Hey guys, I teased this idea back in July about ranking the Rome arms for 2016-17. Part of why I didn’t then was, I was hoping to see 2017 1st round pick, Kyle Wright. Who at the time was still in the GCL, he’s since skipped Rome on his way to the Florida State League (A+). Even without Wright, the Braves have had a ridiculous amount of quality arms come through Rome the last two seasons. Including an incredible (6) 1st round draft picks. I thought it would be fun to rank them all.
1st an observation, the Braves seem to target a specific type of pitcher, as in high floor. Despite the high number of top end picks this isn’t a roster filled with the Tyler Kolek’s or Michael Kopech’s of the world. The boom or bust types that light up radar guns, that you hope can develop a starters arsenal. Instead they opt for pitchers with low to mid 90’s heaters and who score high on pitchability. The lone exception to that would be Touki Toussaint who the DBacks drafted 16th overall in the 2014 draft and flipped to the Braves a year later in a Bronson Arroyo salary dump. But even Touki who could probably throw 100, was sitting in the 93-94 range with Rome last Summer. And he was showing much more pitchability then at the time of the trade. FWIW I think it’s a smart approach to developing arms, particularly when you factor in pitchers attrition rates. A well located 92-93 MPH heater can be very effective, there’s just a smaller margin of error.
For reference on what a #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 starting pitcher upside means, click this John Sickles piece: https://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/8/7/3226335/defining-1-2-3-4-5-starters
Tier #1) #2 starter upside, relatively low risk (Every pitcher is high risk, just some are higher than others)
RHP) Mike Soroka– Age 20, 6’5″ 230 lbs, bats and throws right. Soroka was drafted 28th overall in the 2015 draft out of High School in Calgary CN.
Soroka is well put together, he has an easy delivery and arm action. His fastball sits 93-94 (95) downhill, he’s tough on righties, a lot of fastballs on the thumbs. He commands the pitch very well to both sides of the plate. He also throws an 11-5 curve (77-81) that he frequently starts at or behind right handers, freezing them and dropping the pitch at or below the knees on the inside corner. Both the fastball and curve are plus pitches. His change is average, he also cuts some of his fastballs. He generates a lot of early in the count weak contact from righties. He may need something else to help neutralize lefties. He has a reputation as a very cerebral pitcher.
LHP) Joey Wentz- Age 19, 6’5″ 220 lbs, bats and throws left. Wentz was drafted 40th overall in the 2016 draft out of High School in the Kansas City Metro.
Wentz is long and fairly well put together, he has a buttery smooth delivery and easy release. The fastball sits 91-92 downhill and he can reach back for more. Fastball command will be a strength. The 11-5 curve is a put away pitch. He has a lot of confidence in the pitch, he can bury it or drop it in at the knees. He also features a solid change up.
Both Soroka and Wentz pound the zone with 3 pitches, they both have the potential for plus fastball command, a put away secondary pitch and a solid 3rd pitch. And both should hold up to the riggers of pitching 220 innings a season.
Tier #2 Similar upside to tier #1 but higher risk
LHP) Kolby Allard- Age 20, 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats and throws left. Allard was drafted 14th overall in the 2015 draft out of High School in Southern California.
Allard has a lot of similarities to Wentz, easy delivery and arm action. Sitting 91-92 (93) with sinking action. He too has a plus curve (11-6) and solid change. He too has strong fastball command and the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes.
I’m sure some will think having Wentz ahead of Allard is crazy. He’s a terrific young arm, who just dominated in double-A as a teenager. But I have some concerns over durability. Is he a player you could see throwing 850+ innings over a 4 year period? I’m not certain, these arms are all very close but doubts over durability caused me to hedge a little bit with Allard.
RHP) Ian Anderson- Age 19, 6’3″ 170 lbs, bats and throws right. Anderson was drafted 3rd overall in the 2016 draft out of High School in the Albany, NY Metro.
Anderson is long and lean, there is projection left. He’s athletic with a fast arm and repeats his delivery well. The fastball sits 92-93 (94) downhill, some control over command but he does pound the glove in stretches. The 12/6 curve flashed plus and the change looked solid and flashed some sink.
Anderson is in the 2nd tier for different reasons than Allard, while the stuff is there. He’s not at the level of the 3 pitchers above when it comes to pitch ability yet. A cold weather arm,it could take him a couple of years to fully realize his potential. But his future is as bright as any on this list
If Anderson is your 4th best pitcher, that’s pretty insane
Tier #3 Potential late inning pen arms but a big ceiling if they do stick in the rotation.
RHP) Touki Toussaint- Age 21, 6’3″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. Toussaint was drafted 16th overall in the 2014 draft out of High School in South Florida.
Toussaint is long and fairly well put together, there is projection left. He can still pack on another 15-20 pounds of muscle. A good athlete with a fast arm. In my look, late last year, he was sitting 91-93 early. But 2nd time through he was 93-95 and he touched 97 once in his 5th and final inning. Control over command though. Even in the lower bands no one was really squaring the fastball. The curve is electric, it’s a 70 grade bender. The change was still pretty far behind the other pitches and he wasn’t consistently finishing the pitch. Leaving quite a few at the belt. The range of outcomes is still pretty vast with Toussaint. If he were to pitch in relief the fastball could sit as high as 97-100 with the plus, plus curve. He could be a lights out closer. Too make it as a starter the change will have to continue to progress and tighten the fastball command. Perhaps a #2 or #3 but I would be tempted to go the closer route.
RHP) Bryse Wilson- Age 19, listed 6’1″ 225 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Hillsborough, NC (Triangle, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area).
Wilson’s pretty filled out, I guessed on the field 6’2″ 220 lbs, he stands on the 3rd base side of the rubber, has a 3/4 release point and a fast arm. The delivery has some effort to it but he repeats it well. There is some fall off toward 1st base. The fastball sits 92-93 (94) with some sinking action, control over command. He throws a mid 80’s slider that flashed some very good bite. His change was hard and straight and very much a work in progress. Like Touki, because of his fast arm, Wilson’s fastball could play way up in short outings (95-98). If he were to stick in the rotation, further refinement with the change is necessary. As well as advancements in fastball command. My money is on pen arm due to effort level and lack of 3rd pitch
Tier #4 Inning eating #3 or #4 or 7th/8th inning pen arm
LHP) Max Fried- Age 23, 6’5″ 215 lbs, bats and throws left. Fried was drafted 7th overall in the 2012 draft by the Padres.
Fried is long and lean, there is projection left. I always say when it comes to Fried, there’s a slight caveat. I saw him early in his return from TJ, it’s possible I didn’t see him at full strength. The fastball was 92-93 early but 90-91 by the 5th. The fastball looked pretty straight but it was coming downhill. The fastball command, particularly away to righties was spotty. He pounds the inner 3rd to RHH a lot. His best secondary pitch is the 11/5 curve, it had nice shape and depth. The change was fairly straight but works as a nice change of pace.
I didn’t get a good enough look at Patrick Weigal, Ricardo Sanchez or Jeremy Walker.
The Rome Braves have been must see TV the last two seasons. Bursting at the seams with talent. The volume of high end pitching talent seems to reach historic levels.
Next up at Notes, I’ll crown one team the most talented team in the Sally for 2017. The team previews begin November 1st with a look at the 2018 Rome Braves. Matt Powers (Talking Chop, Minor League Ball) will be stopping by to tell us who to expect from the GCL Braves. Looking forward to getting those going again. Cheers