Image credit: Drew Waters (Photo by Tony Farlow)
Carlos Collazo: Hey everyone! Thanks for stopping by to chat Braves prospects. I had a fun time putting together the top 10 for the first time this year and I’m looking forward to talking in a little bit more depth about the system today. Still time to throw your questions in if you have them!
- Do you think that Pache and Waters have a chance to open the season with the big club or they need more seasoning? Thanks.
Carlos Collazo: What’s up Alex! I think they probably need some more seasoning, but believe they could both hold their own from the jump as well. Pache needs to use the entire field more frequently and there were some swing-and-miss concerns that popped up with Waters in Triple-A. They’ve both played 26 games with Gwinnett. That’s not a ton and they are also going to be just 21. No need to rush them, though some of this depends on what the Braves outfield is looking like on Opening Day.
- Did William Contreras take a step back in 2019? Or is catcher development just a slow, meticulous process?
Carlos Collazo: I don’t think he took a step back. That seems a bit strong considering his season and the fact that he made it to Double-A for the first time. It might be fair to say that he didn’t progress *as much* as the team hoped for. I think your second point is the big one. Catching is extremely difficult and it is typically a slow process. I don’t know many young players who really fly through their development behind the dish. The tools are all still there, just a matter of consistent focus and maturity, as mentioned in the report. He’s the second catcher in the org more because of who Shea Langeliers is than anything Contreras did or didn’t do in 2019.
- Fair to say that Waters may project as a better fantasy baseball player whereas Pache might project better as a real-life player?
Carlos Collazo: Ehhh idk they are close. If Pache reaches his ceiling and ever figures out how to steal bases at a clip that’s much better than what he’s done to this point I think he would still be the better fantasy player. Think it might be better to say Waters is the safer fantasy player, but Pache might have some more upside. The improvement of his power grade over the past few years is fairly drastic. Keep in mind I’m not an intense fantasy player, so take that with a grain of salt.
- Soroka or Ian Anderson – who would you take long term? Does Anderson have the stuff to rival Soroka at the top of the rotation?
Carlos Collazo: Give me Soroka. He had a really special season in the major leagues and while he’s not a No. 1, I think his ceiling is a bit higher than Anderson’s based on the feedback we have been getting on him this year. I’ve heard more middle-of-the-rotation for Anderson than top of the rotation. That’s valuable, but give me Soroka if I have to pick one.
Avery (Biloxi, MS):
- Would sure be nice to Sign a big game starting pitcher to get us over the Playoffs first round hump. What are the chances the Braves try to sign a free agent pitcher from the South, like Madison Bumgarner, to pitch these Must-Win games for us? We’ve seen young pitchers like Foltynewicz and Manaea fold in these high pressure, Do-or-Die games. I’m not sure young prospect pitchers like Soroka, Wright, or Anderson can pitch us deep into the Playoffs.
Carlos Collazo: Wanted to bring in Avery’s question after touching on Soroka. I wouldn’t write him off so quickly, but yes I do think the Braves could improve by adding a no-doubt No. 1. Look at the teams having success in the playoffs right now. They have multiple No. 1s. Is Madison Bumgarner still that guy? I don’t know, I’m skeptical, but that’s a name that Matt Eddy has brought up a few times during office conversations here at BA as a name that would makes sense for the Braves. I mean, they should go after Gerrit Cole. He’d be a great fit for the team (or any team). But does anyone have confidence that Liberty Media would OK something like that? I’d be surprised.
FatBoy Johnny (Tokyo):
- Thanks for the chat! So worried about Anderson’s decline in his stuff. Is that due to injury? Also, it seems like so many players nowadays are benefit from a trip to Driveline or some other facilities like that. Do you think MLB teams might start to cooperate with them? Thanks again for the great chat and articles!
Carlos Collazo: I wouldn’t be overly worried about the stuff unless you just like tormenting yourself. Anderson still had a very successful season and he is an impressive prospect without touching 97 every time out. His control and command should be enough to let his very solid stuff play in the majors. He’s still got a plus fastball and two above-average secondaries, and the fact that he’s shown bigger pure stuff before means he has it in the tank somewhere. No one would be surprised if it ticked up a bit in the future. He’s been handling a progressively bigger workload every season. As far as Driveline, plenty of teams are and have been working with them, or at least their players have. Check out Kyle Muller’s report if you don’t believe me. And thanks for reading and chatting with us!
Terry (Janesville, WI):
- The Braves catvhing situation has changed due retirement Who are the Braves catching prospects closed to the Majors?
- Who am I going to be throwing to first and when can I expect to see them? Langeliers or Contreras?
Carlos Collazo: Lots of questions about the catchers, so I’ll try and tackle a few questions about them here. Langeliers is significantly more advanced on the defensive side than Contreras is at the moment. That’s his calling card and the main reason he was a top-10 pick in the draft this past year. He was the best catch-and-throw prospect in the class. I would expect him to move fairly quickly because of that and think he would be the most obvious guy to tap as the next one up if Atlanta needed to grab one of them. Alex Jackson actually has some major league experience behind the dish now, so if you wanted to include him I guess you have to pick him. Have heard some good things about his framing metrics, which is encouraging. Logan Brown has really impressive catch-and-throw tools as well, though plenty of work still to do on the offensive side.
