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Atlanta Braves Minor League Predictions: Surprises and Disappointments

The Talking Chop minor league staff got together to make their predictions for who will rise in 2018, and who may struggle more than expected.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion
This is Jean Carlos Encarnacion, and if you don’t know his name now, you will.
Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

With the minor league season starting up next week, the Talking Chop minor league staff got together to do a series of predictions articles regarding what we think will happen in the 2018 season. Yes, we will likely be wrong a bunch, but half the fun of covering prospects is to see who succeeds and doesn’t and why.

Every season a handful of prospects raise their stock tremendously and come out of nowhere to put themselves in the conversation for the future. As well, some have disappointing years, whether it be injury or performance. We’ll each make our prediction on who surprises and who falters this season, and if we choose your favorite prospect, just know we don’t hate them. Young prospects are bound to run into hiccups, and many of the prospects we see struggle will still have the fullest of our expectations.

Biggest Surprise Prospect

Aaron: Isranel Wilson. Behind Pache and Acuna, there might not be another player in the system that’s as toolsy as Wilson. I firmly believe he can have a breakout similar to Estevan Florial, so showing off the power, speed, arm and defense, but will have contact issues.

Eric: Jean-Carlos Encarnacion. He isn’t a surprise prospect for anyone who has been following along with us over the last 6-8 months or so, but he is a guy to keep an eye on for sure. Encarnacion was impressive in the field when we saw him and we have not heard anything to make us think he can’t stay in the dirt although his future does appear to be at third base. He hits the snot out of the ball although in rookie ball it was more line drives than long fly balls. He should start the year at Rome and after a month or two, I expect him to go from a “who?” to a guy that we get asked questions about constantly regarding how he is doing and when is he going to get promoted.

Garrett: Tucker Davidson. I’m torn between a handful of prospects, but believe Davidson will have the best season of that group. Davidson is not the best prospect in the system nor will he be at the end of this season, but his advanced game on the mound and his stuff should allow him to have another good season. The Braves made the right choice in moving Davidson back into rotation part way through last season and he spent the rest of the season building up status as a legitimate prospect after being a 19th round pick just the year before. Tucker should continue that momentum into the season and really get off to a good start and ride that to

Gaurav: I am going to go off script and say Travis Demeritte. My love for Demeritte and his tools is well documented but I think this is the year he puts it together and begins to make more consistent contact. He’s always had the great walk rate, frankly an elite set of tools defensively, and his swing generates a ton of back spin so the ball jumps off his bat but his problem has always been generating enough contact that would merit a bid on a major league roster. WELL HERE WE GO! I HOPE 2018 is the season that Travis puts it all together and becomes a highly touted prospect once again.

Matt: A third tough decision? Actually it is. I’ve been waiting for Isranel Wilson to really break out since he skipped over the DSL and went on to win the GCL Home run title at the age of 17. Wilson had a disappointing 2016 but responded well last year, and still has the upside to really break out with his combination of power and athleticism. Then you have the lottery ticket that is Jean Carlos Encarnacion. JCE caught my eye last June as I was following GCL games, but I didn’t know a ton about him other than he was young and having success. Fast forward to our GCL trip and we got a chance to see that he has the long, athletic/projectable frame, the ability to really impact a baseball, and better defensive potential than most would think(depending a lot on how he fills out that projectable body). I’m going to go with Encarnacion as my pick over Wilson but it’s a close call and either of them would be a perfectly acceptable answer.

Most Disappointing Prospect

Aaron: I want to say Kolby Allard cause I think the lack of velocity catches up with him real soon, but I’ll go with Derian Cruz. He was more highly thought of than Pache at the time he was signed. He has added pressure since he was the guy getting bundled player money that cause the Braves to lose 11 IFAs. He currently has one carrying tool in speed. He struck out a crazy amount and his defense was beyond horrific in 2017. I think he continues to be a disappointment unfortunately

Eric: I hate this question, but I understand that it is necessary to at least entertain the possibility that guys are going to struggle since we are ultimately talking about prospects here and attrition is inevitable. I am tempering my expectations about Ian Anderson for the moment. The stuff is real and I am not questioning the upside with him, however I remain unconvinced that he was healthy last year and I think he could take some more time to round into form than some would like. Still like him a lot, but the Braves may handle him carefully and he has to catch up a bit in terms of innings and reps while getting his command where it needs to be. Still believe he ends up the best pitcher from his draft class eventually, but don’t see him as a quick mover which, for a lot of folks, will be a “disappointment”. I also have zero faith in Braxton Davidson as a prospect at all.

Garrett: I wrote these questions, and even I hate myself for this one. Gun to my head, I would probably choose Kolby Allard. I do believe in Kolby Allard’s ability, but he is going into Triple-A with relatively limited experience and that may hurt him early in the season. Every prospect is going to hit a rough patch at some point, and it seems for many Braves prospects Triple-A has been that point. Allard will bounce back, maybe the second half of the season, maybe next year, but I would expect some struggles from him as he adjusts to a difficult level.

Gaurav: I absolutely loathe this question because most of the people we are talking about are still incredibly young and have tons of hope but if I had to choose one - it would be Braxton Davidson. With his shift to first he’s effectively the lone Braves prospect over at first, however with a certain gentleman named Freddie Freeman there is little pressure on you. With that you would hope Braxton could harness that incredible physical talent he has and translate it onto the field where he could be a very dynamic bat you could add to the mix. That said, it’s a steep hill to climb for Braxton and he has yet to tap into his high potential.

Matt: When he came over from the Angels a couple of seasons ago, Ricardo Sanchez was seen as very talented but also very raw. Nothing he has done in the Braves organization has changed in the past couple of seasons. Sanchez still has the talent and will really flash that potential from time to time, but it’s not consistent and when he’s off he can be really off. With him being added to the 40 man this past winter, the pressure is really going to be on him this season to prove he has a future in this organization.

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