Previewing the 2016 Rome Braves

Kolby Allard courtesy of outsidepitchmlb.com

Continuing with the SAL team previews here’s my look at the Rome Braves.

The Rome Braves share there nickname with the parent club the Atlanta Braves and when putting this preview together I scoured the Danville and GCL rosters.  I then spoke to Braves prospect guru Garret about how the Braves handle promotions in the low minors and general league assignments.

Question #1)  In regards to high school draftees and International signees do they typically hit both levels of stateside rookie ball or do they sometimes skip Danville and head straight for Rome?

Garrett:  “Typically high school and young international free agents will play both levels of rookie ball. Older international free agents will skip up to whatever level they are ready for, but the Braves are patient with young players and if anything usually play it a little too slow with prospects.”

Question #2) Do college draftees ever skip Rome after leaving Danville?

Garrett:  “I can’t remember any major college prospects that have skipped over Rome. With most better college prospects the Braves like to have them end the first pro season with Rome and then may skip them over the High A team if they are ready for AA.”

You can find Garrett on Twitter @BravesMILB.  He also writes for “SB Nations” “Talking Chop”.  He’s very knowledgeable on the talent laden Braves farm system and an excellent resource that I would reach out to again.

The official rosters wont be available until early April so this is me speculating.  Notes from the Sally is a scouting site and once I see the Rome Braves (on the preliminary schedule for 4/16, 5/24, 8/22, 8/30) you can expect write ups on many of these players.

The Notables

LHP) Kolby Allard

courtesy of mlb.com

Kolby Allard- Age 18, listed 6’1 175 lbs, bats and throws left.  Allard was drafted 14th overall in the 2015 draft out of high school in San Clemente, Ca (halfway between LA and San Diego).  A power lefty Allard was considered the top prep arm in the draft and would have likely gone higher than 14th but a stress fracture in his back during the Spring likely scared a few teams away.  When healthy he features two dominant pitches in a mid 90’s fastball and a power 1-6 curve.  With just 6 innings of pro ball and back surgery in the off season it’s no slam dunk he makes it to Rome this year.

 

RHP)  Touki Toussaint

courtesy of milb.com

Touki Toussaint- Age 19, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. Toussaint was drafted 16th overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2014 draft out of high school in Coral Springs Fl (Fort Lauderdale area). Toussaint was born in Haiti and somebody correct me if I’m wrong please, but I believe no one of Haitian decent has made it to the bigs yet.  So we have another reason to root for him.  He’s got electric stuff.  The fastball sits 92-94 it touches 95 with a heavy sink and it runs in on right handers.  He mixes in a nasty fall off the table curve ball when he gets on top of the pitch, and a change that flashes above average with nice fade. The problem is he gets out of sync with his delivery and loses his release point.  A lot of stuff to dream on here, we just have to hope the Braves can fix him.  I think there’s a good chance he’s back in Rome to start the year.

 

3B) Austin Riley

courtesy of scout.com

Austin Riley- Age on opening day, 19, listed 6’2″ 230 lbs, bats and throws right.  Riley was drafted 41st overall in the 2015 draft out of high school in Southaven, Ms (Memphis, Tn area). A strong young man Riley has plus raw power and some feel to hit.  He was a two way player in high school and has plenty of arm strength for 3rd base.

 

RHP) Mike Soroka

courtesy of the calgaryherald.com

Mike Soroka- Age 18, listed 6’4″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. Soroka  was drafted 28th overall in the 2015 draft from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Soroka wasn’t a high profile prep player and the Braves took him a lot earlier than the draft experts had him going. He’s not a player I know a lot about but prospect guru David Lee (writes for the Augusta Chronicle and Baseball Prospectus) said the Braves did very well with this pick. Here’s a snippet from his very detailed scouting report. Click here for the full article http://chronicle.augusta.com/content/blog-post/david-lee/2016-02-26/braves-top-30-no-12-mike-soroka

“Soroka is one of the most projectable pitchers in the Braves system stocked full of talented arms. He has the frame to add strength that could help bump up the velocity, and it’s already low-90s with hard sink and run. His changeup is currently ahead of his breaking ball and could develop as high as plus, but the breaker has the framework to be a knockout pitch itself. There’s a lot of work ahead for Soroka and it’s going to take time, especially if they try to tinker with a delivery that closes him off and affects his arm slot. But there’s a lot to like here, and these grades could jump quickly if he develops as expected. The Braves did very well to get Soroka at 28th overall.”

 

CF) Ronald Acuna

courtesy of flickr.com

Ronald Acuna- Age 18, listed 6′ 180 lbs, bats and throws right. Acuna was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014.  The Braves challenged Acuna sending him directly to the states to start his career and he performed very well as a 17 year old in the GCL actually earning a promotion to Danville.  One of the more exciting youngsters in the 2016 SAL.  He can run, hit, has developing power and projects to stay in center field.  I’m looking forward to seeing him.

 

Around the Diamond

 

Catcher

2nd round pick Lucas Herbert was Koby Allard’s catcher in high school he’s known for being a good receiver and also his leadership qualities.  He can handle the bat and has some potential for power. Also in the mix are Trey Keegan, Jonathan Morales, Alejandro Flores, Carlos Martinez and Collin Yelich.

 

Middle Infield

Luke Dykstra likely starts at 2nd base

There’s some chance Luis Valenzuela comes back.  He came over from KC and finished the year as the Rome SS.  21st round pick Kurt Hoekstra got the lion share of starts at shortstop in Danville after the draft so he’ll likely be a factor, Yeudi Grullon played both 2B and short in the APPY.   Alejandro Salazar is also a possibility as is Angel Perez.

 

 

Corner Infield

In addition to Austin Riley at 3rd base there’s late round picks Robert Nesovic who also played 1st base and Jake Lanning who also plays 2nd base.

The starting 1st Baseman will likely be young Venezuelan slugger Juan Yepez, converted catcher Carlos Castro and undrafted free agent Jeff Campbell.

 

Outfield

In Addition to Ronald Acuna who’s likely the starting center fielder, Leudys Baez will probably be back in left.  He’s got a fast bat with an uber aggressive approach.  12th rounder Justin Ellison mostly played left field in rookie ball but has seen time in center and right. Ray-Patrick Didder moved from shortstop to center field in Danville last year, he also played some right. Corner outfielders Kelvin Estevez and Jose Morel.

The wild card here is (RF-CF) Isranel Wilson who put up an ISO of .254 as a 17 year old in the GCL.  He’s probably ticketed for short season but we could get a 2nd half look.

 

Starting Pitching

In addition to Allard, Toussaint and Soroka, some of the other starting pitchers who could see time with Rome:  Ricardo Sanchez could be back, 4th round pick Josh Graham, 5th round pick Ryan Clark, 8th rounder Ryan Lawlor, Patrick Weigel, Matt Withrow, Jhon Martinez and Luis Gamez.

If we see a rotation of Allard, Toussaint, Soroka, Sanchez and Graham. That would be insanely good for the low-A level.

The Braves are a fun system to explore and there’s a lot of talent in their low minors.

Rome looks to be in the upper echelon in regards to talent in the 2016 SAL as are Hagerstown, Hickory, and Asheville.

Next on Notes from the Sally is a look at the 2016 West Virginia Power as I close out the Sal team preview series.

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