Previewing the 2017 Rome Braves

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Hey guys, welcome to another round of the SAL team preview series.  Just Rome and West Virginia are left as we inch closer to opening day.  I hope you’ve gotten as much out of these as I have.  Today I’ll be talking about the Rome Braves as I continue alphabetically around the league. Rome is the single-A, full season affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.

Previously I’ve covered the:

Asheville Tourists (Rockies)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/01/previewing-the-2017-asheville-tourists/

Augusta Greenjackets (Giants)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/13/previewing-the-2017-augusta-greenjackets/

Charleston Riverdogs (Yankees)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/31/previewing-the-2017-charleston-riverdogs/

Columbia Fireflies (Mets)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/03/previewing-the-2017-columbia-fireflies/

Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/09/previewing-the-2017-delmarva-shorebirds/

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/23/previewing-the-2017-greensboro-grasshoppers/

Greenville Drive (Red Sox)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/31/previewing-the-2017-greenville-drive/

Hagerstown Suns (Nationals)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/07/previewing-the-2017-hagerstown-suns/

Hickory Crawdads (Rangers)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/13/previewing-the-2017-hickory-crawdads/

Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/27/previewing-the-2017-kannapolis-intimidators/

Lakewood Blueclaws (Phillies)-

Previewing the 2017 Lakewood Blueclaws

Lexington Legends (Royals)-   http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/03/13/previewing-the-2017-lexington-legends/

For those not familiar with the SAL team preview series, I scour the lower levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2017 and whenever possible I try to include  scouting report.  It’s a lengthy process but I enjoy it and I learn a ton.

For the purpose of this piece I studied the 2016 Rome Braves, Danville Braves and GCL Braves.

I want to give a big shout out to Jeff Morris (on Twitter @_Jeff_Morris) for supplying all of the photo’s for this piece.  My 1st time working with him but he does terrific work.

At Notes From the Sally its all about live look scouting.  I set a goal this year to see every team in the SAL at least twice in the 1st half (April 6th-June 18th).  Once I see the Rome Braves you can expect write ups on many of the players listed below.  Rome will be in my area for 17 games in the 1st half (beginning with 7 from April 20-26).   I plan to get at least a 1/2 dozen looks early to see as many of there pitchers as I can as they look loaded again.

I’ve got a fund drive going right now, I set a goal to raise $250 this year to counter the costs associated with live scouting a league this size (tons of road trips plus hotel stays when I go to Columbia, Greensboro and Kannapolis) I’ve attached links to my Patreon and to Pay Pal.  If you get anything out of this site please consider contributing to the cause. Thank you.

 

Lets meet the notables

RHP) Ian Anderson- Age 18, listed 6’3″ 170 lbs, bats and throws right.  Anderson was drafted 3rd overall in the 2016 draft out of high school in Clifton Park, NY (Albany, metro) (my neck of the woods, another reason to root for him).

One of my go to sites for draft coverage is “The Baseball Draft Report”.  Rob Ozga does a great job breaking it all down.  One of my favorite features is the team by team draft reviews.  From the Braves review here’ some of what he wrote of Anderson:

“A pre-season FAVORITE who has only gone on to bigger and better things in the interim, Ian Anderson can make a case for being the top prep righthander in this class. He’s one of the handful of young arms with the potential for three plus pitches — 88-94 fastball (95 peak), 77-80 breaking ball, and a 80-85 change — but what truly separates him from the pack is his ten years in the big league veteran command. Fantasy owners rightfully scared off by high school pitchers — so far from the big leagues with so much time to get hurt! — not named Groome and Pint would be wise to include Anderson in that big three on draft day. One scout friend of mine called Anderson a “more explosive Aaron Nola.” A little bit of upside (or a lot), a little bit of certainty (very little, but still more than most HS arms)…where do I sign up?”

