Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.
The Graduate: Dansby Swanson (SS): OK, so I’m going to cheat a bit. Swanson didn’t technically graduate because he was stopped at 129 at-bats (and the official amount to graduate as a rookie is 130 ABs) but I needed something positive to write about after the Braves’ rookie hurlers struggled mightily. The first overall pick of the 2015 draft didn’t need much minor league seasoning and he blew through A-ball and double-A in 2016 on his way to his big league promotion. Despite the quick ascension, Swanson performed well on both sides of the ball and should be a star in this league (or at least an above-average regular if the pop doesn’t come around).
The Riser: Austin Riley (3B): Last year at this time I predicted that Riley could be a Top 100 talent within a year and he’s close. The Braves organization is loaded with talent — and known mostly for producing arms — but Riley is the second-best bat, for me, in the system behind Swanson (narrowly edging Ozzie Albies). Just 19, Riley slugged 20 home runs (and added 39 doubles, thus hinting at more pop to come) in a league that doesn’t tend to enhance over-the-fence pop (He was third in the league in homers). The biggest need for Riley is to tighten up his strike zone judgement and trim down on the strikeouts (27%) while increasing the walk rate (7.2%).
The Tumbler: Lucas Sims (RHP): Sims might be the third or fourth best arm in a lot of systems but he’s only the eighth or ninth most intriguing pitcher in the Braves system after a bit of a rough year in 2016. The 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, this right-hander hasn’t really dominated for a full season since ’13 so there are questions marks around his future ceiling. With the depth in the Braves system, I would consider moving him to the ‘pen full-time — perhaps as a two- or three-inning guy with high-leverage potential. Sims, 22, has yet to develop a true feel for his changeup but his fastball-curveball combination could be lethal one time through a big league lineup. He’ll likely give triple-A another go in 2017.
The ’16 Draft Pick: Ian Anderson (RHP): The Braves really didn’t need more good, young pitching but that’s what they got when they nabbed one of the top high school arms in the 2016 draft with the third overall pick. The right-hander showed off his advanced approach in pro ball by pitching at two levels and walking just 12 batters in 39.2 innings. Anderson, 18, has a fairly high floor for a prep pitcher and could end up as a frontline guy if his velocity holds up while his slider and changeup continue to develop.
The Lottery Ticket: Ronald Acuna (OF): There are a ton of sleeper prospects in the system and landing on just one was difficult. Acuna, though, showed some real potential in low-A ball as a teenager. However, his season was interrupted by thumb surgery late in the spring. Still, he hit more than .300 and struck out just 28 times in 40 games. He’ll also take some walks, steal some bases and can handle center field on defence. His power potential is the biggest question mark in his game but if it develops (and there are signs that it could) Acuna could develop into a very good big league player.
For reference sake, here is the 2015 Review.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.