Atlanta flew right over Milwaukee like a cross-continental flight, and their number one prospect played a huge role in the two-game sweep. Ian Anderson is just the latest in a long line of rookies who’ve lifted the team to three straight postseasons. Among the handful of teams who can claim Best Build in baseball, Atlanta’s can be matched by only the Dodgers and Rays.

1. RHP Ian Anderson | 22 | MLB | 2020

The third overall pick in 2016, Anderson struggled to consistently repeat his delivery and stay in the strike zone on his way up the development chain, but that’s not uncommon for a high school draftee facing older hitters every step of the way. Anderson maximizes his 6’3” frame to create the kind of extension that lets his arsenal play up, especially his double-plus, high-80’s change up, which is partly why it took awhile for him to master the delivery. It all came together in 2020, seemingly at the training site, which lends a little credence to my supposition that the site work has been excellent for pitchers with a little wonk in their windup. It’s hard to stay focused on process and improvement when the results feel real on the scoreboard, but the controlled scrimmage environment of 2020 enforced a different sort of focus. Anderson’s postseason debut was downright drool-inducing: 9 Ks, 2 hits, 2 walks, 0 runs in 6 innings against the faded Reds. He could combine with Max Fried and Mike Soroka to make Atlanta the envy of every team in the league.

2. OF Drew Waters | 22 | AAA | Early 2021

Waters is a hit over power switch hitter who looks better from the left side and has some hidden upside as he learns to access his power. He’s generated glowing reports about his ability to make adjustments in-game and even in the middle of at bats. Atlanta’s scouting team has an eye for that tough-to-identify talent, which doesn’t really manifest until a hitter faces opponents who can consistently execute multiple pitches, typically in AA or high A.

3. OF Cristian Pache | 22 | MLB | 2020

A plus-plus defender in centerfield, Cristian Pache will have a long time to learn how to hit big league pitching. Even if he struggles his first few years, his defense should keep him in the lineup. That’s the party line anyway–a story that’s floated Pache’s dynasty value since he stole 32 bases in 2017 against single-A batteries. He’s always been young for his level, so the believers see a lot of topside behind his solid .278/.340/.474 slashline as a 20-year-old in AA. That’s fair. He could certainly be much better than I think he’ll be, which is basically average from a fantasy perspective, about .270 with about 20 homers and ten steals. That player has value in our game, no doubt, but you’ve been able to trade him for big leaguers with better numbers than that the past two years, and you probably wouldn’t have regretted it.

4. 1B Bryce Ball | 22 | A | 2022

Here’s what I wrote about Bryce Ball last October: 

“A 24th round pick this July, he’s a 6’6” lefty listed at 235 lbs who played just one college season but thrashed older professional competition across two levels in his debut season. He might get exposed by better breaking balls, but he’s extremely quiet in his approach, tracking the ball deep with both eyes from an open, tall stance. Fast hands for an enormous human. I like him.”

Only thing that’s changed since then is Ball got invited to Spring Training and even blasted a home run. He struggled in the at bats that followed but still impressed enough to spend all season at the team’s training site. Also I like even more now than I did then.

5. SS Braden Shewmake 22 | AA | Late 2021

The Cobbler is a tall (6’4”) shortstop prospect who might have to switch positions, given Ron Swanson’s development at the position for the big club and his own lack of top-end range. A first-round pick in 2019 (21st overall), Shewmake hammered through the A ball and ended his draft season at AA, where he was overmatched for 14 games at season’s end. A coach’s son and productive college player, Shewmake is a low-ceiling, high-floor, sum-of-his parts contact bat with just enough speed to make trouble on the basepaths. He’s more of a sell than a hold for me in dynasty leagues, in part because his mechanics in the batter’s box involve too much extraneous moment for my taste, in part because it’s hard to see him making an impact on a team this loaded, and Atlanta has been reticent to trade away, well, anyone.

6. LHP Tucker Davidson | 25 | MLB | 2020

A hard-throwing lefty with command issues, Tucker Davidson got passed over for Robbie Erlin, Tommy Milone, Josh Tomlin, Touki Toussaint, Huascar Ynoa, Gaylord Perry and Steve Avery, among others. This threw some shade on a bright light from last winter, namely Davidson bumping up against 100 mph at Driveline baseball.

7. LHP Kyle Muller | 23 | AA | Late 2021

Here’s what I said last October: 

Kyle Muller’s just a tick of command away from taking a leap. He’s the type of pitching prospect I like: free in most dynasty leagues despite enticing topside. You could do worse with a spec spot than a 6’6” lefty with three major-league-quality pitches (fastball, slider, changeup).”

The main thing that’s changed since then is his apparent position on the organizational depth chart. Like Davidson, he was on the 40-man roster this year, and like Davidson, he got ignored in 2020 despite extreme need at the major league level. My worry is that both are relievers in the long term.

8. OF Jesse Franklin | 22 | NA | 2023

2020 third-round pick this summer Jesse Franklin doesn’t jump off the field at you, but he brings decent tools across the board, and he’s a tough out. Michigan baseball has been making strides the past few years, with Jake Cronenworth the most recent/current glow up. His ceiling is capped as a corner outfielder without standout tools, but Franklin could be a quick climber given the grinder nature of his at bats.

9. OF Michael Harris | 19 | A | 2023

Pure upside play here. Harris is a toolsy, six-foot lefty outfielder who checks in around 200 pounds. His 161 wRC+ in the Gulf Coast League and two-way pedigree lend credence to the theory that there’s more under the hood than his third-round draft price would suggest. He’s probably a free agent in all but the deepest dynasty leagues, so I’ll be watching him closely and hoping to swoop in before the hype starts if he’s hitting.

10. RHP Bryse Wilson | 22 | MLB | 2019

I’m not sure how to handle the rookie eligibility piece for next year. Wilson has thrown 42.2 major league innings across two MLB seasons, which means he’s eligible for a minor league roster spot in many/most dynasty leagues. I’m letting that guide my eligibility bar this time around rather than the MLB’s special 2020 pro-rated barriers. Wilson is much more intriguing now than he was this time last year. Some of that is just recency bias: he got smacked around a bit (7.20 ERA) in his 20 innings in 2019. He’s still mostly fastball, but he tripled his curveball usage and increased his slider usage from 12.4 for 18.8 percent. He also increased the slider velocity from 84 to 88.8 mph. Definitely worth a flier in the event he grabs a rotation spot next Spring. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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1 year ago

Awesome work, Itch!

1 year ago

Nice work, Itch! I’m really happy that you are jumping right into top prospect lists

Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

I’m looking forward to reading it!