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Atlanta Braves Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

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Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

We continue today with reviewing our pre-season prospect lists, turning our attention to the Atlanta Braves. Remember:

This is a review of the pre-season list. It is not a new list! These are pre-season grades!

This list was originally published December 4, 2013

1) Lucas Sims, RHP, Grade B+. Borderline A-. Not a great year: 4.24 ERA, 4.52 FIP in 146 innings in High-A, 102/50 K/BB. This isn’t terrible but it isn’t nearly as good as anticipated, with a notably sharp drop in his strikeout rate standing out. Digging into the scouting reports on this one will be very interesting.

2) Tommy La Stella, 2B, Grade B: Borderline B-. Holding his own in the majors given limited Triple-A experience, .267/.344/.338 in 301 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 0.1. No power but he makes contact very well and I think he’ll steadily improve.

3) Christian Bethancourt, C, Grade B-:
Borderline B. .268/.292/.393 in 333 PA in Triple-A, .240/.283/.260 in 53 PA in the majors. Still renowned for his defense, bat remains questionable due to hyper-aggressive approach.

4) Jose Peraza, SS, Grade B-: Borderline B. Breakout season, .342/.365/.454 in 304 PA in High-A, .341/.366/.430 in 188 PA in Double-A, 60 steals overall. Strong glove, line drive hitting has come around and more pop this year. Grade rising, just 20 years old, a B+ at this point I think.

5) Mauricio Cabrera, RHP, Grade B-: 4.50 ERA in 28 innings in High-A, 3.80 FIP, 26/16 K/BB. Missed much of season with forearm strain, control erratic as well. Sample too small to indicate much at this point, but reports haven’t changed: quality stuff but still raw.

6) J.R. Graham, RHP, Grade B-: Not a good year, 5.71 ERA in 69 innings in Double-A, 48/26 K/BB, 3.57 FIP. The ERA exaggerates things but his strikeout rate has declined and there’s some concern that his secondary pitches are backing up.

7) David Hale, RHP, Grade B-: In the majors, 3.01 ERA in 75 innings, 4.16 FIP, fWAR 0.0. WAR doesn’t like him but he’s been a useful component of the big league staff this year, soaking up bullpen innings.

8) Jason Hursh, RHP, Grade B-: Nice year in Double-A, 3.23 ERA in 145 innings, 3.43 FIP, 81/42 K/BB. Strong ground ball ratios back up scouting reports on power sinker.

9) Joey Terdoslavich, OF-1B, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Trapped in Triple-A, hitting.258/.341/.391 in 542 PA, 15 homers. Over the years I have noticed that when a guy hits well in Triple-A, as Terdoslavich did last year, but doesn’t get a major league job, he often slumps in his second go around the level. Needs a change of scenery most likely.

10) Victor Caratini, 3B-C, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Traded to Cubs in James Russell/Emilio Bonifacio trade, hit .279/.352/.406 in 365 PA in Low-A before the trade. Solid hitter with good plate discipline, hasn’t developed power yet but that may come in time.

11) Cody Martin, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Decent year in Triple-A, 3.62 ERA, 4.20 FIP in 149 innings, 133/54 K/BB. Remains a workmanlike strike-thrower who could be a number five starter.

Cody Martin, photo by Chris Roughgarden, courtesy Gwinnett Braves

12) Josh Elander, OF, Grade C+: Bad year, .219/.319/.328 in 163 PA in High-A, on the disabled list since early June with a shoulder injury. He wasn’t healthy even when he was playing, so this is a write-off season.

13) Kyle Wren, OF, Grade C+: Hit .296/.359/.357 in 336 PA in High-A, then .262/.322/.350 in 204 PA in Double-A, combining for 44 steals. Lacks power, but fast and could have adequate on-base skills. Fourth outfielder?

14) Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Grade C+: Traded to Minnesota Twins. 3.13 ERA, 2.45 FIP in 72 innings in Double-A, 4.35 ERA, 4.39 FIP in 68 innings in Triple-A, combined 128/44 K/BB in 140 innings. Still looks like a possible strike-throwing fifth starter.

15) Aaron Northcraft, RHP, Grade C+: Effective in Double-A (2.88 ERA, 2.94 FIP in 66 innings) but not in Triple-A (6.23 ERA, 4.40 FIP in 61 innings), combined 111/48 K/BB in 126 innings. Generally throws strikes but not overpowering with 88-90 sinker, changeup, slider. Another possible fifth starter or, more probably, a bullpen option.

16) Johan Camargo, SS, Grade C+: Borderline C. Hit .267/.320/.324 in 478 PA in Low-A, just moved up to High-A. No power, makes contact, defense is best asset at this point, age 20.

17) Victor Reyes, OF, Grade C: Borderline C+: Hitting .259/.309/.298 in 361 PA in Low-A. No power, not a lot of patience either, scouting reports praise tools, bat speed, and youth (he’s just 19) but no production yet. On DL since mid-July with leg injury.

18) Shae Simmons, RHP, Grade C: Looked good in major league action, 2.91 ERA, 3.14 FIP in 22 innings with 23/11 K/BB. Currently on rehab assignment with shoulder soreness. No question he can be an effective reliever if healthy.

Christian Bethancourt and Shae Simmons, photo by Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

19) Ian Thomas, LHP, Grade C: Older lefty posted 4.22 ERA with 13.6 K/BB in 10 big league innings, has pitched at three minor league levels since going back to minors in late May. Seems like he can be a plausibly effective short man although platoon split was reversed in the majors (.321 wOBA vs lefties, .226 vs. right-handers).

20) Wes Parsons, RHP, Grade C: 104 innings in High-A, 4.86 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 90/29 K/BB. Not a great year K/BB is good but he’s struggled down the stretch. Still a decent sleeper type.

The main rookie contributors at the major league level have been La Stella and Hale, neither outstanding but both certainly useful, with La Stella pushing Dan Uggla off the cliff. Simmons also performed well during his trial and lefty Chasen Shreve looks like a nice asset going forward. Bethancourt will have a long career due to his glove but I still doubt that he’ll hit enough to start regularly, although I could be wrong.

New additions to the list would include 2014 draftees Braxton Davidson (a power/patience hitter that the system needs badly) and second round RHP Garrett Fulencheck (big Texan who fits Braves pitching mold). Third baseman Kyle Kubitza looked stagnant pre-season but is hitting .295/.403/.466 in Double-A and would move back onto this list. Hard-throwing Juan Jaime is an older prospect at age 27 but has emerged in the bullpen. Another system farmhand, infielder Phil Gosselin, is suddenly hitting (.344 in Triple-A, .304 in the majors) after several years of doing little.

Another arm to watch is Alec Grosser, who is having a decent year in the Appalachian League. Right-hander Williams Perez has a notably high strikeout rate in Double-A. Infielder Elmer Reyes has made some progress with the bat and could slot as a utility type.