As the Braves look to defend their National League East crown in 2019, they not only have a strong group in their starting lineup, but several promising prospects in their farm system. Atlanta has eight players on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, revealed Saturday night on MLB Network. The only team with more is the Padres (10).
Mike Soroka (No. 24) Kyle Wright (No. 30), Ian Anderson (No. 32), Cristian Pache (No. 37), Austin Riley (No. 38), Touki Toussaint (No. 50), Bryse Wilson (No. 82) and Drew Waters (No. 86) make up the Braves' contingent, a group heavy on pitchers as Atlanta looks ahead in hopes of returning to the pitching-dominant ways that led it to so much success in the 1990s.
:: Complete 2019 Top 100 Prospects coverage ::
The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2019 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
Soroka, Wright, Anderson and Toussaint are all right-handed pitchers. Soroka, 21, was impressive in five starts for the Braves in 2018, turning in a 3.51 ERA before a shoulder injury ended his season. Atlanta selected him No. 28 overall in the '15 Draft, and he has proven to be a good investment to this point, with the highest potential floor of any of the pitchers in the Braves' system.
Wright, 23, also made his big league debut last year, and in four September relief appearances, he posted a 4.50 ERA. In 27 appearances (24 starts) between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, he posted a 3.91 ERA with 133 strikeouts and 51 walks in 138 innings. Atlanta selected him No. 5 overall in the 2017 Draft, and he's moved rapidly through the farm system, projecting to be a future frontline starter.
Anderson, 20, was picked No. 3 overall by Atlanta in the 2016 Draft. Like Soroka and Wright, Anderson has moved through the system quickly, pitching well at every level along the way. Last season, he finished with a 2.49 ERA over 24 starts between Class A Advanced Florida (20 starts) and Double-A Mississippi (four). With a much-improved changeup, Anderson's ceiling is also high, and he could be a stalwart in the front half of the Braves' rotation in the years to come.
The Braves acquired Toussaint in a 2015 trade with the D-backs, who selected him No. 16 overall in the '14 Draft. The 22-year-old right-hander had command issues early in his Minor League career, but took a big step forward in '18, posting a 2.38 ERA over 24 starts between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 13, and posted a 4.03 ERA in seven appearances (five starts). Toussaint's pure stuff -- including a very good curveball -- could be the best in Atlanta's system.
Pache, a 20-year-old outfielder, is the best defensive player in the Braves' farm system, and could even be the best defensive center fielder in the Minors. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015, he has hit consistently well over three Minor League seasons, though some power didn't arrive until last season, when he slashed .279/.307/.410 with nine homers in 122 games between Class A Advanced Florida and Double-A Mississippi.
Riley is a 21-year-old third baseman who has demonstrated his raw power through four Minor League seasons. Last year, he was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, hitting .282/.346/.464 with 12 homers in 75 games for Gwinnett.
Wilson, 21, moved from Class A Advanced to Triple-A in '18, and was even called up to the big leagues in August. In 25 Minor League appearances (23 starts) last year, he finished with a 3.44 ERA, 143 strikeouts and 36 walks. He appeared in three games for Atlanta, making one start, and posted a 6.43 ERA (five runs in seven innings).
Waters, who turned 20 last month, has a speed and power combination that portends a future as an everyday player for the Braves. Having made some mechanical adjustments at the plate, he hit .293/.343/.476 with nine homers and 23 steals between Class A Rome and Class A Advanced Florida last season.