““More explosive Aaron Nola” is exceedingly high praise, I’d say. Anderson has a legit claim to three future plus pitches (88-94 sinking FB, 96 peak; 75-80 CB, 80-85 CU) with plus command and plenty of projection left in his 6-3, 170 pound frame. I’m literally not sure what more you could want in a high school pitching prospect. Atlanta’s system is loaded with both high-end (albeit risky) talent and crazy depth, so offseason prospect rankings of the team’s farm will be some of the most interesting we’ve seen in years. There’s so much top-heavy talent that there’s really no wrong way to organize the team’s cream of the crop (or at least I hope not…); hopefully my kind of out there take that the two best prospects in the system right now are Anderson and Kolby Allard in some order (with mystery man Kevin Maitan on the same tier but too hard for me to place just yet) isn’t seen as too nuts. On second thought, who really cares if it is?”

For the rest of the Braves 2016 draft review and much more draft coverage click here:  https://baseballdraftreport.com/2016/11/14/2016-mlb-draft-reviews-atlanta-braves/

 

 

LHP) Joey Wentz- Age 19, listed 6’5″ 210 lbs, bats and throws left.  Wentz was drafted 40th overall in the 2016 draft out of high school in Prairie Village KS (Kansas City Metro).

“Prospect junkies” is another one of my favorite draft sites.  Burke Granger sees a lot of live games and posts his thoughts on many of the projected top picks.  Here’s some of what he wrote about Wentz:

“Fastball:  Wentz’ fastball sat 91-92 mph (touching 93) when I saw him and has reportedly been up to 96 this spring.  Coming from a downhill plane with arm side run, this has the makings of an above average pitch, and should be a solid foundation from which to build the remainder of his repertoire.”

“Curveball:  At 75-76 mph with good depth, Wentz can spin a curveball.  Featuring a 1-7 break, this is Wentz’ most advanced secondary offering.”

“Changeup:  At 79-82 mph, the changeup is more of a work in progress. Wentz will need to refine the consistency of his of this pitch to neutralize right-handed hitters.  When right, it shows fade, and I can see this developing into a potentially average pitch.”

“DELIVERY:  A good athlete, Wentz displays balance and control in his delivery that is unmatched from even the college pitchers I’ve seen this spring who are 6’5″ and taller.  Leveraging his height with a high 3/4 release point, Wentz has clean arm action and repeatability in the delivery.”

“FUTURE:  Wentz has been climbing up draft lists this spring, and having gotten one of the first looks at him of the year, I’m not surprised.  There’s some projection left in his frame and MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis recently stated on a podcast that Wentz has a chance to go in top 10-15 overall picks.  I view his ceiling every bit as high as Florida’s A.J. Puk, though he’s a higher risk to reach that potential.  That’s no knock on Wentz but rather a testament to what three years of elite college experience can do for your development.”

For more on Wentz and much more draft coverage click here:   https://prospectjunkies.com/2016/04/27/mlb-draft-scouting-report-joey-wentz/

 

 

 

LHP) Kyle Muller- Age 19, listed 6’6″ 225 lbs, bats right and throws left.  Muller was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Dallas, TX.

“MLB Pipeline” recently released there top 30 Braves prospects and said this of Muller.

“A tremendous athlete and two-way player during his high school career in Texas, Muller was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2016. He parlayed his strong senior season into being the 44th overall pick of the Braves, in the second round, and received an above pick-value bonus of $2.5 million to sign rather than head to the University of Texas to both pitch and hit.”

“As a pro, Muller’s future is undoubtedly on the mound, though he’s already shown an eagerness to swing the bat whenever he’s given the chance. Muller pitched sparingly during his debut, but he was effective even though his velocity was down a bit from the low-90s-to-95 mph spike he showed in high school. Muller uses his 6-foot-6 frame extremely well, throwing downhill and with sink. He also has good deception in his very repeatable delivery, so hitters do not square him up very often. His secondary stuff is inconsistent right now, but he does flash a plus breaking ball at times and has a good feel for a changeup with fade and tumble.”

“Given his size, stuff, feel for pitching and athleticism, not to mention that he’s focusing on pitching for the first time, Muller brings a lot of upside to the table. Watching him, Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz develop together could be a whole lot of fun.”

