As the MLB Draft is a little over a week away, let’s take a look at the Atlanta Braves’ farm system and the depth they have at each position to address possible needs come June 10. For this installment, we are going to look at the Braves’ outfield prospects which account for some of the highest quality and broadest array of depth of all of the positions in the system.
While some positional depth in the Braves’ farm system has been ravaged by trades, promotions, or flaming out (these things happen), outfield has not been one of them. You would think that after graduating Ronald Acuña Jr. to the major leagues, an organization would be somewhat excused if they didn’t have other major outfield prospects in their system. However, the Braves are fortunate that they have a few top-end talents as well as a several really interesting guys in the next tier down to serve as depth. This is good news given that while Acuña isn’t going anywhere, Ender Inciarte’s long-term future with the team is uncertain, and while some of us joke that as long as he is within 100 miles of the stadium when the game starts, Brian Snitker is going to be putting Nick Markakis in the fifth lineup spot as long as he is managing the team, the reality is that Markakis’ future with the team as full-time player is diminishing very quickly.
As a result, there isn’t a huge NEED, per se, for the Braves to draft an outfielder in June, given that they only have four picks. However, that doesn’t mean that the Braves won’t find themselves with situations where the best player on their board is an outfield bat and it would still be very likely to be correct to make that move. After all, not all of the names below are going to make it, and if a guy is good enough, that just makes future trades and roster decisions that much better for the team. Anyways, here are the highlights of the outfielder crop in the Braves minor league system.
Pache is the consensus top prospect in the Braves’ system and with good reason, as most publications have him as a top 15 or so prospect in all of baseball. Pache has All-World athleticism and may be the best defensive player in all of the minor leagues, which drastically increases his floor as a center fielder. While he hasn’t hit for much power in the minors so far, his power numbers did see an uptick in 2019 and scouts think there is more in there. That, combined with his top-end raw speed, has a lot of people excited about his potential. His basestealing skills and instincts have a lot of room to grow, he HAS to get on base more and swing at less pitcher’s pitches, and getting his bat path to create more line drives overall would do a lot of good, but Pache is also still young and seems very receptive to coaching, which is why so many are bullish on him.
Drew Waters has a very similar athletic toolkit as Pache, albeit with different twists and concerns. Waters is a dynamic switch-hitter with an aggressive approach at the plate and plenty of speed and power. He is also a fine defensive outfielder who could play any position in the outfield. However, the biggest question with Waters is his hit tool, as the strikeouts really started to pile up as he advanced to higher levels of the minors. Some of that is just going to happen given how aggressive he is at the plate, but he absolutely has to cut down on the swing and miss in order to profile as an everyday player. Waters, as a result, may have the biggest risk/reward split in the system.
The Braves picked up Harris in the third round of the 2019 Draft right out of high school, and he has impressed observers and scouts alike since day one. After parking some balls in the Chop House during a private workout with the team before the draft, the Braves figured out that they might have something special on their hands. While he is no longer a switch-hitter, Harris seems to be above average in just about every raw attribute including power, speed, and arm strength. He is still very young and needs swing refinement and to grow into his body a bit, but we won’t be surprised if Harris’ name is one that starts popping up on top 100 lists before it is all said and done.
If you are looking for a guy who can just flat out hit in addition to being a top notch clubhouse guy, then Trey Harris is your guy. Not a heralded prospect coming out of the 2018 draft as a 32nd round pick from Missouri, Harris made some swing adjustments before the 2019 season and straight mashed his way all the way to Double-A thanks to a combined .323/.389/.498 line on the season. He has some power, even though his skillset is still hit over power, and he plays a pretty decent outfield even though it isn’t always graceful. He isn’t an overly speedy guy, but he isn’t going to hurt you running for himself, either. The guy can just hit and if he keeps this up, he is going to eventually get a shot in the major leagues.
Justin Dean is another under the radar type of guy who was picked in the 17th round of the 2018 draft out of Lenoir-Rhyne College. Despite not having the prototypical height of a big leaguer, Dean plays like a man six inches taller, as he is very strong and drives balls with authority, although the majority of his power is to his pull side. He is also very good defensively out in center with good reads, covering a lot of ground, and decent routes to balls. Dean’s carrying tool is his speed and he can absolutely fly, which led to the 47 stolen bases he had for Rome last year. Dean has a real chance to be an everyday player if he can hit against higher levels of competition, but even if he struggles there, his skill set makes him a really intriguing bench option as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.
Stephen Paolini is a guy who came out of nowhere to get drafted early by the Braves on day two in 2019. He is very raw and comes from a small northeastern high school, but has tons of raw athletic ability. Greyson Jenista was a second rounder from the 2018 draft out of Wichita State who has tons of raw power, but very little production in the minor leagues so far. Jefrey Ramos can hit a bit and has some pop, but seems like a left field-only guy and the hit tool is questionable.