It was another down year for Atlanta as they finished 68-93 and finished last in the NL East. Their pitching ranked 25th overall in fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) and their offense was even worse, ranked 29th overall in fWAR. But don’t worry Braves’ fans, help is on the way.
The club has what appears to be an outstanding young core of hitters with Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson in the infield spots with Ender Inciarte in center field (granted, Inciarte is matched up with two players neither young nor outstanding). And looking into their farm system, one will find some outstanding pitching prospects that could provide the team with a rotation harkening back to the time of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Fans will have to wait a little while longer on the pitching prospects to develop, but once they are ready, they will help Atlanta become a dynasty once again.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
Atlanta Braves Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Today I am beginning my list of prospect systems in the NL East. I have already covered the American League. Later, I will delve into the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals. To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.
Top Overall Talent: Dansby Swanson
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Dansby Swanson
Heading into the 2016 draft, Swanson was believed by many to be the most advanced player in college baseball. Though it since appears Benintendi and Bregman may have had him beat by a little bit, there is still no denying the potential in his bat. He is fast and possesses his fair share of pop, though admittedly he will never hit 20 home runs. He profiles as a possible 15/25 shortstop in the big leagues.
He is a very advanced hitter and not only knows his way around the strike zone, but is capable of making consistent-enough contact to post a .300+ average. Swanson isn’t necessarily the most electric prospect out there, but with his reliable approach, Swanson is absolutely a shortstop to own in all dynasty leagues.
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: Kevin Maitan
Maitan is not your prototypical shortstop. He is not particularly fleet of foot and thus doesn’t have great range. But boy oh boy can he hit. Scouts have given Maitan enormous comps, likening him to guys like Miguel Sano and, at best, Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones. He has an incredibly quick and powerful bat that could be a future 30+ home run maker and provide owners with a .300+ batting average.
Some think he can stay at shortstop, but from everything I’ve read about him, plus the presence of Dansby Swanson, Maitan will call the hot corner home. He should still have no trouble hitting enough to warrant owning in most dynasty leagues.
Biggest Boom or Bust: Max Fried
Standing tall at 6-foot-4, Fried is an intimidating presence on the mound. His height helps him pick up a lot of downward action on his pitches and has helped him provide him with the upside of a future ace. With a low-90s fastball and hammer curveball, he’s got quite the one-two punch which always bodes well for future success.
The risk comes from his health. He had Tommy John surgery and had been kept off the mound since 2014. He pitched at Class-A this season and accumulated 103 innings. But who knows how long it will take before he is fully ready to throw 200 innings. He was recently added to the 40-man roster by Atlanta which was likely more of a move to keep him away from the Rule-5 draft, but it does boost confidence in his health. Fried could be a future ace if he stays healthy, but he still has a while to go before he can prove that to dynasty owners.
Biggest Sleeper: Kyle Muller
Muller does not get enough recognition for a prospect with his talent, in large part due to the Braves’ insane depth at starting pitcher. The southpaw was taken 44th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Atlanta and went on to post a 0.65 ERA and 1.88 FIP across 27.2 innings of work. Now granted, the most innings he pitched in a single outing was 4.0 in his last start of the season, but there’s still plenty to love. He has an outstanding repertoire with a fastball that already touches 95 mph and a curveball that can be a dominant pitch. And with his 6-foot-6, 225 lb frame, he certainly looks the part of a starting pitcher. Don’t sleep on Muller, he could be a future front of the rotation starter.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Travis Demeritte
It’s rare to think of a middle-infielder as an insane power hitter, but that’s exactly the kind of player Demeritte is. Between Rookie league and High-A, the second baseman clobbered 32 home runs in only 135 games of work. He did not play much in 2015, but 2014 was another season of impressive power displays as he mashed 25 at the Rangers Class-A team. Like a lot of young power hitters, Demeritte has plenty of swing-and-miss in his game and still needs to improve on that if he wants to carve out a Major League role. But with the chance to hit 30 home runs from a second baseman, dynasty owners have to take notice.
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Dansby Swanson
As discussed earlier, Swanson is such an advanced prospect that it should have been obvious he was going to take home this spot. Across his 145 PA in the big leagues last season, he managed to slash .302/.361/.442 with a 9.0% walk rate and 23.4% strikeout rate. His average was assisted by an astronomically high .383 BABIP and it is likely that will bring his average below .300 in 2017. But he has the discipline, the quick hands and line drive-oriented approach needed to hit for a high average in the big leagues.
