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Talking Chop’s Midseason Top 30 Braves Prospects: 13-18

We have an even split of position players and pitchers with most of them still playing in A-ball in this installment of our midseason top 30.

Freddy Tarnok Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Welcome to the third installment of our midseason top 30 Braves prospects list. Before we go any further, if you need to get caught up on prospects 19-30, here are some links to help you out.

Talking Chop’s Midseason Top 30 Braves Prospects: 19-24

Talking Chop’s 2018-Midseason Top 30 Braves Prospects: 25-30

If you haven’t read the previous installments, the 25-30 section has some answers regarding our process, what this list is and isn’t, and some answers to questions that we get a lot. It will be helpful to read that section before you get bent out of shape about something and start shouting at us in the comments section (at least about those things anyways).

In this section of our list, we only have only player that is playing above high-A with a nice mix of position players and pitchers. We may alter the rollout schedule a bit tomorrow and put both of the remaining installments there with the honorable mentions to come on Friday. Have fun discussing this section in the comments and enjoy!

18.) Isranel Wilson

Isranel Wilson is a difficult prospect to pin down as he provides frequent flashes of absolutely brilliance but also such frustrating streaks of inconsistency that he’s not able to tap into his monumental potential. In terms of pure speed/raw power combination there is not a player in the Braves system that can match Izzy Wilson as he’s consistently displayed an ability to play an above average center field and has hit some jaw-dropping home runs. His problem is he never consistently puts the bat on the ball, with strikeout rates in the high 20% range.

When he does hit he can be fantastic, and so far upon promotion to Florida he’s continuing a downswing in his strikeout numbers that have him showing signs of life at the plate. Wilson’s line drive rate has ticked up every year as has his fly ball rate, and he’s now sitting in a comfortable position to tap into his power but it’s just not there. Most of his hard contact is on line drives and ground balls, and although he’s a dangerous player with his speed and can stretch you on the basepaths either legging out an extra base or stealing one, it would be much preferable for him to just take a quick jog around them instead. The last 38 games for Wilson has been the most impressive of his career with an acceptable strikeout rate, 6 stolen bases, 5 home runs, and a .276/.349/.433 line, and for a player this far off and this much a long shot all you can ask for is progression.

Also of note are Wilson’s splits, as he’s got a .728 OPS vs right handed pitching and a 25.9% strikeout rate, but versus left handers only has a .608 OPS with a 37.6% strikeout rate. For a switch hitter this could be an easy fix and he may end up dropping it all together, perhaps helping his overall numbers a bit. Then there are the situational splits, which may mean nothing but perhaps provides a glimpse into his mentality and approach. With runners on base Wilson is hitting a staggering .295/.372/.509 this season. With the bases empty he is hitting .202/.290/.307. The same trend holds when he leads off an inning, hitting .167/.221/.264 in that situation versus .266/.357/.433 when someone has batted before him. As a leadoff hitter Wilson has batted just .148/.243/.180 and when hitting at any other point in the lineup has hit .266/.347/.449. This could be a case of small sample size, although the bases empty/runners on comparison features a 60/40 split in plate appearances, or it could point to issues in either his focus or approach in non run scoring opportunities.

Simply put, Wilson walks more, hits for significantly more power, and strikes out less when he has runners on base. If it is an approach problem, then we have a baseline in his game on which to improve, and if it is a matter of focus that’s just something Wilson will have to solve for himself. If it’s sample sizes let’s just hope the runners on numbers are the true Wilson.

17.) Kyle Muller

The ever enigmatic Kyle Muller shows up at 17 on our list. Part of that stacked draft that featured the Braves nabbing Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz, Kyle was a mountain of a man that left scouts and fans drooling about his potential. Unfortunately, he didn’t have quite the start of his career like Wentz and Anderson, but Kyle has rebounded nicely and is having quite the full season debut - so much so that he was promoted to Florida where he has settled in. Much was made about Kyle’s diminished velocity in 2017 and it appears to hopefully be a thing of the past.

He features a mid-90s fastball that is beginning to hold its velocity throughout a game, a good 12-6 curveball, and a very good changeup. After throwing 75 innings over the first two seasons of his professional career, he’s thrown 91 so far in 2018 and is coming off of an extremely dominant outing where he struck out 12 over seven innings and walked zero batters. Unfortunately with Kyle in Florida, there aren’t many opportunities to watch him but 2018 has been very encouraging for the young lefty and if he continues to progress like this - that draft has a chance to be extremely special.

16.) Jean Carlos Encarnacion

Of the players the Braves managed to keep following the Coppolella scandal, Jean Carlos Encarnacion was the most impressive hitter of the 2016 GCL Braves squad that we observed. JCE was already showing power in games despite a thin frame with significant room to grow into, has a knack for putting the ball on the bat, and showed an ability to adjust to pitching that is abnormal for a player of his age. An extremely under-the-radar signing out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion was underwhelming as an 18 year old in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, but quickly put his name on radars in 2017 by hitting .350/.374/.563 for the GCL Braves. Encarnacion has grown into his power this season with 30 extra base hits already and still has even more room to grow while already showing 50 raw power.

