Weekly Preview (July 20-25): Final Thoughts On Bryce Ball; Draft Signings Update

A prominent prospect name in the Braves org was traded this past week when Bryce Ball left for the Cubs in a deal for Joc Pederson.

The Braves have firmly held onto their more highly graded prospects over the past few years, so seeing a prospect of any caliber get traded is a bit of a shock to the system. Ball is having a down year and is seeing his value slide, but he’s a prospect nonetheless, still holding potential and getting enough attention to be involved in a trade for an everyday major leaguer.

A scout in 2019 compared Ball to the sport’s top first base prospect. Many in the industry thought he would break out this year and mash his way at least to Double-A to stay on track after the lost year. He was overwhelmed a bit in brief spring looks, but that was to be expected, and he still battled in those plate appearances.

Instead, he came out at High-A Rome and just never caught up at the plate. There has been a lot more swing-and-miss than I expected to see at that level, especially on basic sequencing between average velocity and breaking balls. But what has really driven the value down is a lack of power. Ball had the best raw power in the Braves system next to Alex Jackson, and he showed it at Low-A in 2019 and in spring looks. But it disappeared in-game at High-A this season as he struggled getting on time and barreling up with consistency.

I always expected some swing-and-miss and never projected an average hit tool, but I’m not sure anyone saw such immense struggles for Ball at this level. It’s to the point where something has to click now in the second half for Ball to get back on track, because he’s 23, a bat-only prospect and on the verge of having two consecutive lost seasons.

But I do think Ball still has a chance. There was too much of a knack for the barrel at Low-A and in spring camps for him to completely fall apart just one level higher. Perhaps it takes a shortening of his load or the elimination of pre-pitch movement. (A late hitch combined with average bat speed always made me wince a little.)

A 23-year-old with 70 raw doesn’t suddenly become a non-prospect in the span of a few months. That’s why the Cubs took a flier on him. He now has a steep hill to climb, but he’s still a guy you’ll see on lists. Here’s hoping he figures it out and can still reach that fringe role down the road.

Draft signings update

As of Monday morning, the Braves have signed six of their 20 draft picks, all below slot or at the normal amount post-10th round.

The highest pick to sign so far is third-round left-hander Dylan Dodd, who inked for $122.5K, well below the $604.8K slot as expected. The next highest is fifth-rounder Luke Waddell out of Georgia Tech. He signed for $247.5K, below the $333.3K slot.

The Braves created a huge savings in the ninth round with college catcher Liam McGill, who signed for $7.5K with a slot of $151.3K. The 10th-round selection was similar as Dylan Spain signed for $17.5K.

Andrew Hoffmann, an intriguing 12th-round selection out of Illinois, signed for $125K. Adam Zebrowski, a mashing catcher from the 13th round, signed for the same amount.

These below-slot deals will help create the bonus pool savings necessary to go over slot on higher-upside picks like Adam Shoemaker, A.J. Smith-Shawver and Tyler Collins.

You can find my pick-by-pick observations of the Braves draft here, here and here.

Schedule

Triple-A Gwinnett
July 20-25: vs. Norfolk (Orioles)
July 20, 22, 23 at 7:05 p.m., July 21 at 12:05, July 24 at 6:05, July 25 at 1:05

Double-A Mississippi
July 20-25: vs. Biloxi (Brewers)
July 20-23 at 7:35 p.m. ET, July 24 at 7:05, July 25 at 3:05

High-A Rome
July 20-25: at Bowling Green (Rays)
July 20, 22-24 at 7:35 p.m., July 21 at 1:05, July 25 at 6:35

Low-A Augusta
July 20-25: at Columbia (Royals)
July 20-23 at 7:05 p.m., July 24 at 4:30 (DH), July 25 at 5:05

Prospects to Watch This Week

At Triple-A Gwinnett, William Contreras is looking much better at the plate with more fluid actions, and it’s showing in the numbers. He picked up 12 hits in his past six games, including three doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI and three walks. At Double-A Mississippi, Bryce Elder has been steady since the promotion. Over his past three starts, he has allowed three runs on six hits in 19 innings, walking nine and striking out 16. At High-A Rome, Jared Shuster has been strong in his past two starts, allowing one run on just one hit in nine innings, walking two and striking out 10. At Low-A Augusta, it’s been a rough stretch for the pitching staff lately, but Roddery Munoz returned this past week and had a positive start, throwing 3.2 hitless innings with three strikeouts.

