Braves’ top prospects for 2016: Composite rankings

Shortstop Dansby Swanson is the highest-rated Braves prospect since Julio Teheran in 2011.

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John Coppolella’s war on up-to-date prospect rankings continues.

Even with an early-offseason renovation — the Andrelton Simmons trade that brought in pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis — every pre-Winter Meetings evaluation of the Atlanta Braves’ farm system expired before a single MLB team left Nashville. It’s rare when an already load pipeline adds two new top-five prospects, but that’s just what the franchise’s front office was able to accomplish with the Shelby Miller blockbuster.

The shelf life of Braves prospect rankings has never been shorter.

As a few rankings catch up with the additions of Newcomb, Ellis, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair, the second edition of FOX Sports South’s composite system has enough material to work with. First, a quick refresher.

FOX Sports South has put together a composite top-20 ranking for the Braves’ 2016 top prospects to help balance out the various projections. Using available prospect lists from five sources — MLB.comTalking ChopBaseball ProspectusFanGraphs and ESPN affiliate Chop County â€” players were awarded points for top-20 rankings. (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 100.) Here are Atlanta’s top 20 prospects via composite score:

SWANSON IS THE NEW NEAR-CONSENSUS NO. 1

Sean Newcomb’s reign as the Braves’ top prospect was short and sweet.

Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, quickly supplanted Newcomb in the top spot as the highest-rated Braves minor-leaguer since Julio Teheran in 2011. The 6-foot-1 Vanderbilt product posted a .394 on-base percentage and 145 weighted runs created in his first taste of pro ball with Low-A Hillsboro.

He’s expected to challenge for a major-league spot as early as 2017.

As Braves assistant director of player development Jonathan Schuerholz said last month, "You read the Baseball Americas and you watch the College World Series and you see what all the write-ups are on Dansby. And everything so far has been as advertised. He’s been a tremendous athlete."

Again, this is not normal. The Braves were already an upper-echelon (and arguably the very best) pipeline at the conclusion of the ’15 campaign, and yet through trading cost-controlled stars in Simmons and Miller they have acquired their Nos. 1 and 2 farmhands in the span of three months. Swanson ranks as the highest-rated prospect in four of the five ranking systems, and while he was the No. 1 prospect in FanGraphs’ evaluation of the Diamondbacks’ system, his 55 future grade landed him behind Ozhaino Albies and John Gant — yes, John Gant — in their estimated rankings.

Newcomb, the 6-foot-5 southpaw from Brockton, Mass., remains the organization’s most highly regarded pitching prospect. Four of the five rankings tab Newcomb as the No. 2 guy — and the only one that doesn’t (FanGraphs) considers him a top-five prospect.

This makes sense. Considering his club control, productivity and ceiling, Andrelton Simmons was expected to bring back an impressive return. When Coppolella labeled the Angels’ offer too good to pass up, this is the type of top-tier arm you’d expect to see.

CONSENSUS STANDOUTS

Six players log double-digit points in each ranking system: Swanson, Newcomb, Blair, Albies and pitchers Kolby Allard and Lucas Sims.

Albies comes closest to giving Swanson and Newcomb a run for their money as the composite No. 1 as he’s the only other prospect to rank top-five across the board. (FanGraphs stands alone in listing Albies as the organization’s top prospect — for the second straight offseason — while Chop County is lowest on him, slotting him at fourth overall.) The 18-year-old tore up Single-A Rome with a .771 OPS and 29 steals and while Coppolella mentioned him as a possible 2016 call-up candidate, the team’s ’17 season in SunTrust Park might be more realistic.

Sims joins Albies as the only Frank Wren acquisition (and only draftee) unanimously praised as a bona fide top prospect and future option for the parent club’s starting rotation. (The next-best Wren draftee would be 2014 first-round pick Braxton Davidson.)

Sims, the team’s 2012 first-rounder, has gone through his fair share of struggles in the minors, but he hit his stride at Double-A Mississippi last season and recently tore up the Arizona Fall League.

Allard adds another first-round pick to the mix. The Braves drafted the left-hander 14th overall last June and though he comes with some health concerns — ndergoing back surgery following his rookie-ball season — he is a potential top-of-the-rotation starter with nasty stuff.

NOTES TO CONSIDER

— FanGraphs has not updated its rankings since the Shelby Miller trade. However, the publication releases its future grades on every prospect, allowing for a general idea of where the likes of Swanson and Blair would fit into the Braves’ system. FanGraphs rated both players as a 55 future grade with Swanson ranking as Arizona’s best prospect and Blair coming in at fourth overall

For the purpose of the composite score, Swanson was slotted in as Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect and Blair ranked as No. 6. If and when FanGraphs updates its list, the score will be adjusted as necessary.

— Past contributors to FOX Sports South’s composite rankings, Baseball America and Minor League Ball, were omitted this time around since their rankings have not updated since before the Simmons deal.

— There’s still not a consensus on whether Hector Olivera should still be considered a prospect, but we’re getting closer. The 30-year-old third baseman/outfielder retains his rookie eligibility (87 plate appearances in 2015), but he is widely considered to be an everyday member of the Braves’ parent club already. All of Olivera’s points were derived from Fangraphs’ rankings. The same ideology likely applies to Manny Banuelos.

— Baseball Prospectus has only posted its top-10 list for the 2016 season, which skews the scoring toward the system’s elite prospects.

— Other respected prospect rankings like ESPN insider Keith Law’s have yet to release their updated 2016 list, but could be factored in at a later date. (If there is another database missing from the composite rankings, feel free to forward along the information.)

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