The always anticipated Baseball America Top 100 prospects recently was announced for 2019 and the Atlanta Braves put 8 prospects in the top 100 solidifying themselves again as a prospect rich organization. In this piece I will take a look at each prospect on the list.
#22 Austin Riley 3B
Austin Riley moves up on the top 100 list this year after coming in at #54 last year. The Gwinnett Stripers 3B is knocking on Atlanta’s doorstep in 2019 after a solid 2018 campaign. Riley started 2018 in AA Mississippi playing 27 games and batting .333 with 6 HRs and 20 RBIs before getting called up to AAA Gwinnett where he played 75 games and batted .282 with 12 HRs and 47 RBIs before being shelved for five weeks with a knee injury. With the signing of Josh Donaldson, the Braves may either keep Riley in AAA or possibly have him work in Spring Training as an outfielder in preparation to take over in RF eventually.
#24 Ian Anderson SP
Ian Anderson also moves up on the top 100 list after coming in at #42 last year. Anderson started the year in High A Florida going 2-6 in 20 starts with a 2.52 ERA while striking out 118 batters in just 100 innings for the FireFrogs. Anderson was then promoted to AA Mississippi where he went 2-1 in 4 starts with a 2.33 ERA with 24 Strikeouts in 19.1 innings. Anderson will most likely get an invitation to Spring Training but I expect him to start in AAA Gwinnett. He has also been named in a lot of trade rumors so it is very possible that he may never play a game in Atlanta.
#25 Mike Soroka SP
Mike Soroka moves up two spots on the top 100 list after coming in at #27 last year. Soroka started the year in AAA Gwinnett going 2-1 in 5 starts with a 2.00 ERA while striking out 31 batters in 27.0 innings pitched. Soroka was then called up to the Atlanta Braves where he went 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched. Soroka was shut down for the season with shoulder soreness but no structural damage was found and a recommended change to his workout techniques should put an end to the soreness. I fully expect Soroka will be in the 2019 Braves rotation and would be disappointed if he takes a step back and has to start in AAA Gwinnett.
#39 Kyle Wright SP
Kyle Wright slipped down the Baseball America Top 100 list this year after coming in at #34 last year. While falling on this list I can reassure you that Wright is a rising star in the Braves system. Wright started the year in AA Mississippi where he posted a 6-8 record with a 3.70 ERA while striking out 105 batters in 109.1 innings pitched. Wright was then called up to AAA Gwinnett where he went 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 4 starts and found himself getting a September call up to the Braves where he made 4 short appearances in relief. Wright will find himself with an invite to Spring Training in 2019 but will have to be overly impressive to make his way into this Braves rotation. I could see him possibly becoming a bullpen arm or sent to Gwinnett for the year as a starter. I will mention though that Wright is another name that is often brought up in trade rumors so he may even be wearing a new uniform come 2019.
#53 Touki Toussaint SP
New to the Baseball America Top 100 in 2019 is Touki Toussaint. Toussaint tore through the minor leagues last year starting in AA Mississippi starting 16 games and going 4-6 with a 2.93 ERA while striking out 107 batters in 86.0 innings pitched. After getting called up to AAA Gwinnett the Braves fans got to really see what was in store for them in the future. Toussaint went 5-0 for the Stripers with a blistering 1.43 ERA in 8 starts, striking out 56 batters in 50.1 innings pitched. The Braves definitely took notice of this and he was called up to handle the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins where he got his first MLB win. Toussaint did go 2-1 for the Braves in 5 starts but struggled with the control that got him to the MLB club to begin with. The Braves added Toussaint to the Postseason roster though and he did see NLDS action. I think that as long as Toussaint can show his ability to strike people out he has the ability to never see the minor leagues again. He has a good shot of making the rotation or also taking a reliever spot.
#80 Bryse Wilson SP
Bryse Wilson makes his first appearance in the Baseball America Top 100 in 2019. Last year Bryse rose through the ranks of the Braves farm system starting with High A Florida Firefrogs where he went 2-0 with an impressive 0.34 ERA in 5 starts while striking out 26 batters in 26.2 innings. Bryse was then called up to AA Mississippi where he went 3-5 with a 3.97 ERA in 15 starts while striking out 89 batters in 77 innings. Bryse then moved on to AAA Gwinnett going 3-0 with a 5.32 ERA in 3 starts with an again impressive 28 strikeouts in 22 innings. Bryse was called up to Atlanta to make a spot start against Pittsburgh and did not disappoint going 5 solid innings and getting his first win 1-0 becoming the youngest player ever to win his debut start 1-0. Bryse struggled in a few bullpen opportunities late in the year but is still one to keep an eye on. I just don’t see a spot in this years rotation for Bryse so I think his options will be as a reliever or starting the year in AAA and working his way back up to the big leagues.
#83 Drew Waters OF
New to the Baseball America Top 100 in 2019 is Drew Waters. The Braves have always seemed to find gems looking close to home and Drew Waters is no different. A graduate of Etowah High School and coached by Braves legend Fred McGriff, made selecting Waters in 2017 an easy decision for the Braves. He has not disappointed at all as he starts his journey towards the Braves. Waters started the year in Single A Rome and produced a .303 average with 9 HRs and 36 RBIs while slugging 32 doubles and 6 Triples in 337 ABs. Waters was rewarded with a call up to the High A Florida Firefrogs where Drew hit .268 in his brief time there. Waters did receive an invite to Spring Training this year but he is still a good two to three years away from joining the Braves. He is also a name that has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate so we may never even see him play a game with the Braves.
#85 Cristian Pache
Cristian Pache also debuts in 2019 on the Baseball America Top 100 and it’s surprising to some that he is this far down on the list. Pache started 2018 in High A for the Florida Firefrogs and batted .285 with 8 HRs and 40 RBIs in 369 ABs before getting a brief 29 game call up to AA. What you don’t see in the stats column though is that scouts say Pache at age 20 is the best defender in the Braves system. Better than Ender Inciarte and yes even better than Ronald Acuna. Pache has received an invite to Spring Training and I think he will see a lot of ABs to showcase him as he is one of the most often named prospects in the Braves system to be traded away. I honestly don’t see him ever making it to the Braves due to these trade rumors but he is one name I worry about that we may end up regretting if he is moved to another ball club.
Overall I think that this is a fair assessment of where Braves prospects fall in the top 100. I may have changed around a few numbers as I think Pache should be ranked higher but these guys are all deserving. If I had to add one name I may have added C William Contreras to the list but I have a pretty good feeling we will see him on the list next year. Let me know what you guys think about the list and if you think there were any glaring omissions over on Twitter. @bowlinbob or @ChopUpChopDown
Bob Lancaster @bowlinbob