Best Burner on the Bases: Ozzie Albies
Albies may have a legit claim at the most likely to hit over .300 title as well, but I gave it to Swanson for his maturity and slightly more advanced approach at the plate. With that said, Albies’ ability to make consistent contact should put him right up there with Swanson for the batting title. As for speed, Albies was the run-away (pun intended) favorite for this one. The speedster swiped 30 bags in 138 games last season and 29 bags in 98 games in 2015. Scouts have always praised the 20-year-old for his ability to steal bases at will and should be a 30+ stolen base threat in the big leagues. He reminds me a lot of a switch-hitting Jose Peraza - slap-hitting middle infielder with the chance to play around the diamond and speed to really give dynasty owners a boost.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: Sean Newcomb
Newcomb has had his struggles over the years, there’s no denying that. But there’s also no denying that he simply knows how to strike batters out by the bunches. Not at any point through any level has Newcomb failed to strike out batters below 25% of the time. He racks up these numbers thanks to an upper-90s fastball, a borderline-elite curveball and a changeup that has really made strides over the years. His 6-foot-5 frame also helps him get on top of the ball and add some extra zip onto his pitches. If he can reign in his command, he might be the best pitching prospect in this system. But even if he fails to do that, fantasy owners can rest easy knowing at least he will provide copious amounts of strikeout to their team.
Best Command: Kolby Allard
This was an easy call for best command. Though his experience is limited, Allard has never run into much trouble with the walks, with only a career-high of 8.1% walk rate last season at Class-A Rome in 60.1 innings. And sure, it’d be nice to see that number just a tad lower, but scouts believe in Allard’s ability to consistently fill up the strike zone and go right after hitters. Allard is no strikeout king like Newcomb, but he can generate plenty of swings-and-misses in his own right and should be able to strike out around 20% of opposing hitters in the big leagues. Allard probably has the highest floor of any Braves’ pitching prospect and should be viewed as an extremely valuable arm to own, especially when considering that he also possesses quite a high ceiling.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Atlanta Braves
1. Dansby Swanson (SS, MLB)
Low-risk, high-reward shortstop with an above-average power/speed combination, Swanson looks like a future franchise shortstop in Atlanta.
2. Ozzie Ablies (2B/SS, AAA)
Incredibly speedy middle-infielder will provide incredible value to dynasty owners qualifying as a second baseman.
3. Kolby Allard (SP, A)
Allard has dominated every level and with his track record of impeccable command and outstanding stuff, it shouldn’t be long till he’s in the majors.
4. Sean Newcomb (SP, AA)
Receiving Jon Lester-comps due to his size and stuff, Newcomb has incredible upside in his own right, but he needs to find better control if he hopes to make it as a starter in the big leagues.
5. Kevin Maitan (SS, NA)
Dynamic young shortstop is oozing with upside, but he still has many years to go before he’s ready to join the big league team.
6. Mike Soroka (SP, A)
Sororka has an excellent array of pitches that he commands effectively, but he’s only 19 years old and the team figures to take their time developing him at every step to ensure he reaches his full potential as an ace.
7. Travis Demeritte (2B, A+)
Demeritte is a powerful, young second baseman with the chance to post 30/15 seasons from a weak offensive position, but he may need to shift over to third with Albies stuck at second now.
8. Ian Anderson (SP, ROK)
Anderson has the control dynasty owners love to see in young arms, but he needs to develop his changeup and slider a bit more in order to reach his ceiling of a No. 2 starter.
9. Joey Wentz (SP, ROK)
Standing at 6-foot-5, Wentz is no doubt intimidating and his frame gives him a lot to build off of. But the southpaw will have to improve his control if he wants to fly through the minors.
10. Max Fried (SP, A)
Another young, high upside arm in the Braves system, Fried may be one of the best southpaws in the minors. Health issues have slowed down his path to the big leagues, but if he can stay on the mound, he is a future ace waiting to happen.
If you want a brief synopsis of the Braves farm system, here it is: young, high-upside pitchers and middle-infielders. There is really not much else here besides those positions. Fortunately for dynasty owners, those happen to be two very valuable positions in dynasty leagues.
The middle-infield duo of Swanson and Albies figures to have a major impact this season, but they are likely the only two players in this system to have any real role in 2017. Newcomb may come up for a cup of coffee later in the season, but he still really needs to improve his control. All the other arms and middle-infielders have a long ways to go before they are big league ready, but most of them have insane upside.
The Braves have had a clear strategy over the past few seasons. If you stockpile tons of arms, some will flame out, but a lot will stick. As it appears right now, a future rotation of Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Mike Sororka, Sean Newcomb and Joey Wentz appears very bright, and there’s still three well above-average pitchers that have not cracked that rotation. This system is loaded top-to-bottom with pitchers and might be the best system in baseball. Dynasty owners are encouraged to study it well for loading up their team on young pitching prospects.