About Jeff Jones

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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (20-16)

20. Brett Cumberland

A power hitting switch hitting catcher is always intriguing and after slugging 16 homers his Junior year at Cal, the Braves selected Cumbo in the 2nd round. The Braves sent him straight to Danville and he was a little below average there. I caught him catching Ian Anderson in Instructionals and saw a minor league catcher. He isn’t ever going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s built like a catcher and is quick enough on balls in the dirt (Anderson was a little wild that day) only giving up 6 passed balls in nearly 400 innings last year. He only started at catcher about half of the time, DHing the rest of the time. He absolutely crushed in Rome – 10 HR, 176 wRC+ and a .269 ISO in 55 games in the Sally League before being promoted to Florida. He continued to hit for average in the pitcher friendly league and, though he only hit 1 homer in his 56 games in the sunshine state, he still managed a 127 wRC+. His bat went all the way down under this winter, and though he played most of his games in the outfield there, he kept on hitting with 7 homers and a .980 OPS in 26 games. It will be interesting to see where Cumberland starts 2018, I doubt they give up on him this fast behind the plate, but the Braves are flush with young backstops. Herbert and Jackson will need help in Florida and Mississippi respectively and Cumberland can always DH.

 

19. Jean Carlos Encarnacion

An unheralded signing back in 2015, JCE burst onto the scene in 2017 after a unspectacular 2016 DSL campaign. A big kid at 6′ 3″, I took notice of him when he continued to start at third over many highly touted infielders signed in 2016. He hit for power, played a solid third base and ran the bases well for someone his size. After mashing to the tune of a .937 OPS in 27 GCL games, he was promoted to Danville where he regressed slightly in 23 games only posting a .671 OPS in 23 games. However, he still made plenty of contact hitting for a .290 average. At 20 years old, it wouldn’t shock me if he opened as Rome’s Opening Day third baseman.

18. Freddy Tarnok –

A pop up guy if there ever was one, Tarnok didn’t even start pitching until halfway through his Junior season. Committed to the University of Tampa as a shortstop, he’s a gifted athlete and once scouts saw his 6′-4 frame pumping fastballs in the mid 90s he shot up draft boards. Similar to the Ian Anderson pick and the Sean Newcomb acquisition, Tarnok is a rare low mileage arm from Florida with as much upside as any pitcher in the system. With a fastball that sits 91-94 and as high as 97-98, with a plus hook and a feel for a change, he should be a fun guy to watch in 2018. With him most likely starting in Danville, I should get to see him a lot in Extended Spring Training.

17. Kyle Muller –

The 44th pick in the 2016 Draft, Muller was part of the “Big 3” of that draft class, where the Braves picked 3 prep pitchers in the first 70 picks. Muller however has been on a different timeline than his draft mates, while Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Bryse Wilson all headed to Rome to start 2017, Muller stayed back in Florida. He pitched decent in 47.2 Gulf Coast League innings. I caught one of his starts and though he looked healthy and smooth on the mound his velocity was noticeably down from his high school stuff. Reports of his high school coach overusing him causing the dip in velocity have surfaced, but just yesterday Driveline Baseball posted a video of Muller hitting 95.3 MPH off the mound. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come. As Brian Bridges likes to say Muller is “Just what they look like”

16. Patrick Weigel

I hate that Weigel got hurt last year, and if he comes back anywhere close to where he was before that, 16 will look foolishly low. Unfortunately injuries happen, and it usually takes almost two years before a guy is fully back to his old self. If anybody can beat that timeline though I believe in the big right hander as he’s bounced from D1 to JUCO and back again to D1 to 7th round pick. Weigel has taken his big fastball all over the place and turned into a real pitcher with plus stuff and a frame to last. I saw him spin a 7 inning one-hitter in Rome with none other than Josh Brown back in 2016, and caught him again in relief of Kolby Allard in ML Spring Training. There is no question about his stuff, it’s just a matter of getting healthy again. His floor is a big league reliever and in my opinion it’s only up from there.

