Many Minor League baseball fans enjoy going out to support their local MiLB teams even though they may not necessarily have a rooting interest in that team’s parent club. That was the inspiration for this list. This will not only be a projection of who the best pitcher and position player at several minor league teams will be, but also a projection on where some Major League club’s top prospects will be in 2017.
Today we are focusing on the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate, the Mississippi Braves.
Pitcher to Watch: LHP Max Fried
Fried spent the 2016 season in Rome and while it is not a guarantee, he will more than likely spend the majority of his time in Mississippi this season. The 23 year old came to the Braves with Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, and Mallex Smith in 2014 in the deal that sent Justin Upton to San Diego. The 2012 first round pick had pitched in 38 games between rookie ball and single A before being shut down in 2014 due to what was deemed “elbow soreness” but later ended with Tommy John surgery. After the December 2014 trade, Fried missed the entire 2015 season before the Braves placed him in Rome where he went 8-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 103 innings in 2016.
Max Fried 2016 Numbers in Single A Rome
Fried’s stats do not jump off of the page at you, but the mechanics are there. He is a big guy with a mid 90’s fastball that is hard to keep up with from the left side and a devastating curveball . To pitch as well as he did in a loaded Rome rotation after only throwing 10 innings in the prior two seasons gives Braves fans hope that Fried will be the big score from the Upton deal. Expect him to keep progressing from the surgery smoothly.
Position Player to Watch: Travis Demeritte
Demeritte is yet another former first round pick that the Braves front office has managed to snag through their rebuild, not for a very high price either. The Braves got Demeritte in a trade with the Rangers before the deadline last year in exchange for Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez. If priority number one of the Braves rebuild has been centered around them stocking up on young pitching, crowding the middle infield must have been priority number two. With the future of the big club pretty much set up the middle, there have been rumblings of Demeritte possibly moving over to the hot corner when he is ready to join the Braves at SunTrust Park. He is a power bat, which the Braves don’t have a lot of, so they will probably do whatever they can to get the Winder, GA product on the field wherever they can. With not much in the farm system, aside from 19 year old Austin Riley, third base seems to be where everyone is looking. But, he has a LONG way to go if that is going to happen.
Demeritte’s Career Defensive Numbers by Position
Demeritte has made ⅓ of the errors at 3B that he has made at 2B in just a fraction of the innings. Unless he does some serious developing we could see Demeritte used as a utility man and mainly in the outfield. When he does make it to the big leagues they will certainly do their best to find somewhere for him in the field to get that bat in the lineup.
Demeritte’s 2016 Offensive Numbers in High A (Two Leagues, California/Carolina)
152 plate appearances is a small sample size, but it is worth noting that Demeritte’s K% was 32.9% and his BB% was 17.1% after the trade. Combine that with an ISO of .226 and Demeritte was seemingly either clobbering the ball or not putting it into play at all. It is impossible to deny the raw power though.
Of course, it is hard to talk about the 22 year old without bringing up the 80 game suspension for PED’s in 2015, but none the less, he has put that suspension behind him and continues to look ahead to moving up in the system. His (my opinion) plus plus power and plus speed will be enough to get him a chance in the big leagues in a couple of years. Since second base will be filled, Demeritte’s glove will need to catch up, outside of his natural position, to the other aspects of his game.
These are two guys who have missed significant time in their development but Mississippi fans can certainly look forward to in 2017!
Stats Courtesy of: fangraphs.com and milb.com
Photos Courtesy of: milb.com