Earlier this month, I updated my Braves Top 30 prospect list to reflect the first-half of the 2021 season. Then, I simply released the updated rankings. But today I will post them here, along with excerpts for each prospect.
However, first things first: There’s a list of eight former Top 30 prospects that are no longer on my list from this past June — either because they were traded, or because their performance simply declined since the summer rankings. Today I’ll kick off the release by covering those eight players, and from there I’ll begin posting my new midseason list in three installments.
Nolan Kingham (RHP)
Summer rank – 30th
Kingham was always a fringy Top 30 player anyways, but his horrid stint in Triple-A Gwinnett really damaged his stock. The 25-year-old righty pitched extremely well with the M-Braves to start off the 2021 campaign, and he was very deserving of his promotion to Gwinnett; however, everything quickly went downhill. In six starts and one relief appearance with the Stripers, Kingham posted a 10.13 ERA as literally all but one outing featured two or more earned runs. As a result, the Braves demoted Kingham back down to Mississippi, and in his place, 2020 draftee Bryce Elder was inserted into the Triple-A roster. Hopefully Kingham can bounce back, but at this point in his career, this may just be what he is as a pro pitcher.
CJ Alexander (3B)
Summer rank – 17th
I had been holding out hope for Alexander, but as a 25-year-old, a 62 wRC+ in Double-A just isn’t going to cut it. And this is even after he put up a 19 wRC+ in 24 games at the level two years ago. As unfortunate as it may be, Alexander just hasn’t developed into what we hoped as a pro hitter, and even with a strong month of August, that’s featured a .325 AVG and eight XBH in 12 games so far (as of Friday), the former 20th-round pick is still in quite the hole. That 35.8% K rate has a long ways to go, and until he Alexander can cut down on the whiffs he’ll continue to be on the outside looking in.
Justin Dean (OF)
Summer rank – 25th
For the first time in his three pro seasons, Dean is sporting a below-average wRC+ (below 100). And it’s not as if Dean is having all that bad of a year with the M-Braves, for he continues to steal bases (23 so far) and run into a few homers (six) — it’s just not enough to keep him inside the Top 30. There’s a lot of talent in the system in terms of prospect outfielders, and though the 24-year-old Dean offers excellent speed and defense, I just don’t think his hit tool is strong enough to maintain a prospect title. Things can change, but for now I have him unranked.
Roddery Munoz (RHP)
Summer rank – 27th
Yes, I have cut Munoz from the Top 30, BUT I believe this will wound up being a short-lived exclusion. Munoz came onto the scene this season throwing high-90s MPH darts down in Single-A, however a bout of ineffectiveness and an injury has stunted his growth. In fact, Munoz is back on the injured list as I write this, and hasn’t pitched since July 22. A 6.67 ERA at the lowest level of full-season ball isn’t anything to get excited about, but the kids definitely has some wicked stuff to continue working on. For now, there are just too many other talented arms to keep Munoz on the list.
Willie Carter (OF)
Summer rank – 26th
I think I’m the only one that ranked Carter as a prospect this summer as it’s pretty rare for a guy, both his age AND in Single-A to get the needed attention. However, it’s hard to critique a .300 hitter, no matter what level their playing… and that’s exactly what Carter did… until last month. Following a month of July that featured some regression (.244 AVG in 25 games), Carter has continued to decline, now hitting just .191 with three XBH in 14 August games. The overall season still looks strong for Carter as he’s still hitting .275 for the year, but given his age and position, it’s going to take a bit more for him to hold onto a Top 30 spot.
Prospects that were traded
Ricky DeVito (RHP)
Summer rank – 20th
DeVito hasn’t pitched since June 1, when he was with High-A Rome as he’s currently on the 60-day IL within the Pirates system. He was probably trending towards the bullpen as he progressed in the Braves organization, but DeVito was pitching well with the R-Braves, posting a 2.66 ERA in five starts, to go with 12 strikeouts per nine. Regardless, Atlanta did well moving the prospect pitcher, for Rodriguez has been a solid big league reliever and has fit in nicely as the primary set-up guy. If he was still in the system, I’d probably keep DeVito pretty close to where he was in terms of rank. This is still a talented arm.
Kasey Kalich (RHP)
Summer rank – 29th
Dealt to Kansas City in Jorge Soler trade
Kalich is a solid prospect arm that has the potential to become a high-leverage reliever in the major leagues, which is why the Braves were able to move him to the Royals in exchange for outfielder Jorge Soler. Now with Kansas City’s High-A club, Kalich has posted a 4.50 ERA in six relief innings, and at 23-years-old, he’s most likely due for a Double-A assignment soon. With so much pitching depth in Atlanta’s system, it was smart to cash in on Kalich, and so far Soler has played well in the Braves lineup.
Bryce Ball (1B/DH)
Summer rank – 14th
Dealt to Chicago (Cubs) in Joc Pederson trade
Ball really created some unrealistic expectations when he crushed minor league pitching during his draft year in 2019. However, this season has been a completely different story. In 54 games with High-A Rome this year, the slugger posted a 106 wRC+, but his K rate rose to nearly 30% as he hit just .206 with six home runs. The Braves made the right decision to go ahead and move Ball while there was still some value left, and netting Joc Pederson was a nice haul. Even more reason to feel good about the trade is the fact that Ball has continued to struggle. With the Cubs High-A club, the first baseman is hitting .182 with three homers in 26 games. I’m not sure I would have cut him from the list this midseason, but if Ball was still in the Braves system I’d most likely push him outside of the top 20.