MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Atlanta Braves

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our second farm system overview will be of the Atlanta Braves. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: OF Christian Pache

MiLB:   AUG 04 Braves vs Lookouts
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Age: 21

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 185 lbs

Signed: July 3, 2015

Hit: 50 Power: 50 Field: 65 Arm: 70 Speed: 70

Overall Grade: 57.85

The Braves have graduated a lot of superstar talent from their farm system in the rest two seasons, particularly Ronald Acuna. However, they still have one more international signing with elite upside, and that’s Dominican outfielder Christian Pache. At the moment, there’s a chance that the 21-year-old is the best defensive outfielder in the entire minor leagues, as his 70-grade speed and arm strength, as well as his excellent routes to the ball, give him a floor as a gold-glove defender. In the end, though, his path to superstardom will be up to the development of his offense, and currently, he’s unrefined in that area. He’s coming off a strong season in Double-A, but his plate discipline numbers still aren’t ideal, especially for someone with his speed, and additionally, his raw power isn’t showing at the moment. Given his defensive skills, Pache is practically guaranteed to be an everyday centerfielder for Atlanta soon, and will compete for gold gloves with division-rival Victor Robles in Washington. Still, I believe in his offense, as if it can be even slightly above-average, he’ll be a 5 WAR player- Byron Buxton and Lorenzo Cain are very logical comparisons.

#2: RHP Kyle Wright

Photo Cred: Talking Chop

Age: 24

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 200 lbs

Drafted: 5th Overall- 2017

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 54.25

In the 2017 MLB draft, Kyle Wright was a legitimate candidate to go #1 overall to the Twins, but fell to the Braves with the fifth overall pick. Given the track record of Vanderbilt pitchers, it appeared likely that he’d make a quick transition to professional ball, but here we are, and the 24-year-old has yet to carve out a role in the majors. Still, it’s hard not to be tantalized by what he brings to the table. Not only does he pair his high mid-90s with two stellar breaking balls, but he also has a sinking changeup that can be lethal on left-handed hitters, and he commands his pitches well- his 2.8 BB/9 in Triple-A is evidence of that. For some reason, his filthy pitching arsenal hasn’t translated to high strikeout numbers yet, and because of that, he no longer looks like the blue-chip ace he once was. Still, his elite spin rates are hard to ignore, and overtime, he should still develop into a high-end #3 starter, or perhaps even a multi-inning relief threat if it all bottoms out- Wright remains the Braves’ top pitching prospect.

#3: RHP Bryse Wilson

Photo Cred: Last Word On Baseball

Age: 21

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 225 lbs

Drafted: 4th Round- 2016

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 52.5

Overall Grade: 54

Unlike Wright, Bryce Wilson isn’t as flashy or projectable of a prospect. However, like his 6’1″, 225 lbs frame would suggest, the former fourth-round pick has adopted a “bulldog mentality” on the mound, which symbolizes how reliable he is. Wilson’s command has been excellent in the minor leagues, and with fastball velocity that can reach the upper 90s, he’s got a pitching arsenal that’ll definitely work in the majors. Now, because his slider tends to act as more of slurve, thus is less effective, his changeup may be his actual second-best pitch, but still, it’s certainly an above-average offering. Wilson may not have the front-line upside that some of the Braves’ young pitchers possess, but he appears to be a sure bet to settle as a #3 or #4 starter, and although he hasn’t found major league success yet, he should establish a role for himself this season.

#4: OF Drew Waters

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Age: 21

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 183 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2017

Hit: 52.5 Power: 50 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Speed: 60

Overall Grade: 53.925

Last season, outfielder Drew Waters had an incredible season in Double-A, posting a 144 weighted-runs-created-plus (wrc+). However, if anything, the 21-year-old’s stock actually went down, at least in my eyes. Most of Waters’ success was predicated on an absurd .436 batting average on balls in play, which is over .100 points more than what he can expect at the major-league level, especially since his ground-ball rate is over 45%. Also, his issues striking out and inability drawing walks continued, and though he has some raw power, the switch-hitter has yet to demonstrate it in terms of production. His defensive skills and offensive potential still intrigues me, but at the moment, consider me a little lower on the former second-round pick.

#5: RHP Ian Anderson

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Age: 21

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 170 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Overall- 2016

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 53.75

Out of all the Braves’ young pitchers, Ian Anderson represents their largest investment, as he was the third overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft. The 21-year-old, unlike Wright and Wilson, has the strikeout rates that entice me, and overall, his three-pitch mix features three truly above-average pitches. Yet, it’s not unhittable enough to definitely generate high strikeout rates above the Double-A level, and for him to truly realize his potential, he must continue to refine his command. He’s had a walk rate of 3.6 or above in each of the past two seasons, and in five starts at Triple-A, his numbers suffered; he posted an abysmal 5.93 xFIP and 1.39 K-BB ratio. There’s still time for the 21-year-old Anderson, who deserves consideration as the team’s best pitching prospect, to become the front-line starting pitcher that Atlanta drafted him to be. For now, though, he’s a tick behind Wright and Wilson, and will need to prove himself in Triple-A next season.

