The Atlanta Braves have developed a reputation for having a stocked farm system constantly brimming with players ready to contribute on the major league level.
The “Four Horsemen” have all made their debuts and other rookies Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Brandon Beachy are all having fine seasons.
Looking over the farm system, there is one area that the Braves need some improvement in: The Outfield.
Although the Braves are thinner on hitting prospects in general, they have a number of middle infield prospects and a solid catching prospect in the system. However, they fall extremely thin on outfield depth and didn’t really address the issue in this year’s draft.
The Gwinnett Braves have a number of veteran minor league/quad-A players on their roster; none of whom offer serious hope for the future.
Mississippi features a couple of interesting players to go along with some older minor leaguers. Cory Harrilchak is the closest outfield prospect to the majors but his stock has taken a huge hit this season. On the year, he’s hitting just .249 and hasn’t shown much power or speed.
Mycal Jones is another player to watch but isn’t a top prospect. Originally an infielder, Jones is a terrific athlete who hasn’t been able to put together any great seasons. Although he has shown increased plate discipline this year, his slugging percentage has fallen over 40 points.
Both Mississippi players won’t likely become more than fourth outfielders for Atlanta.
The Braves are also lacking in outfield talent at the lower levels of the organization. While the team loaded up on hitters early in this year’s draft, only three outfielders were selected in top 20 picks. The highest of these outfielders was selected in the ninth round.
Rome hasn’t gotten much production out of its outfield this year. David Rohm is the only prospect who may have a decent shot to make the majors but he has struggled with a .702 OPS this season.
Even Matt Lipka, who could eventually make the move to centerfield (or second base) has struggled in his first full season of pro baseball.
In Danville, this year’s 11th round pick Chase Larsson has been the best outfielder, putting up a respectable .759 OPS despite a terrible .228 batting average.
The best outfield prospect on the GCL Braves is Felix Marte. After three seasons in the Dominican Summer League he came to the US and has played well so far. His .814 OPS is strong and he’s shown a little power and speed on the season.
While the guys in the lower minors still have time to break out, it appears the Braves really only have two prospects that look like they could make an impact on the major league level.
Adam Milligan is probably the top outfield prospect in the system although injuries have held him back. He has an impressive .902 OPS and has shown some longball power (12 homeruns) despite playing in just 64 games. Milligan strikes out a lot and hasn’t been very consistent but could eventually start at corner outfield for the Braves.
The other solid prospect is Todd Cunningham. Injuries have slowed Cunningham down as well this season but he has posted a respectable .763 OPS in 74 games with the Hillcats while stealing 14 bases. Cunningham can play all three outfield positions and right now probably is the best internal candidate to eventually replace Michael Bourn.
All in all, the Braves have a terrific minor league system although they could use some more depth in their outfield prospects. The best two prospects have dealt with injuries this year and simply going by draft rounds the team didn’t add any highly touted prospects this season.
Once Jason Heyward gets his swing straightened out, the Braves should be set in right field for the foreseeable future. However, the team likely will have to seek out external options if Bourn leaves after next season and Prado moves back to the infield.