McAuley: Midseason Top 30 Braves Prospects (11-20)

My updated list of the Top 30 Atlanta Braves Prospects features several new faces. As always, prospect hot sheets are a fluid situation and stock rises and falls for a variety of reasons. Performance, injuries and attrition shapes and reshapes the rankings throughout the year. Ultimately, these lists are an indicator of where these players stand at this particular time. Factoring the numbers along with individual tools and skill sets as well as scouting reports helps determine how projectable they are, but the human element is very much in play here. That includes the evaluators and list makers who judge the players based on the aforementioned variety of criteria in order to stack them in some order. Thanks to a talent pool that seems to get deeper by the year, the Atlanta farm system makes this no easy task.

Let’s continue the list in Part 2 with the next 10 prospects on the list.

11.) Drew Waters | OF | Age: 18 | Previous Rank (NR)

Another young player who debuts on this list, Drew Waters hails from nearby Woodstock, GA, and was Atlanta’s second round pick (41st overall) in the 2017 Draft. The club believes this switch-hitting, prep outfielder can grow into some power as he matures and are already in love with his makeup and competitiveness. Scouting director Brian Bridges raved about Waters’ ability to play “with an edge” and referred to him as a throwback player. Atlanta went after the local product from Etowah High School after working him out twice at SunTrust Park, where the dimensions of the new ballpark could be quite friendly to Waters from the left side of the plate. Waters debuted in the Gulf Coast League and earned a quick promotion to Danville after posting a 1.020 OPS across 14 games in the GCL.

12.) Touki Toussaint | RHP | Age: 21 | Previous Rank: 10

The hard-throwing righty with a dynamic curveball has run into some trouble in the Florida State League. Despite that, the pure stuff and continued effort to refine it makes Toussaint a fascinating prospect. After coming over in a trade that was designed to essentially purchase his services from Arizona in 2015, Toussaint has shown flashes of his potential each season. His work with Rome in 2016 demonstrated he can make necessary in-season adjustments. While his 2017 may appear to be nothing more than a rough first half on the surface (2-9, 5.46 ERA), he is averaging a career-best 10 K/9 across 16 starts. Toussaint is considered a raw talent when compared to some of the other arms in the system, but Atlanta would like to smooth those rough edges as he climbs in the ranks. A bounce back effort down the stretch similar to his 2016 exploits would go a long way to further his development.

13.) Joey Wentz | LHP | Age: 19 | Previous Rank: 11

One of a trio of prep arms taken by Atlanta to begin the 2016 draft, Joey Wentz has put together a fine season with Rome in his first full year of pro ball. He’s shown both polish and poise, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and averaging 10 K/9 through 17 starting assignments in the South Atlantic League. Wentz has honed his command and cut his walk rate in half from his debut season, all while allowing just one home run in 82.1 IP to begin 2017. If he continues those trends, Atlanta may have yet another lefty climbing to the top of the prospect rankings.

14.) Alex Jackson | C | Age: 21 | Previous Rank: 16

The Braves took a couple of chances in trading for Alex Jackson, a former No. 6 overall pick by the Mariners in 2014. After the slugger seemed to stall out as an outfielder in the Seattle system, Atlanta moved him back to his high school position of catcher. He has flourished at the plate thus far, posting a .284/.353/.530 line and leading the system with 13 home runs in just 56 games. Jackson has also been gaining comfort behind the plate, where his emergence as a power-hitting catcher only enhances his value.

15.) Travis Demeritte | INF | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: 13

A power-hitting middle infielder who can also play third base, Travis Demeritte is an intriguing prospect. Atlanta gleaned the former first round pick in a mid-season trade with the Rangers in 2016. After a solid start, he has been mired in a midseason slump this year. Despite those struggles, Demeritte still possesses surprising power for his size and could pair that with versatility to turn himself into a weapon in the future. Strikeouts continue to be the major area of concern offensively. It’s worth noting that Trustmark Park does not have a reputation as a hitter’s haven either. Demeritte is brimming with potential and has shown the willingness to play wherever he has been asked.

16.) Cristian Pache | OF | Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 19

One of Atlanta’s major international signings from 2015, Cristian Pache has a blend of skills and athleticism with room to grow. He has been a solid contributor in his first taste of full season ball with Rome and has drawn high praise from Braves president of baseball operations John Hart. Pache is already a fine outfielder – evidenced by 12 assists and six double plays through 70 games this season – and has demonstrated the ability to make consistent contact. Since making his stateside debut in 2016, Pache is batting .294 in just over 500 at-bats. Four of the five tools are already on display. While Pache’s swing has yet to provide much in the power department, that may come with time.

17.) Dustin Peterson | OF | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: 14

A broken bone in his left hand sidelined Dustin Peterson in spring training, just as he was getting a chance to show what he could do in big league camp. That setback aside, Peterson has improved immensely since being acquired from San Diego in the winter of 2014. He settled in as a regular in the outfield and collected 52 extra-base hits in Mississippi last season. Peterson’s power has yet to fully return in Gwinnett, but as he regains strength and timing that is an issue that is likely to correct itself. He may never provide the wow factor, but Peterson has the ability to be a steady contributor and the work ethic to go along with it.

18.) Rio Ruiz | 3B | Age: 23 | Previous Rank: 17

No hitting prospect in the Braves organization has transformed as much in two years as Rio Ruiz. His hard work has resulted in quality play which has led him to the big leagues in each of the past two seasons. He saw a brief trial run after Freddie Freeman was placed on the disabled list this season, but what outshined by fellow rookie Johan Camargo. Atlanta sent Ruiz back to Gwinnett so that he can continue to get regular at-bats. Ruiz continues to flash power that could eventually mature into 20-homer potential. His play at third base has improved as well. While he is still susceptible to southpaws, Ruiz showed marked improvement in that category at Triple-A this season.

19.) Bryse Wilson | RHP | Age: 19 | Previous Rank: 26

While other prep pitchers may have stolen the headlines toward the very top of the draft in 2016, the Braves knew they added another talented arm when they took Bryse Wilson in fourth round. The buzz from team officials has been there since Atlanta selected him. Wilson has rewarded that confidence by becoming one of the best arms in the system thus far in 2017, posting a 2.54 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning through 17 starts with Rome. Wilson’s most impressive performance came on July 8, when he fired a complete game shut-out at West Virginia on just 105 pitches. A big, projectable right-hander and a tremendous athlete, the Braves may have an under the radar stud in Wilson.

20.) Lucas Sims | RHP | Age: 23 | Previous Rank: 24

One of the few holdovers remaining prior toAtlanta’s aggressive overhaul of the minor league system, Lucas Sims has seen his fair share of ups and downs. He’s turned his big strikeout stuff into positive results in his second trip to Gwinnett, though he still has a clunker now and again. Sims led the organization with 104 strikeouts in the first half and earned Triple-A All-Star honors as well. On the flip side, he has allowed 18 home runs across 17 starts thus far. With an electric fastball and a plus-breaking pitch, he remains one of the best arms in the system, though his long term role remains up in the air.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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