Recent Prospect Performances

Triple-A Gwinnett
7/18: Drew Waters 2-6, 2B, RBI
7/18: Alex Jackson 2-5, 2B, RBI
7/18: William Contreras 3-6, 2 2B, 5 RBI
7/17: William Contreras 2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB
7/17: Alex Jackson 3-5, 3 2B, 4 RBI
7/16: Drew Waters 1-4, 2B, BB
7/16: William Contreras 2-4, HR
7/14: Drew Waters 1-5, 2B, RBI
7/14: Cristian Pache 2-5, RBI
7/14: Alex Jackson 1-4, HR, 2 RBI
7/14: William Contreras 3-5, HR, 2 RBI
7/14: Kyle Muller 4 IP, H, 2 BB, 4 K
7/13: Drew Waters 2-5
7/13: Cristian Pache 1-4, 2B, RBI, BB

Double-A Mississippi
7/18: Shea Langeliers 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI
7/17: C.J. Alexander 2-4, 2B, SB
7/17: Spencer Strider 5 IP, 4 H, R/ER, BB, 6 K
7/16: Justin Dean 1-3, 3B, BB
7/16: Bryce Elder 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 3 BB, 5 K
7/14: Justin Dean 1-5, BB, SB
7/14: Trey Harris 2-4, 2B, RBI, BB
7/14: Shea Langeliers 2-4, 2B, RBI, BB
7/13: Justin Dean 2-5, 2B, RBI
7/13: Trey Harris 2-5, HR, 3 RBI
7/13: Shea Langeliers 2-4, 2B, BB

High-A Rome
7/18: Michael Harris 1-4, 3B, 2 RBI
7/18: Cody Milligan 2-3, 2B, BB
7/17: Jesse Franklin 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB
7/16: Freddy Tarnok 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 2 BB, 10 K
7/15: Michael Harris 2-5, RBI
7/15: Jesse Franklin 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI, BB
7/14: Jesse Franklin 2-5, HR, 2 RBI
7/14: Darius Vines 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, ER, 2 BB, 5 K
7/13: Jared Shuster 4 IP, H, 5 K

Low-A Augusta
7/16: Vaughn Grissom 1-3, BB, SB
7/16: Roddery Munoz 3.2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K
7/15: Willie Carter 2-4, 2B, RBI
7/14: Vaughn Grissom 2-3, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, SB
7/14: Willie Carter 1-4, 2B, 4 RBI, BB
7/13: Brandon Parker 2-4, HR

FCL Braves
7/14: Brandol Mezquita 2-3, 3B, BB
7/13: Antonio Barranca 2-3, RBI, BB, SB
7/13: Brandol Mezquita 2-3, SB

Transactions

7/18: LHP A.J. Minter optioned to Triple-A
7/17: 2B Ryan Goins placed on temporarily inactive list
7/16: UTL Johan Camargo optioned to Triple-A
7/16: RHP Roddery Munoz activated from 7-day IL at Low-A
7/15: LHP Corbin Clouse assigned to FCL
7/14: INF Riley Unroe activated from IL at Double-A
7/14: OF Jefrey Ramos placed on 7-day IL at Double-A
7/14: RHP Kurt Hoekstra placed on 7-day IL at Double-A
7/14: 3B Vaughn Grissom activated from 7-day IL at Low-A
7/13: UTL Travis Demeritte assigned to Triple-A from FCL rehab
7/13: RHP Jay Flaa outrighted to Triple-A
7/13: RHP Indigo Diaz assigned to Double-A from High-A
7/13: RHP Justin Yeager assigned to High-A from Low-A
7/13: RHP Luis Mora placed on 7-day IL at High-A
7/13: INF Riley Unroe sent on rehab assignment to FCL
7/13: RHP Rolddy Munoz assigned to Low-A from FCL
7/12: OF Tyler Neslony traded to White Sox