Atlanta Braves 2016-2017 Top 100 Prospects: 61-70

Apr 4, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; The teams lineup and the flag is pulled across the outfield prior to the game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves have an incredible farm system, and Benjamin Chase has taken up Tomahawk Take’s minor league coverage of that system. This is his top 100 prospects in the Atlanta Braves system!

An Introduction

This is my second undertaking of an Atlanta Braves Top 100 Prospects list.

I will be honest – it was much tougher this season. Last year, I did consider just under 150 names that I considered as worthy of being on the top 100 list, but the qualifications were basically “did not look bad statistically” or “heard at least one positive thing”.

This year I knew was going to be much deeper, so I upped my personal requirements even for consideration, and I had 173 names on the initial list that I made to start sorting out from.

First, the methodology. This list is not a list of the guys who have the most talent from 1-100 as that wouldn’t tell us what we really want to know. This is an evaluation of who has the talent, the mental makeup, and the work ethic to turn their talent into a major league baseball player.

The reality is that of these 100 players, the Braves would be doing exceptionally well if 25 of them played more than a brief stint with the major league club. That part does need to be kept in mind as we continue through this list.

That does not mean that someone who is a #98 on this list can’t have a major league career. What I look at is the level of impact a player will have IF he does make the major leagues. A guy who will be an impact hitter or not make it at all will likely get rated higher than a guy who won’t make it as a starter or a late-inning reliever, but he has a good shot to be a major league middle reliever.

All players who have not exceeded rookie requirements are eligible for this list, even if they’ve played in the major leagues already.

I will have a post on Friday after the entire list is revealed that presents the list in a pure list format with no evaluation on each player for reference in the future. These posts will have more in-depth evaluation of each player in the list.

I also intend to update this list sometime before spring training begins with any off season acquisitions that the Braves make, so I won’t be updating the list as each trade/rule V pick/waiver claim is made, it will all be at that time.

With that said, let’s take a look at this post’s focus, #61-70 on the list!

Jun 20, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators pitcher Taylor Lewis (16) throws against the Virginia Cavaliers in the sixth inning at the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Virginia won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

70. Taylor Lewis, RHP

Lewis was a 9th round draft choice out of the University of Florida in the 2015 draft. The Braves sent him to Danville, but after 6 appearances without allowing an earned run, he was promoted to Rome. His first year with the Braves system, he posted a 1.77 ERA in 20 1/3 innings, tallying a 1.23 WHIP and a 6/15 BB/K ratio.

He started 2016 in Rome, and while his ERA was not pretty in his time there, he was clearly showing skills worthy of being promoted to Carolina. After less than 20 appearances at Carolina, he had thrown so well that he was promoted again to Mississippi and a key member of the M-Braves playoff rotation.

Total on the season, he posted a 2.05 ERA over 66 innings with a 1.16 WHIP and a 14/63 BB/K ratio.

Lewis uses a unique arm angle to generate success, throwing at a very low 3/4 arm slot. His unique arm slot generates rare spin on his slider, and hitters really struggled to pick up the pitch or square up the pitch. His primary fastball is a four-seam fastball that touches mid-90s, but typically sits low-90s.

He works with excellent command of his fastball, and that helps to allow a “straight” fastball to avoid barrels very well.

Lewis has a touch of deception in his delivery with a bit of a delayed foot placement as he points his toe toward home, holding the foot still up in the air, and then pushes the last bit toward home and lunges forward. That bit of timing deception really gets hitters off in their view of his pitches overall.

Lewis does offer a change, but he seems to only pull it out when he’s going multiple innings in an appearance. He’ll likely be in the bullpen for Mississippi to start the 2017 season, and he’ll be a guy with an excellent ability to work in the middle innings as long as he can continue to hold his command on his pitches and stay healthy.

Jun 16, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers catcher Kade Scivicque (22) hits an RBI single in the third inning against the Cal State Fullerton Titans in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

69. Kade Scivicque, C

Scivicque’s pedigree as a multi-year starter with a high-end SEC program in college should allow him to advance quickly and let the bat catch up to his glove.

Scivicque was acquired by the Braves from the Tigers in the Erick Aybar deal. He was originally drafted by the Tigers out of Louisiana State in the 4th round in the 2015 draft.

He played at two levels in 2015 for the Tigers, moving from short-season ball to low-A, totaling a slash line of .269/.333/.381 with 5 home runs and a 12/29 BB/K ratio over 216 plate appearances.

