2014 Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects

By
Updated: January 7, 2014
Atlanta_Braves_logo

After a long delay – something measured in the months, not days -  I have a bit of an announcement to make: I will be publishing the first ever Prospect Digest Annual sometime late January/early February.

The Prospect Digest Annual will feature each organization’s Top 30 Prospects, ranking the farm systems, and several additional articles.

Until the big day happens, I will be posting each organization’s Top 10 Prospects, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Enjoy!

For more Top Prospects click HERE

_______________________________________________________________________________________

1. Lucas Sims, Position: RHP, Age: 20

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

116.2

2.62

3.12

10.34

3.55

27.9%

9.6%

0.23

39.9%

Profile: Seemingly no team in baseball drafts better in their own backyard than the Braves, who’ve nabbed Sims, Alex Wood, and Jason Heyward among others from the great state of Georgia. Sims, the 21st pick in the 2012 draft, flew under the radar despite a favorable debut in the Appalachian and Gulf Coast Leagues two years ago (34.0 IP, 10.3 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9). Last season, though, the teenaged right-handed struck out 134 hitters, trailing Parker Bidwell by 10 punch outs for the South Atlantic League (A) lead, despite throwing more than 26 fewer innings.

Analysis: There’s really nothing not to like about Sims. He performed well – and at times dominated – older competition, shown above-average to plus-strikeout ability, and solid control. He’s headed to high Class A to begin 2014, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him finish the year in Double-A, maybe even as a late September call-up.

Ceiling: 5.0- to 5.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

2. Christian Bethancourt, Position: C, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

AA

388

112

.277

.305

.436

4.1%

14.7%

.159

21

0

12

11/18

Profile: Coming into the season the question wasn’t if Bethancourt’s glove would play, because it will, but rather if one of the game’s top defensive backstops would ever provide enough offense to allow a Major League team to run him out more than a few innings at a time.

The 22-year-old backstop from Panama went a long way towards answering that question last season, hitting a career best .277/.305/.436 with 33 extra-base knocks. And that was done playing half of his games in an extreme pitcher’s park.

Analysis: It’s difficult to forget how young Bethancourt is because the organization has pushed him so aggressively through the minor leagues hoping that the bat would eventually catch up. Without looking at his lackluster offensive past and focusing on his production and age from last season, Bethancourt would be in the argument for top catching prospect in the minor leagues. Twenty-one-year-old defensive prodigies playing against much older competition that are 12% better than the league average on offense don’t exactly grow on trees.

And the offensive outburst from last looks to be tangible too — his BABIP, 294, was actually lower than he’s shown throughout his career; he’s flashed decent power at times, and his walk rate, admittedly a horrible skill, took a baby step forward.

Ceiling: 4.0-win

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

 

3. Wes Parsons, Position: RHP, Age: 21

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

109.2

2.63

3.18

8.29

1.72

22.8%

4.7%

0.41

47.1%

Profile: After going undrafted out of Jackson State Community College, Atlanta swooped in to sign the 6-foot-5 right-hander to a $200,000 deal, reportedly outbidding several other teams. Despite the smalltime college past, Parsons posted the ninth lowest SIERA among South Atlantic League hurlers (3.18).

Analysis: Above-average control. A decent ability to miss bats. A ton of groundballs. Tall and lean. Parsons is a legitimate pitching prospect, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his name start popping following 2014. He looks like a solid mid-rotation guy.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

4. Cody Martin, Position: RHP, Age: 24

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

AA

67

2.82

3.44

9.54

3.63

25.3%

9.6%

0.40

39.3%

AAA

69.2

3.49

3.97

8.53

4.00

22.6%

10.6%

0.78

38.9%

Profile: A seventh round pick out of Gonzaga in 2011, Martin split his year in both the Southern and International Leagues. The 6-foto-2 right-hander fanned 137 and
walked 58 in 136.2 combined innings. He finished 2013 with an average-ish 3.68 SIERA.

Analysis: Martin’s nearly big league-ready, but could stand another few months fine tuning his control in Triple-A. He’s generally been pretty efficient in terms of not issuing free passes, so last season’s spike in his walk rate isn’t a great concern. Martin could peak as a decent #3 for a few seasons.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

5. Jose Peraza, Position: SS, Age: 20

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A

504

106

.288

.341

.371

6.7%

12.7%

.083

18

8

1

64/79

Profile: Once again Peraza proved to be one of the minors’ top threats on the base paths. After swiping 53 bags in his first 119 career games, the young shortstop grabbed 64 bases, the sixth highest total in all of baseball. And the then-19-year-old more than held his own in the Sally last year, hitting a respectable .288/.341/.371.

