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Atlanta Braves 2012 Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 9: Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves hits his first career home run during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field on June 9, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 9: Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves hits his first career home run during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field on June 9, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Atlanta Braves Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Moving forward with our mid-season reviews of our pre-season Top 20 prospect lists, we switch back to the National League with a look at the Atlanta Braves. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list.

This list was originally published October 12th, 2011.

1) Julio Teheran, RHP, Grade A: Regressing in Triple-A: 4.96 ERA, 58/30 K/BB in 82 innings, 89 hits. Component ratios are slipping and he's been absolutely crushed in some recent starts. Still just 21 years old, but there's clearly something wrong here and I wonder if there is a physical problem. Generally speaking, performance collapses like this often (although not always) indicate an undisclosed or undiagnosed injury.

2) Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Grade B+: Out with Tommy John surgery.

3) Randall Delgado, RHP, Grade B+: 4.52 ERA in 16 major league starts, 69/41 K/BB in 86 innings, 83 hits. He hasn't been terrific, but at least he's eating some innings for them, more than can be said for Teheran and Vizcaino at this point.

4) Andrelton Simmons, SS, Grade B: Hit .292/.372/.421 in Double-A, then .296/.336/.452 in 33 major league games, along with great defense. I had originally rated him a B+ and I wish I had stuck with that, but overall I am very very pleased.

5) Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Grade B: 3.57 ERA with 81/25 K/BB in 109 innings for Double-A Mississippi, 99 hits. Pretty much doing as expected: throwing strikes and eating innings.

6) Edward Salcedo, 3B, Grade B: .274/.326/.439 with 19 doubles, 10 homers, 21 walks, 66 strikeouts in 310 at-bats for High-A Lynchburg, solid for the Carolina League at age 20. Still very unreliable on defense, but bat is progressing.

7) J.J. Hoover, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Traded to Cincinnati Reds. Has pitched brilliantly in Triple-A (1.74 ERA, 28/7 K/BB in 21 innings, just seven hits) and was quite effective in major league trial (3.00 ERA, 19/8 K/BB in 18 innings, 11 hits). He'll be back.

8) Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Grade B-: Hit .247/.279/.322 in 146 major league at-bats. I expect he'll be around the majors for the next decade, but very much an open question if he'll hit enough to play regularly.

9) Zeke Spruill, RHP, Grade B-: 4.29 ERA with 73/32 K/BB in 107 innings in Double-A, 105 hits, 1.60 GO/AO. Throwing strikes and getting some grounders, but not dominating.

10) Christian Bethancourt, C, Grade B-: Hitting .241/.268/.266 in 199 Double-A at-bats. Has thrown out 42% of runners. Excellent defender, but his bat is just awful, ugly combination of no power and no plate discipline. Very young at age 20.

11) J.R. Graham, RHP, Grade B-: 2.63 ERA with 68/17 K/BB in 103 innings for High-A Lynchburg, 88 hits allowed, 2.28 GO/AO. Control has been much better than expected, also picking up a lot of grounders, low strikeout rate could indicate issues with secondary pitches. Overall I like him.

12) Matt Lipka, OF-SS, Grade B-: I thought he could show more with the bat, but any improvement has been very marginal :.271/.335/.337 with 12 steals in High-A, which won't cut it in the outfield. Still young enough to improve at age 20.

13) Brandon Drury, 3B, Grade B-: What I wrote: 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. The result: .212/.259/.311 with 16 walks, 48 strikeouts in 302 at-bats for Rome. Still just 19.

14) Tommy La Stella, 2B, Grade B-: Hitting .273/.366/.424 with 34 walks, just 22 strikeouts in 271 at-bats for Lynchburg. Defense has been reasonably good. Low strikeout rate stands out as a big positive, many "late bloomers" have a similar profile in A-ball.

15) Joe Terdoslavich, 1B, Grade B-: Overmatched in Triple-A: .180/.252/.263 with 50 strikeouts in 194 at-bats for Gwinnett, but has been more effective after demotion to Double-A, .286/.324/.444 in 126 at-bats. Will get more chances.

16) Carlos Perez, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Command completely collapsed at Rome, resulting in 12.79 ERA, 12/19 K/BB in 19 innings, 33 hits, and a demotion back to the Appalachian League. He has a 2.31 ERA with a 17/7 K/BB in 12 innings for Danville. Your guess is as good as mine.

17) Adam Milligan, OF, Grade C+: .176/.248/.255 in 102 at-bats for Mississippi, .242/.305/.426 in 190 at-bats for Lynchburg. Stagnating, and he's now 24.

18) Todd Cunningham, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .315/.357/.393 with 13 steals, 16 walks, 36 strikeouts in 298 at-bats in Double-A. A pretty batting average, but lacks power and doesn't draw walks.

19) Billy Bullock, RHP, Grade C+: 3.60 ERA in Double-A, but with a 27/24 K/BB in 30 innings. 12.60 ERA in Triple-A with 16/14 K/BB in 10 innings. You can diagnose that.

20) Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Grade C+: .245/.358/.425 with nine homers, 52 walks, 89 strikeouts in 306 at-bats for Low-A Rome. Very error-prone at third base. The walks are nice, but overall, something of a disappointment.

21) Cody Martin, RHP, Grade C+: Sleeper prospect pitching very well: 2.80 ERA with 101/26 K/BB in 87 innings for Lynchburg, 72 hits. Previously a reliever but has taken well to starting, fanned 14 in his last start on July 13th. Stock moving up fast, excellent control of full fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup arsenal.

John's Pitching Prospect Rule of Thumb: If you have five good pitching prospects, you're doing well if one of them turns into a good major league pitcher. Injuries and whatever the hell has gone wrong with Teheran have taken a toll here, plus a few guys, particularly some hitters, were never as good as their reputations. Ironically, a guy that the Braves thought was surplus to their needs, J.J. Hoover, has looked very good with the Cincinnati Reds.

There are some bright spots, of course, particularly Andrelton Simmons. Cody Martin has been excellent, Sean Gilmartin is pitching well, and David Hale has shown some signs of putting his career together. Infielder Nick Ahmed is playing quite well in High-A.

Catcher Evan Gattis was hitting .336/.417/.714 with 13 homers in just 37 games between High-A and Double-A before a wrist injury, a small sample but enough to show that his excellent 2011 season wasn't just an age-relative-to-league fluke. He would certainly rank much higher now, although exact placement for the 2013 list will depend on how he returns from the injury.

Also keep an eye on pitchers Aaron Northcraft, Gus Schlosser, and Chasen Shreve, and first baseman William Beckwith.