Braves’ top prospects for 2017: Midseason composite rankings

Steve Mitchell

The Atlanta Braves front office, guided by general manager John Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart, landed in a proverbial sweet spot in 2016. Though Coppolella outlined the organization’s scouting mantra in simplistic terms at the Winter Meetings in December — “There isn’t a process beyond good players.” — clubs still need avenues to acquire such talent. All routes led to an enviable destination.

For a franchise no longer trading off premier talent like Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton and Shelby Miller, the Braves arguably improved on an already excellent farm system while simultaneously upgrading the major-league roster. Phase Two of this rebuild received consensus rave reviews for a reason.

The trick required planning, and past shortcomings. Owning the No. 3 overall pick and three first selections overall, the Braves cashed in on another high-quality draft class of prep pitchers in 2016. With financial flexibility and big-market spenders kept out of the international waters, the team cashed in on, possibly, a generational class of free-agent talent headlined by shortstop Kevin Maitan. The flipping of low-cost veterans to contenders for intriguing young talent keeps yielding results with no end in sight. Then the team landed two top-25 talents from the 2017 draft class (per Baseball America) in Vanderbilt star right-hander Kyle Wright and Georgia high-school outfielder Drew Waters.

The final result? A cache of players Hart and Coppolella pined for when they first took over in November 2014.

In the second 2017 edition of our Braves prospect composite rankings, familiar names top the list but newcomers dot the landscape. First, a quick refresher.

FOX Sports South pieced together a composite top-20 ranking for the Braves’ 2017 top prospects to help balance out various projections. Using available prospect lists and projections from eight different sources, players were awarded points for top-20 rankings. (For example, a No. 1 ranking earned a player 20 points, a No. 2 ranking earned 19 points, No. 3 earned 18 points, etc. The highest-possible score was 160.) The eight lists are as follows:

ESPN (Keith Law) | Baseball AmericaFanGraphs (KATOH+) | MLB Pipeline | CBS (Grant McAuley) | Talking ChopMinor League Ball | Fansided

Before breaking down any remaining particulars, here’s the 2017 midseason edition of our top-20 Braves prospect composite rankings:

Tier 1: Scored double-digit points on every prospect list

Tier 2: Scored double-digit points on at least one prospect list

Tier 3: Scored points on at least two prospect lists

Fastest Risers Since Preseason Composite

Cristian Pache: +10 (Previous: 19)

Ronald Acuna: +7 (Previous: 8)

Luiz Gohara: +4 (Previous: 11)

Composite Newcomers

Kyle Wright: 2017 first-round pick, No. 5 overall

Bryse Wilson: 2016 fourth-round pick, No. 109 overall

Drew Waters: 2017 second-round pick, No. 41 overall

Lucas Sims: 2012 first-round pick, No. 21 overall

Composite Graduates

Dansby Swanson: Former No. 1 overall prospect

Sean Newcomb: Former No. 4 overall prospect

Kyle Wright joins headliners Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka in minor-league baseball’s deepest stable of pitching

Put away the maps and flashlights. The search is over.

The Atlanta Braves have compiled the deepest stockpile of minor-league arm talent in baseball. The organization’s midseason composite top-20 claims seven pitchers who were former first-round selections — and that’s with former top picks Mike Foltynewicz (Astros), Sean Newcomb (Angels) and Aaron Blair (Diamondbacks) already surpassing rookie status and pitching in some capacity for the parent club. As ESPN’s Keith Law wrote before the season when tabbing Atlanta as baseball’s best farm system: “It’s as if someone told Coppolella the axiom that you can never have too much pitching, and he just said, ‘Hold my beer.’”

Kyle Wright, the No. 5 overall pick in this summer’s draft, joins the upper echelon after spending his junior season at Vanderbilt as the potential No. 1 pick. Instead — as the Twins, Reds, Padres and Rays went in other directions — the Braves landed a polished right-hander who could rocket up through the system, inking him to a lucrative $7 million signing bonus.

“He’s a horse, about 215 pounds. Features four pitches: plus fastball, plus curveball, plus slider, has feel for a changeup plus good command,” Braves scouting director Brian Bridges said on draft night. ” … It’s farfetched when you get the guy on the board who shouldn’t be on the board. He’s advanced for his age. He brings everything we’d want to see.”

Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka, the franchise’s top draft picks in 2015, still lead the pack after dominating for Double-A Mississippi as 19-year-olds.

Ronald Acuna’s skyrocketing stock is impossible to ignore

Hindsight offers absurdities: Acuna, the electric, five-tool outfielder, did not make the top-20 cut in last season’s composite rankings. The likes of Zach Bird and Manny Banuelos, two players the Braves let go for nothing over the past year, ranked ahead of him. There was a quick course correction. Within the first month of the campaign, his manager in Rome Braves manager, Randy Ingle, was heaping praise on him with subtle comparisons to Andruw Jones.

The baseball world has since taken notice of Ronald Acuna.

A 19-year-old outfielder who signed for just $100,000 in 2014 is now a consensus top-20 prospect in baseball after climbing his way up through the Braves system this season. After becoming an Australian League All-Star this past winter and turning heads in spring training, Acuna joined Soroka in the Futures Game before joining Ozzie Albies at Triple-A Gwinnett. In three minor-league stops this season, he’s hitting .310/.366/.510 with 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Acuna ranked as Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect in six of the eight available rankings … and finished second in the remaining two behind Albies.

It appears the Braves have a future outfield star on their hands.