Atlanta Braves Fantasy Superlatives: 4 Sleepers & a Regression Player to Monitor

The Atlanta Braves have two sleepers, two deep sleepers and a player poised for regression that need to be at the front of your mind in this upcoming fantasy baseball season.
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Sleeper: OF Austin Riley

After a great start at AAA (.293 with 15 HRs and 41 RBI over 174 at-bats), Riley was the shove all-in guy for some fantasy owners in the high-stakes market after the Atlanta Braves called him up in May.

At AAA, his walk rate (10.3) and strikeout rate (20.1) showed growth over his previous minor league career (8.0 and 25.9).

His bat flashed elite upside over his first 34 games with the Braves (.291 with 29 runs, 12 home runs, and 34 RBI over 134 at-bats). Unfortunately, the league caught up to his swing and miss approach over his final 140 at-bats (.164 with six HRs and 15 RBI) while posting 63 strikeouts (41.4 percent).

Riley did miss a month with a right knee injury.

He needs to improve against right-handed pitching (.215 with 11 HRs and 34 RBI over 209 at-bats). His walk rate (5.4) and strikeout rate (36.4) with Atlanta came in well below his minor league career.

Riley produced a ton of fly balls in 2019 at AAA (45.1 percent) and the majors (48.8) with strength in his HR/FB rate (22.0 and 25.0 at AAA).

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .283 with 86 home runs, 305 RBI, and eight steals over 1,788 at-bats.

A high upside power hitter, but his glove isn’t ideal (but improving), and his approach will need time to develop.

With an ADP of 299, I view him as a sub .250 hitter early in his career with a chance at 30-plus home runs if he stays in the majors all season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant improvement in all areas of his game in 2020.

Regression: SP Max Fried

Fried has a first-round pedigree (seventh pick overall in 2012). Yet, he offers an underachieving resume in the minors (19-33 with a 4.18 ERA and 417 Ks over 420.1 innings).

Over the previous two seasons, he struggled at both AA (5.23 ERA) and AAA (4.23 ERA).

Fried pitched well last March, leading to him making the Braves opening day roster. His season started with no runs allowed over 13.2 innings with two wins and nine strikeouts. After his 12th game, Fried appeared to be a steal on the waiver wire (7-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 51 Ks over 56.1 innings).

Over the next two months, his arm didn’t belong in the starting rotation (5.64 ERA, 1.728 WHIP, and eight HRs over 52.2 innings).

Somehow he rebounded over his final 11 games (6-2 with a 3.65 ERA and 65 Ks over 56.2 innings).

Fried had downside against righties (.281 with 17 HRs over 501 at-bats) while being a much better pitcher at home (9-3 with a 3.21 ERA and 88 Ks over 87 innings). His success was tied to growth in his command (walk rate – 2.6 and strikeout rate – 9.4). His AFB (94.0) was a plus, but batters lit up his four-seamer (.320 BAA with 12 HRs over 347 at-bats). Both his slider (.196 BAA) and curveball (.209 BAA) proved to be major league pitches.

Fried is a ground ball pitcher (53.6 percent) with a massive HR/RB rate (20.2), which is held in check by his low fly-ball rate (22.2). This arm does have a chance to offer more good innings in the majors, but his quest for wins won’t go as smoothly in 2020, and his overall resume points to regression in his command.

Fantasy owners have him priced high (ADP of 133) this draft season, despite an underwhelming WHIP (1.334) and questionable ERA (4.02).

The bottom line here is the command of his fastball in and out of the strike zone. I like his late-season rebound. I’m projecting a 3.75 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with a chance at adding more length to his innings. With that said, Fried is overpriced for me on draft day.

Sleeper: SP Sean Newcomb

Newcomb didn’t look that bad over his first two starts in 2019 (two runs and 16 baserunners over 11 innings). After a short outing in his third game (four runs and six baserunners over 1.1 innings), he earned a trip to AAA (2.18 ERA and 20 Ks over 20.2 innings).

The Braves recalled him in early May but downgraded him to a bullpen arm. Over his next 28 games, Newcomb made one start (no runs over 2.2 innings with three Ks) while posting a 1.31 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 34.1 innings. Over this span, he walked only seven batters (1.8 per nine), which looked like growth in his command.

Newcomb lost his way in late July for about a month (8.25 ERA over 12 innings) when he served up five home runs and issued ten walks.

His season ended with two runs over 9.2 innings with 11 strikeouts.

Newcomb finished with the lowest walk rate (3.8) of his career and fade in his strikeout rate (8.6). His AFB (94.3) improved from 2018 (93.6) while offering two elite pitches (curveball – .083 BAA and slider – .091 BAA). He lost the feel for his changeup (.320 BAA) after moving to a league-average option in 2018 (.268 BAA).

Newcomb induced the most ground balls (49.0) in his career. Getting better, but he can’t be elite without a significant step forward in his command. WHIP is going to be a problem and possibly wins due to many short outings as a result of high pitch counts. Newcomb isn’t a lock to win a starting job while having a free agent pool ADP (541).

Deep Sleeper: SP Kyle Wright

Wright drew some attention in the high-stakes market last March after being named to the Braves starting rotation.

After three starts (7.07 ERA), Atlanta shipped him back to AAA. Wright regressed over his next nine games (7.22 ERA) before showing a spark over five starts (1.99 ERA and 37 Ks over 31.2 innings).

His second dance in the majors came on July 18th, but ended quickly (seven runs and ten baserunners over 2.2 innings). In the end, Wright regressed in 2019.

He finished with an 11-4 record at AAA with a 4.17 ERA and 116 strikeouts over 112.1 innings while showing growth in his walk rate (2.8).

Over three seasons in the minors, Wright posted a 3.70 ERA with 267 strikeouts over 267.1 innings.

His AFB (94.9) showed life with a plus slider (.031 BAA in the majors).

Atlanta drafted him with the fifth overall pick in 2017. I expect him to emerge as one of the Braves starters in 2020, and his arm should prove to be more than worthy if he’s getting major league batters out. Possible double-digit wins with a 3.50 ERA and 150 strikeouts.

Wright has a waiver wide ADP (581).

Deep Sleeper: SP Bryse Wilson

Without a doubt, Wilson will be a target for me in drafts as a bench starter. His late January ADP is 570, with one sharp fantasy owner willing to buy him with the 308th draft selection. In March, his SDP slipped to 695.

Over four seasons in the minors, Wilson went 29-20 with a 2.94 ERA and 429 strikeouts over 410.1 innings. Last year he made 21 starts at AAA (3.42 ERA and 118 Ks over 121 innings) with an exceptional walk rate (1.9).

The Braves gave him three different chances to prove his worth in the majors, but Wilson struggled in just about every game (6.75 ERA, 1.714 WHIP, and four HRs over 18.2 innings). His only flash came on July 3rd (two runs over six innings with five Ks).

His AFB (94.8) came in as an asset while working with an upside changeup (.125 BAA) and a struggling slider (.353 BAA).

Wilson has the command and fastball to have success, but he needs his secondary stuff to reach a higher level to create more upside. Breakout type arm with a chance at a sub 3.25 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 2020. 

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