For the rest of the Braves top 30 prospects click here:  http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017/?list=atl

 

 

CF) Cristian Pache- Age 18, listed 6’2″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. Pache was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Eric Longenhagen of “Fangraphs” recently counted down his top 32 Braves prospects and is very high on Pache:

“Pache arguably has the highest ceiling in this system of any player not named Kevin Maitan. He’s a 70 runner with a 70 arm and burgeoning physicality that was on display when I saw him last fall. He could be plus in center with reps and I was most taken with his ability to recognize balls and strikes. He’s already showing impressive bat control for his age/size, though he has to cheat, mechanically, to do it. But as he continues to grow, he’s going to become stronger with the bat, and I think he has a chance to be a plus hitter. Any power that comes would be a bonus and, while I wouldn’t expect much more than 40 game power at peak, there’s a chance for it.”

“The risk here is obviously great, but if my projections pan out we’re looking at .270, an above-average ability to reach base and the speed to terrorize pitchers when he’s on, maybe 8-12 homers and great defense in center field. That’s a 4-WAR player and, even with a huge chunk backed out for risk, one of the better prospects in a loaded system.”

For the rest of Fangraphs top 32 Braves prospects click here:   http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-32-prospects-atlanta-braves/

 

SS) Derian Cruz- Age 18, listed 6’1′ 180 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Cruz was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Gondeee of “Chop County” counted down his top 30 Braves prospects recently and said this of Cruz:

“The Braves top international signing in 2015 had a successful pro debut state-side in 2016. He hit well for a month in the GCL, then scuffled a bit for a month after a promotion to Danville. His premium athleticism were on display at both stops, but like most young international players he has a lot of refinement to do. He swings at everything, and as a switch-hitter he has more work to do to refine his swing mechanics. Both speed and power showed up in his game, and his arm remains strong enough to stay at shortstop, though more work on his fielding is needed. He’s a long-term project for the Braves, so he’ll probably yo-yo up and down this prospect list for years to come. Still too far away to put an ETA on him.”

For more of Chop County’s top 30 Braves prospects click here:  http://www.gondeee.com/2017/01/16/braves-2017-top-30-prospects/

Of all the players listed in this section, Cruz seems most likely to repeat at short season.

 

 

C, RF) Alex Jackson- Age 21, listed 6’2″ 215 lbs, bats and throws right.  Jackson was drafted 6th overall by the Mariners in the 2014 draft out of high school in San Diego, CA.  He hasn’t found immediate success as a pro but he obviously has the pedigree.  This seems like a nice buy low for the Braves.   A catcher in high school, Jackson was strictly an corner OF with the Mariners.  But there’s talk of moving him back behind the dish.  We’ll see if he comes to Rome.

 

 

Around the Diamond

Catcher

Alex Jackson

 

Brett Cumberland- Age 21, listed 5’11” 205, bats both and throws right.  Cumberland was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of CAL Univ (Berkeley).

Eric Cole of “Talking Chop” posted a write up of Cumberland during the draft, you can find that here:  http://www.talkingchop.com/2016/6/10/11899914/2016-mlb-draft-braves-select-brett-cumberland-76th-overall

 

Lucas Herbert– Age 20, listed 6′ 200 lbs, bats and throws right.  Herbert was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft out of high school in San Clemente, CA.

He struggled offensively in his 1st look at full season but got high grades for his receiving.  I made a mental note early in the season last year because Rome was facing Hickory starter Jonathan Hernandez who was consistently 93-95 touching 96 and Herbert was getting very good swings on the fastballs.  A lot of loud contact,  he did struggle with soft away though.  The glove gives him a high floor will see if there’s some advancements with the bat.

 

Other options at Catcher:  Carlos Martinez, Alan Crowley,

 

Middle Infield

2B)  Matt Gonzalez- Age 23, listed 5’11” 193 lbs, bats and throws right.  Gonzalez was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 draft out of Georgia Tech Univ.

 

SS) Derian Cruz-

 

2B-SS) Kevin Josephina- Age 20, listed 6′ 170 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Josephina was signed out of Curacao in 2013.

 

If Cruz makes the jump this year I suspect it will be he and Gonzalez the starters with Josephina spelling both.  Mooney and McLemore could both see significant time and SS) Alejandro Salazar could be back.

 

We could also see 2B-SS) Luis Ovando, age 18, listed 6’1″ 160 lbs, bats and throws right.  Ovando was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.  He only got into 11 games of stateside rookie ball so he’s probably headed for short season.

