It’s fair to say Keith Law of ESPN Insider has become the Mel Kiper of baseball: Law is knowledgeable and, owing to his affiliation with the Worldwide Leader, eminently visible. When Law speaks, you might not agree — but you do pay attention.
In his annual preseason prospect rankings (all these links requires registration), Law has four Braves in his top 50. He also ranks the Braves’ minor-league organization as baseball’s third-best, trailing only Kansas City, which is overseen by Braves alum Dayton Moore, and Tampa Bay. These are, you’d have to say, glad tidings. Except …
Law isn’t quite as high on Freddie Freeman as the Braves seem to be. He rates Freeman the 43rd-best prospect in baseball, which sounds a bit low given that a 91-win playoff qualifier has made him its everyday first baseman. Writes Law:
Freeman keeps performing even though he is young for his levels and doesn’t possess any plus tools to get you excited … He’s an above-average [defensive] first baseman and is ready to step in now as Atlanta’s first baseman, so the lack of ceiling is mitigated by the fact he can provide value right away.
Me, I’d call that an endorsement but not a rave. (Let the record reflect that Law was raving about Jason Heyward, his No. 1 overall prospect, this time last year.) And it’s also curious that Craig Kimbrel, who could be the new closer, doesn’t crack Law’s top 100. Kimbrel is sixth among Law’s top 10 Braves prospects, behind Julio Teheran (No. 6 overall), Freeman, Arodys Vizcaino (No. 47), Randall Delgado (No. 50) and Mike Minor (No. 61).
One other note: According to Law, Freeman is the only non-pitcher among the Braves’ top seven prospects. Shortstops Matt Lipka and Edward Salcedo are eighth and ninth on Law’s list; catcher Cristian Bethancourt is 10th. The good news is that baseball is mostly about pitching. The less-good news is that there’s not a lot of positional help at the ready.
For purposes of comparison, Baseball America ranks the Braves’ top 10 prospects thusly:
By Mark Bradley