Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After debate, Olivera rated Braves' No. 1 prospect by BA

In Baseball America’s updated Braves top 10 prospects list announced Monday (Oct. 26), seven of the top eight were players since mid-December via the draft or trades. Shortstop Ozzie Albies, at No. 3, was the only one among the top eight who was with the Braves 11 months ago.

In a rarity, BA’s No. 1 Braves prospect is a 30-year-old, Cuban Hector Olivera, who’ll be 31 in April. Left-hander Kolby Allard, the Braves’ top pick in the June draft, came in at No. 2 on the list. Here's the link to the full list and article.

Personally, I was surprised that BA even had Olivera  on the list, given his age and injury history. And No. 1? I never would’ve expected that.

In his first stint in the majors, Olivera hit .253 (20-for-79) with seven extra-base hits, 11 RBIs, a .310 OBP and .405 slugging percentage in 24 September games for the Braves. He's playing winter ball in Puerto Rico now and has shifted from third base to left field.

Although the Braves say he'll play some third base as well this winter, it appears he's set for a move to the outfield for 2016.

Allard turned 18 in August, and if not for a back injury (stress fracture) that forced him to miss most of his high school senior season, some at Baseball America thought he’d have been the Braves’ No. 1 prospect.

“We had internal debate (about Olivera as No. 1),” said John Manuel, Baseball America editor-in-chief. “I will say the (major league) track record of Cuban hitters with Olivera's track record is very good, and there was no natural choice. Maybe if (Austin) Riley were a better athlete, or if Allard were healthy, or if we were more confident in the impact of Albies' bat.”

Right-hander Tyrell Jenkins, who was acquired with Shelby Miller in the November trade that sent Jason Heyward to St. Louis and was named the Braves’ organizational pitcher of the year, didn’t even crack BA’s top 10. For those keeping score, that means the seven newcomers (in the top eight) who were acquired in trades or the draft came in deals beginning with the Justin Upton-to-San Diego trade Dec. 19.

The only holdovers who were in the Braves organization who were  this time last year: Albies, outfielder Braxton Davidson (No. 9) and right-hander Lucas Sims (No. 10).

The rest of BA’s top 10 included 19-year-old pitcher Touki Toussaint, a Diamondbacks 2014 first-round pick, at No. 4; 18-year-old third baseman Riley (No. 5), 21-year-old lefty Max Fried (No. 6), 22-year-old center fielder Mallex Smith (No. 7), and 18-year-old righty Mike Soroka (No. 8).

Sims was rated as the Braves' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America at this time a year ago, before all the trades and draft picks and before he struggled in the first half of the 2014 season and injured a hip in the bus crash that landed several other Single-A Carolina players on the disabled list. He wasn't hurt seriously, hads a strong second half, and I'll predict that Sims climbs back up this list quickly if he pitches like he has in his past couple of starts in the Arizona Fall League.

That includes the one I saw Monday at Mesa, Ariz., when he retired nine of 10 batters – the only one who reached did so on a shortstop error – and struck out four while touching 97-98 mph with his fastball, a few mph above where he’s usually been in the past. If Sims keeps pitching like that, I think the Brookwood High grad could be knocking at the big-league door at some point in the ’16 season.

I'll be writing a feature on him for next Sunday's AJC, and it should be posted on our website by the end of the week.

• OK, let’s close this with a tune from soulful Alabama native Anderson East off his strong major-label debut album Delilah. This video is him doing the song live in a studio. Give it a listen, you'll be impressed by the voice.

 “LYING IN HER ARMS” by Anderson East

Scraping the tops of the trees

The sun pierced through and the flowers are in bloom

It makes no difference to me

Meal's cold and I was waiting for you to warm up

Thought I saw fire everywhere

She came along, not mistaking what I saw

Now we're smoke in the air Cause you were the only one I was holding

And I was holding her close

You were the only one I was thinking of

Lying in her arms

Throwing away our love She was young, she was new, and that's what I wanted

New eyes that shine back at me

And ... I was left with the thoughts

What I did, I couldn't change Cause you were the only one I was holding

And I was holding her close

You were the only one I was thinking of

Lying in her arms

Throwing away our love

Our love You were the only one I was holding

And I was holding her close

You were the only one I was thinking of

Lying in her arms

Throwing away our love

Our love

Our love



Reader Comments ...

About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.