Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Touki Toussaint could be the next Braves pitcher to get a look

Haven't the Braves introduced enough noteworthy pitching prospects to the majors this year? Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard ... they've all had their moments.

Or have they? As I recall, the soft-tossing Allard got crushed in two appearances before getting sent back down this week, which is why the Braves are considering turning to someone else in their doubleheader Monday -- someone who, in terms of pure stuff, couldn't be more different.

I'm talking about Touki Toussaint, who you may remember was the Diamondbacks prospect who then-GM Dave Stewart famously gave away for a little salary relief. Though drafted 16th overall in 2014, Toussaint was presumed to be something of a project, his electric stuff concealed by inconsistent mechanics and poor control.

The Braves may have unlocked that potential this year. The 22-year-old has issued a not-so-disastrous 3.2 walks per nine innings over his past 13 appearances, resulting in a 2.14 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings — numbers made possible by one of the most GIF-worthy curveballs you'll ever see:

gif-toukitoussaint.gif

So there's genuine reason for enthusiasm here. The problem is that no matter how Toussaint performs (again, assuming he even gets the call), it's probably a one-and-done scenario. It's why I don't consider him one of the top five prospects to stash even with the opportunity ahead of him.

Then again, if Anibal Sanchez's calf injury ends up requiring a DL stint ...

Five on the verge

(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)

Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox

2017 minors: .312 BA (333 AB), 19 HR, 22 2B, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: .338 BA (314 AB), 18 HR, 24 2B, .987 OPS, 26 BB, 53 K
  

Finally, a breakthrough. Yes, a member of the White Sox front office was willing to acknowledge that Jimenez may in fact be ready for the majors.

"He has done nothing but perform," director of development Chris Getz told WSCR-AM 670  "This guy's been able to drive the ball to all fields. He's been able to set up pitchers ... We just want to make sure he's as ready as possible. We're getting really close."

Really close, he says! That's not nothing. But it's ultimately not his call, and it's also not terribly specific. If "really close" means another two months, we're not seeing Jimenez until 2019. Of course, we know the White Sox have complete justification to call him up already. He's batting .429 (30 for 70) with seven homers and a 1.296 OPS in 18 games since returning from an adductor strain, striking out just nine times. The fact they haven't may suggest they won't on principle.

But I don't think it's a forgone conclusion that they're delaying him for service time reasons. After all, they called up Yoan Moncada in mid-July last year. You have to keep stashing Jimenez if you're going to bother stashing any prospect because, if he does get the call, he's primed to do some serious damage. 

Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays

2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .405 BA (269 AB), 15 HR, 24 2B, 1.130 OPS, 30 BB, 30 K
  

Guerrero has his batting average back up over .400 after a .326 mark in his first 13 games back from a knee injury pulled it down to something slightly closer to mortal. Who slumps and hits .326? An unstoppable baseball force, that's who. The 19-year-old has also walked five times without a strikeout since our last check-in a week ago, and he's still in his earliest days at Triple-A. It's stupid. He's stupid, and we're all stupid for him. And while it may seem stupid to think the out-of-contention Blue Jays are still going to call him up after he missed a significant middle portion of the season, you'll feel doubly stupid if you drop him and they do. 

Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros

2018 minors: .311 BA (357 AB), 16 HR, 16 SB, .901 OPS, 38 BB, 79 K 
2018 majors: .156 BA (45 AB), 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 SB, .462 OPS, 4 BB, 10 K
    

If we've learned anything over the past week, it's that Tucker didn't forget how to hit during his three-week stay in the big leagues. He's 11 for 28 (.393) with two homers and two steals in six games back at Triple-A Fresno. If he's progressing, we'd never know it because he was good there before he got the call, too. The emergence of Tyler White and continued contributions from Tony Kemp give Tucker a less obvious path to the big leagues, especially once George Springer and Jose Altuve return to the lineup, but at the same time, it's hard to envision the Astros not bringing him back in September. Despite his struggles in the big leagues, the batted-ball profile was solid.

Michael Kopech, SP, White Sox

2017 minors: 9-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 134 1/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K 
2018 minors: 5-7, 4.05 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 113 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 152 K
  

Kopech continues to buy into the idea that throwing strikes is good, reportedly transformed by a heart-to-heart with Triple-A pitching coach Steve McCatty just before the All-Star break. He walked nobody in his most recent start, striking out nine over seven innings to give him four walks to 41 strikeouts in his past five starts. If he had pitched that way from the start of 2018 — and he did pitch that way down the stretch last year — he'd be in the majors by now, so it's no stretch to think he could still earn the call. Anyone who unloaded him in a dynasty league, fearing the worst, is weeping into a pillowcase today.