 

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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (30-21)

30. Jefrey Ramos – Ramos is one of the few guys signed on July 2nd, 2016 still with the Braves. He has crazy raw power and showed it hitting 6 homers in Gulf Coast League play before being promoted to Danville where he spent most of his time in the cleanup role, but only hit one home run there and seemed to tire down the stretch. He was also only 18 in the Appy League, he may start there again this year, but I could see him ending up in Rome with a strong showing in Spring. He hit .323/.366/.532 in his first 41 games, so we’ll see if he can duplicate that next year with another full offseason. He is strictly a left fielder, but that is just fine if he can continue to crank out extra base hits.

 

29. Ricardo Sanchez – Will 2018 be the year Ricardo finally breaks out? He was solid as a 20 year old in the pitcher friendly Florida State League last year, and it will be interesting to see if the team pushes him to Double A or lets him repeat the level to try and improve on things. His K-rate ticked up from ’16 to ’17 while his walk rate stayed roughly the same. The ground ball % went up an impressive 8%, while his strand rate and HR/FB ratio stayed the same. While he has an impressive curve ball, he always seems to struggle to get through the lineup a 3rd time. Obviously, 21 is way too early to give up on a promising starting pitching prospect, 2018 could be a huge year one way or another for the young Venezuelan.

 

28. Braulio Vasquez – Signed as a smallish glove-first, speedy shortstop on July 2nd, 2016, Braulio has bulked up since then and looks poised to have a breakout season in 2018. 40 stolen base potential with expanding gap power, he should be one to keep an eye on this year. With the loss of so many of his 2016 international classmates I could see him making the jump to Rome to start out at 19.

 

27. Travis Demeritte – I was as high as anyone on Demeritte despite the ever present high K-rate. He started out well, but seemed to fade when the team shifted him off his natural 2B to 3B. He is a plus-plus fielder at second and that skill alone could carry him to the bigs as a utility guy. The question is will he be Jack Wilson or Dan Uggla. If he can start putting bat on ball he’ll make me look stupid for having him so low. (He had a stellar final month after moving back to 2B)

 

26. Dustin Peterson – A guy who looked like he might challenge for a spot as Atlanta’s 4th outfielder last spring, faced the cruel wrath of the baseball gods when an errant pitch broke his hamate bone in the middle of Spring Training and sidelined him until the middle of May. He struggled at Gwinnett last year and his already limited power was completely sapped. I like Dustin and could see him making the bigs one day, but as a guy limited to the corner outfield with a career high of 12 homers he’s not bound for much more than a bench role.

 

25. Lucas Herbert – The best defensive catcher in the system by a lot. Herbert did exactly what you’d want to see in his second tour at Rome in 2017. There’s never been any question about the glove, next year will be interesting as I think he’ll start at Florida and have a shot to move quickly if he shows he can continue to hold his own against more advanced pitching.

 

24. Drew Lugbauer – Slugbauer! An 11th-round draft pick who went on to hit 13 homeruns in 60 games and is solid enough as a backstop to let his hit tool/power carry him to the big leagues. Another guy I haven’t seen much in person, so I’ll just go with – big man carries big stick.

 

23. Huascar Ynoa – Prospecting is all about projections, guessing, hoping and wishing. I’ve never caught Ynoa pitch, just watched video clips, but his numbers show enough that he seems to progressing well for a young guy and he has the stuff/ build to carry on as a starter. Time will tell, as this is as guessy of a guess as there is on this list.

 

22. A.J. Minter – I think most of you have gotten to see why he is on this list by now. If not go watch some highlights and come back to read about #21

 

21. Tucker Davidson – The first time I saw Tucker was in extended spring training in 2016. He came on in relief of Ian Anderson and was throwing harder than the first rounder. One of the coaches mentioned he had 4 pitches and seemed impressed with the lefty. He started last year in the Rome bullpen, then took off as a starter. I was excited about seeing what he could do in 2018 with a full season as a starter then JJ Cooper went on Road 2 Atlanta and got me even more hyped when he put them in the same tier as Bryse and Wentz. Look out for Tuck Tuck y’all.

