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TRACK RECORD: In high school, Riley was a thick-bodied, strong-armed pitcher/third baseman. Because of Riley’s thick trunk and arm strength, most scouts viewed him as a pitching prospect, and he would have played both ways if he had made it to Mississippi State. But the Braves believed in his bat and his work ethic and drafted him as a hitter. Riley has cut out junk food and focused on conditioning as a pro. As a result, he has slimmed down and is now markedly more athletic and nimble. After hitting 20 home runs in his first full season and 20 again in 2017, he had to settle for 19 in 2018. He would have likely topped his previous career high if not for a knee injury he suffered at Triple-A Gwinnett when diving for a ball in early June. He missed almost all of June and saw his power sapped for another month. But in August, he finished by hitting eight home runs in a 13-game stretch. Riley has been one of the youngest players in every league in which he has played.
SCOUTING REPORT: Riley’s plus-plus raw power has always been his best attribute. He has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs regularly in the majors. Riley generates consistent loud contact. He has a pull-heavy approach when he gets into advantageous counts but has the strength and power to drive the ball out to right and right-center field. Riley’s pull-heavy approach leads to strikeouts, but he has always managed to stay on the right side of the line that separates free-swingers who can’t hit from those who can hit enough to get to their power. Riley’s bat-to-ball skills give him a chance to be an average hitter to go with his excellent power. He’s shown an ability to make adjustments. His swing is more direct to the ball, and he has sped up his hands as a pro. Defensively, Riley’s conditioning and work has helped him turn himself into a plus defender. His plus-plus arm is his best attribute, but he also has developed the quick feet and quick hands scouts look for at third base. His quickness is more of the first-step variety because his raw speed is below-average.
THE FUTURE: Riley should factor in the Braves’ big league plans in 2019, but the emergence of Johan Camargo and the free agent signing of Josh Donaldson cloud the picture. The Braves could be patient and let Riley get additional time at Triple-A, but they have stated he will get a look in the outfield at spring training.
TRACK RECORD: As the third pick in the 2016 draft, Anderson tied Steve Avery and Ken Dayley as the highest-drafted pitcher in club history. Given a chance to throw more innings in 2018, Anderson showed his durability by making every start. He finished his season at Double-A Mississippi with two of his best outings of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT: Anderson has the pieces to be a frontline ace if his control and command catch up to his stuff. He has a fluid, fast arm. His foundation is a plus-plus 92-97 mph four-seam fastball. His 75-79 mph curveball is a plus pitch with 12-to-6 movement. He also throws an 86-88 mph changeup that flashes above-average with deception and occasional late drop. Anderson has started to feel comfortable enough to throw his changeup to righthanders as well as lefties. He stays direct to the plate in his delivery, but his fastball command is scatter shot. There’s nothing in his delivery that indicates long-term control concerns.
THE FUTURE: Anderson will head back to Double-A in 2019. He could be ready for a September callup, but the Braves have a full rotation of starting candidates ticketed for Triple-A who will be ahead of him.
TRACK RECORD: Less than three years after he was drafted, Soroka was in the big leagues holding the Mets to one run over six innings. He made four more starts before being shut down with shoulder soreness. He didn’t return to the mound until a brief instructional league outing.
SCOUTING REPORT: Soroka attacks hitters with a sinker/slider combination that generates more weak contact than strikeouts. He mixes a plus 92-94 mph two-seamer that he works down and in to righthanded hitters with a 92-94 mph four-seamer that he elevates. He is at his best when he’s keeping the ball down, which sets up his above-average 85-87 mph slider that he turned into a harder, sharper pitch in 2018. Soroka mixes in an average changeup sporadically against lefthanded hitters. What makes it all work is Soroka’s plus control and above-average command. He has a clean delivery and has long impressed with his competitive, mature makeup.
THE FUTURE: Soroka showed his normal velocity at instructs, and the Braves expect he will be at full strength for spring training. His command, stuff and outstanding makeup fit the mold of a mid-rotation starter.
TRACK RECORD: The top college pitcher in his draft class, Wright became just the fourth college pitcher the Braves have selected with a top-10 pick and the first since fellow Vanderbilt Commodore Mike Minor was their pick in 2009. He then became the first player from the 2017 draft to reach the big leagues when he was called up in September. The Braves moved him to the bullpen at Triple-A Gwinnett in August to see if he could help in Atlanta, but he pitched only sporadically in September.
SCOUTING REPORT: Wright has the most varied arsenal of the Braves’ top-tier pitching prospects. His fastball and curveball are both plus pitches, and he mixes in a slider that flashes above-average potential and an average changeup. His slider and curve sometimes merge together, but his power 82-85 mph breaking ball is a downer out pitch. His 92-96 mph fastball has excellent armside run. Scouts like his delivery, but Wright has yet to show the above-average control that many scouts expect him to develop.
THE FUTURE: Wright has already reached Atlanta, but he could use further time in Triple-A as he works to refine his control
TRACK RECORD: The Braves essentially paid for an extra first-round pick when they acquired Toussaint in 2015 because of their willingness to take on the $9 million salary of the injured Bronson Arroyo. Toussaint has taken a little longer to develop than some of his fellow Braves prep pitching prospects, but he still reached the majors at age 22.
