ATLANTA -- The future will be on display when the Braves open Spring Training with 10 of their top 13 prospects, including each of their top four, in big league camp.Pitchers and catchers are set to have their first workout on Saturday.Highlighting this impressive crop of young talent will be
ATLANTA -- The future will be on display when the Braves open Spring Training with 10 of their top 13 prospects, including each of their top four, in big league camp.
Pitchers and catchers are set to have their first workout on Saturday.
Highlighting this impressive crop of young talent will be Dansby Swanson, the talented shortstop who was taken by the D-backs with the first overall selection in last year's Draft and then traded to the Braves in December as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona.
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This will certainly be a unique camp for the rebuilding Braves as they take advantage of the chance to get extended looks at each of their top four prospects -- Swanson, Sean Newcomb, Ozzie Albies and Aaron Blair. Albies is the only member of this quartet who was not acquired via a trade this offseason.
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MLB.com's latest Braves Spring Training Preview focuses on Prospects to Watch:
SS Swanson: Though the Braves have acquired a plethora of top talent since the end of the 2014 season, Swanson (MLBPipeline.com's eighth-best overall prospect and fourth-best shortstop prospect) stands as the most recognizable figure of their rebuild. The suburban Atlanta native caught the eyes of many during the past two College World Series and then grabbed more attention when he was taken with last year's first overall pick. Given that he has yet to play 30 games at the professional level, it might be optimistic to project him to make his Major League debut this year. But the Braves would certainly like to open 2017 with Swanson as their starting shortstop.
LHP Newcomb: Two days after referring to Andrelton Simmons as the best defensive shortstop in baseball history, Braves general manager John Coppolella traded Simmons to the Angels in exchange for two highly regarded pitchers, including Newcomb, who is ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect and fourth-best left-handed pitching prospect. The southpaw could enter Atlanta's rotation at some point this year, but he will first have to find more consistency in the command department.
SS Albies: What he might not have in size, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Albies makes up for in raw talent and determination. The Braves' latest phenom from Curacao might move to second base once he and Swanson both crack Atlanta's lineup. But he's more than capable of handling the shortstop position and also providing both speed and consistency at the top of a lineup. Albies ranks as MLBPipeline.com's 10th-best shortstop prospect and 29th-best overall prospect.
RHP Blair: Though Newcomb is ranked higher, Blair is a little more polished and thus could be the first member of this duo to reach the Majors. The right-hander, who was also acquired in the blockbuster deal with the D-backs, possesses a plus fastball and a good feel for both his curveball and changeup. He ranks as the 56th-best overall prospect.
CF Mallex Smith: He's not ranked as high as the previously mentioned prospects, but Smith also will likely rise to the big leagues at some point this year. Before Ender Inciarte was acquired in the Miller trade with the D-backs, Smith was targeted to crack Atlanta's lineup before the All-Star break. Inciarte's presence might delay Smith's arrival. But as the fleet-footed Smith spent the final months of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett, he showed he's quite close to being ready for the big leagues.
RHP Tyrell Jenkins: In exchange for one year of Jason Heyward, the Braves essentially received one year of Miller, plus Swanson, Inciarte, Blair and Jenkins, who was acquired via the 2014 trade that sent Heyward to the Cardinals. Jenkins proved he could stay healthy over an entire season last year. If he does this same this year, he'll almost certainly crack Atlanta's rotation at some point.
LHP Manny Banuelos: When healthy last season, Banuelos showed he can compete at the Major League level and possibly establish himself as a back-end rotation piece. But the elbow discomfort that sidelined him most of the season's final two months provided more reason to question his long-term durability. Banuelos will come to camp with a legit shot to open the season in Atlanta's rotation.
RHP Lucas Sims: Sims bounced back from a rough 2014 season and re-established himself as a top prospect last year. He was slowed after being involved in a bus crash with his Class A Advanced Carolina teammates last year. But he closed the regular season strong and extended his success during the Arizona Fall League. Newcomb and Blair might get a little more love in the rankings, but Sims' future is still quite bright.
RHP Chris Ellis: Though he might be recognized as "the other pitcher" acquired from the Angels for Simmons, Ellis also might be slightly more polished than Newcomb. He might not have the same tremendous upside as Newcomb, but some scouts have projected Ellis to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation piece.
3B Rio Ruiz: He got his feet wet as he experienced big league camp with the Braves last year. The 21-year-old third baseman endured some growing pains as he struggled at the plate and in the field with Double-A Mississippi in 2015. But with his athleticism and size, he still could develop into a bona fide big league third baseman.
LF Braxton Davidson: The Braves provided a little surprise when they gave a Spring Training invite to the 19-year-old Davidson, who was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. Davidson showed some of his power potential as he hit 10 homers while playing his first full professional season with Class A Rome last year. He spent this winter working out with former Braves outfielder Cameron Maybin.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.