Monday, December 20, 2021
It’s time for another series. Recently I’ve released my 2022 Braves Prospect List, featuring the top 35 players in the Braves system. Following that week-long release, I also wrote up a top 10 ranking of the system’s top trade chips for this year.
Today I’m going to begin another series – one that I’ve always wanted to do but have never had the time. If you’re familiar or are subscribed to Baseball America, then you’re most likely aware of the site’s annual Best Tools column, listing the top minor league players by their respective scouting tools.
This past September, BA’s did a Best Tools post, featuring a top 10 ranking for 21 different tools. Using its format, I’ve chosen the eight that I’d like to incorporate into my series (four for position-players and four for pitchers). Those tools are listed below (simply put the word best before each tool)…
- Overall bat
- Plate discipline
- Fastest baserunner
- Breaking pitch
To prevent this from becoming too lengthy, instead of doing a top 10 like BA, I will rank the five-best prospects for each tool, while going back and forth between position-player and pitcher tools. This series should provide a bit more detail about these prospects, and more specifically, what it is that helps make them a prospect in the first place. Depending on how the MLB lockout is looking once this series is done, I do plan to also construct an organizational depth chart for the Braves minor leagues, to better illustrate the system’s strengths and weaknesses.
But let’s get started with my Best Tools column, beginning with today’s post – the best overall bat:
Explanation of what Best Overall Bat means: for me, this tool is essentially a combination of a player’s Hit and Power tool. These are the prospects that are above average at making consistent contact AND hitting for power. Now, power doesn’t necessarily have to mean home runs. It can also mean doubles and triples, or any kind of XBH. These are the true offensive stars in the Braves system.
BEST OVERALL BAT TOOL (TOP 5)
|Rank||Player||Position||’22 Prospect rank|
|3||Michael Harris II||OF||5th|
Other than Langeliers at no. 1, ranking these five players was pretty difficult. There’s no doubt the prospect catcher has the best overall bat right now, though, as he slugged the second-most home runs (22) among Braves minor leaguers in 2021 and posted a .256 AVG (ninth among qualified hitters). That’s some incredible production at the plate for a catcher and is why the buzz surrounding Langeliers is at an all-time high right now.
Grissom may come as a surprise being as high as he is on this list, but this just shows how quick he’s moving up the ladder in the organization. This past season the 20-year-old hit .311 with five homers in 75 games at Single-A Augusta, then .378 with two homers in a short 12-game stint at High-A Rome, more than doubling his career homer total in the span of 87 games. His long ball power perhaps hasn’t developed entirely, but 28 XBH in 380 PA in 2021, to go with a .300+ AVG, is a dangerous combination for a middle-infielder and makes him one of the best overall hitters in the system right now.
Harris is another bat that has been able to do both during his pro career, even more so in 2021. Spending all season with High-A Rome, the toolsy prospect outfielder hit nearly .300 (.294) with 36 XBH (seven HR) in 101 games, all while being one of the best line-drive hitters in the league. Harris is a bit undersized, but still just 20-years-old, he could continue to develop into quite the overall hitter as he wields both above-average contact and power (plus he’s fast as hell).
Waters and Shewmake are two that I could definitely see at nos. 1 and 2 on this list in the near future. With Triple-A Gwinnett in 2021, the former broke out in the power department, belting 11 homers and 22 doubles in 103 games, which was a helluva year given it was his first try at the minor’s highest level. Waters’ .240 AVG for the season wasn’t too great, but a lot of that was due to a poor month of August in which the outfielder hit just .164. Shewmake’s roller coaster of a season may have concluded with some rather underwhelming numbers, although like Waters, some context is needed. After hitting horribly during the first couple of months, the M-Braves shortstop went on to post a .280 AVG with eight homers and 11 doubles during the final 48 games. And after watching Shewmake hit in-person, I have to say, this kid has some serious line-drive power.
Be sure to check back soon. Next, I’ll look at the system’s pitcher with the best fastball.