Analysis: The fleet-footed Peraza has above-average to plus-speed and a solid hit tool. He’s likely never going to top 10 homeruns in a season, but he’s slowly improving his walk rate which allows him to take advantage of his legs. He could be a potential table setter at the front of a lineup if everything breaks well. 

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

6. J.R. Graham, Position: RHP, Age: 24

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

AA

35.2

4.04

3.16

7.07

2.52

18.7%

6.7%

0.00

65.2%

Profile: After a solid showing in high Class A and Class AA in 2012 (148.0 IP, 6.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9), Graham missed much of last season due to a shoulder strain. The 5-foot-10 right-hander made just eight starts for Mississippi, averaging 7.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.

Analysis: Prior to the wonky shoulder, Graham looked like a decent bet to carve out a career as a solid #4/#5-type pitcher, probably hovering around the latter. He compensates for some below-average strikeout rates by generating a lot of action on the ground (56.3% GB-rate since 2011) and shows a particular stinginess with the free passes. If he can’t cut it in the rotation the Braves always have the option of pushing into a late-inning bullpen role, something he did for Santa Clara.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

7. Mauricio Cabrera, Position: RHP, Age: 20

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

131.1

4.18

4.53

7.33

4.87

18.7%

12.4%

0.21

47.6%

Profile: Mauricio, the younger brother of Cubs pitching prospect Alberto Cabrera, signed ($400,000) with Atlanta in early July 2010. Atlanta’s Cabrera – Cabrera 2.0, if you will – spent the year in low Class A where he combined with Lucas Sims and Wesley Parsons to give the Rome Braves one of the more promising rotations in the South Atlantic League.

Analysis: The overall numbers look a bit disappointing, particularly the strikeout rate, but Cabrera averaged 8.01 K/9 since the beginning of May. He was young for the level, generated a groundball rate just north of 47%, and showed a decent walk rate in 2012. He could start moving quickly.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

 

8. Jason Hursh, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

27.0

0.67

4.38

5.00

3.33

13.9%

9.3%

0.33

56.1%

Profile: After missing all the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, Hursh rebounded nicely for Oklahoma State last season, throwing 106.1 innings with 86 punch outs and 28 walks.

Between his time with Oklahoma State and minor leagues, Hursh threw 133.1 innings, which seems like an awful lot for a pitcher coming off of TJ. It wouldn’t be surprising to see his innings governed a bit in 2014, before letting him loose the following year. The control he showed was rather impressive given his time away, and it’s very likely his K-rate will start climb the further out he is from the surgery.

Analysis: Pre-draft evaluation: “There’s some upside here, but that comes with a checkered injury past – Tommy John surgery – and very little statistical data to go on. Hursh, who was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Pirates in 2010, tossed just 29.2 innings prior to the season. His control thus far, 2.37 BB/9, is quite impressive given how pitchers returning from TJ tend to struggle after a long layoff. He could be a nice gamble for a team in the supplemental or early second rounds.”

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

 

9. Tommy La Stella, Position: 2B, Age: 25

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

29

298

.550

.690

.750

27.6%

3.4%

.200

1

0

1

1/2

AA

323

163

.343

.422

.473

11.5%

10.5%

.131

21

2

4

7/8

Profile: Since being nabbed in the eighth round in 2011, La Stella has done nothing but hit as evidenced by his career .327/.412/.496 triple-slash line. And the 2013 was no different. In a shortened season, the lefty-swinging second baseman hit .356/.444./.496 with 22 doubles, a pair of triples, and five homeruns. He finished as the second most productive hitter in the Southern League (163 wRC+)

Analysis: If La Stella was two years younger he’d likely rank among the game’s top 10 prospects. However, a lot of his production last season has some rather large fluky undertones. During his first two seasons in pro ball La Stella’s BABIPs were .337 and .305. Last year it was .380. He does show a strong eye at the plate, doubles pop, a little bit of speed and good contact rates without any platoon splits, so it wouldn’t be out of the norm for him to carve out a several-year career as a fringy everyday player. On an interesting note: La Stella has yet to top 90 games in a season since turning pro.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

10. Victor Caratini, Position: 3B, Age: 20

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

246

148

.290

.415

.430

15.9%

19.9%

.140

23

1

1

0/2

Profile: The team’s second round pick last year, Caratini hit .290/.415/.430 against the Appalachian League competition. His total production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 48% better than the league average, the third highest mark in the Appalachian League.

Analysis: The switch-hitting third baseman handled both southpaws and right-handers equally well during his debut. And despite hitting just one homerun, Caratini slugged a league leading 23 doubles while playing half his games in an extreme pitcher’s ballpark. Defensively, he made ten errors in 47 games.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>