23 Mar

prospecting

The sorting process likely isn’t completed in Atlanta’s minor league camp, home to a batch of prospects generally regarded as the best in baseball. When the rosters are set and the players break camp, don’t expect many of the Braves’ Top 10 to head to Mississippi. Most of the highest rated players are either past Double-A or a year or two away. Dansby Swanson, still classified as a rookie and rated Atlanta’s No. 1 by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, is already established in Atlanta. No. 2 prospect Ozzie Albies, who did two stints in Pearl in 2016, figures to start in Triple-A. Six of the seven pitchers in the top 12 (as rated by MLB Pipeline) pitched in low-A ball or rookie ball last season. No. 6 Sean Newcomb was an M-Braves mainstay (8-7, 3.86 ERA) in 2016 who probably will pitch at Gwinnett this season. Kolby Allard (No. 4), Mike Soroka (5), Max Fried (9) and Touki Toussaint (12) were on the Rome staff that won the South Atlantic League pennant. The standard progression puts them at high-A Florida. No. 3 Kevin Maitan is a 17-year-old shortstop just getting started, and No. 8 Ronald Acuna, a 19-year-old outfielder, played at Rome in an injury-interrupted season. Unlikely to open in Mississippi, he could make Double-A at some point this year. Infielder Travis Demeritte, acquired from Texas in midseason, is No. 10 on the Braves’ list and looks like the one sure thing in that bunch to be in Trustmark Park on April 6. He hit 28 homers at the high-A level in 2016. Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, the No. 13 prospect, projects as the third baseman on the high-A club, at least to start the season. The M-Braves’ opening day roster won’t be thin on talent, however. Jacob Schrader, Carlos Franco, Joey Meneses, Connor Lien and Joe Odom were among the position players who helped last year’s club reach the Southern League Championship Series, and all could be back. Plus, top 30 prospects Braxton Davidson and Alex Jackson may land in Pearl next month. P.S. The M-Braves open on April 6, two weeks from today, at the TeePee against Jacksonville, a Miami affiliate that is now, unfortunately, nicknamed the Jumbo Shrimp.

06 Mar

future’s so bright …

Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley got to rub elbows with the Atlanta big leaguers over the weekend and apparently did not look out of place. Riley, 19, a supplemental first-round pick by the Braves in 2015, went 2-for-2 in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday and 0-for-2 with a walk on Sunday. Braves manager Brian Snitker was impressed. “I’ve heard a lot about him, seen him in Instructional League. He’s a man. I mean, that’s real-deal right there,” Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves manager, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is rated the No. 8 third base prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline and is a consensus top 15 in the Braves’ stacked system, which is rated No. 1 overall by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Riley played at the low Class A level in 2016, batting .271 with 20 homers in his first full year in Atlanta’s system, and he has 32 homers in 189 pro games. He figures to start 2017 with the high-A Florida Fire Frogs in the Florida State League and arrive at Double-A Mississippi next season, though that timetable can certainly change. As highly regarded as he is, Riley isn’t one of the seven Braves players ranked among the top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline. That list does include 2016 M-Braves Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb. “It’s pretty neat what the future’s going to look like here,” Snitker told the AJC. P.S. Tyler Moore is making a strong bid to stick with Miami. The Mississippi State product from Brandon smacked his third homer of the spring on Sunday and is batting .462. Limited by injuries in 2016, the right-handed hitting first baseman hit three homers in 25 games for Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves’ organization. He signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in the off-season. Moore has 24 MLB homers spread over four seasons, all with Washington.