- Thanks for the chat! Any prospects outside of the top 10 that we should be excited about? I know the system thins out a bit, but any potential diamonds we should keep an eye on? Ball? Harris? Any others?
dave (grayson, ga):
- How rough does the back 10 of the top 30 look? It seems to me that once the upper level players move off the list, the Braves will have one of the worst systems in baseball.
Carlos Collazo: These are somewhat related, so I’ll tackle them both here. As for the first one, I think there are a ton of players who are “interesting” throughout the top 30 and even beyond that. We’ve seen so many crazy paths to the majors with the advances in player development these days that it’s hard to rule anyone with a tool out. Keep an eye on Ball and Harris (both Michael and Trey) for sure. I’m fascinated to see what Jared Johnson looks like with a few years in the Braves system. His story is a fun one, and if you don’t know about it go check out his draft report.
Carlos Collazo: As for the second question, I do think this system is going to rank pretty poorly in a couple years. That’s fine when you have graduated a ton of major league pieces and your big league club is competing, but yeah the depth has tailed off in the lower minors and it’s probably going to be a bottom 10, bottom five type farm system because of that. Presumably the team will also trade some of the prospects in win-now moves as well, which will expedite that process.
Roger (Greenville, SC):
- Didder will be a milb FA if the Braves don’t add him to the 40 man. Who do you have behind him as best athlete and best infield arm?
Carlos Collazo: Pache wins best athlete and probably has a case right now for, with or without Didder. Best infield arm… not as sure. CJ Alexander has a plus arm, so that would be one of the first candidates, I would guess. Beau Philip has a big arm as well—he might take it.
Burke (Athens Georgia):
- On a scale of 1 being the highest and 30 being the lowest, where would Baseball America rank the Braves farm system?
Carlos Collazo: We actually have those org rankings for you right here, updated this month: https://www.baseballamerica.com/rankings/2019-mlb-organization-talent-rankings/
Carlos Collazo: And sorry that you guys can’t just click that link. That’s pretty annoying.
Andy (Dallas, GA):
- A stand out for me this year in Rome was RHP Victor Vodnik. Thoughts?
Carlos Collazo: Yeah! A good year, right? Pretty solid numbers in his first extended stint in pro ball. The fastball is legit, he can run it up into the upper-90s and the CB sounds like an above-average pitch as well. There’s some reliever risk here though.
Etan (The 303):
- Interested in your thoughts on Justin Dean. He seemed to have a really solid year, showing lots of speed, good plate discipline, and a little pop. I realize he’s well behind guys like Pache and Waters, but does he project as a regular?
Carlos Collazo: He’d probably have to overachieve to become a regular on a solid club, but there are always exceptions. I don’t like ruling guys out, so I’ll just say that sounds unlikely at the moment. Really good runner, 70-grade speed who can handle center field as a plus defender… I mean if he’s got average power you could talk yourself into that, but I would want to see more of that in the future before I jump fully on board. A lot to get excited by though. Will be interested to see if he can maintain this sort of walk rate in Double-A and higher when that time comes.
- Does Muller end up in the pen? Can the new velo hold up for a starter’s workload?
Carlos Collazo: I think reliever is probably more likely for him, especially given the amount of guys he’d have to outpitch to be a starter with the Braves. The questions for me about his ability to start wouldn’t be the fastball velocity, but the consistency and impact of his secondaries and whether or not he can take a step forward in the strike-throwing department. Let him start until he proves he can’t though, as always. I think he’d be super valuable to this team as a reliever though.
- Thoughts on Patrick Weigel? Is the upside still there post TJS? Would he be just below the Top 10?
Carlos Collazo: No doubt. I thought about putting him on the list at No. 10, but after talking with people on the Braves side and hearing from scouts, settled on him being on the list shortly after that. The top 30 order is still being finalized, but he’ll rank highly among the players who aren’t on the top right 10 now. The reports on his pure stuff were pretty good though.
- Where does Bryce Ball fit?
- what will the braves do with bryce ball
- what is the braves going to do with bryce ball and how will they use him with freemen the future at 1st base.
Carlos Collazo: Jeez, Bob, I’m getting to it! Not sure where these are coming from. I don’t really think Braves fans need to worry about Bryce Ball supplanting or being blocked at first base by Freeman at this point. He’s a 20-year-old who was just drafted and played 21 games in the South Atlantic League. Let him keep mashing and slowly progressing and making the Braves look smart for popping him in the 24th round for $197,500. Maybe the NL will get it together and implement the DH by the time we really need to start worrying about where he fits on the big league club.
Mike Marsh (Orlando):
- Did you get a chance to see Bryce Ball? Is he a legit prospect?
Carlos Collazo: I did not see him personally, but yes he is a legit prospect. I ranked him No. 15 on the Appy League list earlier this year and he’ll land somewhere in the middle of the Braves top 30 as well.
- What keeps Patrick Weigel and Jasseel De La Cruz on the outside looking in? Is your sense that the Braves think they will be relievers?
