out, Touki has the makings of a shutdown reliever which is definitely a consideration when considering his floor as a prospect.