Bill Shanks

Swanson ready for first full major league season

Dansby Swanson moves into the starting shortstop spot this season for the Atlanta Braves.
Dansby Swanson moves into the starting shortstop spot this season for the Atlanta Braves. AP

Here are the Braves’ top 20 position fielding prospects entering the 2017 season.

1. Dansby Swanson – SS – 23 years old: He just missed losing his rookie status by one at-bat, so Swanson is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. Swanson is the future face of the franchise.

2. Ozzie Albies – 2B – 20 years old: Brandon Phillips is holding down second base for now with Albies possibly ready at any time. He broke his elbow late last season, but Albies is healthy and almost ready.

3. Ronald Acuna – CF – 19 years old: The talk of spring training, Acuna hit .296 with the big league Braves. The Andruw Jones comparisons are getting louder, and Acuna is making everyone fall in love with his potential.

4. Kevin Maitan – SS – 17 years old: Maitan has yet to have a professional at-bat, but scouts believe he’s a future star. He’s being compared to Miguel Cabrera and Juan Gonzalez, and Maitan is a shortstop.

5. Austin Riley – 3B – 20 years old: Riley hit .282 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI after July 1, after hitting just five home runs in the first three months for the Rome Braves. Getting better by the day.

6. Rio Ruiz – 3B – 22 years old: Ruiz showed improvement last year in Triple-A with 10 home runs and an improved on-base percentage of .355. He showed promise with a solid spring training. May be close.

7. Dustin Peterson – LF – 22 years old: Peterson was off to a great start in spring training but then broke a hamate bone in his hand. He should return in early May. Peterson had 88 RBI in Double-A last season.

8. Alex Jackson – C – 21 years old: After acquiring him from Seattle, the Braves are moving Jackson to catcher. The early results were positive. Jackson is a hitter, but he needs to show consistency this year in Double-A.

9. Travis Demeritte – 2B – 22 years old: The Braves got Demeritte from Texas last summer. He has power and speed, but Demeritte strikes out too much. He’ll go to Double-A and must impress to surpass Albies.

10. Johan Camargo – INF – 23 years old: Camargo hit well in spring training, but he committed six errors in the field. He’s a solid hitter, but Camargo must be more consistent defensively to make it to Atlanta.

11. Abrahan Gutierrez – C – 17 years old: The Braves gave Gutierrez $3.5 million in July, the highest amount ever for an international catcher. Gutierrez drew raves in March for his defense. His bat also grades out well.

12. Derian Cruz – SS – 18 years old: Cruz got his feet wet in rookie-league Danville last season, but the Braves will test him in Rome in 2017. He’s a switch-hitter with good speed. Hit .309 in the GCL.

13. Cristian Pache – CF - 18 years old: Pache is higher on other lists, but he struggled in spring training, and the Braves want to see him take a step up offensively this season. Solid skills in center field.

14. Juan Yepez – 3B – 19 years old: Yepez had an injury ruin last season, but the Braves still like his offensive potential. They had him at first, but now Yepez is back at third base for 2017. Yepez could be in Rome.

15. Yunier Severino – SS – 17 years old: Signed for $1.9 million last July, Severino is a tall switch-hitter with great bat speed and plus power potential. Some believe Severino could eventually move to third base.

16. Braxton Davidson – LF - 20 years old: After two subpar offensive seasons, Davidson arrived to camp in better shape and determined to get on track. The Braves have moved him from right field to left field.

17. Brett Cumberland – C - 21 years old: Cumberland was last year’s second-round pick out of UC-Berkley. He disappointed with the bat in Danville (.216 average), but the Braves want to see him for a full season.

18. Ray-Patrick Didder – OF – 22 years old: A speedster (37 steals) with a high OBP (.387) last season in Rome, Didder opened some eyes this spring. A fringe prospect now who could get more interesting this season.

19. J.B. Moss – OF – 23 years old: Braves drafted Moss in the seventh round last June out of Texas A&M. He hit well in rookie ball, so the Braves are anxious to see how he handles Rome in the South Atlantic League.

20. Lucas Herbert – C – 20 years old: Herbert struggled offensively last season (.185 batting average), so he’ll likely head back to Rome. The Braves like his defensive potential, and he’s still very young.

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