BY KEVIN MCALPIN
NORTH PORT, FL – Part of the fun of Spring Training every year is getting a chance to lay eyes on players we only follow from afar through box scores and game reports. So, for those across the Southeast that plan on taking in a game from one of Atlanta’s minor league affiliates, here’s a few names you should keep close tabs on in 2020…
Drew Waters: At just 21 years old, Waters has quickly rose through the Braves Farm System and is knocking on the door of being Big League ready. Waters split 2019 between AA and AAA, combining to hit .309 with a .360 OBP. The Woodstock, GA native was a second round pick of the club in 2017 and has shown the ability to play all three outfield spots here in Spring Training. A switch hitter, Waters finds himself among the Top 50 prospects in the game and should the Braves suffer a major injury in the outfield, Waters could be the next man up.
Cristian Pache: Much like Waters, Pache has been another fast mover through Atlanta’s rich farm system. We’ve seen Pache start in both CF (his natural position) and RF, though he didn’t look quite as comfortable in the corner. Defensively, I’ve had scouts tell me that he could start in the Big Leagues tomorrow. It’s his bat that the club would like to see catch up, as he hit just one home run following his promotion to AAA last season. I’ve also had a few folks tell me that he could eventually prove to be an even better defender than Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ian Anderson: Ranked among many publications as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Anderson has made a few appearances in Grapefruit League play. While it’s unrealistic to think he could move into the rotation in Atlanta to start the season, I wouldn’t rule out seeing Anderson get a call up within the next year. A first round pick of the Braves in 2016, Anderson finished 2019 with Gwinnett but posted a 6.57 ERA and struggled with his command, issuing 18 walks (to go with 25 strikeouts) in 24.2 IP. Thus far, through two spring appearances, Anderson has struck out four over 2.2 IP.
Shea Langeliers: A first round pick of the Braves in the 2019 Draft out of Baylor, Langeliers is another that could find himself on the fast track to Atlanta. Coaches have noted his arm, ability to call a game, pop time and of course power at the plate as reasons to believe Langeliers could be the long term solution behind the dish.
Bryce Ball: At 6’6, Ball flat out looks the part. A 24th round pick in last years Draft, Ball has shown that light tower power here in camp that we heard so much about last June. In 63 games last year at Dallas Baptist, Ball hit 18 homers in 228 at bats with a 1.057 OPS. Those numbers carried over to pro ball last year as he belted 17 more bombs in 62 games between Danville and Rome. Ball could prove to be a really nice late round steal for the club down the road, especially if the DH eventually comes to the National League.
So there you have it folks, just a few names to follow and go watch if you live anywhere near any of the Braves Farm teams across the Southeast!
@KevinMcAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @bravesradionet.