Hello again, everyone, to the third installment of the Talking Chop Preseason 2020 Top 30 Braves prospect list. We have gone through quite a few names already with both new and familiar faces, so here are some links to get you caught up on how we have gotten to this point.
We are now at the halfway point with out list which includes a pair of 2019 draftees and four guys that saw a significant amount of playing time in Rome last season (although several did not end the season there). Enjoy prospects 13-18!
18.) Huascar Ynoa - RHP
Huascar Ynoa was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40 man roster following the 2018 season and while the slow-rising right handed pitcher has shown flashes of the talent that drew the Braves to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, he’s yet to live up to that roster spot. Ynoa came to the Braves in a trade from the Minnesota Twins, and his time in a Braves uniform has been mediocre at best. Ynoa had an ERA north of five in the minor leagues last year, though it’s worth noting much of that came in the home run explosion that plagued all of Triple-A last season. Ynoa did set a career high with his strikeout rate, and got a very short taste of the Major Leagues with three innings in which he allowed six runs.
All of this is to say that Huascar (pronounced, roughly, Woss Car, if you were wondering) is a bit further away from being major league ready than most 40 man guys, and if the Braves were to need a spot it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him dropped. He was put on the 40 man roster for a reason though, and that’s because the Braves see a player with tremendous potential who is worth being patient with. Ynoa sits in the mid 90’s with his fastball, a lively offering that has been his go to pitch in the minor leagues. His slider has the potential to be above average and both offerings would play up well in a bullpen role that will likely be necessary for him. Ynoa has the body to stay as a starter and his changeup has made strides to being a good third offering, but his command still lags behind where it needs to be for him to stick as a starter. His mechanics aren’t the cleanest with a whippy three quarter arm action, but they’re also much of what creates his deception and movement on his pitches. The command problems inherent in that motion is just something the Braves may have to live with, as it’s probably too late to make wholesale changes. The stuff is good enough to start in the major leagues and excel, but those mechanics and commands issues look to likely push Ynoa to a bullpen role sooner rather than later, a role he could become a late inning guy in.
17.) Justin Dean - OF
It’s no secret I (Wayne) have been particularly high on Dean because of his ties to DII baseball. There is no secret any longer that Dean is becoming a very nice prospect for the Braves system rich in some intriguing outfield talent. At the very least, he’s certainly been way more valuable than the 17th round draft pick the Braves invested on him in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Dean is one of those guys you’d call a baseball player. He’s fast — he led the South Atlantic League in stolen bases (47) and triples (nine) — makes solid contact to all fields, and is a good fielder in center that can be a spark plug atop the lineup. He hits a lot more on the ground and line drives to the gap, which is good for his speed, and walks a reasonable amount of the time to counter a somewhat aggressive approach. Simply put, he’s a hard-working, toolsy player that has potential to climb the ladder.
He struggled in the Arizona Fall League, but it wasn’t overly concerning. He only had nine hits in 45 at-bats and struck out 18 times, but did swipe three bags showing off that speed. There were questions on why he didn’t get promoted during the season, but I think that was more of Braves outfield depth and avoiding sending him to Florida where hitting seemed to be a struggle in general anyway.
With all of the exciting outfield prospects the Braves have in the system, Dean may not necessarily scream starting centerfielder in 2020, but he looks like he can have value as a fourth outfielder and definitely put that speed to use off the bench. This will be big year to see how Dean matches up against some older, more advanced pitching, but we should remain excited for his future.
16.) Vaughn Grissom - SS/3B
The Braves started their Day Three haul during the 2019 MLB Draft with this promising bat out of a Florida high school. Sometimes overlooked due to being high school teammates with Tigers top pick Riley Greene, it’s time to stop overlooking Vaughn Grissom.
Grissom - no relation to Marquis - is a natural hitter, a player with the ability to make consistent hard contact, take quality at bats, and show some power. If you couldn’t tell, the bat is definitely his calling card as a player, even though that isn’t all he brings to the table.
Grissom is also an intelligent player who is very aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and is trying to get better in the areas that aren’t considered his strengths. He was drafted as a shortstop, his natural position, though some see a move to third base. While a move isn’t a sure thing, it is always a nice bonus when a player brings extra versatility to the table- especially in today’s game. It’s not out of the question that he could play elsewhere if needed as well.
