Monday, October 19, 2015

Top 30 Prospects, Post-2015 Edition - #10-1

Previous Rankings: 30-21 | 20-11

Over the last two weeks, I have released the first two tiers of my Top 30 post-season ranks. This finishes up the list. Well, not really. Next Monday, I will release a "And One More" prospect run-down which will include one more player at each position to keep an eye on over the winter and into two next year. For reference, two of the players from the preseason list (Daniel Winkler and Juan Yepez) made this Top 30.

I'm thinking of a Supersized Top 30 for the preseason ranking. Maybe a Top 30 + 20 prospects. If you have any ideas of how to improve this list, feel free to comment or tweet me. In the meantime, thanks for reading and on with the countdown.

Previous ranking legend
#20, #25 ...example ranking referring to pre-2015 rank and midseason update respectively.
- ...not ranked
+1 ...made the "And One More" list as a honorable mention

Ruiz (Elsa | Getty)
10. Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade: B-
Previous Ranks: 6, 7

It takes me awhile to quit on a guy, but without Ruiz's strong finish, he certainly drops out my Top 10. However, hitting 4 of his five homers and hitting nearly .300 over the final 34 games gives me some hope. There's something here and it's enough to get hopeful over. After all, most 21 year-olds struggle at AA. Likely tabbed for a return trip to Mississippi in 2016, Ruiz can be dealt with patiently as the Braves see if they can get him going in the right direction. If Ruiz is in Gwinnett by the summer, things are looking up.

9. Braxton Davidson, OF, Grade: B-
Previous Ranks: 11, 10 

Davidson has seen some ranking progression so far from 11th to 10th to 9th this time. How can a guy who hit just .242 get much praise? By adding 10 homers, 84 walks, and a .381 OBP. Now, there are some whispers that he's not aggressive enough and it paves the way for too many strikeouts, but remember that Davidson started this season at 18 in the South Atlantic League and didn't turn 19 until two months in. He never faced a pitcher younger than him and of the Top 15 youngest hitters in the SALLY, of which Davidson ranks as the 14th youngest, Davidson's .755 OPS was sixth (3rd if you limit the list to those that received 400 PA). At just 19, he still has a lot of time to mature into the power hitter that made Frank Wren pony up the money to sign him as the 32nd overall selection of last year's draft. I like Davidson's chances to go higher in the rankings in 2016.

Jenkins (Elsa | Getty)
8. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade: B- 
Previous Ranks: 10, 11 

On one end, it would be easy to ignore Jenkins' 2015 for what it wasn't. What it wasn't was a big strikeout year. What it wasn't was a year where hitters struggled to reach base. But what it was? It was a year in which Jenkins (mostly) stayed healthy, something he has not been able to do as a professional. The former Baylor QB recruit pitched 138.1 innings, shattering his previous best by 50 innings, and did well at AA before a late season promotion to AAA showed some cracks (more homers, for one). Now, it's worth mentioning that a 1.4 K/BB rate is not exactly going to win any awards and his strikeouts were down last year, but the Braves sought a healthy season with progression for Jenkins and got it. Now, in 2016, the real challenge begins. Can he improve his numbers and get his walks down?

7. Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade: B 
Previous Ranks: 7, 6

ManBan opened the year with 15 starts, including his second professional shutout, for the Gwinnett Braves. While we were all aware that he was on an innings limit, he looked like he was on the right direction to finish with a big first season in the organization. His first three appearances in Atlanta in early July did nothing to erase that hope, but a few iffy outings followed by bone spurs in his surgically fixed arm led to a DL trip. Once he came back in September, he lasted a pair of ugly starts before getting shut down to get the spurs removed from his arm. So, 2015 gave us the tantalizing quality of Banuelos, who has Top 100 stuff, but has been able to throw 100 innings just twice in his eight-year career. But 2016 could be different...right?