 

Other Middle Infield Options:  Marcus Mooney (2B, SS, 3B), Darien McLemore (2B), Jeremy Fernandez (2B, SS)

 

Corner Infield

1B-3B) Juan Yepez- Age 19, listed 6’1″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right.  Yepez was signed out of Venezuela in 2014.   I’m not sure if the Braves have closed the book on Yepez starting at 3B.  He figures to be the starter at one of the corners but he may get significant run on both.

Drew Bonner of “Prospects 1500” counted down his top 50 Braves prospects and had this to say of Yepez:

“After a strong debut in 2015, Yepez had a lost season in 2016 due to injury. He has good contact skills and the ability to develop significant power. Yepez is a relatively strong defensive first baseman and will look to jump start his development again in 2017.”

For the rest of “Prospects 1500” top 50 Braves prospects click here:  http://prospects1500.com/top-50-lists/braves-top-50-fantasy-prospects/

 

1B) Ramon Osuna- Age 21, listed 6’2″ 245 lbs, bats left and throws right.  Osuna was drafted in the 16th round of the 2014 draft out of Walters State Community College (Morristown, TN).

 

3B, SS) Alex Aquino- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 165 lbs, Bats and throws right. Aquino was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.   Aquino got a lot of starts at 3rd in 2016 previously he was 2B,SS.   It’s clearly an organizational need at least until Maitan is ready assuming he’s playing 3B and not SS.

 

The middle infield is crowded but the corners are not.

 

Other Corner Infield Options Ryan O’Malley (3B), Alex Lee (1B)

 

Outfield

CF) Cristian Pache-

 

CF-RF) Isranel Wilson- Age 19, listed 6’3″ 185, bats left and throws right.  Wilson was on my radar last year because of the .257 ISO he put up in the GCL in 2015.  He’s toolsy but super raw.

 

LF-RF) Anthony Concepcion- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right.  Concepcion was signed out of Venezuela in 2014.

 

LF) Leudys Baez- Age 20, listed 6′ 160 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Baez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.  Baez is super tooled up, puts on a show in BP but is raw.  The approach and pitch recognition skills need work.  Spends a lot of time out on his front foot.

 

 

Other OF options:  Bradley Keller (LF, RF), Matt Hearn (LF, CF, RF), Tyler Neslony (RF, LF), Jackson Pokorney (LF),

 

Starting Pitching

RHP) Ian Anderson

 

LHP) Joey Wentz

 

LHP) Kyle Muller

 

LHP) Ricardo Sanchez- Age 19, listed 5’11” 170 lbs, bats and throws left.  Sanchez was signed by the Angels out of Venezuela in 2013.  He was traded to the Braves in Jan 2015 for 3B prospect Kyle Kubiza and right handed relief pitcher Nate Hyatt.  Both of them appear to be out of baseball and 2014 was statistically speaking there best season.  So this was the definition of selling high albeit for a lottery ticket.

My friend Wayne Cavadi of Minor League Ball got to watch Sanchez pitch last August and wrote about him here:   http://www.minorleagueball.com/2016/8/6/12393452/first-impressions-of-the-rome-braves-ricardo-sanchez

 

LHP) Drew Harrington- Age on opening day 22, listed 6’2″ 225 lbs, bats right and throws left.  Harrington was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of the Univ of Louisville.

 

RHP) Bryse Wilson- Age 19, listed 6’1″ 225 lbs, bats and throws right.  Wilson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Hillsborough, NC (Raleigh, Durham area).

Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America watched Wilson throw a no hitter a couple of months before the draft and wrote about him here (no subscription required):  http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/game-report-bryse-wilson-throws-no-hitter/#ZBQ7ojmgdpWftD4J.97

 

Other SP who could see some time:  Jaret Hellinger, Jhon Martinez, Luis Mora, Luis Gamez

 

Conclusion

I enjoyed my deep dive into the Braves system.  This is going to be a very talented squad again, they’ll be very deep at SP and Middle Infield. And Pache will be near the top of my players to watch this season.

I hope you got as much out of this as I did.  Up next will be my final team preview The West Virginia Power (Pirates).