The Atlanta Braves have gotten a lot of top talent from their farm system in the past few seasons. That includes the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Soroka, and Max Fried who have helped them become the class of the National League East. Acuña Jr. is now one of the best phenoms in the game today and could go for a 40-40 season in 2021.
The Braves’ farm system is not as deep as it once was, but it does have some strong major league ready talent. Most of their top-five are going to make an impact on the team this season as they look to win their fourth straight division title. The NL East is a stacked division, but Atlanta certainly has what it takes to win it again.
Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Team Top Prospects.
1. Ian Anderson – RHP
Anderson was drafted by the Braves with the third pick of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Shenendehowa High School. He spent four seasons splitting time between all five levels of the Atlanta farm system. The 22-year-old right-hander made his major league debut last season and looked very solid. Anderson still has his rookie eligibility intact in 2021, so he could be in the running for the National League Rookie of the Year.
Anderson showed an impressive ability to strike batters out in the shortened season with his three plus-pitch arsenal of fastball, changeup, and curveball. He struck out 29.7 percent of batters and had an 11.9 percent swinging strikeout rate. When he did allow contact, it was very light. His barrel percentage of 1.2 was in the top one percent of the league. His fastball sits at about 91-94 mph which had a 15.3 whiff percentage, but his other offerings were what really broke out in 2020. Anderson’s changeup led to a 39.8 whiff percentage and his curveball resulted in a 40.5 whiff percentage.
All of his expected stats were also in the top eight percent of the league while his xSLG is in the top one percent. The one concern for Anderson is his control. He walked batters at a 10.1 percent mark in 2020, but half of his starts were still of the quality variety. His ability to miss bats and not allowing much hard contact makes him a very strong arm. Anderson will be a big piece to the Braves’ rotation this season along with Fried, Soroka, Charlie Morton, and Kyle Wright.
2. Drew Waters – OF
The switch-hitting outfielder was drafted by his hometown team in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Etowah High School in Woodstock, Georgia. Waters has the tools oozing off him, but still has a lot of work to do, at the plate especially. The two tools that have plus potential are his hitting and his speed, but he has struggled with strikeouts as he has moved up the ranks. His strikeout rate has increased at every level, going from 24.8 percent to 26.7 percent to 36.1 from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A. He has also hit the ball on the ground at a high rate (45 percent or more at all three levels).
Waters has league-average power potential which would benefit from putting the ball in the air more with an increased launch angle. These issues can be fixed and despite them, he has been able to produce solid numbers at every level. The 22-year old won a batting title and MVP award in the AA Southern League in 2019 and reached AAA at 20 years old. He has has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields worked on his approach at the Braves’ alternate site last season. Work against top-tier arms at the alternate site benefited him to tap more into his raw skills.
In the outfield, Waters has a strong arm with great range, speed, and instincts. With the next guy on this list in Pache, he may not play center, but he can play any outfield position.
3. Cristian Pache – OF
On July 3, 2015, the Braves signed MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 international prospect in Pache to a $1.4 million signing bonus. He has performed at every level and reached Triple-A at 20-years old after he had attended the All-Star Futures Game. After that season (2019), he was added to the 40-man roster. Pache made his debut last season at age 21 but only played in two games, going 1-for-4 and striking out twice.
Pache has some of the strongest defensive value out of any prospects, which gives him a chance at plenty of Gold Gloves in his future. His speed and range tools really help in this area, as he can cover a lot of ground in center. Not only that, but he has a very strong arm that he can use to throw baserunners out. His bat is still far behind his other tools, as he struggled at Triple-A (92 wRC+, 0 steals, and one home run in 26 games) and in a nine-game stint in the Dominican Summer League (.120/.241/.160). Even though his speed is one of his top tools, that hasn’t produced many results in the baserunning department. Pache had an outlier season of 32 stolen bases in 2017, but he had 11, 7, 8 in the other three.
Pache is competing for the Opening Day starting center fielder in Spring Training, but his lack of production on offense gives Ender Inciarte the upper hand. If he can perform well at the plate to add to his top-notch defense, there won’t be any reason not to have him on the field. So far this spring, he has two hits in eight at-bats with one RBI.
4. Braden Shewmake – SS
Shewmake was the Braves’ second first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft at the 21st overall pick out of Texas A&M. He is a very advanced hitter and solid defensive shortstop. The Texas native proved how advanced he is by developing quickly during his pro debut season. During that season, Shewmake made it up to Double-A Mississippi of the Southern League. He has a high floor with plenty of added power potential, while also having the ability to hit for average and record a high OBP. Shewmake was solid at Class-A as he stole 11 bases and had a 151 wRC+, but struggled when he got to Double-A. While the Braves would like to keep him at short, he may move to second or third. If he can develop more this season, he could get the call at some point in 2021.
5. Shea Langeliers – C
The Braves’ first first-round pick in the 2019 draft was Langeliers at ninth overall out of Baylor. Langeliers was originally drafted out of high school in the 2016 Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays but kept his commitment to Baylor. The catcher was mostly hyped for his defense with a plus arm behind the plate. He was the second-ranked catcher in the 2019 Draft behind Adley Rutchsman, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Baltimore Orioles.
Langeliers also sported some above-average power potential for a catcher. He mashed 31 taters during his time at Baylor and adding six more in the Cape Cod League. He earned a spot in full-season ball for his pro debut, playing that season at Single-A Rome of the South Atlantic League. While he did add two more homers, he struggled overall with just a 92 wRC+.
The backstop will need more development in the hitting department to reach his ceiling of power and average hit tool. He has had a 23 percent strikeout rate and 13.1 percent swinging strikeout rate and will need to refine that to develop more. With the minor league season returning this year, he will have the chance to work on his craft and add to his already impressive defensive-catching resume.
The Braves have a number of pitchers in their top-15 and top-30 prospects. One of them is left-hander Tucker Davidson, who is likely the sixth-ranked Braves prospect. Davidson was excellent in 2019 at Double-A. He recorded a 2.03 ERA, 27.2 strikeout percentage, and 1.20 WHIP which earned him a call-up to Triple-A. He did have a 2.84 ERA, but his advanced stats show that he was not as good as that. The pitcher drafted out of Midland College in 2016 had a 5.82 xFIP and a 3.7 K-BB percentage. Davidson will certainly need more work on his control to add to his repertoire of a plus-fastball, plus-curveball, and solid slider.
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexKielar
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images