Previewing the 2018 Rome Braves

Kevin Maitan

Hey guys, welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series.  I’m excited to get these going again.  This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off season project and I learn a ton from them.

The Rome Braves are up 1st.  The last two Rome squads were loaded and the Braves still have a ton of talent at the rookie ball level.  So the 2018 Rome squad should be strong as well.

A big shoutout to Jeff Morris (on Twitter @JeffMorrisAB) for supplying all of the photos for this piece.  Give him a follow on Twitter, he does terrific work.

For those not familiar with the series:  I (with some help) speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018.  Normally I would do most of the heavy lifting. Pouring over the rookie league rosters and creating a list.  Finding a dozen or so scouting reports to link to.   And reaching out to a team prospector that I trust, to see if I missed anyone.  But new for this year, I’ll be interviewing said prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball.  Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for.   Also in some of the previews there will be a 2nd prospector  (one who sees a ton of one Sally team) talking about some potential returnees that caught his eye in 2017.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people.  Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.

Big thanks to Matt Powers (Talking Chop, Minor League Ball and on Twitter @MattPowers31).  Also to Wayne Cavadi (Minor League Ball, Fanrag Sports and on Twitter @UofDWayne) for agreeing to participate on the Rome preview.   Wayne and I go back a few years, he’s a good friend and a very talented prospect writer/interviewer.   And one of the hardest working guys I know.   I’ve enjoyed getting to know Matt a little bit over the last year or so.  He does terrific work, both with the Braves and across MILB for John Sickles.  It’s an honor to have them both contributing on this piece.  They’re good guys and they know the Braves system as well as anybody.

At Notes From The Sally, it’s all about live look scouting, once I see the 2018 Rome Braves you can expect to see write ups on many of the players listed.  The same goes for Danville when they get rolling in June.

 

I want to begin by highlighting some of the notable players who played in Danville in 2017.  These are all players who should see significant time with Rome in 2018.  Matt Powers GCL interview will follow.  And then Wayne Cavadi will tell us about some potential returnees to watch for.

 

Kevin Maitan

SS- Kevin Maitan–  Turns 18 in February, 6’1″ 225 lbs, bats both and throws right.  He was a high profile signee out of Venezuela in 2016.

I got to see him for 2 games this Summer in the Appy.   The positives are: very good bat speed, quick to the ball and the ball explodes off of his barrel.  The potential is there for plus hit and plus game power.  Very high ceiling.

What to watch for:  he’s already filled out as a 17 yr old.  He’ll have to maintain the body to not outgrow the left side of the diamond.  Much more here:  My 1st look at Kevin Maitan, SS, Danville Braves

 

 

Drew Waters

CF- Drew Waters– Turns 19 in December, 6’3″ 175 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Waters was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Woodstock, GA (Atlanta Metro).

I got to see Waters play once back in late July with Danville.   What stood out in a good way?  Quick wrists, fast bat and plus speed.  Much more here:   My 1st look at Drew Waters, CF, Danville

 

 

Kyle Muller

LHP) Kyle Muller– Age 20, 6’6″ 220 lbs, bats right and throws left.  He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Dallas, TX.

Part of the big 3 with Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz, all were drafted by the Braves in the 1st two rounds of the 2016 draft.  Muller’s on a different time table than the others though, as he’s just now getting to full season.  He’s long and pretty well put together, he has a solid 3 pitch mix led by a low 90’s heater that is coming down hill.  A lot more here:  Scouting Kyle Muller, LHP, Danville Braves

 

 

William Contreras

C- William Contreras– Turns 20 in December, listed 6′ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Venezuela in 2015.

I saw Contreras play twice in the Appy. He’s an athletic young backstop, with a quick bat and developing power.

I never got to write him up but I did contribute to a piece that Wayne Cavadi put together this Summer.  You can read about him here.  Good young ball player.  https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/8/1/16063506/atlanta-braves-prospect-discussion-william-contreras

 

 

Jazzeel De La Cruz

RHP) Jasseel De La Cruz– Age 20, listed 6’1″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

Steve Givarz of Baseball Prospectus, has a live look scouting report on De La Cruz here:  http://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_pit.php?reportid=544

He sounds intriguing

 

 

Isranel Wilson

RF-CF) Isranel Wilson- Turns 20 in March, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was signed out of Saint Martin in 2014.

Wilson has been on my radar ever since he put up a .257 ISO in the GCL in 2015 and has made all 3 of my Rome Braves previews. He’s toolsy but raw, I hope it all comes together for him.