Mallex Smith (Stacy Revere | Getty Sports)
6. Mallex Smith, OF, Grade: B 
Previous Ranks: 12, 9

It took me a long time to buy into Mallex and even now, I'm tempted to poke holes in his game. However, when you have the back-to-back seasons that Mallex has had, it's difficult to not be impressed. While he stole 31 fewer bases in 2015 than he did the previous year, he still stole 57 bases in 70 attempts and hit .306 with a .373 OBP. The 22 year-old wasn't quite as impressive at Gwinnett after his June promotion, but that's nit-picking and I promised I wouldn't. Some think Mallex should start 2016 in Atlanta, but unless we see some trades before now and then that clear up the outfield situation, I would rather see him in Gwinnett. Even so, he's done nothing but show that he belongs in the discussion for "who should leadoff in Atlanta?"

5. Lucas Sims, RHP, Grade: B
Previous Ranks: 3, 3 

It was another mixed bag year for Sims in 2015 after struggling in the Carolina League during the previous year. Tabbed for a return trip, Sims was not impressive in 3 of his first four starts, but just as he looked to be on his way with a pair of starts and 10 K's in 13 innings, he was involved in the mid-May Mudcats bus accident. It kept him out a month and after a pair of rehab starts, he rejoined the Mudcats in July. The Braves must have been looking for any reason to promote him up the line because after a pair of mediocre efforts, he was promoted after his July 16 start where he K'd 8 in six innings. His nine starts in Mississippi were impressive, though. He K'd over a batter an inning and while he did have control issues, he kept the ball in the park. That's where he'll likely begin 2016, but he's back on track and could be one of Atlanta's biggest surprises next season.

4. Kolby Allard, LHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: -, -

Pitchers with Top 10 talent don't often fall to #14, but when they do, you make the move and that's what the Braves did. After a lot of posturing where it looked like Allard might go to college rather than sign, Allard finally joined the organization and later made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League in August. He was held to a strict pitch count and only logged six innings in three games, but he struck out 12 of the 20 he faced while allowing no walks, a hit, and hit batsman. The Braves can afford to go slow with Allard, but he's got the skillset to dominate next season. Did I mention he just turned 18 last August 13th?

Fried (Dennis Poroy | Getty)
3. Max Fried, LHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: 4, 5

Nine days ago, Fried tweeted out some good news. "Officially graduated rehab!" The Braves have waited since last offseason to see Fried throw a meaningful pitch and while they will continue to wait until the season gets going, this was big. Fried was the best prospect in a trade that includes the Braves current starting second baseman (Jace Peterson) and the #6 prospect of my rankings (Smith). In his last "healthy" season of 2013, Fried K'd 100 in 118.2 ING with a 3.49 ERA at A-level Fort Wayne. Braves will likely be very cautious with Fried in 2016 so we may not see him break out until 2017.

2. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: -, 2 

I haven't gotten to Touki's deal in my review of the Hart/Coppolella trades, but it might be my favorite. The D'Backs effectively gave up their top pick from 2014 just to get rid of Bronson Arroyo. Crazy. His stats after the trade were inconsistent. On July 20, he threw six no-hit innings. Six days later, he gave up nine runs in 3.1 ING. Six days after that, he gave up just two hits and a run in six innings. He's a kid figuring it out, but when he can control his stuff, he is one of the best prospects in baseball, let alone the system.

Brace Hemmelgarn | Getty
1. Ozhaino Albies, SS, Grade: A- 
Previous Ranks: 8, 8

Curacao has 171.4 square miles and just over 150,000 people. If one of those 150K Curacaoians can play baseball, the Braves will find him. Albies showed up on the scene in 2014, hitting .364 with 22 steals. This year, he went to Rome, where he was among the youngest players in the league (and younger than Davidson). Albies hit all of .310/.368/.404 with 29 steals. He's undersized and doesn't have much in terms of power, but he plays a good shortstop and does everything else really well. The switch-hitter is blocked at short currently, but much like former prospect, Jose Peraza, the Braves will move him to second if needed.

Thanks for reading and tell me in the comment section where I went wrong. Oh, and be sure to visit next week when I add a player at each position to keep an eye on.

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