The future will be on display in Pearl, Mississippi this season (no doubt the first time anyone’s ever said that), as the Braves’ top three pitching prospects form the nucleus of the most talented Double-A rotation in the game.
In skipping High-A ball, the front office is showing supreme confidence in Max Fried, Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka, along with a sense of urgency. If they succeed, the trio will be that much closer to the majors and their stock on the trade market will soar. If they fail, the rebuild suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
The Braves are showing more caution with Touki Toussaint and Mariners import Luiz Gohara, who will anchor the pitching staff of the Florida Fire Frogs, the team’s new High-A club. Outfielder Ronald Acuna and third baseman Austin Riley will join them in Kissimmee, making the Fire Frogs perhaps the most interesting team in the Braves system.
Rome’s rotation won’t have quite the talent it did a year, but it’ll still be worth watching. Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Bryse Wilson and Jeremy Walker, all drafted in 2016, lead the rotation, with Cristian Pache and Derian Cruz tapped for everyday duty in the field.
Lucas Sims and Sean Newcomb will try to regain some prospect luster for the Gwinnett Braves, where Rio Ruiz will start at third base for a second season. He’s done little to distinguish himself so far but is coming off a promising spring. In a recent notes column Jon Heyman reported that several scouts were calling Ruiz one of the more improved players they’ve seen. I suspect Rio will be in Atlanta by June at the latest.
Ozzie Albies would probably be up there sooner but is blocked by Brandon Phillips. I’d be shocked if Albies, who just turned 20, struggles at Gwinnett as he did in 2016, when he hit just .248 with a .307 OBP.