Now that we begin with the National League, I’m not only taking the time to review the UTR-OAS from the last two years, but blowing the dust from archives. Longtime followers of UTR have been with us since the 2009 season when Marc and I provided content for another website (MLBDepthCharts.com). It’s interesting to see how we have grown from those early days, and refined our processes…and let’s face it, some head-scratching over some of those selections. It wasn’t all that bad, as we have made some solid predictions.
I won’t mention those early picks from the Braves, as it took me until 2013 to zero in on a UTR that panned out. Shae Simmons was projected to be a part of a solid bullpen for the 2017 Braves, but he was shipped to Seattle in the the Mallex Smith deal. 2014 brought promise with Yean Carlos Gil, Dilmer Mejia, Alec Grosser, and Wes Parsons. Carlos Gil repeated as a UTR-OAS in 2015, but ended up playing in the Independent Leagues in 2016. Grosser (2015 “One to Watch”) is no longer with the Braves. He was the PTBNL in a trade with the LA Dodgers back in June. I got excited that Parsons would be a solid UTR while on his way to Atlanta. He made the list despite some struggles at HiA Carolina, but it was reported that he pitched through an injury. This lingered on into 2015 and 2016 season, so hopefully the undrafted 24-year -old will return healthy in 2017.
2015 was the year of misses on starting pitchers, except for Patrick Weigel. Yean Carlos Gil was tagged as a “Legit UTR”, Brandon Barker, and Trevor Belicek (2016 “One to Watch”) were traded to Baltimore for Brian Matusz. Max Povse was sent to Seattle last month. Are they really misses…if other teams showed interest by including them in trade deals? Caleb Beech was just off my radar to start the season and should see Double-A in 2017. Most of the “Legit UTR” in 2015 were from the bullpen. Bradley Roney, Andy Otero, and Kyle Kinman pulled a three-of-a-kind. Roney had a s0-s0 season making his way to Triple-A Gwinnett, Kinman was rolling until an injury end his season in June with AA-Mississippi and Otero was my Breakout pick back in 2010, yet was released by the Braves when Spring Training broke for the 2016 season.
I didn’t have much of an opportunity to miss on International prospects for the Braves. Only two surfaced over the last two season within my system, Javier Sanchez (14′ & 15″) and Angel Gaviria; and both are no longer with the organization.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Mike Soroka – 21 / .101
18 years old – (LoA Rome)
1st round – 2015
First let me say that the list you are about to see is basically the LoA Rome Braves starting rotation. A pitching staff that steered the Braves to the South Atlantic League title. Soroka racked up the most innings with 143 and posted a 3.02 ERA. He only allowed 3 home runs along with a 3.91 K/BB ratio. His mid-90’s fastball has late sink that kept the ball in the yard, generating a 49 percent ground ball rate.
The first round picks on this list could all be tagged “Solid Stash” or “Instant Roster Adds”, but Weigel will be the only one to earn it going into 2017. Hopefully our readers will begin to see Weigel’s name appearing on prospect lists heading into 2017; and will remember that he was listed here last season (#2 TPS). I also had him “Just Off the Scope” prior to the 2016 season, so it’s very safe to say….”that the signal is currently quite strong for 2017.” He could’ve gotten lost in the shuffle with the Rome staff, but ended-up being their ace, finishing 10-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 9.4 K9 rate.
19 years old – (LoA Rome / Appy Danville / LoA Rome)
1st round – 2015
Allard could be the future anchor that will bring the Braves staff back to prominence. He had a stress injury (back) that only allowed him to make three starts in his pro debut season. The lefty came on like gangbusters in 2016 with a short “refresh” session in the Appy League (3-0, 1.32 ERA, 33 K, 5 BB, 0.841 WHIP) and LoA Rome. Allard displays front-of-the-rotation stuff with a 90-94 mph fastball with excellent movement, a curveball that ranks as the best within the Braves system, and a potential plus-changeup. He’ll still be a teenager (19) throughout the 2017 season and should start at HiA.
Toussaint comes to the Braves by way of Arizona after Atlanta absorbed $10 million of Bronson Arroyo‘s salary. The right-hander should be an important component during the rebuilding of the rotation. During his time with the Diamondbacks, Toussaint seemed to be pushed without proper development. His stuff is deemed “electric” and the Braves are working to refine and improve his mechanics. He made progress in 2016, but his overall stats may indicate a return back to LoA Rome to start 2017. Now that the farm is restocked, there no need to rush Toussaint.
Sanchez is another piece of the restocking of the system and he could be the biggest under the radar addition. Sanchez was acquired in a trade (with the Los Angeles Angels in 2015) for former UTR hitter Kyle Kubitza. Although he repeated LoA Rome in 2016, his periphials wouldn’t lead one to expect much from the 19-year-old. He has plenty of stuff, but needs to cut down on the inconsistencies and harness his offerings. I will tread light on Sanchez, as he reminds me of Rafael Montero (NYMets), a UTR that I was very high on back in 2012. Watch Sanchez closely. There’s a lot of room for improvement, especially within this system.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Josh Graham – 8 / .075