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Atlanta Braves Top-10 Fantasy Prospects

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The Braves have one of the best systems in the game, with a great deal of depth on the mound. And, more importantly, several of their best prospects should contribute this year.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Our Basis

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 that must be rehashed 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 off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. 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.

The Tiers

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players 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 that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

#1 - Dansby Swanson (SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 23

ETA: 2017

The days of Swanson being best-known as the centerpiece of a coup of a trade for the Braves should be a thing of the past, as the 22-year-old reached the Majors in short order and more than held his own. He slashed .302/.361/.442 with 3 HR and 3 SB in 129 AB, holding onto his rookie status by one at-bat, and played solid defense at short. And that is the sort of production that most expect of Swanson, thanks to a plus hit tool, plus base-running, and solid average power. If you extrapolate his time in the Majors to 650 PA, you’d end up with 13 HR and 13 SB - and the stolen bases feel a bit light. He’s the favorite for the Rookie of the Year at this point, and a potential All-Star for years to come.

#2 - Ozzie Albies (2B/SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2017

Albies spent the entirety of the 2016 as a 19-year-old, splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A. If that doesn’t sound impressive on its own, keep in mind that the average ages for these levels are 23 to 24, and 26 to 27, respectively - and Albies more than held his own. He opened the season at Double-A Mississippi, earning a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett on April 30. He struggled for the first time in his professional career there, slashing .248/.307/.351 with 2 HR and 9 SB in 247 PA, and was sent back down to Mississippi on June 30 (where he’d spend the rest of the season). Albies dominated Double-A, though, batting .321/.391/.467 with 4 HR and 21 SB. The Braves were very aggressive with his promotions, as he skipped High-A entirely, so it is no surprise that he struggled - and it isn’t a reason to doubt his abilities, either. Albies has a plus hit tool and double-plus speed, and just enough power to keep pitchers honest.

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.

#3 - Ronald Acuna (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2019

Acuna is the type of prospect that we’ve been cautious about in our rankings thus far - the super athletic, five tool talent that may well be three or four years away. In this case, though, the tools are too great to ignore, as the 19-year-old pairs his five average or better tools with the sort of advanced approach that belies his age and experience. Acuna hit .311/.387/.432 at Single-A, with 4 HR and 14 SB in just 171 PA (he missed time with a thumb injury), playing the entire season at 18. The risk, aside from his age, is that his hit tool is probably the weakest, projecting as average. If it actualizes, he could contribute in every category.

#4 - Kolby Allard (LHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2019

Allard was one of the youngest players in the Single-A South Atlantic League this past season, and he pitched to the following line: 60.1 IP, 54 H, 20 BB, 62 K, 3.73 ERA. He didn’t pitch until June due to back surgery (which was said to be a relatively minor procedure), but he showed no ill effects at Rookie Ball or Single-A. The southpaw boasts a low-90s sinking fastball, a potentially double-plus curve ball, and a progressing change-up, to go along with average command (and slightly better control) and strong deception in his delivery. There will be questions about his durability due to the aforementioned injury and his size (6’1”, 180 pounds), yet there is no question about his ability to pick up strikeouts and grounders at above-average rates. Allard may fall a bit short of top of the rotation potential - but he isn’t too far off.

#5 - Mike Soroka (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2019

Soroka was born nine days before Allard, and taken fourteen picks later - and it’s easy to envision them pitching on back-to-back days for the Braves in a few years. He works with a low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball, and a developing change-up, and he has the sort of build (6’4”, 200-plus pounds) that portends durability. He spent all of 2016 at Single-A Rome, where he put up a 3.02 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and a dynamite 52.7% groundball rate in 143 IP. When inevitably compared to Allard, Soroka’s ceiling is a bit lower, while his floor is higher. Though, to be fair, the floors of most teenage pitching prospects are veritable wastelands.

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.

#6 - Ian Anderson (RHP)

Age on Opening Day: 18

ETA: 2020

The Braves selected Anderson 3rd overall in the 2016 draft, in what many viewed as a cost-saving measure (due in part to who they selected next - who just so happens to be two names down on this list). That’s at least a bit unfair to Anderson, however, as he was a consensus top-15 talent in the draft, on the strength of his mid-90s fastball, wipeout curveball, and projectable frame (6’3”, 175 pounds). He’s somewhat raw, as a prep pitcher from New York, but he held his own at the Rookie Level (39.2 IP, 33 H, 12 BB, 36 K, 2.04 ERA), and has drawn praise for his ability to attack hitters on the edges of the strike zone (which suggests more refinement than we may expect).

#7 - Sean Newcomb (LHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 23

ETA: 2017

Newcomb is an exceedingly difficult pitcher to rank, both in real world and fantasy prospect lists. He has absolutely filthy stuff, including a fastball that sits at 95 MPH with movement and a curveball that reminds me of Corey Kluber, and he maintains that stuff deep into games (thanks to both his simple mechanics, and his 6’5, 240 pound frame). His change-up is solid, as well. However, Newcomb’s control is unlikely to ever be better than fringe-average, as evidenced by his career rate of 4.8 BB/9. That is largely mitigated by his ability to rack up whiffs (10.5 K/9 for his career, including 9.7 in 2016, limit contact (7.3 H/9 in 2016), and keep the ball on the ground (45.7% GB in 2016) - yet it remains a glaring flaw. He has so much that suggests a top of the rotation starter, but his control likely limits him to a mid-rotation role.

#8 - Joey Wentz (LHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2020

Wentz comes with a significant red flag, in that he dealt with a dead arm, and significantly decreased velocity in his senior year of high school. Having arm issues so young is never a good sign, and it merits at least a small adjustment to this snapshot of his stock. That being said, Wentz has flashed a 95 MPH fastball, a plus curveball, and a solid change-up, and he has a strong 6’5” frame to build upon. Without the arm issues, he may well have moved up three spots on this list; as it stands, there’s a good chance that we were far too tepid this time around, as he could be Newcomb with better control.

#9 - Touki Toussaint (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

Toussaint was acquired by the Braves in another pilfering from the Diamondbacks, and has a double-plus name. Thanks to his explosive low-90s fastball, elite hammer curveball, and rapidly improving change-up, Toussaint has excelled at limiting hard contact and picking up strikeouts. Like Newcomb, though, he struggles with control, and has walked just under 5 batters per 9 IP for his professional career. He showed improvements with repeating his delivery this year, and the next step is working in (or at least closer to) the strike zone with some consistency.

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.

#10 - Travis Demeritte (2B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2018

There are several players that could fit here - Max Fried, Austin Riley, Alex Jackson, and Kevin Maitan come to mind - which demonstrates the depth that this organization possesses. Demeritte, however, has the best blend of ceiling and proximity to the Majors of the bunch. The 22-year-old slashed .266/.361/.554 with 28 HR and 17 SB (4 CS) at High-A last season, demonstrating the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Demeritte has borderline-elite bat speed, above-average to plus power, and above-average speed, and profiles as a strong defender at both 2B and 3B (with some believing he could be passable at short, as well). The risk is clear, though, as he struck out in about a third of his plate appearances last year, and can be exploited by offspeed stuff. It’s a high-risk, high-reward profile, not unlike Ian Desmond.