If you follow any of us in the minor league crew you know we pride ourselves on trying to find little gems scattered around the organization that are not as well known as their teammates at the time. Because of this we often have rankings that are significantly different from other publications outside of the typical top 10 - which I’m sure has a lot to do with the fact that we only have to focus on one organization and not all of minor league baseball. Our “process”, if that’s what you want to call it, has lead to aggressive rankings of several prospects when compared to our counterparts. Some of the few gems we’ve either found, or aggressively ranked are the following: Hunter Cervenka, Chad Sobotoka, AJ Minter, Jesse Biddle, Ronald Acuña, Ozzie Albies, and Matt Marksberry. Of course it doesn’t always work as we’ve been overly aggressive on my evaluation of players like Travis Demeritte, Isranel Wilson, Trevor Belicek (thought Belicek never came into one of our top 30 lists, but instead we thought he had a legitimate shot at rising because of that devastating slider he possessed). Here are a few players that maybe you haven’t heard from that I personally believe have a shot at making huge strides in 2019.
First and foremost, if you follow me on twitter you know my thoughts on CJ Alexander. A 20th round pick out of State College of Florida, CJ has big time power and plays a solid defensive third base. I can not take full credit for this selection as it was Matt Powers who brought him to my attention and said this kid is an absolute stud. I took some time to look at his swing and boy am I happy he signed with us. I definitely expected him to lag behind Across three levels so far in 2018 CJ has put up a line of: .372/.450/.535 with a 12.5% walk rate, and 19.2% strikeout rate. He’s got good size - coming in at 6’5” 215 pounds and can easily put on some more weight if he would like to. While he doesn’t elite range at third he makes it up with a fantastic arm. Does this sound familiar - a slugging third baseman that can hit for average, while displaying adequate defense at third with a dazzling arm? The Braves may have a pair of projectable third base prospects - and with the way CJ is playing they might both be in the upper minors in the near future.
The Braves might have gotten yet another great value pick in this draft in the fifth round by the name of Trey Riley out of John A Logan Community College in Illinois. As a Freshman, Trey made just three appearances for Oklahoma State combining for just one inning and a disastrous 45.00 ERA. The infrequent use lead him to transfer to John A Logan where he absolutely thrived going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA, threw three complete games, amassed a 13.6 K/9 rate, and limited hitters to a .170 batting average against. His bread and butter is his electric fastball/slider combo that are both plus pitches. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but can touch up to 97-98 mph, while his slider is absolutely devastating against right handed hitters. His third pitch, a changeup, still needs work and his control is erratic so he will definitely be a project - but there’s a lot to like with Trey Riley and if he makes that next step he joins the ranks of elite pitching in the system. The Braves will likely give Trey every opportunity to stay as a starting pitcher but in their back pocket is a potentially electric bullpen arm that combos an elite fastball with a devastating slider.
Probably the strangest omission from MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects has to be Corbin Clouse. A 27th round pick out of Davenport College - Clouse has worked his way up to Triple-A in just two full seasons of professional baseball. Clouse has a very active wind up that has lead to problems with command but he’s improved his walk rate to a manageable 3.86 per 9 this season while maintaining his elite strike out rate (11.94 K/9). He goes about it in a slightly different way too - as he lacks the velocity that you normally see out of relievers these days. Clouse sits in the low 90s but his fastball has tremendous sink that leads to a ton of ground balls. In 38 games for Double-A Mississippi Clouse registered a 45.5% GB% which is on the lower side for his career. He partners that with an absolutely devastating slider that is a true strikeout pitch. If Clouse can find consistency with his command - he is absolutely a major league caliber reliever that can strike players out at an elite rate, and induce weak contact.
Jake was a 11th round pick that got a huge overslot deal to the tune of $125,000 because of how projectable he is. Jake was the top rated LHP in the state of Georgia back in 2015, according to Perfect Game, which lead to him being drafted by the New York Mets - however he did not sign and decided to go to Clemson where he struggled with injuries but flashed enough for the Braves to draft him in the 11th round. Standing at 6’ 175, he can still add to his frame and perhaps add some velocity to his fastball, but as is he still has a low-to-mid 90s fastball with arm side run. He also throws three more average to perhaps one day plus pitches in his curveball, slider, and changeup. He’s a very raw arm due to his injury history over at Clemson so there is still work that needs to be done as he’s totaled just 113 innings dating back to 2016 but there’s a lot of intrigue surrounding him. Any type of development in his command could help his prospect rank tremendously and if you talk to him - you won’t doubt that he can live up to it.
A senior signing out of Middle Tennessee State University for just $1,000 - Riley Delgado has far exceeded any type of expectations already - in his second season in the organization. Riley hit .352/.427/.464 for MTSU in 2017 with a walk rate of 8.6%, and a strikeout rate of 7.1% before the Braves drafted him in the ninth round. After hitting .217/.280/.241 in 26 games between Danville and Rome in 2017, Riley has burst onto the scene this year where he’s hit .326/.366/.391 while providing very reliable defense at a premium position. Unlike the other two already listed - Riley doesn’t profile as a star by any means, but he’s a versatile defender and if he continues to hit like this - there might be a role for him in the majors in the future as just that - a versatile defender off the bench that can hit for contact against right handed and left handed opposition.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Weigel
I’m fairly certain everyone who reads Talking Chop is familiar with Patrick Weigel now - I’m mainly listing him on here to remind people that the Braves will be adding an elite pitching prospect to their ranks. It’s important to remain patient with Weigel as it will take time for the control to return but he’s an electric arm who absolutely has major league talent.