As we enter in to the top ten of our prospect rankings, lets see who we have looked at thus far
11.) Manny Banuelos
12.) Ricardo Sanchez
13.) Dustin Peterson
14.) Jason Hursh
15.) Andrew Thurman
16.) Max Povse
17.) Steve Janas
18.) Sean Godfrey
19.) Johan Camargo
20.) Daniel Castro
21.) Mike Soroka
22.) Wes Parsons
23.) Tanner Murphy
24.) Connor Lien
25.) Kyle Kinman
Lets get to the top ten players, starting with No. 10 who is.....
No. 10 - Rio Ruiz
At No. 10, we have 3B Rio Ruiz who quickly will have to increase his production at AA or risk having to repeat the level next year and fall down prospect rankings industry-wide. One of the prospects brought over from the Astros in the Evan Gattis trade, Rio was viewed by many as the third baseman of the future by the Braves. Ruiz was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school and was drafted in the 4th round by Houston. While many believe that he has the strength to possess plus power at the plate, in the minors thus far his power has mostly been to the gaps and for doubles. He has been passable on defense at third for most of this minors career, but he does have a strong arm and he has improved each year in the field. One of the more advanced parts of Rio's game is his ability to get on base and his eye at the plate. Despite a low .224 batting average this year, his on-base percentage is a reasonable .333, his strikeout rate is among the lowest of his career thus far, and his walk rate of 14.8% has improved each year he has been in the minors.
Going forward, Rio is a tough guy to figure. Early in his minor league career, the mechanics of his swing were out of whack, he made an adjustment, and began hitting again. To say that this has been disappointing is a bit of an understatement, although there are several reasons to be optimistic for Rio. His .224 batting average this year is ugly, but since hitting a low of .165 on May 27th, he has brought his average up nearly 60 points while still walking at a good clip. His line drive rate is the best of his career and his BABIP is the lowest of his career (.276), which shows that despite making good contact, he has been a bit unlucky on balls in play. While he could cut down on strikeouts a bit, the biggest thing that we need to see from Rio (other than continuing his improvement) is power. He just recently hit his first home run of the year and while the Braves' minor league parks aren't exactly hitter friendly by any stretch of the imagination, it would be a big step forward in his development to show the pop that so many have projected for him. Given his current level of production, its about 50/50 as to whether he will start next year at AA next year or not and it may be smart money to expect it. He is still a very young player and progressing him slowly is probably going to be in his best interests. Assuming no other setbacks though, it is very possible he could see some time at AAA next year and maybe get a spring training invite in 2017 to see where he is.
No. 9 - Tyrell Jenkins
Coming in at No. 9 on our list is RHP Tyrell Jenkins. Tyrell was drafted in 2010 by the Cardinals and, after shoulder surgery in 2013 slowed his development, he was brought over to the Braves farm system in the Jason Heyward-Shelby Miller trade. While much has been made of who "won" the trade based on the performances of Heyward and Miller, Jenkins' development may very well prove to be the deciding factor. Jenkins features a fairly standard three pitch mix of fastball, breaking ball, and changeup with his fastball being his best pitch. He generally hits the low to mid 90s with significantly downward movement to it, although as of right now its not a "swing and miss" pitch so much as a pitch that he consistently gets ground balls with. Both the breaking ball and his changeup can be major league offerings, but only if his fastball is working.
Since joining the Braves this past offseason, Tyrell has been largely successful in AA, in fact the Braves thought enough of his performance to promote him to AAA on July 8th. He's 5-5 with a 3.00 ERA and generally keeps his pitch counts low enough basically be a lock to make it to at least the 6th or 7th inning. However, there are some areas in need of development, in particular his control. While having a low strikeout rate given how his stuff is (5.7 K/9 in 2015) wouldn't normally be that big of a deal, pitching to contact is a bit problematic when you also have a walk rate of 4.0 BB/9. He is going to give up singles now and then and you don't want guys getting on base for free given that as it results in more guys in scoring position than you want. It does appear that the walk rates are skewed a bit by particularly bad games (a few 5 walk games), but that brings up questions about his consistency as well. While those peripheral issues give one pause, he does keep the ball in the yard (he has given up 3 homers all year thus far) and has performed pretty well throughout his minor league career despite not always having the BABIP gods on his side. As he continues to regain strength in his shoulder, it will be interesting to see if he is able to harness control of his pitches more and get more strikeouts given how deceptive his pitches can be. It was surprising that the Braves recently promoted Tyrell to AAA given it looked like he needed the full year at AA to develop, although one would have expected him to move to AAA after this year. Its doubtful that he would get called up next year just to give him more time to master his pitches against tougher hitters, but expect him to get a chance at the majors in 2017 with an outside chance as a September call-up in 2016.
No. 8 - Kolby Allard
Coming in at No. 8 is the Braves' 1st round pick in the 2015 draft, LHP Kolby Allard. With recent draft picks, it's extraordinarily difficult to assess them, especially those coming right out of high school. To some this will look like a very aggressive ranking, to others it will not look aggressive enough. That being said, assuming that his stress fracture in his back is truly behind him, the Braves very well may have gotten a steal in this draft as Allard was a top 5 pick before the injury and with good reason. A 17 year old out of San Clemente High School, Allard features what many in the scouting community consider to be one of, if not the best curveballs in the entire draft class to go with a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90's and a changeup that is serviceable but will require some work in the minors to really be a major league offering. After posting a 1.32 ERA his junior year (98/17 K/BB in 63.2 IP), he missed most of this past spring with a stress fracture (or "stress reaction" depending on which account you are reading) in his back which scared a lot of prospective teams away from drafting him (he had a similar issue earlier in his career as well...although details about that are spotty at best) in addition to his seemingly strong commitment to UCLA. However, the Braves were the only team to which he granted a workout to show that his back was healed, he seemed to indicate that he wanted to play for the Braves and would sign with them, and the Braves pulled the trigger with their 14th pick in the draft.