He played with high-A for most of the season between the Tigers and Braves organizations in 2016. He finished the year with AA Mississippi. His regular season total was .273/.317/.362 with 6 home runs and a 25/91 BB/K ratio over 492 plate appearances. He saved his best for last, however, hitting .471 during Mississippi’s playoff run.

Scivicque has an excellent ability behind the plate. He’s not exactly the best with stolen bases due to rough footwork going to second base, but he does have an excellent arm. His best defensive attributes are his excellent target that he sets and his ability to get down and block the ball.

Scivicque’s offensive potential seems to have been untapped at this point. He’s got a bunch of power behind the swing, but it doesn’t translate at this point, mostly due to a fairly level swing that will need some change in its path to generate loft.

Scivicque was one of the players the Braves assigned to the Arizona Fall League, and it’s quite likely he comes out of that with an assignment to Mississippi to start 2017.

Scivicque’s pedigree as a multi-year starter with a high-end SEC program in college should allow him to advance quickly and let the bat catch up to his glove.

68. Josh Graham, RHP

Graham was a late-comer to the mound, moving to the mound from catcher as a college player. In fact, there are “draft prospect” videos of Graham as a catcher, which tells you how late into the process he finally made the transition.

The Braves tried him as a possible starter last season in shorter stints, and that did lead to a number of places assuming he would be in the rotation going forward, but from those I talked with that was never in the cards, and his performance in 2016 showed his role in the bullpen could be a dynamic one!

Originally drafted as a catcher in 2012 by the Twins out of high school in the 22nd round, Graham instead went to the University of Oregon, where the Braves plucked him from in the 4th round of the 2015 draft.

He went to Danville last season, and he threw 17 1/3 innings, posting a 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 3/21 BB/K ratio. To say he was dominant would be putting it quite lightly.

The Braves placed Graham into the Rome bullpen this season, and he had some moments of up and down, but in the end his season stats were 3.40 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 42 1/3 innings, with a 12/50 BB/K ratio.

Graham shows his background as a catcher in his arm action. It’s short and sometimes “punchy” like a catcher throwing the ball to second, not the longer delivery one is used to out of a pitcher. However, he generates upper-90s velocity out of that delivery.

Graham features a fastball that’s a touch straight, but when he locates it well, he gets hitters off of it. His biggest issues with contact all came on the fastball, which does run to upper-90s, but sits more like 93-94. Due to the lack of movement on his fastball, hitters getting a good look at it can really square it up.

To keep hitters off the fastball, Graham offers two off speed options. His slider is average and flashes above-average, probably a pitch that would grade 55-60 on a 20 to 80 scouting scale. What it does do, however, is mimic his fastball well, and that helps it to play up.

His change is a surprising weapon for a reliever, with excellent arm action to mimic the fastball and just a touch of movement that mimics his slider. It has a great ability to get hitters absolutely frozen, and he gets hitters staring at the pitch frequently, not quite sure what they just saw!

Graham profiles as a guy who could work well at the back of the bullpen. 2016 was the first full season he worked as a reliever, so he will likely be given a chance to move up quickly in 2017 as he’s 23 at this point, so he’ll likely start at High-A or Mississippi and be pushed up quickly as his performance dictates.

67. Luis Mora, RHP

Talk about a guy whose stats don’t tell the whole story! Mora dwelled with the DSL squad for two seasons, pumping up high velocity but also struggling to keep the ball in the zone.

Mora was another of the Braves’ “older” prospect finds in the Latin market, starting his pro career at 19. He opened with two seasons in DSL, 2014 with a 10.18 ERA and 2.18 WHIP and 2015 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. That big improvement in 2015 gave the Braves good feeling to push Mora past GCL to Danville.

With Danville this season, I don’t know how many guys told me that the best arm the Braves had was Mora. His 6’4 frame produces easy triple-digit velocity with two scouts quoting me 101 velocity readings at performances of Mora’s.

So how on earth can you rank a guy with a 7.42 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in the top 70 prospects of a team with such incredible depth in their minor league system?

For one, most of Mora’s damage was done in only two starts. 2.25 runs of ERA and 0.30 points of WHIP were added in those two starts alone! He only allowed 4 home runs on the season, and 2 were in those starts.

Mora works with a fastball that routinely touches 99+ and sits in the mid-90s. He has a 3/4 arm slot that he stays tall through his delivery on, which allows for good plane on the pitch.

However, he has incredibly long arms and legs for his height, and he is still very raw in instruction, so he often gets off track in his delivery. When he does, he can drop that arm slot to a lower 3/4 that feels like a “fling” of the ball toward the zone, leaving the ball looking like a hanging slider.

