The Atlanta Braves top prospect lists keep rolling in. Our Talking Chop team took a look at our top 30 (ish) in the system, but now let’s shift our focus from ranking to ranting.
Here, we’ll take a look at four that 2020 could prove to be a make-or-break season (all rankings are from Talking Chop’s top 30).
Kyle Wright | RHP | No. 4
Wright is somewhat of an enigma. Despite not living up to his lofty draft status and expectations, he has continued to remain atop Braves prospect lists, as well as top 100s from most every outlet. The 24-year-old righty enters the 2020 season coming off arguably his worst season as a pro, but a strong(er) finish leaves us hoping that this is the year it all comes together.
The hopes in selecting a college pitcher early in the MLB draft and spending a record amount of money on him is that his ready to quickly climb the ladder. Now, while Wright has had two brief cups of joe in the bigs, they haven’t been exactly big-league worthy stints. Last year, Wright carried an ERA over six late into June in Gwinnett and, with the big Braves in Atlanta, was worse than his 2018 MLB debut showing command issues and not missing many bats.
So why does Wright continue to stick around the top 5 of Braves prospects lists? His stuff, when on, is all above-average. He throws his fastball two ways, a slider that may be his best pitch on the big-league level, a curve that helps make his slider that much tougher and a changeup that, albeit is his weakest pitch, still works. It’s all a matter of consistency for Wright and it’s time he takes his bulldog mentality and starts pounding the strike zone.
Bryse Wilson | RHP | No. 8
Wilson is one of the more likable Braves pitching prospects and, still just 22 years old, there is time for him to develop. Not everyone is going to be Mike Soroka, right?
With Wilson it’s all about the secondary pitches. And that doesn’t simply mean developing them, but learning to have the confidence to throw them anywhere in the count in any situation. As we mentioned in out preseason prospect write-up of Wilson, he threw his fastball 72% of the time, and unless you’re an elite closer, that’s not going to get you very far.
Wilson has a full arsenal and his changeup can be a nice pitch as it seems to have a natural sink to it. He can certainly pump, as his fastball sits in the mid-90s with little effort, and he can mix in some sinking action as well without taking much of the velocity off the pitch. His breaking ball — whether it’s the slider or curve — seems to get hit and pretty well. Like Wright, Wilson has unquestionable stuff. Unlike Wright, it’s not consistency that’s the problem, it’s simply honing the off-speed pitches to make him a complete weapon.
Trey Harris | OF | No. 13
Harris is here because we all want to see the same thing: exactly what he did last season.
The 32nd-rounder and Georgia native quickly became a fan favorite after tearing up Rome to start the season. He hit .366/.437/.594 with 14 doubles and eight home runs. He jumped to Florida — i.e. where Braves bats go to die — and hit well, slashing .303/.388/.443 with four home runs (which would end up the fourth-most on the team despite playing just 34 games). Now, as someone who followed Harris’ rise closely, you started to hear the same thing: he’s a senior college bat, let’s see him against older competition.
Well, Harris didn’t stop. He reached Double-A Mississippi and hit .281 with a pair of home runs before heading West to the Arizona Fall League where he again hit .281, was second on the team with two home runs and posted a .810 OPS. Now, Harris gets a trip to spring training and will get to play in the launching pad that is the International League. You can be sure all eyes will be on him to see what happens next.
Greyson Jenista | OF | NR
I personally was a big fan of the Jenista selection, which I considered good value in the second round. He had an impressive career with Wichita State and an even more impressive run with Cotuit in the 2017 Cape Cod Baseball League. There were concerns on whether the power develop, but the big lefty with the big swing seemed to have loads of potential.
It’s been a rough ride thus far for Jenista. He showed well when he first got to Rome in 2018, but then seemed to be starting to press a bit, getting aggressive early in counts and hitting way more balls on the ground than he should for his game. He came into 2019 and there were many rumblings that he was working on his swing to get more loft. Jenista did not hit well in the Florida State League (but as we said, no Braves prospect did) and eventually made his way to Mississippi. There, he struck out a bit less, but also walked a bit less and posted a lower ISO (.093) and wOBA (.316 to .310, both below average).
But there was an increase in his fly-ball rate, the highest of his career and in turn he hit five home runs, the most of any stop in his career. Jenista was known for his plate presence, and thus far has shown that. Let’s see if he’s more comfortable with the swing changes in 2020 and develops into that bat we hoped he would.