Grissom is likely to start in Rome and has a 2023 ETA on making it to Atlanta. He has the talent to be a quality every day player, and versatility and instincts to make an excellent Ben Zobrist type of utility guy.
15.) Victor Vodnik - RHP
After being taken in the 14th round of the 2018 draft, Vodnik joined the Braves system as an intriguing prospect without much of a track record. He had upper 90’s velocity and a wicked slider that he learned without any formal instruction, but he had been often overlooked due to his limited stature (right at six feet tall). After being assigned to Rome to start 2019, Vodnik established himself as more than just an intriguing arm, putting up a 2.94 ERA | 2.79 FIP in his first full season, with a pretty 9.22 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9.
He still carries the high velocity with him, as his fastball was known to flirt with triple digits last year, but he mainly sat in the 92-95 MPH range. The natural sink on his fastball, alongside the the slider which has continued to develop in tandem with a handy new changeup, had him forcing batters to pound the ball into the ground last year at a 52.6% clip. He only allowed one home run in 67 ⅓ innings.
Vodnik was gradually stretched out over the year, and was in the process of transitioning from a relief role into a starter role when he missed six weeks due to blisters. Upon his return, his struggled a bit with fatigue, which is understandable for his first full season. Look for him to start with Florida in 2020, and lay claim to a starting role.
He is an easy prospect to dream on, as he has all the tools to stick in a Major League rotation, or serve as a late inning weapon out of the bullpen. Plus, based strictly on his name, he might have a career as a Russian supervillain if baseball doesn’t pan out.
14.) Braden Shewmake - SS/UTIL
If anyone had the Braves taking Braden Shewmake in the 1st round, please step forward…oh wait, no one did. This was most definitely a surprising pick when there was still one of the top right hand prep pitchers available (Daniel Espino) and even a 3B prospect that was shooting up boards in Kody Hoese. Both of whom signed for less money. However, you’ll be happy to know that Shewmake put up a 151 wRC+ in 51 games in A ball to earn a promotion late in the year skipping right over High-A and went straight to Double-A. Looking back, this shouldn’t be surprising. In 2017, he had an incredible Freshman year at Texas A&M, putting up a .903 OPS that included 11 home runs. All the while striking out just 10% of the time. The next two seasons weren’t near as great, but he still put up an OPS around .845. The Braves got their guy, so let’s take a look at what they got.
He’s a tall (6’4) and lanky short stop with an above average hit tool. Another positive is that he hits the ball hard, though his swing path is more akin to line drives than fly balls. It isn’t like Shew can’t hit home runs, but that his swing isn’t geared to do so just yet. Now he’s not likely going to put on much more weight given that we are talking about a college age player and not a prep kid still growing into his body, so if he wants to tap that power, he’s going to have to make an adjustment to lift the ball more. He has good speed and is smart on the basepaths. With this he was able to swipe eleven bases in 51 games at Rome, and another two at Double-A Mississippi. On the defensive side his arm is pretty average and as well as his defense. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts off at Double-A because even though he was just drafted, Shew would actually be young for the level (age 22 vs Double-A avg age of 23/24).
13.) Trey Harris - OF
Trey Harris is everything you want in a prospect. He’s got a beaming personality and is a welcome site in the clubhouse, he’s Georgia born and raised, and as it turns out, he’s pretty good.
Harris became known as the man who hit the first home run in SunTrust Park playing for Mizzou and has been an absolute steal for the Braves after they grabbed him in the 32nd round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Listed at 5’8 and 215, Harris is a cannonball, but can move at the plate and, as it turns out, he can play some right field as well.
He hit at every level last year, tearing up the Sally (.366, 8 home runs, 1.031 OPS) and making a pit stop in Florida before an impressive finish in Mississippi. There was one last stop in Scottsdale, where he hit .281 with two home runs in the Arizona Fall League. All in all, it was a great season, earning Harris Braves Minor League Player of the Year honors and being arguably the highest riser on our Talking Chop prospect lists.
The right-handed hitting outfielder was able to rake against both lefties and righties to start the season in Rome, but as he climbed the ladder, he showed he fared better against righties. Still, he has a smooth swing that generates contact, and the hit tool was never really a question. The question was defense, and Harris answered that this season: he made one error with eight assists at all three spots.
Harris seems to be ready for his Gwinnett debut in 2020. Whether he becomes trade bait or a part of the Braves outfield may be a question, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much question that this 32nd rounder is big league bound sooner than later.