Today marks the beginning of a fun exercise that I’ll likely bring back each season. Scouting reports consist of the traditional five tools for position players (hit, power, run, glove, arm) and pitch/command grades for pitchers. This exercise is a four-part series highlighting the top tool and pitch across the entire Braves system.
The first two posts will detail the current top tool and pitch/command grade in the system. The final two posts will attempt to name the top tool and pitch/command grade two years from now. I’ll probably be way off on the tool predictions, so if anything it’ll provide comic relief in a couple years.
On to the current top tools:
Hit: Drew Waters - 60
This will probably be the grade that is questioned the most from this four-part look at top tools. It’s perhaps the most up-for-debate grade I have on my Braves prospect list. Some will look at Waters’ aggressive approach and swing and miss, and they’ll go at least a half-tick below my plus-potential hit tool. It’s understandable considering Waters is going to strike out a lot. He also has an innate ability to find the barrel when he makes contact, and it’s consistently impact contact. He’s going to live on average exit velocity leaderboards during his career. He may have the most swing and miss of any prospect I’ll ever tab as a plus-potential hitter, but he’ll toe the line with consistently hard contact to remain productive at a high level. Waters has made strides from the right side of the plate to at least continue hitting there, but there remains a notable difference between his two strokes. His left-handed stroke has plus potential. His right-handed stroke does not. I’m giving him an overall 6 hit tool because of the majority of plate appearances from the left side.
Game Power: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson - 55
I’ve compared the power of Ball and Jackson since my first look at Ball immediately after the draft. Their raw power is very similar and can be seen through batting practice looks. Their game power is a different exercise. Ball’s game pop is still very much a projection and could increase exponentially if his hit tool develops properly. The current 55 grade is conservative until he sees more advanced pitching. He’s capable of producing plus power in-game, and that’s true impact power for a lineup. Jackson’s game power, on the other hand, is maxed at this point. He’ll continue to have a sizable gap between his game and raw pop because of severe swing-and-miss issues. His below-average hit ability limits his power by quite a bit. It’s still above-average pop, though.
Raw Power: Bryce Ball and Alex Jackson - 70
I don’t have to add much here. Ball is a massive human capable of sending baseballs out of the park to all fields with ease. It’s a natural, grown-man strength from having a huge frame. Jackson is also a huge person with huge natural strength. He may have a slight edge on Ball for bat speed and flicks the ball out of the park a little more quickly. His power is also carrying to all fields, capable of sending BP shots over batter’s eyes.
Run: Justin Dean - 70
Dean is one of the best athletes in the Braves system and is the best runner among prospects. If he had an everyday role over the course of a major league season and got on base at an average clip, he’d steal 70+ bases. He flashes elite times down the line and consistently posts plus-plus times out of the box. It also translates well on defense, where he’s a solid defender in center with tons of range. Dean may not have the bat for a major league role, but his speed and defense will get him to the upper levels and perhaps a shot at the majors.
Glove: Cristian Pache - 70
There’s nothing more I can say on Pache’s defense that hasn’t already been chronicled. He’s a generational talent in center field. He’s probably the best defender to come out of the Braves system since Andrelton Simmons. He ranges exceptionally well and has excellent body control when the ball is in the air. He’s made great strides on his reads and routes to round out his defensive profile. He’s likely already one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and should become the best as he establishes himself in the majors. The Braves know how to find and develop up-the-middle defense.
Arm: Cristian Pache - 70
As if Pache’s glove isn’t special enough, he also has a cannon arm that’s a true weapon capable of disrupting run games. It’s even more impressive coming from center field, where arm strength is generally inconsistent at the position. Pache is going to cause lots of headaches for opposing teams both in tracked-down fly balls and throwing out runners or holding them up.
Makeup - Shea Langeliers
Athlete/Frame - Cristian Pache
Bat Speed - Drew Waters
Swing - Shea Langeliers