The deadline is here, the Braves are good, and that means some of the Braves prospects are likely to be on the move. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the Braves prospects as the hours tick down. These thoughts are my opinions (not a collective opinion of the 755 Staff) and if anyone feels differently about some of the players mentioned in this piece, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. One of the great things about prospects is that it provides an opportunity for baseball fans to have differing opinions over things where nobody can ever be proven right or wrong.
First, as I alluded to last week, I’m firmly of the thought process that prospects are to be traded more than they are to be kept. That’s not a hard rule, but it’s a fairly general rule that I like to operate by. The idea is that you have to identify your group of keepers inside your pool of prospects and then use the rest of your assets to acquire proven talent. For me, my keepers are Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Drew Waters, and William Contreras. If you want to still count Mike Soroka as a prospect, he’s also part of this list.
After this, my approach is to try to tier off your remaining prospects. I’ll list out some of my tiers and a brief thought on them below.
Major league ready starters – Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara
Here, I like Fried the best of the three, then Gohara, then Allard. I feel like Fried could be a mainstay in the Braves rotation for years to come if given the chance. He’s shown some glimpses of it this year in his starts against St. Louis and just this past weekend against the Dodgers. Gohara might have the best stuff of the three, but I question how well he’s going to be able to get through an entire season. I’ll stop short of throwing Gohara’s conditioning under the bus like I’m Bill Shanks, but it’s a real factor. It’s tough to get an accurate read on him coming off the tumultuous winter he had, but him coming to camp out of shape wasn’t a new thing for him and it’s concerning going forward. Allard is many rungs below them on my list. In fact, as prospects go, I like each of the players in the next group better than Allard, but this is the best way to group him with some others when balancing prospect ability and his closeness to the majors. I question Allard’s ability to get outs at the major league level. I think he’ll make it there, and I think he’s good enough to eventually stay there, but I don’t think he has the ability to be a #2 or even a #3 starter. He’s a #4 or #5 for me, and my thought process on that is that if the Braves can’t find another pitcher in all of these prospects to fill out the back end of a rotation, they have bigger issues going on.
I wouldn’t let anyone in this group stand in the way of a trade for an impact starter or a major bat, but I would start with Allard and work my way back through Gohara before caving and giving up Fried. I would be very hesitant to trade two from this top tier of arms.
The next wave of arms – Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok, Joey Wentz, Bryse Wilson
My favorite prospect out of this list is Bryse Wilson. That’s not to say he’s the best prospect out of the bunch, but Wilson is closest to the majors and I feel like he’s one of the more underrated players in the Braves system. He reminds me a lot of Kris Medlen in the fact that he never gets talked about, but he’s just as likely to come to the majors and end up being the best of the bunch.
All of these pitchers are extremely good, but they’re so far away from the big leagues, that you shouldn’t let them hold up a deal. I wouldn’t trade more than two players from this tier, but I’d rather trade two of these than Max Fried from the group above.
From this point on the tiers get a little more jumbled so I’ll just highlight some players you’re probably wondering about.
Austin Riley – I fight to keep him, but I have my doubts on him as a player. If he’s standing between me and Chris Archer or Marcus Stroman, I pull the trigger. I’m very afraid of his contact rate and how it will translate to the major leagues. Most players don’t improve their K% as they move up levels, especially to the majors, and his K% in AAA is almost borderline unacceptable as it is.
Cristian Pache – You’ll notice my list of keepers includes Drew Waters and not Pache. I’m not a big believer in Pache’s bat ever coming around. Even this year where he’s hit the first 8 homeruns of his professional career, he has just a .310 on-base percentage and a BB% under 4%. Those things don’t work for a guy you’re probably hoping bats at the top of the order no matter how good they are defensively. Next to Allard, Pache is the prospect I would be trying to include as a headliner in as many deals as I could. I think his current value is inflated as people are still enamored with the tools while overlooking the production. I may end up being wrong here, but I feel he’s one of the players that his value could take a hit on more quickly than anyone else as he moves up levels and his production becomes a larger factor. As it stands, Double-A isn’t going to be kind to him next year and that concerns me for his value going forward.
Jean Carlos Encarnacion – This is a kid I like a lot, but he also brings some questions marks with him when it comes to his batting profile. He’s almost a B-piece to any major deal, but I feel there’s a lot of value here for other teams. While I’m not saying trade him at all costs, I wouldn’t hesitate to include him in a trade.
Anyone not listed here likely falls under my lottery ticket package where I’d move any of them as tertiary pieces and not think twice. These guys are likely all to be rated as 45 future value players or below and the Braves have plenty of them in that range all throughout the system. It’s hard to separate them enough to pick some out to talk about, but there is a lot of trade value left in the Braves system that isn’t listed in the group above.
Of the players listed here, I think Pache has the most trade value and Allard is likely the most contentious prospect the Braves have. Allard is a player that teams are either going to love or be really low on, and I think that’s a common thing you see across Braves fans on Twitter and the different prospect ranking services, as well. In all, the Braves have a very deep farm system, and while they won’t have to empty the system to fill the holes they have at the major league level, they’re going to have to include some guys that are going to hurt some Braves fans to see included in deals.