Arodys Vizcaino of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Atlanta Braves Top 20 Prospects for 2012
THIS LIST WAS REVISED JANUARY 11, 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Julio Teheran, RHP, Grade A: He's getting nitpicked by some people, and while he needs to sharpen his breaking ball, I can't see how he is anything less than an elite prospect considering how well he pitched in Triple-A at age 20.
2) Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Grade B+: Another elite arm, he just needs to dispel any final concerns about his durability. Projects as a number two starter for me.
3) Randall Delgado, RHP, Grade B+: His ERA in the majors was a bit misleading and he could probably use some Triple-A time, but another elite prospect projecting as a number two starter if all goes well.
4) Andrelton Simmons, SS, Grade B: I really like his glove, and while he won't be a big home run guy, I believe in the bat enough to give him an aggressive grade. I expect this ranking will be higher than where most people have him, but I'm good with that.
5) Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Grade B: Very polished pitcher from 2011 draft, first round pick from Florida State, doesn't have upside of the guys above him, but won't need much time in the minors. Personal favorite.
6) Edward Salcedo, 3B, Grade B: Tough to grade. He's still quite raw, but he has the highest offensive upside of anyone on the system and made progress cutting down his strikeouts. Defense is very raw, may end up in outfield.
7) J.J. Hoover, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. He's been a favorite of mine for three years. I think he would be a very good number three/four starter, but they seem to prefer him in the bullpen.
8) Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Grade B-: Will he hit enough to be a regular? Perhaps. An excellent utility player at worst, and his polish makes his tools play up.
9) Zeke Spruill, RHP, Grade B-: A nice rebound season gets him back in the picture as a possible number three starter down the line, although slippage in K/IP ratio after Double-A promotion warns he needs more time and could struggle again if rushed.
10) Christian Bethancourt, C, Grade B-: Pushed by the media machine. Very young, excellent defensive tools, bat remains questionable for me and he is still quite raw. This is a ranking that Braves fans are going to complain about, but I'm going to buck consensus on this one. He is still more hype and projection than performance, on both offense and defense, all of my instincts are warning me against going with the crowd.
11) J.R. Graham, RHP, Grade B-: Electric arm out of Santa Clara, progress of secondary pitches will determine if he starts or relieves at higher levels. Stock could be much higher next year.
12) Matt Lipka, OF-SS, Grade B-: Athleticism is impressive and he is very young, but he didn't hit well in the Sally League and the projected move to the outfield increases the pressure on his bat. Stock could go way up. . .or way down in 2012.
13) Brandon Drury, 3B, Grade B-: Braves propaganda is pushing this guy hard and I'm sure this ranking will also be controversial, but six walks in 265 at-bats is just unacceptably low for me. Mitigating factors include youth, sound swing, and low strikeout rate, but I want more data before buying into the hype.
14) Tommy La Stella, 2B, Grade B-: Outstanding performance in pro debut after successful career at Coastal Carolina. May not stick at second base, but I believe in the bat and he would be an impressive prospect even if he moves to the outfield. Combination of power and low strikeout rate stands out.
15) Joe Terdoslavich, 1B, Grade B-: I think his power is real, but has less defensive value than the guys ahead of him and that hurts his grade a bit. You can make a case to rank him as high as seven on this list.
17) Adam Milligan, OF, Grade C+: He can hit, but he can't stay away from the doctors. Strikes out a lot which may make batting average tough to replicate against better pitching.
18) Todd Cunningham, OF, Grade C+: Didn't hit as well as anticipated, but still has time to live up to draft pedigree, although like Ahmed I see him more as a steady role player than a star.
19) Billy Bullock, RHP, Grade C+: Has the stuff to succeed in bullpen quickly if he throws strikes.
20) Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Grade C+: Solid line drive bat with good discipline, but wasn't able to bring college power to pro ball.
21) Cody Martin, RHP, Grade C+: Relief sleeper from 2011 draft has stuff and command to move through system rapidly.
OTHERS: Nick Ahmed, INF; Yeliar Castro, RHP; Matt Chaffee, LHP; Jaye Chapman, RHP; Erik Cordier, RHP; Dimasther Delgado, LHP; Evan Gattis, C; Cory Gearrin, RHP; Mauro Gomez, 1B; Phil Gosselin, 2B; David Hale, RHP; Cory Harrilchak, OF; Brandon Hicks, INF; Mycal Jones, OF; Mark Lamm, RHP; Joe Leonard, 3B; Chris Masters, LHP; Navery Moore, RHP; Aaron Northcraft, RHP; Todd Redmond, RHP; Gus Schlosser, RHP; Anthony Varvaro, RHP.
There are some non-consensus rankings here, namely being aggressive with Simmons and conservative with Bethancourt. But it would be boring if I just agreed with everyone else, wouldn't it?
As usual, the pitching is rich in this system, with three potential rotation anchors in Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado. Gilmartin, Hoover, and Spruill are also capable of becoming solid major league starting pitchers, although it looks like Hoover will end up in relief, at least in the short run.
The system is much thinner in hitting, with all of the position player prospects having at least one significant question. . .will Simmons have enough power? Will Salcedo put his tools to use consistently? Will Pastornicky and Lipka hit enough to play regularly? How does Terdoslavich fit into the lineup? Where does La Stella end up? Can Drury maintain his batting average against better pitching given his hyper-aggressiveness?