100. Zachary Bird, RHP
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The Braves acquired Bird from the Dodgers in trade last summer. Bird is a Mississippi native, and the Braves pushed him to AA Mississippi to finish 2015 even though he wasn’t pitching all that well with high-A in the Dodgers system.
While Bird was able to put up a 4.26 ERA in 3 starts, he also showed some signs to worry on as he walked 12 and struck out 8 in his time with Mississippi.
The Braves sent him to high-A Carolina to transition him to the bullpen. The transition, however, did not go well. Bird made 28 appearances on the season, pitching 47 2/3 innings before he was shut down with an “injury” for the season. In that time, he had an ERA of 8.87 and a 2.12 WHIP with a 39/34 BB/K ratio.
While Bird featured a four-pitch mix, he dropped his below-average curve ball and his seldom-used change when he moved to the bullpen. Typically, a move to the bullpen will allow a pitcher’s velocity to play up, but Bird seemed to be attempting to force the velocity, and while he did add roughly a single MPH to about 96-97 on the top end, he flattened out the pitch significantly, and without any deception, batters were able to tee off on the pitch.
His slider has arm side run and sink, but he simply has no clue where it is going. It could be an effective out pitch if he could get the pitch in the zone, which is the only reason that he is even on this list rather than other options that could take his place.
Last season, in my initial list, I had one Mauricio Cabrera ranked #99. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and showed enough to move up to the middle of my rankings, but I’m still very wary of Cabrera long-term, in spite of big league success in 2016.
Bird falls in that same vein. He’ll likely repeat Carolina this year and hopefully, he can take off with slider control and command. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason, and it’s highly unlikely that the Braves would protect him, so he could be lost to the Rule 5.
99. Lisandro Santos, LHP
The Braves signed Santos for $130K this past July. Due to already being 17, he was allowed to pitch this summer in the Dominican Summer League. He showed very well in just 4 appearances, allowing 4 unearned runs over 6 2/3 innings with a 1.05 WHIP.
Scouting reports are tough to find, but I do talk with one guy who spends time down in the Dominican every summer, and he caught a performance of Santos. His report is the main reason that Santos made this list. His report was a heavy fastball that could touch lower mid-90s but sat more in the upper 80s. His breaking pitch had very good depth, and the scout said he’s either throwing a slider with reduced velocity or a curve with minimal hump in its path to the plate.
As with any player at 17 or out of the DSL, Santos is a long-term wild card, but he showed an impressive ability to avoid the barrel of bats in his short time this year, relying on his defense, though that can be a benefit and negative all at the same time.
Next: #98 & #97