SCOUTING REPORT: Below-average control has always been Toussaint’s biggest hiccup. He has consistently struggled to locate his fastball. He generally works his sinker down in the zone to his arm side, but to succeed he needs to be able to spot his four-seamer to his glove side. If Toussaint can develop even average control and command, he could dominate because of his plus curveball that has long been a weapon and a more recently developed plus split-changeup. Toussaint’s 93-97 mph fastball also earns plus grades. He has steadily improved his control, but he still lands hard in his finish and struggles to maintain his direction to the plate.
THE FUTURE: Toussaint made big strides in 2018, and he could develop into a mid-rotation starter. His stuff would play up even more in the bullpen.
TRACK RECORD: The Braves move their pitchers fast, but no one has moved faster than Wilson. He was an excellent high school football player as a wide receiver, quarterback, running back and linebacker. In 2018, Wilson began the season by allowing one run in five starts at high Class A. He blitzed through Double-A, dominated Triple-A (including an eight-inning, one-hit, 13-strikeout gem) and threw five scoreless innings in his major league debut.
SCOUTING REPORT: Wilson’s success depends on his 92-98 mph fastball, which is one of the best in an organization filled with quality fastballs. It’s a future plus-plus pitch, largely because of its late life and his above-average control. He can locate it arm side and glove side. When he’s on, Wilson can dominate with just his fastball, and often that’s what he did. His slurvy curveball flashes plus when he tightens it up, but some scouts believe his arm action will prevent him from ever being consistent with it. His currently fringe-average changeup needs to improve. It has some fade, but he tips it at times.
THE FUTURE: The Braves have pitchers with better secondary pitches, but Wilson’s strength, fastball and makeup give him a shot to be a durable No. 4 starter.
TRACK RECORD: Waters was the first prep outfielder the Braves have signed out of Georgia since they drafted Jason Heyward in 2007. In 2018, he was one of the best hitters in the South Atlantic League. He would have ranked in the top five in the league in batting average (.303) and slugging (.513) if not for an August promotion to the Florida State League.
SCOUTING REPORT: Waters has the tools to be an above-average or even plus hitter as a switch-hitter with a loose, handsy swing, especially from the left side. He uses the entire field and consistently squares up balls. But he has a good bit of work to do to become a mature, refined hitter. Right now, he too often looks to ambush the first hittable fastball he can find, leading to too many quick at-bats. Waters may eventually outgrow center field, but he’s an above-average defender for now. His plus arm would fit in right field if he fills out too much to stay in center field. He’s a plus runner and knows how to pick his spots to steal.
THE FUTURE: The Braves have two center field prospects moving up in lock step, with Cristian Pache one level ahead of Waters. Waters has more offensive potential and Pache has more defensive aptitude.
TRACK RECORD: When the Braves’ futures stars played the big league club in an exhibition game, Pache gave a hint of what was to come by hitting a pair of home runs off Sean Newcomb. Before that, he had gone homerless in his first 176 pro games. Pache demonstrated that newfound power during the season with nine home runs.
SCOUTING REPORT: Pache is one of the best defensive center fielders in the minor leagues. He is a plus-plus defender who combines plus-plus speed with a belief that every fly ball is his to catch. He has a great first step, though his routes can meander at times. Scouts are more mixed on whether Pache is going to hit. He showed improved power and he can now punish pitchers for their mistakes, but he’s too aggressive for a potential top-of-the-order hitter and has become pull-focused. He could become an average hitter with 10-12 home run pop, but he strikes out too much and doesn’t draw the walks needed to lead off. His speed hasn’t paid off as much on the basepaths yet.
THE FUTURE: Pache’s age and athleticism give him plenty of potential. Scouts generally see him as a future regular, but not a future star, because they don’t see an impact bat.
TRACK RECORD: Contreras is the younger brother of Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras. While the older Contreras didn’t make it to full-season ball until he was 21, William was one of the best catchers in the South Atlantic League as a 20-year-old. He shared the job at low Class A Rome with Drew Lugbauer, and the Braves ensured he didn’t wear down by playing him at DH, too.
SCOUTING REPORT: Contreras has plus raw power that he already turns into productive power, and his hands work well enough that he can also drive the ball to right-center field. That gives him a chance to hit .270 or so. He has some young player hitting habits he must break. He tends to pull off the ball and step in the bucket, leaving him vulnerable to being pitched away, but those are correctable flaws and he shows solid strikezone awareness. Defensively, he has good hands, moves well and shows more athleticism than most catchers. He has a plus arm but sometimes struggles with his transfer when he rushes.
THE FUTURE: Contreras is still multiple years away from being big league ready, but he has all the tools to be the rare catcher who can handle the job defensively while producing offensively.
TRACK RECORD: Few players had a rougher 2018 than Gohara. Acquired from the Mariners for Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith, Gohara climbed from high Class A to make five major league starts in 2017. His father died in his arms during the offseason, and he left with team permission during the season to be with his mother as she had heart surgery. He missed most of spring training with an ankle injury and finished the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
SCOUTING REPORT: Gohara’s conditioning was a problem in 2018. It affected his arm speed, and his fastball dipped from 95-99 mph to 91-95. His slider also backed up. It’s impossible to know if his previously top-of-thescale fastball and plus-plus slider will return, but even if he finds a midpoint between 2017 and 2018, he would have a pair of plus pitches. He needs to improve his below-average changeup.
THE FUTURE: The Braves said that Gohara lost 35 pounds while working out in Orlando after the season. He rarely showed his best stuff in 2018, but between the injuries and off-field tragedy, there is reason to hope he can return to form in 2019.
- J.J. Cooper
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