Garrett Spain (Talking Chop, and on Twitter @BravesMILB) talked about Wilson as part of a piece titled “11 Atlanta Braves Prospects You May Not Know, But Definitely Should”  You can read that here:  https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/8/3/16048560/top-prospects-jesse-biddle-encarnacion-yoeli-lopez-braves-corbin-clouse-scouting-report-isranel

 

RHP) Huascar Ynoa– Age 19, listed 6’3″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 by the Minnesota Twins.  He was traded to Atlanta this Summer in the Jaime Garcia Trade.

I missed Ynoa in the Appy but Tommy Poe (Walk off Walk and on Twitter @WalkOFFWalk1) has a nice detailed write up on the young right hander:  Scouting Report – Huascar Ynoa

 

LHP) Bruce Zimmermann- Turns 23 in February, listed 6’2″ 215 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of Mount Olive College.

I missed Zimm this season in the Appy but Matt Powers wrote about him after the draft for Talking Chop:  https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/6/13/15794532/atlanta-braves-select-bruce-zimmermann-in-fifth-round

 

Speaking of Matt Powers, here he is talking about the 2017 GCL Braves

 

Question #1, How was the overall talent level of the GCL Braves, compared to the other teams that you saw?

Matt-  “The GCL Braves I saw were arguably the most prospect laden team in the league. And that’s after Kevin Maitan, Drew Waters, and Jasseel De La Cruz were promoted. They could potentially go down as an all time prospect talent team as they had legitimate prospects on the bench every day while trying to rotate everyone through. Of course they didn’t fully translate in the standings(even though they nearly won their division) because they went so young and so inexperienced that it sometimes hurt performance- that’s a side effect of having multiple 17 year old Latin American FAs who skip the DSL, and some talented prep draft choices is that they’re going to have some initial ups and downs. It’s a special enough team that I’d say it’s right behind the 90s Richmond squads featuring Chipper, Klesko, Javy Lopez, and others in terms of pure prospect potential.”

 

Question #2, Are there a few International Signees that you’re particularly excited about?

Matt-  “There’s a lot of international talent. Anyone who follows me knows how excited I am about Kevin Maitan. I didn’t see him play (My trip missed him by about 36 hours), but I saw everyone else.”

 

 

Yunior Sererino

2B, Yunior Severino- Age 18, listed 6’1″ 180 lbs, Bats both and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016.

“Severino looks special. He’s got power in his bat at age 17 as a middle infielder. He’s got a very solid approach and will take his share of walks. He strikes out a lot, but I’m not worried because of his age and aggressive assignment.”

 

 

Abrahan Gutierrez

C, Abrahan Gutierrez-  Just turned 18, listed 6’2″ 214 lbs, bats and throws right.

“Gutierrez looks like a big time prospect in the future. Maybe not a star and not the next Mike Piazza, but he’s going to hit and develop some power and he’s got all of the tools to be an excellent defensive catcher- especially that arm as you can tell by all of his caught stealing attempts against him.”

 

 

Jean Carlos Encarnacion

3B) Jean Carlos Encarnacion- Turns 20 in January, listed 6’3″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.

“Encarnacion was a surprise but man does he seem intriguing. He’s got a great body to add some strength and could be a plus power guy- though the power is already real. He hits the ball hard and makes consistent contact. He’s got some athleticism and can steal some bags as well. Defensively he’s got a big arm and I saw one real wow play out of him as well as some other plays that could make him a quality defender at third. He played a little first as well but that was mostly to get guys some extra work in.”

 

 

Jefrey Ramos

OF) Jefrey Ramos-  Turns 19 in February, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

“Ramos was another surprise. He’s probably only a left fielder and doesn’t have a ton of projection remaining but what he does have is power. He hits the ball and he hits it hard. I saw some homers and a whole bunch of hard contact out of him. He’s definitely worth tracking.”

 

 

Livan Soto

SS) Livan Soto- Age 17, listed 6′ 160 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Venezuela in 2016.

“Soto isn’t as advanced as the others with the bat, but I believe in him. He’s just got this simple, smooth game and I expect that the bat comes on as he starts to make some adjustments.”

 

 

Yefri Del Rosario

RHP) Yefri Del Rosario-  Age 18, listed 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominica Republic in 2016.

“Del Rosario was a favorite. The ball just explodes out of his hand and has some special movement. Off the field he’s very vocal and yells out to his teammates. Great guy to have around the young team. He’s got to work on his command and the delivery isn’t ideal- neither is him being undersized but he’s got huge stuff.”

 

 

Juan Contreras

RHP) Juan Contreras-  Age 18, listed 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016.