Mora throws a slider and change as well, and I’ve heard that he was working on a curve in side sessions. He’s got such a loose and live arm that I could absolutely see the Braves working on more pitches with him along the way, but he’s also 21 already, so I’d wager they put him at Rome in 2017 to see how he works there.

He could have an elite future as a reliever if he can’t make it as a starter.

66. Livan Soto, SS

Soto may be my favorite non-Maitan big-money international free agent signed this season.  He was signed from Venezuela for a reported $1M.

He just turned 16 in June, and already the video I’ve seen of him shows better bat control than a lot of guys I watched in the low minors this year.

Soto gets very high grades for his baseball IQ and his leadership on the field. In fact, the guy who I kept thinking of when I was reading his scouting reports was Dansby Swanson and the reports on him coming into 2016.

After watching Swanson quarterback the field with Carolina and Mississippi before doing the same thing with older players in Atlanta told me how useful that skill is on the field.

Soto is a sure shortstop. He’ll handle the position well with very good hands and instincts.

His arm is average/slightly above-average now, but he’s also experienced a significant arm strength growth in the last year, which parallels a jump from about 5’8, 140 pounds to the guy who signed that was near 6′ and 170ish a year later. His arm could certainly continue to gain strength as he fills into his body.

Soto’s contact skills are high-end, and he has gap power as part of that. He doesn’t have a frame that portends big power right now, but he’s also added strength in the last year that could lead to decent playable power in the future. He’s also a guy who doesn’t have elite speed, but his instincts and above-average speed will allow him to probably still 15-20 bases frequently.

It will be interesting to see how the Braves handle their group of IFA signings that all play SS, and many that could/should stick there long term.

It could be that some get skipped all the way to Danville, or it could be that some end up playing in DSL, which is not usually where the Braves send their “big-money” signees.

65. Shean Michel, OF

Interestingly, Raysheandall Michel suddenly became Shean Michel everywhere online this winter. I’m not sure if people started to take notice of him and realized how many letters his first name required, so they shortened it, or if it was a natural thing. For some indication, he does refer to himself as Shean on his Twitter page.

Shean Michel was a guy that the Braves signed out of Curacao, an island that they’ve seemed to do very well in since a certain defensively-elite CF slugger came from there, in 2014. He debuted in 2015 in DSL, and he hit .272/.322/.347 with 5 triples and 9 steals. He flashed incredible defense, and many were impressed by his arm in the outfield.

Michel was started back with DSL, and he hit .316/.379/.414 with DSL in 39 games before getting a promotion to GCL. He struggled with GCL, but he still displayed excellent speed and a plus arm in the outfield, tallying 11 assists in only 64 games.

Michel is a guy at the plate who profiles as a bottom of the order hitter with solid gap power, but a level swing that doesn’t really allow for much big power. His contact skills are reportedly high, but his time with GCL was rough, though he did have a .246 BABIP for a very speedy guy, so that could play into the batting average.

Michel has two plus tools – his speed and his arm. This allows him to play well in the outfield defensively at any position. His instincts in center could use some work, but his speed has allowed him to make up for it. However, as good as his arm is, he may get put into right just to take advantage of that big arm.

Michel’s speed on the basepaths is very solid, but he also did not have a great lineup behind him in DSL, so he did not run as often as he probably could have while there. He certainly could be a 30-steal guy in the majors, the type of speed that could be disruptive to opposing pitchers.

I’d wager Michel probably opens 2017 in either GCL or Danville, but his elite defense could advance him ahead of his bat at times as he works his way up the system. Luckily, there are elite defenders like Ray-Patrick Didder and Cristian Pache ahead of him that should allow him to progress at his pace.

64. Jeremy Walker, RHP

His mechanical stuff actually held back his velocity, and I heard reports of Walker cutting loose with 98 in a start, which is at least 2 MPH faster than any report he had from college.

The Braves picked Walker this summer out of Gardner-Webb University in the 5th round. Teams were a bit off of him as he had some mechanical things in his delivery that made teams worried that he could be a project pick, but the Braves saw enough to pluck him early.

He came into Danville and really threw well, receiving plenty of big scouting reports from guys I talked with, who talked about him as “next year’s Patrick Weigel“, which is high, high praise indeed. Walker threw 39 2/3 innings with a 3.18 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 8/37 BB/K ratio.

Walker has a big arm that has not had a lot of wear as he did not get a ton of work in high school and wasn’t over-pitched in college. His mechanical stuff actually held back his velocity, and I heard reports of Walker cutting loose with 98 in a start, which is at least 2 MPH faster than any report he had from college.

