For the Braves organization, this must be incredibly refreshing. It’s a restart, three years into a rebuild. Alex Anthopoulos brings much-needed new leadership and hopefully, this will kick-start a move back to the top in the National League. After all, that’s what the fans out in Braves Country are counting on! All this losing has been no fun at all.
The hope for a brighter day rides on some of the Braves top-rated prospects breaking through successfully. And thankfully, it’s not all pitching. Anthopoulos has played it cool with making moves, until he has a chance to evaluate what he’s got.
All the talk entering the 2018 season is about outfield prospect Ronald Acuna, who is MLB’s top-rated minor league player. But Acuna is far from the only talented prospect who is ready to make some noise in Atlanta.
Heading into this season, the Braves feature the best left-handed pitching prospect situation in baseball. Sean Newcomb busted onto the MLB scene last year, with 19 starts. Now, three other southpaws get a shot to break through. Luiz Gohara and Max Fried got a taste of the big leagues at the end of last season and showed flashes. Kolby Allard is poised for a shot in 2018 too. Anthopoulos is keeping a close eye on these four guys.
Gohara seems to constantly get the C.C. Sabbathia comparison. Luiz has got some flame coming off his fastball, features a plus-slider and has developed a legit change-up. He’s got a shot to be a top of the rotation guy. Max Fried showed off a plus-curve ball during his late season call-up last year. Kolby Allard’s off-speed stuff is impressive (plus-breaking ball & a plus change up) and displays good command with this fastball (locates it inside & out).
So, Newcomb, Gohara, Fried and Allard are competing for spots in the Braves rotation. Not all of them will settle in Atlanta. Anthopoulos will most likely trade a couple of them, once he determines who he wants to keep.
It’s also awesome to see a couple of positional prospects entering important seasons with the Braves, playing a couple of key spots.
Third baseman Austin Riley hit 20 homers last season in the minors and he also improved defensively. He’s got a plus-arm and his overall skills at 3rd base have the look of a major leaguer. The Braves have had a huge void at the hot
corner, since Chipper Jones retired. Maybe Austin Riley is the man to end the drought. Entering this season, he’s been rated as the #6 MLB 3B prospect. Keep an eye on this guy!
Also, catcher Alex Jackson took a big jump last season. The Braves decided to move him back behind the plate, once they got him in a deal with the Mariners. His defense has since improved. He has a plus-hitter, plus-power reputation at the plate. So, there is a lot to like here.
The Braves would be thrilled if both these guys were able to push their way to Atlanta, with impressive minor league seasons this year. This is the best-case scenario, obviously. It would be huge to add a couple big bats to the line-up in 2019, at these critically important positions!
Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves need a few of these prospects to take off in 2018. Can’t hardly wait to see how this develops. It should be very interesting.
Co-Host of 680 The Fan’s “Buck and Kincade”