With the offseason in full swing, that means it will be time for teams to assess their needs for next season and start planning for a longer than hoped offseason. We're at the same point for fantasy owners in dynasty leagues, and we're here to help you with the information you need as you prepare for your minor league drafts.
In previous years, we have done rather intensive top 10 prospect lists, including an organizational rundown, opportunities in the coming season, as well as the top fantasy prospects. However, we have found that a number of these topics are covered as we continue through the offseason, and specifically through profiles done as a part of our preseason redraft rankings. As a result, this year's top 10 lists will be primarily that: a list of the prospects with brief writeups rather than the 4000-8000 word opuses that have occurred in the past. We feel that this year's format will both suit the goal better (of providing fantasy relevant information and rankings) as well as allow us to move through them much more quickly so that they can be completed by the Christmas holiday.
The schedule itself is fairly basic: We cover a division, going in alphabetical order of city/location name. This means the next team after this post will be the Marlins, and move through the NL East before heading to the Central and West.
With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.
Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat I provide every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the offseason, and so it is very possible that by the end of the offseason, how we view a player may be very different from where we had them originally. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.
Something new I wanted to introduce this year is a tier system to help delineate where prospects are likely to fall on the overall top prospect list. We have not completed our top prospects lists yet, and will not likely do so until we are close to finishing all the prospect rankings. The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers which do not have prospects for certain teams.
The Braves top prospect according to some is Hector Olivera, the Cuban third baseman who the Braves dealt Alex Wood and Jose Peraza to acquire. However we decided to leave Olivera off the list due to the combination of his age and professional experience in Cuba. If he was on the list he would be a Tier 1 and must own in any format, but we wanted to concentrate on the true prospects.
Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
There are no Braves' prospects in this tier.
Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
#1 - Ozhaino Albies(SS)
Age on Opening Day: 19
Part of the reason the Braves felt comfortable in dealing Jose Peraza was the fact that they have another young middle infield prospect who they already like more. That guy is the small(5'9", 150 pound) but exciting Ozhaino Albies. The native of Curacao signed in 2013 as an international free agent and made his stateside debut in 2014. This year at the age of just 18 he spent the full season in Low A Rome, where he hit .310/.368/.404 with 29 steals in 98 games. Albies has a great feel for the bat and speed along with the ability to stick at short defensively. The only knock against him other than his size is a byproduct of his size- the fact he is never going to hit for a ton of power, but there is a chance he develops into Jose Altuve type power as he furthers his development. He's a must own in every format with minor leagues as he's a kid just outside the first tier of prospects only due to the fact he hasn't reached High A yet.
#2 - Kolby Allard(LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 18
Kolby Allard was in the mix for the #1 pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, but he dealt with a minor back injury this spring and dropped to the Braves with the 14th pick. He's got top of the rotation upside if he can stay healthy, though more as a #2 starter than an ace. Allard only pitched 6 innings after signing his contract, but was extremely impressive with 12 strikeouts during his short stint in the GCL. Due to his missing significant time this summer, the Braves are going to likely limit his innings in 2016, which will slow his expected ETA just a bit. Allard is good to own in any mid-size format or NL only league, as he is a guy with Tier 1 potential as soon as next year.
Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters
These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats like 12 and 14 team leagues.
#3 - Touki Toussaint(RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 19
In what could go down as one of the most one-sided trades of the past decade, the Braves acquired Touki Toussaint from Arizona in a pure salary dump. It surprised many in the baseball world considering Toussaint was the Dbacks top pick just one year prior under the previous front office, and it is acknowledged that he does have true ace potential. In the Dbacks defense while Toussaint does have ace potential, he is still extremely raw. He was very strong in the Midwest League(3.69 ERA in 39 IP) but struggled in the Sally League(5.73 ERA in 49 IP) after the trade. He's more of a one level per year type of prospect, and could very well repeat Low A at the start of 2016, but his pure stuff is just special. Toussaint is the definition of a lottery ticket prospect as he could be an ace or never see the big leagues, but I would own him in any mid-sized league.
#4 - Mallex Smith(CF)
Age on Opening Day: 22
Some saw Mallex Smith as a bit of a throw-in to the Justin Upton trade last December, but the Braves office went out to get a potential leadoff hitter in the mold of Michael Bourn. Smith played in 126 games between AA and AAA in his Braves debut, hitting an impressive .306/.373/.386 with 57 steals against only 13 caught stealing. His AA numbers were a little better(.830 OPS vs .706 OPS) than his AAA numbers, but he was solid in both stops. The only knock against him is the fact his power is almost non-existent, with just 13 homers in nearly 1,800 minor league plate appearances. Smith could be a major source of steals and hit for a good average, so he's a guy worth owning in mid-sized leagues as well as all NL-only leagues.
