Today, we finally move on to the National League, beginning with the East division and the Braves. As a reminder, the series was intended to only list and discuss prospects who have a chance of earning significant playing time this year only. Obviously, this assumes a 2020 season. That means that there are going to be top prospects missing because they have only completed A-ball and have no chance of appearing in the Majors this season.
|NL East||NL Central||NL West|
After a surprisingly productive 2018 season that saw Johan Camargo post a .346 wOBA, he fell flat in his follow-up, wOBA’ing just .279 over less than a half season’s worth of plate appearances. While he was no lock to open the season as the team’s starting third baseman, that was the assumption. Since it was mostly just a BABIP collapse that led to the decline in offense, there’s a good chance he rebounds, at least somewhat. However, his projections put him at risk of losing his job.
The team’s second best prospect in 2019, Austin Riley debuted with a bang, as he posted a .460 wOBA in May, despite horrible plate discipline. He showed off his massive power, though, and BABIP’ed his way onto fantasy teams in all the land. He then reverted to a more sustainable version in June, before completely disappearing in July. Strikeouts weren’t a major issue in the minors, though certainly there was room for improvement for the most part, though he did improve his mark at Triple-A in 2019. He hits lots of fly balls, which is great for his home run output, and he has posted double digit HR/FB rates everywhere he’s gone. This isn’t a great skill set and he’s essentially one-dimensional, but that one dimension plays an outsized role in fantasy leagues. He’s essentially Randal Grichuk, so value him that way if he earns regular playing time.
Ender Inciarte continues to deliver around league average offense, with his value being driven by his defense. However, his UZR/150 hit a career low last year, which dramatically reduces his value. There was a noticeable change in shape of his offense last year, with a surge in both walk rate and strikeout rate leading to a power spike. It didn’t change his actual offensive contribution though. If he isn’t providing much offensively and his defense doesn’t rebound to well above average, does he deserve to play every day against right-handers?
Cristian Pache is the team’s top ranked prospect, although I admittedly struggle to understand why. Offensively, he just hasn’t been very impressive in the minors, posting high SwStk% marks (though reasonable strikeout rates somehow) with a lack of power. That said, clearly scouts love him and expect much more in the future, so perhaps if Inciarte fails and Pache is given the opportunity, his performance improves to the level his prospect ranking suggests.
Normally, I would be all over a starting pitcher moving from the American League to the National League. But given the current situation and the fact there is likely to be a universal DH, suddenly there’s little, if any, boost to be given for the switch. That’s bad news for Felix Hernandez who is praying for a turnaround after his career has gone way downhill since 2016. It’s pretty sad to see the regression of his ERA since that year for a once elite starting pitcher.
The Braves have a number of options to fill the last spot in the rotation. All of them have already gotten their feet wet in Atlanta. Kyle Wright is the team’s fourth best prospect who has posted mid-20% strikeout rates at Triple-A in 2018 and 2019. His 2019 cup of coffee with the Braves didn’t go so well, as his mid-90s fastball produced a weak SwStk%, while his slider generated a mark below the league average for the pitch. His minor league record suggests better results.
Bryse Wilson ranks just behind Wright on their top prospects list and similarly performed poorly during his 2019 cup of coffee. His fastball was thrown a bit harder and generated a near league average SwStk%, but only his changeup recorded a double digit SwStk%, and that was below the league average for the pitch. He has displayed better control than Wright in the minors, along with similar strikeout rate potential. Since he also throws harder, I think I lean slightly toward Wilson if you had to compare the two in near-term potential.
Lastly, don’t forget about Touki Toussaint. He’s recorded the most MLB innings of the trio, and has also better translated his stuff into strikeouts so far. Unfortunately, his control has been awful, resulting in a near 5.00 ERA over 70.2 MLB innings. Most exciting is that his pitch mix has actually been effective. His curveball has generated a mid-teens SwStk%, while his splitter has been elite, generating a SwStk% over 20%. With three different fastballs (sinker, splitter, fourseam), he should probably dump the fourseam as it generates tons of fly balls and few swings and misses. He seemingly has the most upside of the three.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.