Taylor Ward, C, Angels

2017 minors: .258 BA (326 AB), 9 HR, 0 SB, .757 OPS, 57 BB, 60 K
2018 minors: .350 BA (360 AB), 14 HR, 17 SB, .978 OPS, 61 BB, 92 K  
 

Ward's move from catcher to third base this season has kept him fresher and allowed him to tap into his athleticism like never before, and it's clear from his numbers (which have been about the same in each of his two stops this year) that he's ready for a new challenge at the plate. Whether his glove is big-league ready is another matter, but there have been indications that the Angels are about ready to take the plunge. Their intended third baseman, Zack Cozart, is of course out for the year with a shoulder injury, and they just designated veteran corner man Luis Valbuena for assignment over the weekend. They also promoted defensive guru Keith Johnson, previously Ward's manager at Triple-A, to the big-league staff. Maybe they just want to give former prospect Kaleb Cowart one last look first, but he'll need to make a quick impression to hold off Ward.

Five on the periphery

(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)

Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Rays

2017 minors: .274 BA (402 AB), 7 HR, .761 OPS, 64 BB, 106 K
2018 minors: .352 BA (386 AB), 23 HR, 1.043 OPS, 60 BB, 64 K 
   

If Lowe's mastery continues at Triple-A, I don't know what more he needs to do to enter the top prospect discussion. He went 3 for 5 with a double in his first game Wednesday, so he's on the right track. That's after batting .356 with a 1.019 OPS at high Class A and .342 with a 1.056 OPS at Double-A. He has nearly as many walks as strikeouts, hits the ball to the opposite field as often as he pulls it, and lacks all of the obvious pitfalls that we've seen sabotage bigger-name prospects than him. I'll take all the shares I can handle, thank you.

Dylan Cease, SP, White Sox

2017 minors: 1-10, 3.28 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 93 1/3 IP, 44 BB, 126 K  
2018 minors: 11-2, 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 112 1/3 IP, 41 BB, 140 K  
         

Like Kopech, Cease has had to contend with control problems throughout his minor-league career, and like Kopech, he seems to be putting them behind him now, issuing no walks with nine strikeouts over six one-hit innings last time out. He has allowed no runs over his last three starts, striking out 28 while allowing just 10 baserunners, three of them on walks — and that's only seven starts into his Double-A career. The scouting reports have always been lukewarm on him despite his sizzling stuff, fearing that his fledgling changeup would eventually force him to the bullpen, but he continues to pass every test with flying colors.

Nick Neidert, SP, Marlins

2017 minors: 11-6, 3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 127 2/3 IP, 22 BB, 122 K  
2018 minors: 10-6, 2.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 125 IP, 26 BB, 131 K  
 

If the Marlins have one prospect they can trumpet from their offseason fire sale, it's Neidert, who threw an eight-inning, 13-strikeout gem in the start prior to Thursday's misstep. He has struck out eight or more seven times and has thrown seven innings or more in eight of his 22 starts, which is almost unheard of in the minor-league ranks in 2018, as careful as organizations are with young pitching talent. But as with Shane Bieber, it's a testament to how efficient Niedert is and suggests he has an unusually high floor. As long as he's able to keep missing bats at the big-league level, he's a good bet to hold down a rotation spot.

Gavin Lux, SS, Dodgers

2017 minors: .244 BA (434 AB), 7 HR, 27 SB, .693 OPS, 56 BB, 88 K
2018 minors: .332 BA (383 AB), 12 HR, 12 SB, .924 OPS, 45 BB, 72 K 
  

The Dodgers' first-round pick in 2016 took a couple years to get going, but Lux is suddenly looking like an offensive force, a product of incorporating his lower half better, according to MLB.com. He's more geared for average than power at this stage of his development, but keep in mind he's a 20-year-old who's still growing into his swing. Through six games at Double-A Tulsa, he's batting .440 (11 for 25) which is notable since he has spent the better portion of this season in the hitter-friendly California League. He could develop into Corey Seager's double-play partner in a couple years.

Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals

2018 minors: .338 BA (145 AB), 11 HR, 1.084 OPS, 25 BB, 39 K      

So much attention is paid to the first 5-10 picks in a draft that the guy who goes 19th overall doesn't appear on the Fantasy radar until he actually does something. And Gorman indeed has, making a mockery of the Appalachian League to earn a promotion to low Class A on Wednesday. Seeing as he's only 18, you couldn't assume he'd take to pro ball right away, but the tools are there for him to develop into an offensive force, with some scouts even giving him a 70 power grade.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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