The Atlanta Braves spent nearly their entire draft capital this season chasing pitching talent, leaving a class of hitters with little in the way of excitement. A few players have surprised us early with big performances, and despite the lackluster feeling leaving the draft there is some real potential in this crop of players.
Baldwin was the first hitter taken in this past draft, going in the third round out of Missouri State. Baldwin quickly made a strong case for himself with four doubles in his first six games in pro ball, but has since faded with only one extra base hit in his past twelve games. Baldwin has made the most of being an advanced bat and has an 18.3% walk rate with Augusta, but has otherwise not been very effective. Baldwin has not shown off high level bat speed or power yet, but there is raw power in the bat and his approach overall garners high praise.
McCabe, like Baldwin, started out strong with an .819 OPS over his first twelve games in Augusta. Like Baldwin McCabe’s production has since dropped off and his strikeouts have piled up more than expected. He hit his first home run the opposite way on August 16th and has shown off solid power, but he is a guy that still has question marks with regards to his ability to hit pro stuff. With every player in this draft it’s important to take these early performances with a grain of salt, and that goes double for college players many of whom are playing deeper into the season than they are used to.
Ignacio Alvarez Jr.
Fifth round pick Nacho Alvarez has been the most impressive player from this draft on both sides of the ball, quickly justifying his fifth round selection. Drafted as a third baseman he’s even gotten time at shortstop and made some nice plays over there to back up the prep reports of his high caliber defense. Alvarez has walked much more than he has struck out and has an approach at the plate and ability to barrel the ball that is far ahead of a typical 19 year old. Alvarez’s biggest question mark is his swing, which is geared overwhelmingly for contact and doesn’t allow him to tap into his raw strength.
Acton did not make it out of the Florida Complex League this season so we unfortunately don’t have much to go on beyond statistics. He struggled in Florida with a .656 OPS and 14 strikeouts in 40 plate appearances, but expectations were never high for him as a guy who signed for just $5000.
Keck has not received very much playing time nor seen the field since August 14th, and in that playing time he has seen only one game at catcher. Most thought Keck would end up moving off of catcher as a professional so this isn’t much of a surprise. Keck hasn’t shown much with the bat in his short stint and doesn’t impact the ball well, though he has made consistent contact.
Strikeouts have piled up a bit for Justin Janas so far with Augusta, but there shouldn’t be too much concern for a player that showed his ability to hit a Division I program. Matching the scouting report Janas’s biggest problem has been his lack of impact contact as in 20 games he has just four extra base hits. His swing is compact and quick and should allow him to get the barrel to the ball, but limits his power potential and will likely need to be tweaked in order for him to have an offensive profile that can fit at first base.
Exposito came out of the gates strong for Augusta, but has been hurt by batted ball luck since along with higher-than-ideal strikeout rates. Still Exposito has been a pleasant surprise as a 16th round pick with three home runs so far in his career. Exposito attacks fastballs looking to drive them and he has the power to do so, though the ferocity of that swing may lead to some swing and miss in his game.
Along with Alvarez, Kilpatrick has made up part of a duo of players that have impacted the Augusta lineup. Though he has been cooled in the most recent series Kilpatrick got off to an electric start with 15 hits in his first nine games. Kilpatrick has legitimate raw power and athleticism to have some high-end projection, though his subpar pitch recognition at this stage can get him into trouble. As a 17th rounder there is plenty to like with Kilpatrick.
As a prep bat it was not surprising that Williams didn’t make it out of rookie ball this year, and in general he is a raw prospect that is far more projection over present. He notched just one extra base hit in ten Florida Complex League games, though his athleticism and 6’3” frame does hint at some real power projection.
The other of the Braves prep bats also spent his first season in rookie ball, and his results were even worse than Williams’s. Jackson struck out 14 times in 30 plate appearances in the FCL and both prep players are more than likely going to start next season in extended spring training.
Keshawn Ogans is a player I like quite a lot in the 20th round, though I’m not exactly convinced he’s a legitimate prospect. His power limitations are real and will be hard to overcome given that his frame doesn’t present much room for growth, but he does everything else well. As cliche as it is Ogans is a gamer and a player that’s great to have in the system. He hits, defends, and runs well and could have a similar impact as a player we like in Cody Milligan. He was the first hitter from this class to receive a call up to High-A Rome and has gone 3-10 in his debut there.