If you thought the 2015 draft produced some significant results in a short period of time, wait until you see the 2016 draft. Of all of Coppy’s well-(or overly-)documented shortcomings, he produced 3 strong drafts in his time here. In terms of pure talent who has established itself in the system, the 2016 class looks even better than 2015’s.
Ian Anderson – 1st Round – After all of the drama about “did they or didn’t they” in regards to improper behavior in these drafts have ended, and no wrong-doing was punished in them, it’s fair to say that the Braves really added a lot of top-end pitching at the top of this draft. The headliner is Ian Anderson who was taken 3rd overall. He appears to have been a signability pick, to an extent, as he went underslot and rankings had him lower, but he was good enough to be the #66 prospect by Baseball America in after 2016 and #50 in 2017. He hasn’t adjusted to pro ball quite the way you’d like from a durability standpoint, and he only pitched 83 IP in 2017, but he’s been pitching like a young, top prospect when he is on the mound. In those 83 IP, he posted a K rate of 11 per 9, and gave up 7.5 H/9. But as is a theme with young pitchers, his walk rate was problematic as he had a 6.16 BB/9 last year. He made 20 starts, but only averaged around 4 IP per start, so even though he’s only 19, he really has to begin to stretch out soon.
Joey Wentz – 1st Round Supplemental – Wentz isn’t considered a top 100 yet, and he’s a little older than Anderson (he turned 20 at the end of the season), but his professional results have been much more advanced. Another tall lefty (6’5”), his A- showing was simply much better: 131 IP in 26 GS, 10.39 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, and kept the ball in the park (.27 HR/9). For his first professional season, you have to be encouraged. He could find his way to AA next year, and could be in position to challenge for a roster spot in 2019. He’s by far the most advanced prospect from this draft.
Kyle Muller – 2nd Round – Another tall lefty starting pitcher (6’6”), he has yet to pitch into a deep inning count like Anderson. He was a two-way star in high school, and there was debate about where he’d be used best. The Braves chose the mound, and when he’s been on, it’s been good: 9.25 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and .94 HR/9. Only 47 total IP in 2017, but he started to increase his workload late in the year, and should find his way to A- next year.
Brett Cumberland – 2nd Round Supplemental – They continue to take catchers towards the top of the draft, and Cumberland’s been the best catcher taken so far. Cumberland is a 22 year old switch-hitting catcher who’s also split time at DH. He started off strong in his first professional season hitting .263/.432/.531 in 236 PAs at A-. He had tons of hit by pitches and tons of home runs. His bat slowed, though, at A+ as his power diminished greatly and his walk percentage was nearly cut in half. He has had a strong showing in the Australian League, though, hitting .273/.363/.494 with 4 HRs in 84 PAs. He hasn’t been behind the plate much, but his team is carrying 5 catchers.
Drew Harrington – 3rd Round – The fourth pitcher taken in the draft, he started off strong but faded in his first full season. A slightly shorter lefty (6’2”), he started the year in A+, and finished the season with a strong FIP (3.13) with a 7.0 K/9 and 2.83 BB/9. He also gets his fair share of groundballs (59.5%), and only gave up a miniscule .13 HR/9. You have to love the peripherals in his first full season, but it will be interesting to see if Atlanta projects him as a starting with all of the competition in the system.
Bryse Wilson – 4th Round – Like Harrington, Wilson had a strong season of peripherals. 20 years old, he pitched in A- all year, and finished with a 9.13 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, and also kept the home runs down with a .53 HR/9. He has garnered a lot of attention because his ERA was better than Harrington’s, and he had a higher K rate, but you have to love both of these guys as depth in an extremely crowded system for starting pitchers.
Tyler Neslony – 9th Round – 23 years old, he’s a lefty who plays first and corner outfield. If I wrote this a month ago, I may not have as much to say, and he may not be on this list. They pushed him aggressively as he started the year in A+ and hit really well (.309/.378/.442), but he really struggled in his AA assignment: .194/.289/.243. But he’s absolutely raked in his short time in Australia (.348/.439/.587), so he’s recovered from his late season struggles. He could be a sleeper as a bench outfielder at the major league level, and he’ll probably repeat AA with a chance to factor into our short-term plans.
Corbin Clouse – Round 27 – A real find in the later rounds. Clouse has developed some attention after his encouraging stints at A+ and AA. His walk rate is atrocious (5.37/9), but his K rate is in the double digits (11.12/9), and he only gave up 2 HR in 57 IP. If he can improve his walk rate next year, you could see him earning a September callup in 2018.
This class has a blend of high end talent and steady, projectable performers. Though light on position players, all 5 SPs mentioned performing well in the low minors has to encourage the Braves. There’s no game-changing position player, but Cumberland and Neslony are interesting as college bats with an encouraging first year. And considering some teams don’t produce a single major leaguer in a particular draft class, even someone like Clouse in the 27th round already pitching well in AA shows that Coppy put together some strong drafts.