The noise from the Braves this past season is that they are competitors now and ready to make a World Series run. What a lot of people forget is that the Braves still have top tier prospects in their minor league programs. The Braves have had one of the top farm systems in baseball over the last five years and nothing is changing in 2020. All-Stars like Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Ronald Acuna Jr. have all come from the Braves farm system. Let’s take a dive into the Braves top three prospects and how soon they may be making an impact in the Major Leagues.
No.1 – Christian Pache
The twenty-one year old is currently the top-rated prospect in the Braves system, according to MLB.com, and ranks as the eleventh prospect on their top 100 prospect list. Pache carries a true four tool skill set with power be the only tool lacking from his game. He is one of the best defenders in the minor leagues and has gotten praise from Brian Snitker and former Atlanta Braves legend, Andruw Jones. While Pache’s defense is elite, his bat is nothing to look over. In 104 games in Mississippi (AA), he put together a campaign that included 47 extra base hits. Pache got the call to move up to to Gwinnett (AAA) but struggled to produce the kind of power he had in Mississippi. He hit .274 with a .747 OPS in his 95 at-bats in AAA but his slugging percentage dropped 63 points. What can we expect in 2020 from Pache?
The next step for Pache is improving his approach at the plate. Cutting down on his strike out rate and regaining that gap to gap power are the only things holding Pache back from being on the Opening Day Roster. Pache could be up mid-way through this season if one of Markakis or Inciarte are not producing. The Braves could have one of the best fielding outfields in the game the moment he gets the call. When Pache puts it all together, you can expect a multiple time gold glove winner and a very solid hitter. Pache does not have thirty-home-runs-a-year kind of power but he will produce plenty of doubles because of his plus speed. Pache is going to be just as exciting to watch as Acuna was when he first came up.
No. 2 – Drew Waters
Drew Waters, another twenty-one-year-old outfielder, is right behind Pache in the MLB.com rankings and twenty-first on their top 100 list. Waters can stroke the baseball. He is a switch hitter who can do everything at the plate. He hit .319 in Mississippi while adding thirty-five doubles. Waters made his way to Gwinnett with Pache and struggled. Waters average dropped to .271 in his 107 at bats while his slugging percentage tanked over 100 points. The most notable number that Waters produced was his batting average on balls in play, also known as BABIP. Waters had a .436 BABIP in Mississippi and a .429 BABIP in Gwinnett which is extraordinarily high. These metric is saying that he is crushing the ball when he is putting it into play. A very good hitter will usually have a BABIP around .350. Waters is due for some regression, but this shows that Waters is elite at the plate.
Waters is in the same boat as Pache for this next season. If one of Markakis or Inciarte is not performing, then Waters could be on his way to Atlanta. His strike out percentage is very high and sat around at 28.6%. With his insanely high BABIP, he could cut down on that strike out rate and turn into an elite hitting prospect who is ready to produce at the big league level. If Waters can successfully do that, he can be a middle of the lineup bat. Waters projects as more of a corner outfielder for the Braves with Pache being in center field. Do not be surprised if the Braves are running an outfield of Waters in left, Pache in center, and Acuna in right for Opening day in 2021.
No. 3 – Ian Anderson
Despite being at the bottom of the Braves top three prospects, Anderson is still ranked thirty-first on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. Anderson projects as a number two or three starter in the big leagues and is only improving on his stock. In Mississippi, Anderson made twenty-one starts and put up a 2.68 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .202 batting average. At twenty-one years old, Anderson has made his way up to AAA at twenty-one years old (noticing a theme here?). His five starts in Gwinnett were not as pretty as his time in Mississippi. Anderson had a 6.57 ERA in five games started but still struck out twenty-five. There is a learning curve to going up to AAA and this showed as Anderson gave up five home runs in those five starts. What is next for Anderson?
Anderson has a three-pitch mix that will all play at the Major League level. Another top-level pitching prospect close to being ready to join the already young core of Soroka and Fried. I do not expect to see Anderson in Atlanta this season as he would need to be added to the 40-man roster but 2021 is his year. Anderson will strike out his fair share but he will also limit his home runs. His next step is continuing to work on his controls to limit walks. Anderson can be the guy who takes this rotation to the next level. Soroka, Fried, Foltynewicz, Anderson, and Newcomb/Free Agent is going to be a very scary rotation in 2021.
The Braves top three prospects will be ready to make an impact at the big league level within the next two seasons, barring they do not get lumped into a blockbuster deal. Two outfielders and a starting pitcher who are already advancing fast through the minor leagues and have the tools to be legitimate players in the Major Leagues. The already young core is only going to get better with the addition of Pache, Waters, and Anderson.
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