#6: C Shea Langeliers

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Age: 22

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: 9th Overall- 2019

Hit: 50 Power: 45 Field: 57.5 Arm: 65 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 52.5

Finding a young impact catcher is so difficult to find, that when you have the chance to draft one, it’s almost always worth it. Therefore, even though Shea Langeliers may not be an athletically-gifted or superbly talented player, but he was an excellent selection with the 9th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft. The 22-year-old immediately is one of the better defensive catchers in the minors, and posseses a rocket of an arm, and because of that, has a floor of a defensive-minded catcher in the MLB. Yet, it’s not a sure thing that his offense cannot develop, as his swing is rather smooth, and there’s definitely some power in his game that he can tap into. He’s definitely a safe prospect, but either way, he’s likely to make a quick ascension to the major leagues as a starting-caliber player at the league’s thinnest position.

#7: LHP Kyle Muller

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Age: 22

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 225 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2016

Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 47.5

Overall Grade: 51.125

Headlining the Braves’ second-tier pitching prospects is lefty Kyle Muller, who was selected one round after Anderson in the 2016 MLB draft. With a 6’6″ frame and a very sound, athletic delivery, it’s easy to envision Muller’s potential upside. Yet, although his fastball-changeup pairing is very strong, he doesn’t appear to trust his breaking ball, and because of that, he remains a work in progress at the moment. That’s especially true, given his inconsistent command, which faltered this season in Double-A- he had a 5.48 BB/9 in 111.2 innings. There’s certainly some #3 to #4 starter potential with the 22-year-old southpaw, but he’s yet to demonstrate it consistently in the minors, and as a result, is probably behind on his progression at the moment.

#8: SS Braden Shewmake

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Age: 22

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: 21st Overall- 2019

Hit: 50 Power: 50 Field: 52.5 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 52.5

Overall Grade: 51

Although I was a huge supporter of Atlanta’s selection of Langeliers, their second first-round selection in the 2019 MLB draft was a little more confusing; they went with another limited college prospect by selecting Texas A&M’s Braden Shewmake. It’s not as though Shewmake is a bad prospect, as he’ll be a 50-tool player all-around and will at worst be a solid utility player, but still, the upside is thin. Although his 6’4″ frame should suggest that he can become a power hitter, the way his swing is currently constructed prevents that from happening, as it’s very unorthodox. Now, swing changes aren’t the worst-case-scenario, but when you’re a 22-year-old prospect, you shouldn’t be a project offensively. Therefore, though Shewmake will likely be a big leaguer with passable tools and slightly above-average defense, I’m not sure he ever makes good on his first-round reputation, at least until we see some offensive improvement.

#9: RHP Jasseel De La Cruz

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Age: 22

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 215 lbs

Signed: June 1, 2015

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 45 Command: 45

Overall Grade: 50.25

When you’re 22-years-old, you should be making a push to reach the majors. However, that’s not the case for right-hander Jassseel De La Cruz at the moment, as he has failed to show any feel for pitching. Therefore, although his fastball-slider combination is fantastic, his minor-league results have been underwhelming. In 87 innings pitched in Double-A last season, De La Cruz struggled to the tune of a 1.97 K-BB ratio and 4.16 xFIP, which means he’ll have to start the year back in Double-A, which means that his road to the majors is still in question. Then again, he does profile well as a reliever in the future, so even if he can’t start, he won’t be a flat-out disappointment.

#10: C William Contreras

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Age: 22

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 180 lbs

Signed: February 10, 2015

Hit: 50 Power: 45 Field: 52.5 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 40

Overall Grade: 50.15

The younger brother of Wilson Contreras, William Contreras plays the same position as his older brother, but doesn’t resemble the Cubs All-Star catcher at all. Whereas Wilson is an offensive-minded catcher who is a liability behind the plate, William is regarded as an advanced defender. That’s a plus for the 22-year-old, but does it make up for his middling offense? That remains to be seen. He has yet to hit for power at all in the minor leagues, and with lackluster walk rates, and he’s not much of a pure hitter. I could definitely see a scenario where his offense develops enough for him to become a starting-caliber catcher, but for the moment, Contreras remains a work-in-progress.

Best Of The Rest

  • Greyson Jenista has some raw power and decent walk rates, but he also strikes out a lot and isn’t strong enough offensively for him to be much more than a bench bat at the moment
  • Alex Jackson is a former top-ten pick, but the catcher is abysmal in every category besides hitting for power, and is thus a backup catcher at best

Farm System Overview

The Braves no longer have the elite farm system they once had, but that’s only because several of their young players are currently doing damage in the majors. Pache looks like a potential star, and the trio of Wright, Wilson, and Anderson all should be in the rotation in the next couple of seasons. Therefore, although it doesn’t have much depth, Atlanta’s farm system still possesses some high-end talent that should excite their fans; the front office has found ways to upgrade the roster without depleting their collection fo young talent.

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