“Contreras also has real upside with his frame and stuff; but his command is even less than what Del Rosario is. He’s going to need to move slowly but the upside is immense.”

 

Question #3 In addition to Kyle Wright: pitchers Freddy Tarnok, Troy Bacon and Bruce Zimmermann were all selected in the top 5 rounds of the most recent draft.  Did you get a chance to see any of them?  Ceiling? Floor?  Are there any impact starters or relievers in the group?

Matt-  “I didn’t see Zimmermann at all as he was in the Appy League.   I liked what I saw from Kyle Wright.  It was the first game action from him in a month at the time, so he had some rust to shake off, but it was clear why he was drafted so high. He’s got ace upside since he’s still projectable, and he also comes with a very high floor(#4 starter floor).”

 

Freddy Tarnok

RHP) Freddy Tarnok- Turns 19 in November, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  Tarnok was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Riverview, FL (Tampa Metro)

“I missed all but 1-2 pitches from Tarnok but was told good things by those in attendance. His command issues didn’t seem bad at all numbers wise, but the Braves were understandably cautious with a kid who basically hasn’t pitched much at all and controlled his innings. He’s got elite upside, but he’s very raw as expected, so the floor is very low.”

Tarnok has terrific upside, you can read much more about the stuff here (also from Matt Powers)  https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/6/13/15793904/scouting-atlanta-braves-third-rounder-freddy-tarnok

 

 

Troy Bacon

RHP) Troy Bacon- Age 21, listed 6′ 165 lbs, bats and throws right.  Bacon was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of Community College in Gainesville, FL

“I didn’t see the best of Bacon. He wasn’t anywhere close to his peak velocity. I did see some flashes but that’s all (it wasn’t a long look to be fair). It’s hard to really label him off that short stint.”

Worth noting that Bacon was used strictly in relief post draft.  That could have just been to keep the innings down or that might be where they see him going forward.

“I already mentioned a pair of high upside/low floor types in Yefri Del Rosario and Juan Contreras, but they deserve another mention.”

“I didn’t see Jasseel De La Cruz, Gabriel Noguera, or Guillermo Zuniga, so out of the others I didn’t see anyone else as an impact guy. I saw Troy Conyers and Miguel Jerez dominate with off speed and breaking stuff against over matched hitters, but I question how well the stuff will work in the upper minors.”

 

Question #4  Any draftees from outside the top 5 rounds that stood out?

Matt-  “I know Drew Lugbauer stood out, but I didn’t see him in the GCL. Same story for a lot of the guys as college guys who skipped over the GCL to the Appy League. So really only Troy Conyers stood out, and he’s more of a middle reliever.”

 

Question #5  Sleepers?   Anyone not mentioned above who stood out in a good way? Maybe a player or two who excelled at one particular tool? Plus raw power or speed? 

Matt-  “I talked about Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Jefrey Ramos, and also Juan Contreras already and they’re all sleepers.”

 

Yoeli Lopez

OF) Yoeli Lopez– Age 20, listed 5’10” 167 lbs, bats and throws right.  He signed as an amateur free agent out of High School in Miami, FL.

“Lopez is the biggest sleeper, he has a potentially plus plus arm.  I found that out when he made a throw from right field to third that got an audible reaction from the Yankees dugout. He’s also got plus to plus plus speed and as a hitter he’s capable of hard contact. His problem is that he’s raw and that making contact is an issue at times. He’s going to be fun to watch, and if he hits then he could be something significant(big if).”

 

I want to thank Matt Powers for a terrific write up.  It’ll be interesting to see how many of these young players make the jump to full season.

 

Now here’s Wayne Cavadi, talking about a few potential returnees, that caught his eye in 2017:

 

1B)  Austin Bush– Turns 22 in December, listed 6’6″ 220 lbs, bates left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2017 draft out of UC/Santa Barbara.

“I’m excited for Bush to come back. The monster lefty — he’s 6-foot-6, 220 and looks every bit the part — had monster batting practice power. It just didn’t translate on the field in his first stint in Rome and he was sent back to Danville. The Braves took him in the 15th round out of Santa Barbara last year and his ISO came back to norms in Danville. He looks like he’ll be a big strikeout, big home run guy, but they also said that about Austin Riley. Bobby Moore, do your thing.”

 

RHP) Alan Rangel- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 170 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Mexico in 2014.

“The Braves have certainly been aggressive with their young guns, and Rangel pitched well enough to start the year off in Florida next season. We know Bryse Wilson, Joey Wentz, Ian Anderson and Jeremy Walker are moving on, so where they land will ultimately dictate who stays back in Rome.”