Walker features a sweeping slider and a looping curve that off-set that premium velocity, and there were reports that his biggest issue with his pitching this season was simply that he was working so much on fastball control in his mechanical adjustments that guys had an idea of what was coming.

The crazy thing is that his change is still a work in progress, but I had one scout tell me that he saw one change that nearly corkscrewed a hitter into the ground he had such deception on it. That level of four pitch mix could get Walker jumping up this list in a hurry in 2017.

Walker will likely join a Rome rotation that will feature Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Jaret Hellinger, and other young pitchers, so he’ll be the elder statesman, but like Weigel in Rome in 2016, he could be the guy that becomes the story of the rotation over guys with high pedigrees.

63. Kevin Josephina, 2B

Another product of the small island of Curacao that signed with the Braves, Josephina has worked his way up the system since 2014, but he had a breakthrough season in 2016.

Josephina has very good defensive skills at second, but his bat lagged behind. In 2016, he flashed much better bat to ball skills, in spite of his batting average not being quite as good as it had been in other spots.

Josephina has very good speed and very good contact ability, but he struggles with pitch recognition as evidenced by his 2.8% career walk rate. He just turned 20, so he is really beyond the point of being “raw” in baseball terms, but that is still who he is as a player.

It was telling to me and to others watching that Josephina was the choice at second base for Rome in the playoffs over speedy Anfernee Seymour or other options they could have used at second base. His defense is very solid with tremendous range and an above-average arm.

I’d be surprised if he’s bumped up in 2017, meaning he’s likely at Rome again, and his future really depends on his ability to take a walk, but the raw skills here are simply too loud to deny.

62. Devan Watts, RHP

Watts was selected in the 17th round out of Tusculum College in Tennessee. The Braves moved him quickly to advanced-rookie Danville, where he threw 4 perfect innings before being promoted to Rome for the rest of the season.

All told, his season line was a 0.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, and a 6/26 BB/K ratio in 23 2/3 innings.

Watts is a sinker/slider combination pitcher that he gets good low action on and heavy weight on in the lower half of the zone.

He has opposite side run on his slider from what you’d normally expect on a slider, as it breaks in on a left-handed hitter, while most sliders break toward a pitcher’s arm side.

He’s not a big guy at 6′, 200, and Watts doesn’t throw triple digit velocity, so many questioned his effectiveness, but Watts uses a bit of hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitter timing along with his excellent sink on his pitches.

He may not profile in the back of the bullpen, but he will be a valuable piece of the bullpen going forward. I’d wager he moves to Brevard County* in 2017 and could move up quickly if he continues to perform like 2016!

*(or whatever that new High-A Fla State League team in Kissimmee [Osceola County now] will end end up being named)

61. Jacob Webb, RHP

Webb threw 13 total innings this season. He struck out 31 batters. That means that of the 39 outs he recorded, nearly 80% were by strikeout!

The Braves drafted Webb out of Tabor College in Kansas in the 18th round of the 2014 draft, and he impressed in his first season with the team, throwing 33 2/3 innings with a 2.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 8/31 BB/K ratio for the GCL-level team.

Then Webb underwent Tommy John surgery, and he was out for all of 2015 and for a lot of 2016. He made his season debut on June 25th, and the Braves never used him for more than a single inning the entire summer, hoping to work his arm back slowly.

Instead, hitters wished the team would have taxed that arm just a touch more. In his second-to-last appearance of the season, Webb was touched up for a 3-run home run that constituted the second appearance of his entire time with Danville that he even allowed a run.

That took Webb’s ERA with Danville from 0.90 to 3.48 in that one outing, and he finished with a 3.18 ERA in 12 Danville games.

Webb did make two appearances in Rome this year, and he was touched up in those two spots, though they fed into what became a running story. Webb threw 13 total innings this season. He struck out 31 batters. That means that of the 39 outs he recorded, nearly 80% were by strikeout! That’s a ridiculous amount!!

Webb out of the bullpen this year scrapped his slider and his change typically in favor of his heavy mid-90s fastball and a curve with ridiculous break to it. Hitters were left frequently flailing at the curve that could break multiple planes, yet stay in the strike zone.

The “slutter” that Webb throws (combination of a slider and a cutter) was ridiculous before his Tommy John surgery, and whether he features that again will be an interesting addition to an already dominating mix.

Webb is already 23, so he’ll likely not get the opportunity to try out the rotation again, but with the success he had in the bullpen, he may find that to be a blessing.

I’d wager he starts with Rome or Brevard County in 2017, and if he mixes back in his slutter with the fastball/curve combo, he could be a back-end reliever that moves quickly to the majors.

I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews! Tomorrow will resume with 51-60 in the morning!!

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