In January, ESPN Insider Keith Law ranked nine Braves among his top 100 prospects. Five were in the top 50. Since Dansby Swanson, who was No. 2 behind the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi, is off the board, that makes Law’s midseason top 50 even more encouraging for the local team. Seven Braves are listed, four of whom are making their first appearance in the upper half-hundred.
Kyle Wright (No. 35) just got drafted. Mike Soroka didn’t grace the January list; he’s No. 49 now. Ian Anderson nudged up from 52nd to 41st. Kolby Allard was No. 32; he’s now No. 26. Ronald Acuna, who’s 19 and was just promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, jumped from 32nd to ninth. Max Fried, who was 50th in January, isn’t included in this top 50.
The most eye-catching leaper among listed Braves was Luiz Gohara, obtained from Seattle in the Mallex Smith trade. He was 77th; he’s now 39th. (I can attest that the Braves’ brass is giddy about his progress.) He’s 20. He had an ERA of 1.98 in High-A; his ERA since reaching Double-A is 2.90. On the season, he has 84 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings; he has walked 27. He’s a big lefty who throws markedly harder than Sean Newcomb, also big and left-handed.
If there’s a slight cause for concern in Law’s listings, it’s that Ozzie Albies has slipped from 26th to 32nd. Law himself suggests a possible reason, writing: “Albies is a natural shortstop who has moved to second primarily because of the presence of Dansby Swanson, which dings Albies’ value slightly.”
Still, it’s worth noting that Albies, regarded as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect after Swanson’s graduation, is no longer No. 1 (Acuna is) or even No. 2 (that’s Allard). Law’s isn’t the only source who has downgraded Albies: Baseball America ranked him No. 8 overall in May; he’s No. 23 now.
That mightn’t sound like much of a drop, but it kind of is. Owing to graduating, high-rated guys tend to move up. Benintendi, Swanson and Cody Bellinger — Law’s No. 6 prospect in January, he’ll be the National League rookie of the year — are in the majors. The Phillies’ J.P. Crawford, No. 4 back then, is hitting .211 in Triple-A and has seen his value plunge. (He’s not in this top 50.)
I can’t see much Albies has done wrong — he’s hitting .292 with an OPS of .787 at Gwinnett — except striking out a lot. He whiffed 57 times in 82 Double-A games; he has struck out 122 times in 136 Triple-A games. That said, he is only 20, and he remains a big-time prospect. I haven’t detected the Braves souring on him one whit.
The greater point: The Braves have a lot of prospects. (No. 1 farm system and all that.) Those prospects are getting closer and closer to the majors.