“Just 20-years-old and still newer to rotation life, he could start the season back in Rome for a few starts.”

“Rangel is a control artist, walking just 1.8-per-nine, and that number actually went up after he “struggled” a bit in August. He doesn’t light up the radar gun, but both his fastball and curveball have great movement. Rangel shows confidence beyond his years with the curve, and he’ll throw it — most often successfully — anywhere in the count.”

Click the link for a more detailed piece, also written by Wayne.

Good looking bender in the video

https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/8/6/16103592/thoughts-on-braves-pitching-prospects-alan-rangel-and-thomas-burrows

 

 

LHP) Tucker Davidson–  Turns 22 in March, listed 6’2″ 215 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2016 draft out of Midland College (Midland, TX)

“Davidson may have been the most pleasant surprise on the bump in Rome last season. He was dominant as a reliever and had no troubles moving to the rotation. The only reason I think he could be back is that he didn’t make a start until June. The Braves may want to see him stretch out a bit more before deciding how aggressive they will be with him.”

 

“He has a simple delivery, which helps make it easy to repeat. The southpaw isn’t a big presence on the mound, nor is he armed with elite stuff. But he has a confidence and isn’t afraid to attack the zone. His fastball can hit the mid-90s and his slider is fun to watch when it’s on. There’s a lot to like about Davidson.”

Wayne has more on Davidson at the link.

https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/8/24/16196174/atlanta-braves-lhp-tucker-davidson-flying-under-the-radar-in-rome

 

 

OF) Leudys Beaz- Age 21, 6’1″ 200 lbs, bats both, throws right.

“Ah, the curious adventure of Baez continues. He was originally signed by the Washington Nationals in 2012, but they cut ties before he ever played a game. The Braves swooped in and signed him before the 2015. Since then it’s be a roller coaster. He’s been in Rome for parts of each of the last three seasons.”

“That said, I still haven’t seen enough of Baez to be convinced. He began 2017 in Danville and was up in Rome by June. He has the tools, they’re undeniable, but he has a serious aggressive approach with a lot of swing-and-miss. He was making a lot more contact towards the end of the year. He should move quickly, but he will likely be back.”

 

2B-SS)  Derian Cruz- Age 19, 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats both and throws right.   He was a high profile signee out of the Dominican Repblic in 2015.

“I saw Cruz a few times in his brief stint in Rome and he was simply overwhelmed. Not every 18-year-old will excel in the Sally (although the ones on Rome rosters the past three years have handled it very well), and Cruz just didn’t look comfortable at any point.”

“He struggled making plays in the field, and he struggled at the plate. They experimented with some second base when he headed back to Danville. I’m hoping what I saw wasn’t an accurate depiction of who he is as a player. He isn’t far removed from being a big-time prospect in the Braves season. I hope he can show it in 2018.”

 

“Players I didn’t see that made it up for a little bit.”

SS) Riley Delgado 2017 ninth rounder out of Middle Tennessee State.”

LF) Bradley Keller-  “I saw him once and he ripped a pretty double, but I was there with family not evaluating. Have been told his raw power is exciting.”

RHP) Ryan Schlosser- “bullpen arm.”

 

Thanks to Wayne Cavadi for the excellent piece.  I was unfamiliar with the 1st 3 names and all sound interesting.  I have a soft spot for both Baez and Cruz the tools are loud.  Hoping they both figure it out.

 

Around the diamond

Catcher

William Contreras (C)

Hagen Owenby (C-1B)  Age 22, 12th rd pick in 2017

Abrahan Gutierrez (C) Probably starts in Danville, its unusual for teenage catchers to skip levels.  But maybe he makes an appearance in the 2nd half.

Other Catchers we could see

Carlos Martinez, Alan Crowley,

 

Corner Infield

Austin Bush (1B)

Griffin Benson (1B) Age 20, 23rd rd pick in 2016

Jean Carlos Encarnacion (3B)

Luis Mejia (3B, SS, 2B) Good glove man, we’ll see how far the hit and power come

 

Middle Infield

Kevin Maitan (SS)

Derian Cruz (2B, SS)

Yunior Severino (2B)

Riley Delgado (SS, 2B)

A logjam in the middle infield if Severino comes straight to Rome.  Delgado could skip but how do they get Cruz everyday at bats?

Livan Soto (SS) Seems like a candidate for Danville

Nicholas Shumpert (2B, 3B, SS) Age 20, 28th rd pick in 2016, could be in for a repeat at Danville.

