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Farm Tracker: Youthful Struggles and Rising Stars in Braves World

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Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez has plenty of top-end talent on the way.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Friday evening featured a prospect-laden matchup between the Asheville Tourists (Rockies) and Rome Braves (Braves) of the Low-A South Atlantic League. This was my second look at Rome and its enigmatic young starter, Touki Toussaint. Selected by the Diamondbacks with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Toussaint came to Atlanta's organization last summer as part of a notorious salary dump in which the Braves also agreed to absorb Bronson Arroyo's contract. Despite uneven results as a professional, Toussaint ranked #75 on our Fake Teams Consensus Top 100 Fantasy Prospects List. At his best, he projects as a frontline starter with fastball and curveball that grade as double-plus pitches. Alas, on this night he most definitely was not at his best.

Facing an Asheville team that lit him up five days earlier (1.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K), Toussaint began the game by showing some encouraging signs. He got ahead in the count with his fastball, and his dynamite curveball was narrowly missing the corners.

But a rocket double into leftfield followed by a triple to deep rightcenter put the Tourists ahead 1-0 and set the evening's tone. Toussaint's fastball got too much of the plate, and Asheville hitters made hard contact; it was the loudest and most consistent hard contact I've seen a pitcher surrender thus far in 2016. Asheville CF Mylz Jones led off the 3rd inning with a sharp double to left, and shortstop Brendan Rodgers, last summer's 3rd overall pick and our #10 overall prospect, followed with a majestic blast off the leftfield scoreboard, his 5th HR of the season. Toussaint then unraveled in the 4th: a leadoff BB, wild pitch, sharp single to right, another sharp single, an E1 on a simple bunt and throw to first, and then another rocket of a two-run double off the bat of Rodgers. 7-0, Asheville. Toussaint's final line (5 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) was all-too-familiar. He gave up 6 extra-base hits in all, and by game's end his ERA stood at a ghastly 12.66.

I confess I'm at a loss to explain Toussaint's results or to project him as a prospect. He has electric stuff and by all accounts is an amiable kid. Therein lay part of the story: this is his 2nd season in Low-A, and he's still only 19 years old. I am a very big proponent of cutting Low-A teenagers a great deal of slack. At some point, however, one wonders if the negative results might begin to erode Toussaint's youthful enthusiasm and confidence.

Speaking of youth, the game also featured several teenaged position prospects of note. Brendan Rodgers, of course, had a spectacular game at the plate. He also flashed a big-time glove and throwing arm on a plate in the hole, which is always nice to see because he does project to remain at shortstop, something that only enhances his enormous fantasy value.

This also was my second look at Rome 3B Austin Riley, our 87th-ranked prospect, who entered the game among the SAL's leaders in both XBH and Ks. On this night I saw only two of the latter.

The unheralded prospect who continues to make noise, however, is Rome OF Ronald Acuna. On this night Acuna, 18, finished 2-for-5 with a RBI and his 6th steal, raising his batting average to .300. Rome's play-by-play announcer could not stop raving about him. Acuna has "tremendous raw power" and looks like the "next superstar prospect in the system." If you play in a dynasty league and have not yet targeted Acuna, you should do so.

What to Watch Early This Week:

Tonight (Monday) at 6:35 ET Daniel Norris will make another rehab start for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers). Fantasy owners should not forget about Norris, former #1 prospect in the Toronto organization and the key piece in last summer's David Price trade. With both Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene struggling, Norris could slot back into the Detroit rotation before long and would be worth using as a match-up play.

On Tuesday at 1:05 ET Tyler Glasnow will take the mound for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pirates). Behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano--both of whom have had their own struggles--the Pittsburgh rotation has been predictably suspect. Pirates fans eagerly await the arrival of Glasnow and teammate Jameson Taillon, a pair of elite pitching prospects who, if they pitch to their pedigrees, will be Top 75 or even Top 50 fantasy SP options as soon as they get to the Majors.

On Tuesday evening at 7:35 and again on Wednesday morning at 11:05 ET, minor-league baseball fans can catch 19-year-old slugger Bobby Bradley and the 14-3 Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) take on the Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox) of the High-A Carolina League. Last season Bradley led the Midwest League with 27 HR. I picked the Hillcats to win the Carolina League in 2016, so I'm eager to see them while they're playing so well.