This will sound like a broken record today given how many really good minor league teams the Braves will field this year, but the Florida Fire Frogs released their roster to start the 2018 season and it is LOADED.
Here is a breakdown of what we will see on the field for the Fire Frogs to start the season.
That is an absolutely loaded rotation. Anderson Wentz, and Wilson all got varying degrees of top 100 consideration this past offseason and there are few prospects in the Braves’ farm system that have more helium than Tucker Davidson. Talking to scouts, officials, and observers will yield varying opinions as to who they prefer and who will be able to stick as a starter long term, but that there is that much debate and the levels of talent we are talking about is an incredibly good problem to have. Don’t sleep on Jeremy Walker either as he is still highly regarded by team officials and he has the ability to stick at starter. You will struggle to find a better collection of arms on any team in the minor leagues.
This is a very interesting group of relievers. The most intriguing from a prospect standpoint is Devan Watts who we are frankly surprised to see at high-A this season. If he performs well as the assumed Fire Frogs closer, he will move up quickly. Drew Harrington was a starter last season before he got hurt and he could make starts here and there as needed (and that may very be needed with promotions being a very real possibility in the rotation), but he appears to be set to develop as a long reliever for the moment. Chad Sobotka and Mauricio Cabrera have been in the organization for a long time and control issues (Cabrera) and injury (Sobotka) have kept them from progressing. Cabrera has a high octane fastball and debuted well for the Braves, but his inability to find the strike zone proved to be too pervasive a problem. Sean McLaughlin is repeating a level, but he is highly regarded by teammates and if he takes a step forward and limit hard contact/miss more bats, he could move up quickly as well.
This is quite the catching corps in Florida. Brett was promoted to Florida last year and could get called up to Mississippi before the season is over assuming he can turn his approach into consistent production at the plate (there are a lot of folks who are betting he will do just that). He a big-time fly ball hitter which could be tough in the FSL, but the power is real. He also gets hit by pitches at a hilariously high rate. Lucas, on the other hand, had to repeat last year at Rome due to deficiencies at the plate in part due to an injury during rookie ball that gave him a late start in his development. Florida will be a big challenge for the defensively-gifted Herbert. If he can show he can hit, he will be considered among the best catching prospects in the system. However, the Florida State League is notoriously pitcher-friendly, so that will be easier said than done.
The big news here is Braxton Davidson’s long-rumored move back to first base. He played the position in high school, but Braxton’s future will not be determined by his positional value, but instead by his ability to tap into his impressive raw power without striking out at a 35% clip. Ray-Patrick Didder is a fascinating player as he has some pop in his bat, can absolutely fly on the basepaths, and has a ton of positional versatility. He was a plus defender in the outfield in Rome and has seen extensive time both in the infield and outfield with the Fire Frogs last year. Jordan Rodgers got rave reviews for his defense in Rome last year and was one of the more highly rated senior signs to come out of the draft last year.
Well, to the surprise of exactly no one, Cristian Pache is the headliner of this group. He is already appearing on top 100 prospect lists and if the two home runs he hit off of Sean Newcomb in the Future Stars game a week or so ago are any indication, his stock could shoot up in a hurry as he already has great speed, world class athleticism, and Gold Glove defense as things going for him. Justin Ellison continues to tempt us as a super toolsy outfield bat that has moved slowly, but surely through the Braves’ farm system. Jared James played in Mississippi last year, but it appears the Braves are pumping the brakes a bit and moved him down a level. Anfernee Seymour can absolutely fly and was promoted to Florida last year and looks to see if he can build on that success in the Florida State League again.
Predictions for 2018:
Best Starting Pitcher - Bryse Wilson
Best Bullpen Pitcher - Devan Watts
Team MVP: Cristian Pache
Dark Horse Prospect: Jordan Rodgers