 

Other Middle Infield Options:

Marcus Mooney (2B, SS) Kevin Josephina (2B)

 

Outfield

Drew Waters (CF)

Leudys Baez  (LF, RF)

Isranel Wilson (RF)

Jefrey Ramos (LF)

Bradley Keller (LF)

Justin Smith (LF-RF) Turns 22 In Feb, 20th rd pick in 2017

Raysheandall Michel (CF-RF) (Also known as Shean Michel) Benjamin Chase (Tomahawk Take and on Twitter @biggentleben) ranked him at #65 in the Braves system back in June.  Sounds like a glove and speed 1st player, we’ll see how far the bat comes. Much more here:  http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/atlanta-braves-2016-2017-top-100-prospects-61-70-101816

Safe to assume Waters is the everyday CF.  A logjam at the corners, we could see all 4 of them.  Michel may make it as an extra OF unless one of the corner guys can spell Waters in CF.

Other OF options

Anthony Concepcion (1B, LF)

 

Starting Pitching

Potential returnees

RHP) Adam Rangel

LHP) Tucker Davidson

LHP) Ryan Lawlor- Turns 24 in January, nice K rate, you can read about him here, courtesy of Benjamin Chase:   Atlanta Braves Midseason Top 50 Prospects: 50-41

 

These next 5 could be up from Danville

LHP) Kyle Muller

RHP) Huascar Ynoa

LHP) Bruce Zimmermann

RHP) Jasseel De La Cruz

RHP) Odalvi Javier

 

And up from the GCL

RHP) Freddy Tarnok-

RHP) Troy Bacon-

LHP) Troy Conyers

LHP) Miguel Jerez

RHP’s) Juan Contreras and Yefri Del Rosario- Both sound intriguing but both could probably use another year in short season.

The rotation probably stacks up like this:

Tarnok

Muller

Ynoa

De La Cruz

Rangel

Davidson

 

That’s pretty solid and there’s a lot of depth too.  It’s probably not at the level of the 2017 staff in regards to talent/polish. And 2016 was in another stratosphere.  But it should be in the upper echelon in the 2018 Sally and the Braves develop arms as well as any team.

There’s tons of position player talent too. This is going to be a very good squad. Too soon to know where it’ll rank.  But conservatively I think it’ll be in the top 5.

Thanks again to Matt, Wayne and Jeff,  I hope you guys got as much out of this as I did.

Next up will be a Hickory Crawdads (Rangers) preview.  Chris Welsh of Inthisleague.com (on Twitter @IsItTheWelsh) will be here talking about the AZL Rangers.  For those not familiar with Chris, he is Arizona based and sees a ton of Extended, AZL,  Instructs and Fall Lg.  He runs one of my favorite Prospect Podcasts titled “Prospect 1”   It’s all part of the In This League Fantasy Sports Podcast Network.  And he’s a great Twitter and Instagram follow, with tons of Prospect Video.  Give him follow.

Also Mr Crawdad himself, Mark Parker (On Twitter @CrawdadsBeat) will be stopping by to tell us about some potential returnees that caught his eye in 2017.  It’ll be great to collaborate with Mark.

 

Notes From The Sally annual fund raiser

Notes from the Sally runs entirely on donations from loyal readers.  There’s no advertising, bogging the site down or paywalls.  All you get is content.  2018 will be my 4th season of live scouting the Sally.  I’ve received a ton of great feedback along the way and the site is growing like a weed.  I’m very appreciative and grateful I get to do this.

Looking back on the 2017 season I saw approximately 50 Sally games at 6 different ball parks.  And counting the Appy, the totals grew to 60+ games at 10 different parks.

I learned through trial and error to be aggressive, I can’t sit back and wait for teams to come to my area.  I learned that I couldn’t effectively scout the Sally through only 3 stadiums (Asheville, Greenville and Hickory).  I needed to cast a wider net,  I made 3 trips to Columbia in 2017, 2 to Kannapolis and 1 to Greensboro.  But those runs allowed me to see: Sixto Sanchez, Jake Burger, Braxton Garrett, Adam Haseley, Adonis Medina, Sandro Fabian, Gavin Sheets  and about a dozen other players that otherwise, I would have missed.   If a pitcher is throwing tomorrow 150 miles away that might be my only chance to see him.

I’m not complaining believe me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to properly scout the league.  But it does require more resources (gas, food on the road and hotels).  I never wanted to do this half way and miss 30% of the kids coming through.

If you enjoy the content, please consider contributing to ease the out of pocket cost.  My goal is to raise $800 for the 2018 season.   Any and all donations will be appreciated. Even if it’s just a dollar or two, it all helps the cause.

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