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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (31-40)

Hello Knockahoma Nation, you probably know me from Twitter or from the handful of podcasts I’ve popped up on with Josh and Ken. I live down in Tampa, Florida and while that doesn’t allow me to go to SunTrust Park as much as I’d like, it puts me within driving distance of lots and lots of baseball.

I have seen most of the prospects I’m about to list either on the backfields in extended Spring Training, Gulf Coast League or Florida State League games. If I haven’t seen a guy in person, all I have to go on is MILB.tv like the rest of you. I’m not a scout, and thus, do not try to act like one, I just watch a lot of baseball and tell it like I see it. If you don’t agree with where I have a player ranked or have questions, hit me up on Twitter at @ProspectsBraves or my personal account @JonesBWP. I am pretty active on there.

So without further adieu let’s get started.

40. Jesse Biddle –

A former first round pick by the Phillies, Biddle was a top 100 prospect before having Tommy John surgery, being waived, subsequently scooped up by the Pirates, dropped and picked up by the Braves where he recovered from said TJ. I happened to be at his first appearance after surgery against those very same hometown Phillies in Clearwater and he looked good, especially for his first appearance. He ran it up to 94-95 and displayed his customary plus curveball, which is a slower offering to go along with a solid changeup. He pitched the entire 2017 year in Mississippi and posted solid numbers – 49.2 IP, 9.60 K/9, 2.90 BB/9 and a 2.90 ERA. Expect him to get a crack at a bullpen spot in Atlanta as he’s already been on the 40-man for 2 years. He’s a lefty with reverse splits and while I would’ve worried about that last year, Anthopoulos seems to have Snitker nose deep in Bill James’ Baseball Abstract right about now.

NOTE – There are a handful of other relief prospects that could’ve been featured here most notably – Corbin Clouse, Devan Watts, Phil Pfieffer, Caleb Dirks, Michael Mader and Evan Phillips.

39. Akeel Morris –

Why is water wet? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t Akeel Morris get a fair crack at the Atlanta bullpen? All questions that surely have an answer, but none of which I can name off the top of my head. Blessed with an unreal changeup, Akeel continues to put up solid numbers in the minor leagues (54.1 IP, 2.65 ERA, 65 K, 25 walks) what else can the guy do? Maybe 2018 will be the year he gets more than a week in the show!

38. Anyelo Gomez –

The Braves most recent dip into the Yankees talent pool is from the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. Gomez had a breakout year in 2017 – 87 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 70.1 IP, 1.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, only gave up 2 HR all season. He just couldn’t make the cut on the Yankees stacked 40 man/bullpen and the Braves look to have pulled a Robin Hood here. He will be in the mix for the 2018 bullpen or we’ll be forced to ship him back to the Yankees. His fastball sits in the mid 90s with a solid changeup out of a funky delivery.

37. Jacob Lindgren – 

Another guy scooped up thanks to the Yankees bullpen being ridiculous, Lindgren was a college reliever taken in the 2nd round back in 2014  out of Mississippi State. A hard throwing lefty who has already made his major league debut but unfortunately had to have Tommy John surgery in 2015 after at first being shut down for bone spurs. He’s pretty much the same pitcher as A.J. Minter – literally Minter is 6′, Lindgren is 5′-11″. They both throw mid to upper 90’s with a devastating slider, both pitched out of the bullpen in college and both have already had TJ. They’re also only 5 months apart. SEC! SEC! SEC!

