Keith Law: Atlanta Braves

Top 20 impact prospects for 2015 

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
 Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Chicago CubsAP Photo, Getty ImagesTwo Cubs prospects, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, top Keith's list of top prospects for 2015 production.
When I put together my ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball each winter (here's the complete guide to the prospects package), I base it on the overall potential I see from each player over the course of his first six years of service in the majors -- the length of time he'd spend with his parent club before reaching free agency -- and apply a discount to players who are further away from the majors. The prospects' potential production strictly in 2015 is only a minor consideration, because weighing it more heavily would lead to a list more populated with low-ceiling players rather than the potential All-Stars I think have more asset value.

To balance that out, I produced another list, this one ranking the top 20 prospects in baseball based solely on how much value I think they might produce in 2015. This list includes one of my least favorite kinds of forecasting (because I don't do it well and have no idea how to do it well): estimating playing time for the next seven months. So you're getting my best guesses -- guesses is the operative term here -- for probably 30 or 40 players underlying the rankings below and my decisions on which players to include. If a prospect you like isn't listed here, it might be only because I don't think he gets the playing time in 2015 to make the list.

I don't consider Boston outfielder Rusney Castillo or Arizona outfielder-maybe-third-baseman Yasmany Tomas as "prospects" due to their ages (27 and 24, respectively) and lengthy experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional, but were I to rank them, I'd have Castillo third on this list and Tomas sixth. I believe more in Castillo's athleticism and glove; Tomas is bigger and stronger, but he's not a great athlete and doesn't have Rusney's bat speed.

With that, let's look at the top impact prospects for 2015:

1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

Bryant probably won't head north with the Cubs on April 5, but he'll be at Wrigley Field maybe two weeks later as the Cubs look to push off his eventual free agency by a year. He's my pick right now to win NL Rookie of the Year, likely to hit 20-plus homers and get on base at a strong clip even with a strikeout rate that will probably top 25 percent.

2. Jorge Soler, RF, Chicago Cubs

If Bryant doesn't win the ROY award, maybe his teammate will. Soler hit the majors like he was fusing deuterium and tritium nuclei, but it lasted only about a week before he discovered the travails of a hitter facing the major league strike zone.

Atlanta Braves: Top 10 prospects 

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30

Organization Ranking: 6

I've ranked every farm system, as well as the top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Below, I've ranked at least the top 10 Braves prospects, plus an overview of the system and any other names of note beyond the top 10. I also discuss any prospects who might help the big league club in 2015, one or two prospects whose stock has taken a big hit in the past year, and a sleeper prospect who I think can jump into the main top-100 list for 2016.

Non-Insider subscribers: Check out the free Tampa Bay Rays top-10 prospects report to see what these entail

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Atlanta cleans up in Gattis trade 

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
In dealing a trio of prospects for Evan Gattis, I really don't understand what the Astros are doing. The prospect depth they have in their system could allow them to acquire a player of a much higher caliber than Gattis, preferably a younger one as well, someone who's going to contribute to the next good Astros team in a few years. Atlanta, meanwhile, has gone from a bottom-five system in baseball to likely a top-10 system, overhauling its major league roster while adding a broad mix of near- and long-term talent to its farm, in this case trading a player somewhere near the apex of his value for

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Justin Upton a smart bet for Padres 

December, 19, 2014
Justin UptonDale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsJustin Upton is a smart bet for the Padres, who didn't lose either of their top two prospects.
The Padres just keep making transactions -- I feel like they're about to get in a waiver-wire war over Tim Pugh -- to the point where they seem to have too many cooks in their lineup, but acquiring Justin Upton is a smart bet on a great athlete who hasn't reached his potential. Atlanta couldn't retain Upton long term anyway, so they cashed him in for a solid package of prospects to help them a few years down the line.

Upton's career hasn't quite matched expectations;

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Markakis deal is a head-scratcher 

December, 3, 2014
MarkakisAP Photo/Kathy WillensNick Markakis had 42 extra-base hits and 50 RBI in 704 plate appearances in 2014.
I've liked much of what the Atlanta Braves have done this autumn, starting with replacing most of their front office and continuing with the trade of Jason Heyward, but the Nick Markakis contract doesn't make much sense in any context. He'd be a great one- or even two-year flier for someone willing to bet on a change of scenery (and hitting coaches) helping him, but giving him a four-year, $45 million deal that runs through his age-34 season doesn't fit any of what the club appeared to be trying to do.

Markakis peaked at age 24, and has since devolved into a high-contact singles hitter who plays adequate right-field defense with a great arm. (He was a very good pitching prospect back at Young Harris College, with more teams looking at him as a pitcher in the 2003 draft than as a hitter.) The Orioles never found the missing link with Markakis to regain that lost power, as he has become exceedingly short to the ball, hitting it on the ground too often and driving it to the gaps too infrequently.

He has lost more than 25 extra-base hits a year from his first two full seasons in the majors and only a major change in approach -- both mental and mechanical -- will get it back. It could happen, but I certainly wouldn't put real money on it, and this contract seems to price in some kind of offensive bounce back.

