How Braves’ top 10 prospects are faring this spring

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Here's a quick look at some key spring dates to remember for the Atlanta Braves.

Now past the midway point of spring training, position battles are in focus for the Braves. But beyond those competitions for just a few spots, the team’s better prospects have had chances to make impressions on their big-league coaches and teammates.

Here’s how the Braves’ top 10 farmhands, according to Baseball America, are faring this spring:

1. Top outfielder prospect Cristian Pache is having a modest exhibition season. The 21-year-old is 6-for-22 (.273) with a triple, homer and four RBI. The home run, which came Feb. 29 against the Rays, was a no doubter, showcasing Pache's steadily increasing power.

Pache will likely debut at some point this season, though his path to the bigs is muddied by the team’s immense outfield depth. The Braves will also want him playing every day. Pache will probably be the team’s center fielder in 2021, but how he and the club reach that point — and what 2020 holds for Pache — will be fascinating.

2. Fellow heralded outfielder Drew Waters has struggled mightily, striking out in 12 of his 19 at-bats. Strikeouts were already tabbed as one of the switch-hitter’s glaring weaknesses, particularly from the right side.

Waters will begin the season in Triple-A and, like Pache, feels destined to appear in the bigs this season despite an unclear route. His development hinges on lowering his strikeout rate, but the Braves love his general offensive prowess and confident attitude. Waters can also handle center field, but likely slots into left for the franchise long-term.

3. Starter Ian Anderson is scheduled to start the team's split-squad game against the Orioles on Tuesday. He's appeared in two games thus far, allowing one run and striking out four in 2-2/3 innings. Like the aforementioned two, he's set for a big-league promotion sometime this season. Anderson's ability and maturity could help him become a fixture on the team sooner rather than later.

4. This will be a crucial season for starter Kyle Wright, who arrived a more seasoned product from Vanderbilt in the 2017 draft. Wright is having another strong spring, allowing two runs over 8-1/3 frames (three appearances). He’s struck out 12 and walked only two, a notable number after bases on balls plagued Wright last season in the majors.

The 24-year-old is vying for a rotation spot, though that might be an uphill climb with Sean Newcomb's and Felix Hernandez's encouraging beginnings. Wright's first start was mediocre — he allowed two runs on three hits and walked a pair in 3-1/3 innings — but his relief work was stellar.

“I think he’s more versed, he’s more ready for this fight than he was a year ago,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s got another year under his belt, experiencing what he’s experienced. He broke out of camp with us. He was an opening series pitcher. I think all that is going to serve him well down the road and right now.”

Wright will factor into the team’s plans at some point this season, but for him, the mission will be finding a way to stick. He’s still extremely high regarded and teammates feel he’s primed for a breakthrough.

5. Kyle Muller’s two exhibition outings welcomed joking references to Charlie Sheen’s “Wild Thing” in the “Major League” movies. Muller was all over the place, allowing six runs in what amounted to one inning’s work. He walked three, struck out three and mixed in two hit batters and a wild pitch.

Muller’s talent is obvious: He’s a monstrous mound presence, looking more like an NFL tight end than starter. After posting gaudy strikeout numbers in Double-A, Muller will probably open in Triple-A. As is often the case with power arms, how he reigns in his command will determine when he’s ready for the bigs.

6. Bryse Wilson already lost his long-shot bid to make the Braves' initial rotation for the second consecutive season. He was among the team's cuts this past week and will start his season in Triple-A.

Wilson relies heavily on his fastball but lacks a stand-out off-speed weapon. His slider inducing more swings and misses would go a long way. His spring line: Five runs allowed over 5-1/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

It’s becoming more difficult to see how Wilson becomes a permanent piece of the Braves’ plans due to their deeper-than-normal pitching stash. For now, he’ll search for consistency in the minors and try to make the most of whatever spot starts or relief appearances he earns throughout the summer.

7. The Braves are giddy over catcher Shea Langeliers, whom they selected with the ninth overall pick in last June’s draft. Langeliers has impressed teammates and coaches with his maturity, defensive capabilities and his willingness to learn. He’s also shown promise in managing pitchers.

Langeliers has five hits (including a homer) in eight at-bats entering Monday, when he was slated to start against the Red Sox. The Braves hope the 22-year-old is their catcher of the future.

“The kid has been very impressive all spring in how he’s handled himself,” Snitker said. “He’s a polished guy. He does it the right way. His skillset is impressive.”

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Braves selected catcher Shea Langeliers with their top pick in last June's draft. He is experiencing his spring training wit the team in North Port, Fla.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves selected catcher Shea Langeliers with their top pick in last June's draft. He is experiencing his spring training wit the team in North Port, Fla.

Credit: Curtis Compton

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Braves selected catcher Shea Langeliers with their top pick in last June's draft. He is experiencing his spring training wit the team in North Port, Fla.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

8. Speaking of catchers, William Contreras shouldn’t be a forgotten man. He’s also among the team’s better prospects, though he’s still more raw than Langeliers. Contreras has played in just three games this spring, going 0-for-3 with a walk.

Contreras has a high ceiling, especially with his exceptional athleticism at the position, but he’s still learning the finer points of catching. If he develops accordingly, he could become one of the better offensive catchers in baseball.

9. The Braves’ other 2019 first rounder, infielder Braden Shewmake, has drawn some praise. He’s played in eight games, going 3-for-13 with a double and two RBI. The Texas A&M product profiles as a versatile utiltyman with plus speed. He could grow into more pop as he fills out his frame.

“I like him,” Snitker said. “I think he’s going to be a heck of a ballplayer. He’s another one, he just needs to go out and play. I like the skills. He’s a baseball player. I like the feel. He’s got a good toolset. I think he’s going to be a nice little player.”

10. Left-hander Tucker Davidson is another starter on the cusp of his MLB debut. He’s pitched in four games, allowing one run in 5-1/3 innings. He’s struck out four and walked four.

Davidson has impressive strikeout numbers — he fanned 122 hitters in 111 innings in Double-A last season – but the walks are the issue (45 in that span). He could prove an asset out of the bullpen at some point this season, but to start the year, he’ll be a starter in Gwinnett.