McAuley: Midseason Top 30 Braves Prospects (21-30)

My updated list of the Top 30 Atlanta Braves Prospects features several new faces. As always, prospect hot sheets are a fluid situation and stock rises and falls for a variety of reasons. Performance, injuries and attrition shapes and reshapes the rankings throughout the year. Ultimately, these lists are an indicator of where these players stand at this particular time. Factoring the numbers along with individual tools and skill sets as well as scouting reports helps determine how projectable they are, but the human element is very much in play here. That includes the evaluators and list makers who judge the players based on the aforementioned variety of criteria in order to stack them in some order. Thanks to a talent pool that seems to get deeper by the year, the Atlanta farm system makes this no easy task.

Let’s get the list started with the first 10 prospects on the list.

21.) A.J. Minter | LHP | Age: 23 | Previous Rank: 21

Injuries have conspired to keep A.J. Minter off the mound on a regular basis, but he’s shown enough in glimpses to make one truly excited about what he could offer the Atlanta bullpen. Great velocity and hard-breaking stuff gives Minter the weapons to carve up just about any lineup he’s faced. The lefty has posted a 1.35 ERA and 12.2 K/9 in 43 career appearances, but has yet to appear in consecutive games. Once he proves healthy, it seems only a matter of time before Minter is testing his mettle against big league bats.

22.) Brett Cumberland | C | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: 23

A slow start in Rome gave way to a prodigious hot streak that sent Brett Cumberland to High-A Florida. The slugging, switch-hitting college backstop was Atlanta’s second round pick in 2016. He has shown the ability to hit for power and find his way on base despite a plenitude of strikeouts. Cumberland is one of a growing number of quality catching prospects in the system, but has made the majority of his starts at designated hitter this season. With his advanced approach, Cumberland figures to reach Triple-A at some point in 2018.

23.) Kyle Muller | LHP | Age: 19 | Previous Rank: 15

Completing the trio of prep arms taken at the top of the 2016 draft, Kyle Muller is a sizeable left-hander who could climb back up the rankings once he gets rolling. Muller was held back in extended spring training and joined Atlanta’s Danville affiliate for some rookie ball seasoning as he attempts to ramp his overall stuff back up to the level that made him a high-round draft pick last summer. The early results have been positive and a trip to Rome by season’s end is probably in the cards. If Muller gets on the right rack, the 6’6” southpaw will present an imposing presence on the mound for opposing hitters at any level.

24.) Patrick Weigel | RHP | Age: 23 | Previous Rank: 20

Just as Patrick Weigel appeared poised for an opportunity to reach the big leagues, an elbow injury sidelined the talented right-hander. Weigel underwent Tommy John surgery in June and is likely targeting a 2019 return. With high-90s heat and two breaking pitches, Weigel adds a change-up to round out his four-pitch mix. He began the season with Mississippi prior to being bumped up to Gwinnett, where he received just eight starting assignments before suffering a torn UCL in his right elbow.

25.) Abraham Gutierrez | C | Age: 17 | Previous Rank: HM

One of many big international signings for the Braves in 2016, Abraham (né Abrahan) Gutierrez is a talented young backstop who could very well be the future for Atlanta behind the plate. He has a strong arm to go along with good receiving skills. Offensively, Gutierrez possesses power potential that has drawn comparisons to hall of famer Mike Piazza and Yankees star Gary Sanchez. If he taps into that power, the Braves could really have a star on their hands. This young catcher was an honorable mention on my pre-season list, but his stock is rising. Gutierrez debuted with the GCL club this summer.

26.) Yunior Severino | INF | Age: 17 | Previous Rank: (NR)

Another in the line of young, talented middle infielders to join the Braves organization in the last few years, Yunior Severino is a switch-hitter who has handled himself quite well thus far in his debut season. Atlanta signed the youngster as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic for $1.9 million last summer. While highly-touted in his own right, Severino was somewhat overshadowed by the signing of Kevin Maitan. After a brief stop in the Dominican Summer League, Severino has been productive with the GCL Braves. Though he is extremely young, he’s demonstrated a solid approach at the plate. That bodes well for his development, regardless of what defensive position he finds himself playing down the line.

27.) Derian Cruz | SS | Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 22

One of Atlanta’s top international signees in 2015, Derian Cruz is a switch-hitting shortstop who has flashed potential in parts of two seasons in the organziation. It has not come without some rough edges, however. The speedy Cruz had a tough time as an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League with Rome to open the 2017 campaign, but has bounced back nicely in his return to Danville. Unfortunately, that improvement is limited to his work with the bat. In the field, Cruz committed 27 errors in his first 43 games. It’s not altogether unexpected for a young player to make some mistakes, but he’ll obviously need to get that under control. His raw talent makes Cruz an intriguing prospect.

28.) Anfernee Seymour | OF | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: 18

My pre-season list had Anfernee Seymour inside the Top 20. He’s improved his on-base percentage by more than 50 points this season and has handled a move to the outfield with aplomb. You may be wondering why he cascaded down the rankings. It has more to do with the rising stock of other players in the system than any step back on Seymour’s part. A potential top of the order hitter who possesses perhaps the best speed in the organization, he’ll need to work on his base stealing to maximize that impact. Seymour has been successful just 60 percent of the time (19-of-32) thus far in 2017. He already jumped from Rome to Florida, where he has more than held his own thus far. The switch-hitting Seymour named Juan Pierre as the player he patterns his game after.

29.) Ricardo Sanchez | LHP | Age: 20 | Previous Rank: 24

Sometimes lost in the shuffle when discussing the 2016 Rome rotation, Ricardo Sanchez is another impressive lefty pitching prospect. Acquired from the Angels two years ago, Sanchez has upped his strikeout rate this season – punching out a career-best 9.3 batters per nine innings across 73.2 IP. His ERA is floating around 5.50, but his FIP is nearly a run and a half lower. That gives a more accurate portrayal of the season he’s putting together, though he has been erratic (4.3 BB/9) and has not posted a quality start since late May. The fastball is lively and the curveball is sharp, but the command has been shaky at time. Sanchez flourished down the stretch last season and could use another strong finish this year in order to punch his ticket to Double-A.

30.) Lucas Herbert | C | Age: 19 | Previous Rank: 29

The Braves drafted Lucas Herbert in hopes of adding a solid all-around catcher to a system in need of help at the position. Herbert was the high school battery-mate of Kolby Allard, but had a challenging first full year in the system. After batting .185 in 2016, he returned to Rome and has found his swing. He’s batting .263 with a .729 OPS through 60 games this season. While Herbert may never be relied upon for his contributions at the plate, he offers plenty of value behind it. He gets high marks for handling a staff, game-calling and is efficient at neutralizing an opponents’ running game. Those skills may be what creates the initial opportunity, but if Herbert can find a way to make steady offensive strides then he could work his way into Atlanta’s plans within the next three years.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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