If you didn't get a chance to read my primer on the series, click here to get the recipe to my "secret sauce" and how I go about ranking prospects. Here is a quick review on how the grading system works.
The Grading System
My grading system will be familiar to those who keep up with college football recruiting or played the MLB2K video game series as I use a star rating system from one to five stars with half grades in between. An outline of what each level would represent looks like this, but remember these are examples and not definite.
The cream of the crop. A five star rating is reserved for the elite talents of the minor leagues. These players do not have a glaring weakness and if there is a blemish on their record, it is miniscule. Don't expect to see many of these, as this is reserved for players with the best chance to become super stars or top of the rotation stalwarts. Call this a 75-80 or A rating.
The rest of the elite. A 4.5 star rating encompasses players that are still elite, but not the potential mega stars a five star player would have. Receiving a 4.5 star rating means the player has all-star caliber potential with a good chance of being in a contending team's starting line up and have a long career. A 4.5 star pitcher could be generalized as a future #2 or 3 starter. Equal to 65-70 or A-/B+ type.
Garnering a four star rating means the player has the potential to be a productive major leaguer with an all-star season or two in his career. Four star players should develop into regulars in the lineup, dominant relief arms or a mid-rotation starters. This kind of player may have a true talent level higher but injuries may hold him back from reaching their full potential. Similar to a B/B+ or 55-60 rated player.
A player receiving 3.5 stars projects to see time as starters in the majors, but more than likely on a team out of the playoff picture where a below-average season once in awhile won't kill them. Innings eating strike throwers would fall into this category, as would set up men and defensive-oriented starters. This would be a 50 or B-/C+ type of player.
Three star players are your back end starting pitchers and 4th outfielders. Relievers with live arms and control problems would fall into this category as would hitters who may lack enough tools to hold down a starting gig. Futures as a platoon player and swing men type capable of spot starting would be three star players. Recent IFA's with little or no track record usually are included here. A 45 grade or C+/C type player would fall here.
Not every one gets to collect MLB paychecks, but some get them every once in awhile. 2.5 star players are your up and down guys who shuttle between the big leagues and AAA. September cups of coffee cielings fall here, as are the injury replacements and players riding the waiver wire. These players aren't expected to make any serious impact. 40 grade players and C type or lower organizational filler.
Anything below 2.5 stars is someone who doesn't project to be a major league player, therefore they are not mentioned.
Now for the Top 20 Prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization, sorted by star rating. All ages are for the upcoming 2015 season and affiliates mentioned are where I expect them to begin the year.
1. 2B Jose Peraza, 21 years old - AAA Gwinnett
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
2014 Stats -
The lithe 6'0 165 pound Venezuelan had a break out year splitting time between High A Lynchburg and AA Mississippi. Peraza stole at least 60 bases for the second straight year, showing off his plus speed and potential to be a lightning rod at the top of the batting order, something Atlanta hasn't seen since Michael Bourn. He made the move across the second base bag from short stop to the keystone this past season, where he should be a plus defender. The low walk rate will leave his batting average dependent on his BABIP, but he has the profile to be a guy who can consistently post high averages on balls in play.
2015 Outlook -
Peraza has an open shot at the second base position with the November trade of 2B Tommy La Stella to the Cubs. A strong spring could make the decision between him and Alberto Callaspo a tough one. If he opens the season as Atlanta's Opening Day second baseman, Callaspo can move to a utility role. If he struggles though, he's likely to debut in 2015 at AAA Gwinnett to delay the old service clock and add a bit of seasoning, but Peraza will be playing in the major leagues next year at some point.
2. RHSP Lucas Sims - 21 years old, AA Mississippi
3. LHSP Max Fried - 21 years old - Unknown (TJS)
4. LF Braxton Davidson - 19 years old, R+ Danville
5. SS Ozhaino Albies - 18 years old, Low A Rome
6. RHSP Tyrell Jenkins - 22 years old, AA Mississippi
7. C Christian Bethancourt - 23 years old, MLB
8. RHSP Jason Hursh - 23 years old, AAA Gwinnett
9. RHSP Alec Grosser - 20 years old, Low A Rome
10. IF Jace Peterson - 25 years old, MLB
11. RHP Shae Simmons - 24 years old, MLB
12. RHSP Cody Martin - 25 years old, AAA Gwinnett
13. 3B Kyle Kubitza - 24 years old, AAA Gwinnett
14. CF Mallex Smith - 23 years old, AA Mississippi
15. RHP Mauricio Cabrera - 21 years old, A+ Carolina
16. RHSP Wes Parsons - 22 years old, AA Mississippi
17. 3B Dustin Peterson - 21 years old, Low A Rome
18. RHSP Garrett Fulenchek - 19 years old, R+ Danville
19. C Tanner Murphy - 20 years old, Low A Rome
20. RHSP Dan Winkler - 25 years old, MLB
Honorable Mentions (Other 3 star players) - SS Elmer Reyes, RHSP Max Povse, RF Edward Salcedo, LHP Chasen Shreve, 3B Jordan Edgerton, and RHSP Williams Perez.
Level code: AAA - Gwinnett Braves, AA - Mississippi Braves, A+ - Carolina Mudcats, A - Rome Braves, R+ - Danville Braves, R - Gulf Coast League Braves, DSL - Dominican Summer League Braves