Putting together my Top 30 Atlanta Braves Prospects was no small undertaking. In a farm system loaded with talent, it was extremely challenging to weigh the factors that ultimately shaped the list. I’ve been asked what comprised the criteria for my ranking system. That’s a fair question, but I’ve maintained first and foremost that this list is a fluid situation. As for establishing the order, talent, projectability, makeup, statistical indicators of success and other variables all play a part. Proximity to the majors is also a minor consideration when it comes to establishing a depth chart of sorts. Here are a few names that could be popping up on my list or others in the very near future.
Catch up on the my full Top 30 list here:
Drew Harrington | LHP | Age: 21 | Acquired: 3rd Round, 2016 | ETA: 2018
An impressive left-hander out of the University of Louisville, Drew Harrington was the first college arm Atlanta selected in last June’s draft. The 80th overall pick, he received a $900,000 bonus from the Braves after closing out his collegiate career by winning ACC pitcher of the year for the Cardinals. Harrington posted a 12-2 record with a 1.95 ERA and 37BB/100K in 110.2 IP as a junior last season. A highly-touted lefty starter out of high school, Harrington spent his first two years at Louisville pitching primarily out of the bullpen and followed that same path when he made his professional debut with Danville in 2016. Harrington went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 5BB/15K in 14.2 IP over nine appearances (one start). There’s a good chance Atlanta simply wanted to watch his innings and get him some work in short-season ball, though he could project as a reliever down the line. Harrington has a sinking fastball that he operates in the low-90s and backs up with a sharp slider and an emerging changeup. That third pitch will be a critical factor to Harrington remaining a starter. At some point, it will be a numbers game when it comes to setting the minor league rotations. Given that Harrington is a college arm who has experience as a reliever, he could stick in that role and be fast-tracked through the system. He’ll turn 22 just before the season and it would not surprise me to see him advance to Double-A by the second half if he has success in either Rome or Florida.
Abrahan Guitierez | C | Age: 17 | Acquired: Free Agent, 2016 | ETA: 2021
One of many highly-touted talents among Atlanta’s international signees in 2016, the Braves hope Abrahan Gutierrez could blossom into something special behind the plate. Atlanta’s system has lacked both depth and long term answers at the position for some time, especially in the wake of Christian Bethancourt’s failed run. By the time all is said and done, Gutierrez could very well be riding that same kind of hype train, but with the hopes he will reach Atlanta to stay. A stand-out performer since the age of 11 in his native Venezuela, the Braves signed him for $3.5 million. Gutierrez is a good receiver with a strong, accurate arm, but his power potential is the most exciting part of his game. Gutierrez has drawn comparisons to both Mike Piazza and budding Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez, but has plenty of development in front of him before those comparisons may prove accurate. Like any player in his mid-late teens, Gutierrez will continue to grow into his body and begin the process of polishing his skills both at and behind the plate. He should debut in the Dominican Summer League or perhaps join Kevin Maitan in the Gulf Coast League later this summer.
Dylan Moore | INF | Age: 24 | Acquired: Trade with Texas | ETA: 2018
The Braves added the versatile Dylan Moore as part of a three-way trade that sent Jeff Francoeur to the Marlins in late August. With a mix of speed and power and the ability to play multiple positions, Atlanta may have quietly added a useful piece. Moore was a bit old for the low minors, but he could move quickly after a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. Originally a seventh round selection as a senior out of the University of Central Florida in 2015, Moore spent his final two years at UCF after transferring from Cypress College in California. A well-rounded collegiate hitter, he has hit the ground running thus far in the minor leagues, posting an .824 OPS. His success in the AFL is encouraging and could be a sign of things to come. The fact that he basically does a little bit of everything makes him an intriguing prospect in an organization that values a well-rounded game. Moore has a nice blend of power and speed (46 extra-base hits and 42 steals in 2016), which should allow him to hit for extra-bases and take the extra base on a fairly regular basis. He has seen time at all four infield spots after playing shortstop in college and is adequate in the field. That along with his bat could help him carve out a spot as a super-utility-type. Moore may begin 2017 in Mississippi, or jump there quickly after a stop in the Florida State League.
Corbin Clouse | LHP | Age: 21 | Acquired: 27th Round, 2016 | ETA: 2018
The draft can provide all nature of necessary pieces. While the early rounds typically provide fans with most of the initial excitement, the later rounds can help tell the tale of a draft class. Atlanta may have found a useful lefty reliever in 27th rounder Corbin Clouse. Selected out of Davenport University in Grand Rapids, MI, Clouse gave up just two extra-base hits as he dominated in his debut season between Danville and Rome in 2016. He finished with video game numbers, going 5-0 with five saves, a 1.19 ERA and 15BB/53K in 30.1 IP. It’s worth noting that he was tough on both righty (.137 BAA) and lefty hitters (.107 BAA) as the Braves allowed him to work full innings to excellent results. It’s a small sample size, but those who witnessed Clouse firsthand can vouch for the devastating slider that helped him rack up 15.7 K/9 in his first taste of pro ball. He could get a chance to close in the Florida State League and earn a promotion to Double-A before season’s end.
Ray-Patrick Didder | OF | Age: 22 | Acquired: Free Agent, 2013 | ETA: 2019
I saved perhaps the best of this bunch for last. One of the more intriguing prospects on the edge of jumping into my Top 30 was Ray-Patrick Didder. Originally signed out of Aruba as a middle infielder in 2013, he put himself on the map upon moving to the outfield in 2015 and enjoyed a very solid season atop the lineup for Rome last year. Didder was both a South Atlantic League and organizational All-Star in 2016, while establishing himself as perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the Atlanta farm system. A converted shortstop, Didder has natural instincts, great speed and a strong arm that all work in concert. He racked up 20 assists last season, a total that tied him for second most among outfielders in the Sally League and tops in the entire Braves organization. It’s not just the arm that draws notice. Didder gets a consistently good read on the ball and takes efficient routes, which is impressive considering he is relatively new to the outfield. He has all the makings of a strong center fielder, but only got extended time there because of an injury to Ronald Acuña.
Didder had an interesting year at the plate to say the least. Installed in the leadoff spot for Rome, he batted .274/.387/.381 in 132 games and led the system with 95 runs scored and 37 stolen bases. Didder runs the bases with abandon and his speed is among the best in the system as well. He should remain a base-stealing threat as he climbs the ranks. His on-base percentage was influenced by a staggering 39 times hit by pitch, which led the minor leagues last season. It’s doubtful that rather painful brand of charity can be depended on annually. Didder is still a work in progress as a hitter, but could tap into some extra-base ability with continued refinement and a bit more lower body involvement. He is vulnerable inside thanks to a swing that is a bit long at times. If he can make the adjustment, those HBP’s may start turning into extra-bases. Didder spends his offseasons working out with Xander Bogaerts, a fellow Aruban and budding star shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. Atlanta would undoubtedly love to see Didder’s bat follow a similar path. He will open 2017 with the Fire Frogs in the FSL.