36. Tyler Pike – 

Pike came over in the Alex Jackson trade as the player to be named later and started the year in High A Florida not far from his hometown of Winter Haven. After being jerked back and forth between levels and getting stuck in the hitter’s paradise that is the PCL on more than one occasion he seemed to settle in back closer to home. In 12 starts he hummed along to the tune of a 2.20 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with a decent 3.49 BB/9, after appearing in the Florida State League All Star Game he was promoted to Mississippi. That is where he seemingly hit a wall with 6 starts with 5 or more walks, he ended up with a K/9 over 10 in the Southern League but a BB/9 of 7.59 is just not going to cut it. I think he’ll get another chance to start in the cavernous ballpark that is Trustmark Park but if he doesn’t find a way to cut down on the walks I still think he could be a useful reliever with the potential for even more strikeouts.

35. Isranel Wilson –

Signed all the way back in 2014, Wilson is a big kid with pop who plays a smooth center field. As a former shortstop, he also has a cannon for an arm, which I’ve witnessed on a few occasions. A talented kid no doubt, his biggest enemy has always seemed to be himself as he has all the tools to be an excellent player.  He will only be 20 come Opening Day 2018 and I’d expect him to open up as Rome’s starting center fielder with Cristian Pache graduating to Florida. After having his 2016 season cut short and only playing 60 games last season, it will be interesting to see what he does with a full season this year. I’ll make somewhat of a bold prediction here and guess he comes close to matching his career home run total of 18.

34. Tyler Neslony –

Ah, The Pony, Josh’s pride and joy. He was drafted in 2016 and was still playing in the College World Series so I had a chance to watch him right away and flat out, the kid can hit. Tyler Neslony doesn’t crack Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects, and he doesn’t crack most Braves blogger’s top 50. But here’s a fun fact – Tim Hudson, David Price, Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Tim Wakefield, Jeff Kent, Jim Edmonds (just to name a few) were never ranked prospects. Truth is, ranking prospects can be like predicting the weather 15 days out.

Neslony’s ceiling is probably Nick Swisher. And that’s a hell of a ceiling. His floor is a guy who makes it to AAA and sells insurance in three years. With Tyler, it’ll really come down to his defense and his ability to hit more advanced pitching. He can rake, but can he rake against the best? We’ll see. – JB

 

33. Anfernee Seymour

“Speed, I am speed.” – Lightning McQueen or Anfernee Seymour? Seymour is pretty much always the fastest player on the diamond and I’m not quite sure why the Marlins tried to shoehorn him into a middle infield position after signing him. I was extremely pleased to see him starting in center field the first time I caught him at extended Spring Training in 2017, the dude is a gazelle out there. He hit .282/.342/.357 in 110 games between Florida and Rome with the majority of them coming in Florida. He was caught on 20 of 45 stolen base attempts, but he truly does have 80 grade speed and that may just be him needing to adjust to better catchers at higher levels. I probably would’ve had him higher on my list but he was suspended after the 2017 season right before heading to Arizona for the Fall League so we didn’t get a chance to see him against elite competition. The reason for the suspension was never made clear, the Braves always keep that sort of thing pretty tight lipped but the one tweet I did see is a really dumb reason and unfortunate for Anfernee. Hopefully it motivates him and he is able to break camp to Mississippi with his pal Touki.

32. Leudys Baez –

A guy I pinned last year as a rebound candidate came back from a injury plagued 2016 season and tore it up out of the gate in Danville to the tune of a 1.000 OPS in 25 games. He was deservedly promoted to Rome, where he cooled off a bit hitting just .268 with a .733 OPS in 31 games. Like Isranel Wilson, he’s a “toolsy” guy who checks all the boxes and will look to build on the progress he made last year. I assume he’ll play in High A Florida in 2018.

31. Derian Cruz –

Formerly the highest paid International signing in Braves history, Derian had a rough 2016 to put it lightly committing 16 errors in 26 games Rome and struggling at the plate before being demoted. He is still just 19 and will more than likely repeat at Rome where, thanks to outside circumstances, it looks like he’ll get another shot at short. He is an athletic, hard working kid and I expect him to rebound and make me look foolish for having him this low on my list.

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