Bill Shanks

Fried leads Braves’ pitching prospects into season

Here are the Braves’ top 20 pitching prospects entering the 2017 season:

1. Max Fried – LHP – 23 years old: Fried gets the nod after a tremendous spring. He finished strong last year (2.47 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings). Fried will start in Double-A but could be in Atlanta by August.

2. Kolby Allard – LHP – 19 years old: Allard has been great in his first 19 pro starts. With Allard completely healthy now after back issues, the Braves are ready for him to take off. He could be on the fast track.

3. Mike Soroka – RHP – 19 years old: Very advanced pitcher for his age, Soroka is frequently asked for in trade talks. Scouts say Soroka is a potential No. 3 starter at worst, so he has great potential.

4. Ian Anderson – RHP – 18 years old: Last year’s third overall pick, Anderson dazzled scouts in March with his clean delivery and consistent stuff. Anderson will head to Rome. The Braves think he’s another Adam Wainwright.

5. Sean Newcomb – LHP – 23 years old: There is concern about his walks (71 in 140 innings last season), but Newcomb has great stuff and is close. Don’t be shocked if Newcomb knocks on the door this season.

6. Touki Toussaint – RHP – 20 years old: Toussaint had a 1.49 ERA in his final seven outings, giving the Braves hope he’s ready to bust out. Armed with a great curveball, Toussaint will be in High-Single-A Florida.

7. Patrick Weigel – RHP – 22 years old: Some believe Weigel is good enough to be in Atlanta’s bullpen now, but the Braves want to see him more as a starter. He’ll head to Doule-A with his mid-90s fastball.

8. Joey Wentz – LHP – 19 years old: Wentz was Atlanta’s second draft pick last year, 40th overall. He’s a big (6-foot-5) rangy lefty with a solid mechanics. Wentz will now have his first full season in Rome.

9. Luiz Gohara – LHP – 20 years old: Acquired from Seattle for Mallex Smith, Gohara is a big pitcher from Brazil who has drawn comparisons to C.C. Sabathia. Gohara had a 1.81 ERA last season in Single-A.

10. Ricardo Sanchez – LHP – 20 years old: Coaches believe Sanchez may have taken the biggest step forward in spring training. He has been inconsistent so far, but the Braves love Sanchez’s potential. He’ll start in High-A.

11. Lucas Sims – RHP – 22 years old: Sims must be more consistent. He was great in Double-A last season (2.67 ERA) but struggled in Triple-A (7.56 ERA). Sims must take a step forward or be passed by others.

12. A.J. Minter – LHP – 23 years old: The Braves feel Minter is their best relief prospect since Craig Kimbrel. He was unhittable last season, his first year back after Tommy John surgery. Could see him in Atlanta soon.

13. Kyle Muller – LHP – 19 years old: A big, tall lefty from Texas, the Braves stole Muller last year with the 44th overall draft pick. He’ll likely head to Rome to join Anderson and Wentz in Low-A.

14. Bryse Wilson – RHP – 19 years old: Wilson was Atlanta’s fourth-round pick in June, and he’ll join the big three in Rome to make it the big four. Scouts love Wilson’s improvement since he was drafted.

15. Drew Harrington – LHP – 22 years old: A star pitcher at Louisville last season, Harrington will likely skip Low-A and head to the Florida State League. Harrington might stick as a starter or become an effective reliever.

16. Chad Sobotka – RHP – 23 years old: Tall (6-7) right-hander who has potential as a reliever, Sobotka was solid last season at three levels. Could be a breakout pitching prospect in 2017. Likely to start in Double-A.

17. Matt Withrow – RHP – 23 years old: The brother of reliever Chris Withrow, Matt was solid in High-A (9-6, 3.80 ERA in 24 starts). Withrow will determine how good a prospect he is this year in Mississippi.

18. Jeremy Walker – RHP – 21 years old: Atlanta’s fifth round pick last year out of Gardner-Webb, Walker will likely be part of the Rome rotation in Low-A. Walker had eight walks and 37 strikeouts in his debut.

19. Jason Hursh – RHP – 25 years old: Hursh is one of those pitchers who shines in bullpen sessions but then struggles in games. He was more effective last year working exclusively as a reliever. Has a great fastball.

20. Luke Jackson – RHP – 25 years old: Acquired from Texas, the Braves think Jackson could help out in Atlanta’s bullpen this season. He has a great fastball, but Jackson must be consistent to get another chance.

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