Carlos Collazo: Touched on Weigel already, but De La Cruz is very much in the same boat as him.
Kevin (Stamford CT):
- I know they’ve graduated but please indulge me. Which of Touki Toussaint, Bryce Wilson and Kyle Wright are likely to reverse course after poor 2019 seasons?
Carlos Collazo: I’m sorry to inform you that TWO of these players have not yet graduated! I’m still a believer in Wright’s talent though, so I’ll take him for the purposes of this question.
Sam (New York):
- How do the Braves start to rebuild the lower levels of the minor league with the sanctions? Can they trade current minor leaguers or major league players to rebuild the pipeline there?
Carlos Collazo: I mean, yes they can but I think they should just focus on getting as many pieces to help the big league club as possible right now. The Braves core is full of young, talented players who are under team control for a while thanks to EXTREMELY team-friendly contracts signed by two players in particular. (You all know who I’m talking about, right?) They don’t really need to be concerned with the lack of depth in the lower levels, but the player development folks are still going to be trying to make the most of the players they have. As some of you have noted in your questions, the team has done a pretty good job signing late-round picks who might turn into legit prospects in the future and before you know it the team will again be active in the international market.
- How would you grade the Braves past draft on an A-F rate with a little bit of pro exposure behind most of the class. Do you see anyone they drafted in the class having the ability to reach a top 50 list at any point? Appreciate it!
Carlos Collazo: Hard to answer the first part of your question in any way that’s particularly honest. You can check where the Braves draft picks ranked on the BA 500 relative to where they were selected to see what the industry value of the draft was at the time… But as always it’s going to be a few years before we really know who did well and who didn’t. We’re just guessing at this point. Langeliers could be that sort of guy if he hits, though.
dave (grayson, ga):
- Do you think the Braves’ 2019 draft strategy will remain going forward? Saving money early to spend on HS players after the 10th round
Carlos Collazo: Sadly many teams have started to take this strategy. Just look at the number of college seniors who are going in the 6-10 round range (and 4-10 if you’re the Mets) ahead of high school players who have… you know, actual tools. It makes sense though when you look at the way the draft is setup. Can’t really blame any of the teams for doing it. They are smarter than me after all.
- Stephen Paolini is fascinating – any new updates on him?
Carlos Collazo: What’s up, Doc? He is interesting. I’m particularly curious to see how he does because I believe he was the first player taken in the 2019 draft who stumped us. His debut wasn’t great, but Braves people really like his lefthanded swing, athleticism, running ability and defensive play in center field. He’s a young, northeastern high school kid who doesn’t have a ton of track record that I’m aware of, so seeing what sort of a hitter he is over a full season will tell us a lot. The tools sound fun though.
Fabian (Midland, TX):
- When do our International Signings sanctions end? I’d like to get in on the Pedro Pineda sweepstakes ( top Dominican center fielder ).
Carlos Collazo: I’ll link you to Ben Badler’s International Review for the Braves from earlier this year for more context and details on that: https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2018-19-international-reviews-atlanta-braves/
Joe (Syracuse NY):
- Have the Braves hired an international scouting director?
Carlos Collazo: Jonathan Cruz is the team’s Latin American coordinator.
- Is Trey Harris doing enough to make himself a legit prospect?
Carlos Collazo: Absolutely. He’s going to be on the top 30.
Christian (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas):
- What do you make of Huascar Ynoa? He made it from high-A to MLB, but his overall numbers aren’t that great. The WHIP is high and BBs are a concern. While he is still young, are we looking at a future reliever?
Carlos Collazo: Probably. His strikeout-to-walk rate was much better this year as a reliever than as a starter. The improvement of his slider this year was a big step forward for him.
dave (grayson, ga):
- Did Luis Mora make any progress in his return from injury?
Carlos Collazo: He’s still got a lot to work on.
- What is wrong with Jenista?
- Hi Carlos, thanks for the chat. What were scouts saying about Greyson Jenista?
Dave (Honolulu, Hawaii):
- Hi Carlos, Have you heard any reasons for the struggles of Greyson Jenista? Thank you.
Carlos Collazo: A few Jenista questions here. It sounds like he was tinkering a bit too much with his hitting mechanics and never really got comfortable with what he was doing. He’ll need to make sure he’s consistently putting himself in a good launch position. He still has solid raw power and a decent understanding of the strike zone.
- Who’s a player outside of the Top 10 who you could see rising to a top 5 player this year? (More talent wise instead of other players graduating)
Carlos Collazo: Michael Harris is probably that guy if I had to pick one. He’s got some big tools. Real projection guy and if it all clicks, he could be special.
Austin Riley (Atlanta):
- What is my position, Carlos?
Carlos Collazo: Is this a trick question?
Carlos Collazo: OK everybody, great work today! Thanks for stopping by and sending me all of your Braves questions. It was fun. I guess I’ll get back to actually writing the rest of the Atlanta chapter for the Prospect Handbook. *SEGUES NATURALLY* Which you can pre-order right here if you are a true and loyal supporter of the Braves and BA: https://store.baseballamerica.com/collections/books/products/2020-baseball-america-prospect-handbook