#5 - Austin Riley(3B)
Age on Opening Day: 19
The Braves surprised some with the selection of Austin Riley in the comp pick portion of the first round this year. Not because they selected Riley in that range, but rather because they intended to use him as a hitter instead of as a pitcher. Riley showed up to the Gulf Coast League and did his best to prove everyone wrong as he hit 7 homers in just 30 games, before moving up to the short season Appalachian League and hitting 5 more homers in 30 more games. Between the two levels he hit .304/.389/.544 with 12 homers in 60 games. Riley is a very promising power hitter who will likely start in the Sally League, but if he succeeds the Braves have shown they aren't afraid to challenge him. I would only take Riley in a deeper league right now because he is so far away, but I'm watching him closely and if he starts out well in full season ball then he is a must own in mid-sized leagues as well.
#6 - Tyrell Jenkins(RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 23
Tyrell Jenkins came over to the Braves as the other piece in the deal where they received Shelby Miller. Jenkins is a former hot prospect who has dealt with shoulder injuries, but bounced back at the end of the 2014 season. He spent the year between AA and AAA where he had some ups and downs as expected while he built his inning count up after pitching a combined 133 innings the two previous seasons. Jenkins went 8-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 25 starts, but had a higher WHIP(1.36) and a weaker than expected strikeout per nine inning rate(5.7). The Braves are hoping that Jenkins takes the next step this season and develops into a potential #3 starter. At this point he is more of a deeper league guy, but he's a guy worth tracking at the start of the season since he could make his debut this year.
#7 - Max Fried(LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 22
Max Fried was the centerpiece to the Justin Upton deal last year despite barely pitching in 2014 and the team knowing he would be out for all of 2015 as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery. However Fried was the #7 pick in the 2012 draft and a Top 50 prospect before getting hurt. He's going to need some time to bounce back and shake off two years worth of rust, but Fried has #2-3 starter potential. He's a guy to only own in deeper leagues right now, but I'm anxiously awaiting reports from spring training on him before upgrading his stock.
Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays
These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
#8 - Mike Soroka(RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 18
The Braves spent their second pick in the first round of the 2015 Draft on Canadian hurler Mike Soroka, the top pitcher for the Canadian Junior National Team. Pitching for Team Canada gave Soroka plenty of international experience, including some against big leaguers in exhibition games. While he struggled a bit with the big leaguers, Soroka didn't struggle in 34 IP between the GCL and Appalachian League. He's an advanced pitcher with big stuff and projects as a #2-3 starter in the big leagues with an excellent mound presence. He's the kind of guy that could really contribute to a fantasy team across the board as well. That's why Soroka is a guy for deeper leagues now, but a strong start to the 2016 season will make him a much hotter commodity.
#9 - Lucas Sims(RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
Just one year ago Lucas Sims was the top prospect in the system, but a year of trades to restock the system and a down year dropped Sims nearly out of the Top 10. Sims was awful in High A, posting a 5.18 ERA in 9 starts and missing time after being hurt in a bus accident, However after returning from the injury and being promoted to AA, he was better. In AA Sims had a 3.21 ERA in 9 starts and struck out 56 in 47.2 innings. He's likely to return to AA at the start of 2016, but if he can pitch as well as he closed out 2015 he will move up the prospect lists quickly. Right now he's more of a guy for deeper or NL only leagues.
#10 - Braxton Davidson(OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
The Braves top pick in the 2014 Draft, Braxton Davidson got off to a slow start to his Low A debut this year for Rome by hitting just .214 with 2 HR and 3 RBI in the month of April. He managed to break out of his slump in May, hitting for more power and getting on base at a higher percentage, leading to a final line of .242/.381/.374 with 10 homers in 124 games. The power wasn't all on display this year, but he definitely has it, as well as some extremely impressive on base skills as evidence by his 84 walks. Davidson projects as a middle of the order type of hitter with 20 homers a season and a very high on base percentage, making him more valuable in 5X5 leagues. Right now he is just worth owning in deeper 5X5 leagues, but if the power starts to appear in games his stock will rise quick.