Projecting Allard is difficult at this point given that he is so young, a pretty lanky guy, and his limited experience given he is just a high school amateur turning pro. His curveball is a knockout pitch, plain and simple. It will be one of the best curveballs in the Braves minor league system the day he steps out on the field. He already has really decent velocity on his fastball and he could gain a mile or two on it if he fills out a bit as he progresses. He did sign relatively late (it's believed by some that they were just waiting as long as possible to see exactly how much bonus pool the Braves would use before finalizing financial terms), so as a result he did miss some valuable time in rookie ball that could have gotten him further along in the developmental process. Its likely he will spend a large portion of this year in instructional leagues, but once he starts playing in a real competitive setting and we can see how his health holds up we will be able to more accurately gauge his development. That being said, Allard is a top 5 talent in a lot of drafts (not just this past one) so the Braves were fortunate to have a chance to get him and see if he can turn into another blue chip Braves pitching prospect.
No. 7 - Braxton Davidson
Our No. 7 prospect is outfielder Braxton Davidson. He was a projected middle of the first round pick in last year's draft, so the Braves were excited when the North Carolina native fell to them at 32. He started out slow with the Braves which dropped him on many prospect lists, but a nice start to 2015 has him back on many people's radar. The tool that stands out for Braxton is the raw power, a projected plus tool that could make him a middle of the lineup force. While it has yet to show in games most scouts believe it will start to show as he physically matures. He hits the ball as hard as anyone in the system, and if he can make more consistent contact he will be an extra base hit machine. The most impressive tool in his early career has been his plate discipline. His willingness to take walks is an amazing attribute, and because of this he has been able to maintain a spectacular on base percentage despite a lackluster batting average. He has yet to hit for a high average and strikes out a lot in games, but his advanced approach should allow the bat to come alive as he matures. He profiles as a very good middle of the order bat, though it may take some time to get there. He is a natural first baseman who has played outfield professionally due to the presence of Freddie Freeman. He has been a bit slow on the uptake due his lack of foot speed, but he should be able to play average defense due to good instincts and athleticism. He has a strong arm in the outfield that should allow him to play in right field, though he is better suited as a left fielder where his aforementioned lack of speed won't be as detrimental.
While his 2014 season was borderline disastrous his 2015 has showcased his tools in a much more positive light. He has maintained an OBP in the .390 range most of the season (currently .396). His average has improved to .261 after hitting .224 in 2014, and he has posted a .124 ISO courtesy of his 6 home runs. He is third the South Atlantic League in walks with 54 and his nearly 20% walk rate is nothing short of incredible. The only major concern right now are strikeouts as he strikes out in roughly a quarter of his plate appearances, but if he can cut that down to a more workable 20% he should be just fine. The biggest thing for Braxton is whether his power shows up or not. He has made obvious improvements over last year and if he can continue doing so could be a 30 home run hitter. He has the necessary tools to hit .300/.400/.500, and he's going to need to hit to progress. If he adds some weight in order to improve his good raw power he will likely lose foot speed, possibly necessitating a move to first base. The early improvements and his mature approach bode well for his future, and he could be a couple of years away from being a Top 100 prospect. The important thing to remember with Braxton is his youth. He was one of the youngest draftees in 2014 and is one of the youngest players in A ball, so he has plenty of time to improve his inconsistencies at the plate.
No. 6 - Mallex Smith
Coming in at No. 6 is speedster Mallex Smith. Mallex led all of minor league baseball with 88 steals and 2014, and after coming over in the deal that sent Justin Upton to San Diego appears ready to take over as Atlanta's starting center fielder very soon. Mallex relies on his speed to help in all parts of his game and he is proficient at laying down drag bunts as well as beating out infield singles. He has a simple line drive swing that produces just marginal power, but any ball in the gap threatens to be a triple. He has a patient approach at the plate that allows him to draw a fair amount of walks, and when he gets on he is a force on the bases. His defense is a work in progress at the moment, but he has made great strides and projects as a well above average center fielder due to his blazing speed. His arm is below average, but with his other abilities in the outfield that problem will be minimal. If he can show he is more than just a pair of legs he could be a real force at the top of Atlanta's lineup
2015 has been a breakout campaign for Mallex, as he slashed .340/.418/.413 for Mississippi before being bumped up to Gwinnett. He has gotten off to a slow start in AAA, but he is very young for the level (4.9 years below league average). He has shown he can hit at every level he has played at, and his career .294/.383/.388 line is very impressive. He has a career high six outfield assists after throwing out seven runners in his previous three seasons combined. His 28 stolen bases are a bit off of his career pace, but it still projects to 63 per 162 games. He is the prototypical leadoff hitter who finds any way to get on base, and he should find his way to Atlanta sooner rather than later. One would expect him to get a September call up in 2015, and then compete for the starting center field role out of Spring training next year. If/when the Braves decide to part ways with Cameron Maybin he will be the likely replacement, so if the Braves choose to sell at the deadline he may be up even quicker than that. He projects to be a top tier speed player, and he may find his way on some Top 100 prospect lists by the end of the season.