The problem for Encarnacion is his strikeouts jumping up this season, but the contact he has made has been just as high quality as the season before justifying what appears to be a high BABIP. This may improve if his pitch recognition matures along with his body, and to date that is the glaring hole in his game. Not walking much has kind of been the norm for Braves prospects and in some ways can be acceptable, but a 3.9% rate is a flag that needs to be addressed. He’s cutting the strikeouts and improving the power as the year progresses, but he still hasn’t shown that he can work counts and may be exposed at higher levels.

What’s more, his natural athleticism doesn’t translate well to third base as he doesn’t seem to have the consistency or the instincts to play the position. This may change and he will be given every chance to stay at the hot corner, but he seems destined to be pressed into an outfield corner. His natural hitting ability and raw power should translate well to an outfield spot, but he’ll have to show he can get on base more consistently if he wants to fulfill his potential at the plate.

15.) Greyson Jenista

Heading into this spring there was a real question about which Wichita State slugger would be drafted higher, Jenista or third overall selection Alec Bohm. While Bohm went third and Jenista dropped into the second round, heading into the spring this was a real question.

Jenista had two great years at Wichita State in 2016 and 2017, posting OPS marks of .902 and .922 and never hitting below .320. He then went to the Cape Cod League and won MVP of the most prestigious summer league in the country with a slash line of .310/.391/.401. Unfortunately Jenista pressed a little in his draft year and only hit .309/.446/.475 with seven doubles and nine homers. Not bad, but not elite production in the American Athletic Conference.

Jenista slid to the second round where the Braves quickly grabbed him. He’s made Brian Bridges and company look smart as he’s hit .265/.337/.482 with two doubles, two triples, and four homers in his first 22 career pro games.

Offensively, Jenista needs to make some small tweaks, but overall has the upside to be a true middle of the order run producer. Jenista is a potentially plus hitter who can hit line drives all over the field and took walks more often than he struck out in college. Jenista also has big plus plus power inside that he is in the middle of tapping into more frequently in games.

He’s more athletic than his 6’4”, 240 pound frame indicates, and while he isn’t a lock to remain in the outfield over a future move to first base, we do think he will be able to stay in the outfield.

Jenista is in Rome now and he probably finishes the year there and starts 2019 in Florida. If everything breaks right for him, getting to the big leagues in 2019 wouldn’t be impossible- but we expect to see him in 2020.

14.) Freddy Tarnok

There may not be a single more surprising entry on this entire list than Freddy Tarnok. Not because of what he’s capable of (he has the makings of having a top shelf arm) it’s because of how quickly it’s coming together for the young pitcher. Up until his Junior year of high school Tarnok was a shortstop. He was absolutely a project when the Braves surprised a lot of people and took him in the third round, and then paid him more than twice the slot value, but he has already made major strides in this 2018 season. Tarnok sits mid-90s with his fastball and often touches 97 mph. He counters that fastball with an extremely quickly developing curveball with high spin rate, and a developing changeup. Much like Touki, Freddy was a project with considerable upside but that you had to remain patient with.

The Braves started him in the bullpen this season to limit his innings as he develops into a starter and it went better than expected. He has struggled over his last two outings but through his first 16 he has limited hitters to a .544 OPS that has mainly been inflated by a high walk rate (6 BB/9). He’s been hard to get a hit off of (.164 BAA), and when you do get a hit it’s often weak contact (.234 SLG). His fly ball rate (46.5%) is a little higher than you would want to see but again you have to remember that he’s only been pitching exclusively for three years.

The projectability is there. The raw stuff is there. It’s difficult to not get excited about Tarnok given his history and how well he’s pitched to start the season but it’s important to remain patient with him. He will have his highs-and-lows as any project will have, but there is a ton to like and he’s absolutely someone you should keep an eye on.

13.) Bryse Wilson

The Braves fourth rounder in 2016, the same draft as Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller, was Bryse Wilson and he has shown he belongs right with those guys. At age 20 Wilson started the year in Florida and dominated over five starts- going 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 26.2 innings.

Wilson got the call to Double A on May 8th and has gone 2-5 with a 4.57 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 72 K to 22 BB in 65 IP. While those are very good overall numbers for any 20 year old in the Southern League, the numbers look even better if you take out back to back bad starts in late May and early June. In his other 11 starts he has 60 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 65 K to 16 BB.

Wilson seems to have mastered Double A at the age of 20 even more than his overall numbers would indicate. His fastball is in the mid 90s regularly with plenty of life, capable of getting swings and misses or inducing weak contact. He’s also able to locate it within the zone and go up or down in the zone. Wilson has a solid slider and change as well, the slider being an average to potentially above average pitch.

Wilson has a big fastball he can locate and knows how to pitch, which helps him get the most out of his three pitch mix. He will likely spend the remainder of the year in Mississippi and move up to Triple A to start 2019. We wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him competing for a big league job at some point in 2019.

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