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Trade: Cards go all-in, Braves get younger 

November, 17, 2014
Jason Heyward Jason Getz/USA TODAY SportsSt. Louis-bound right fielder Jason Heyward quietly posted a career-high 6.4 WAR in 2014.
Monday's trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves indicates the Cardinals are going all-in for 2015.

Jason Heyward is just a year from free agency, but that one year will be a very valuable one, even if he just maintains the status quo. Getting away from the parade of dubious hitting coaches he worked with in Atlanta may help him unlock the still-untapped reserve of superstar potential in his bat.

Heyward consistently rates among the majors' best defensive outfielders in terms of both advanced defensive metrics and traditional evaluations. A decent center fielder in high school, he outgrew the position but maintains the athleticism and strong reads that allowed him to play there as an amateur. He's a smart, disciplined hitter who gets on base at a good clip and doesn't strike out excessively. He did have some trouble maintaining a consistent swing around some shoulder issues; he often cuts off his load, producing too many ground balls with a shorter swing path.

Oscar Taveras' death last month left the Cardinals without a clear right fielder for 2015, and this move locks down the position for just $7.8 million, making the team four or five wins better right away.

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'Keep calm' on these young players 

September, 10, 2014
Javier BaezAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNot to worry, Cubs fans, despite his initial struggles this season, Javier Baez will be fine.
A lot of highly touted prospects and other young major leaguers had what might appear to be disheartening seasons in 2014. Here are five examples of players whose stat lines this year shouldn't dampen your enthusiasm about their futures.

Javier Baez

It's not the debut Cubs fans were expecting, at least not given his showings in spring training and the Futures Game, but a rough first time around the carousel is pretty much in line with Baez's career to date. Baez has 153 plate appearances in the majors so far, with 63 strikeouts and a .175/.229/.364 line. In his first 153 plate appearances in Triple-A, coming earlier this year, he hit .201/.268/.388 with 53 strikeouts.

He started slowly in Double-A as well, failing to get his OBP over .300 until his 120th plate appearance, but he came around sooner and was at least up to .273/.329/.580 by the time he passed 153 plate appearances. The primary skill that made him such a highly rated prospect -- he was No. 7 coming into the year -- is still intact: He has some of the best bat speed and strongest hands I've ever seen on a hitting prospect. He needs to overhaul his approach to at-bats, as he still seems to be deciding whether to swing before he could possibly have identified the pitch type, but he's so talented that he can make mistakes and still turn it into hard contact.

Xander Bogaerts

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Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014

With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.

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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Scouting Stroman, plus Rays and Nats 

March, 8, 2014
Marcus StromanAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMarcus Stroman fanned 129 batters in 111 2/3 innings at Double-A last season.
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays rolled out a number of young arms Friday, led by Toronto's No. 2 overall prospect Marcus Stroman, who is in the running for a rotation spot. Stroman showed his full four-pitch repertoire and has the durability to start, but problems keeping his fastball down led to trouble for him.

Stroman was 91-95 mph over his three innings of work, getting a little arm-side run but no sink or downhill plane. He left several fastballs up, with Kevin Kiermaier hitting a 92 mph four-seamer out to deep right.

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Complete guide to 2014 prospect rankings

February, 11, 2014
Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Breaking down Doumit trade and more 

December, 18, 2013
Ryan DoumitBrian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesThe 32-year-old Doumit hit .303 in 2011, .275 in 2012, and .247 in 2013.
We've had a slew of minor moves over the past 24 hours, and I figured it would be easiest to wrap them all into one post.

Doumit to the Braves for Gilmartin (trade details)

Ryan Doumit's best attribute was always his bat, as he's never had a real position and his offense has slipped since he left Pittsburgh -- unsurprising for a player like this entering his early 30s.

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Brian McCann fills Yankees' biggest void 

November, 23, 2013
The New York Yankees' move to sign Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract might be the easiest, best upgrade any contender could make this offseason.

They played a variety of offensive ciphers at the position in 2013, getting just 0.9 WAR (per FanGraphs) in total from the four players who took at-bats for them as catchers, although Chris Stewart, their primary receiver, added significant value as one of the best pitch-framing catchers in baseball.

McCann is an above-average framer as well, so what the Yanks lost on defense will be more than covered by the boost in McCann's offense, especially if the left-handed pull hitter takes advantage of Yankee Stadium's hilariously short right-field porch.

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Royals punished by CBA; LDS picks 

October, 3, 2013
RoyalsOtto Geule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Royals get punished by the new CBA for being good but not making the playoffs.

By the standards of their own recent history, the Royals had a very successful season. The team won 86 games, their best record since 1989, and they outscored their opponents on a season for the first time since 1991. Their two biggest offseason acquisitions, Ervin Santana (in a dump trade with the Angels) and James Shields (in the Wil Myers trade with Tampa Bay), both pitched very well for the big club, helping the Royals allow the fewest runs of any team in the American League, 23 fewer than the division-winning Tigers. Some young players took strides: Eric Hosmer hit .317/.365/.492 after the team fired hitting coach Jack Maloof; catcher Salvador Perez had his first full, healthy season in the majors and performed well.

There were plenty of positives for the Royals, but because the season went well, some of the structural reasons that helped the team get to this point will now work against the team.

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