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Atlanta Braves Top 20 PRE-SEASON 2015 prospects in review

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Jace Peterson
Jace Peterson
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Atlanta Braves.

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 on November 11, 2014, then revised on March 14, 2015

1) Jose Peraza, INF, Grade B+: Hitting .294/.318/.379 with 15 walks, 35 strikeouts, 26 steals for Triple-A Gwinnett. Just traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reports haven’t changed much: he’s fast, makes contact, doesn’t have much home run power, and can play second, short, or center.
2) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Grade B:
Bouncing between Triple-A (3.49, 63/26 K/BB in 57 IP) and the majors (5.04, 60/29 in 61 but 76 hits). No question about the stuff, still looking for consistency. I think he just needs more innings.
3) Lucas Sims, RHP, Grade B:
Command issues this year: 5.27 ERA with 55/36 K/BB in 55 innings at three levels (rookie ball injury rehab, High-A, Double-A). Maintaining a good strikeout pace but control has really slipped this year.
4) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade B:
Hitting .212/.327/.263 with one homer, 50 walks, 72 strikeouts in 297 at-bats in Double-A. Power has completely vanished this year, still maintaining command of zone but no punch to back it up. Defense has been decent but that’s not enough if he doesn’t hit.
5) Christian Bethancourt, C, Grade B-:
Sent back to Triple-A after putrid run in the majors, hit .198/.221/.287 in 101 at-bats for the Braves. Continues to make too many mistakes on defense, undermining his tools.

6) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade B-:
Good year split between Double-A and Triple-A, combined 2.82 ERA with 72/49 K/BB in 118 innings, 104 hits. More strikeouts would be nice but reports on both stuff and command are promising and he seems past the injury issues of 2013 and 2014.
7) Ozhaino Albies, SS, Grade B-: Hitting .309/.369/.403 with 29 steals, 36 walks, 54 strikeouts in 385 at-bats in Low-A at age 18. Main issue is lack of home run power but overall he is developing very nicely and his progress made trading Jose Peraza more feasible.
8) Braxton Davidson, 1B, Grade B-:
2014 first-rounder hitting .274/.389/.375 with seven homers, 68 walks, 102 strikeouts in 312 at-bats in Low-A. Hasn’t fully tapped his raw power yet but he just turned 19. High OBP is nice to see.
9) Jason Hursh, RHP, Grade B-:
Sinkerballer has moved to relief work recently, posting 5.27 ERA with 58/32 K/BB in 80 innings in Double-A, 111 hits over 15 starts and seven bullpen outings. Not sure what the long term plan is here but stock is down in general.
10) Jace Peterson, 2B, Grade B-:
Hitting .242/.321/.333 with 39 walks, 78 strikeouts, nine steals in 351 at-bats in the majors. Streaky bat but has played well with the glove, I think he can improve from here.

11) Max Fried, LHP, Grade B-:
Recovering from Tommy John.
12) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade C+
2.29 ERA with 69/38 K/BB in 83 innings in Triple-A led to major league promotion, 2.49 ERA with 16/10 K/BB in 22 Show innings. Little left to prove in the minors, durability/workload is still something of an issue when considering his best deployment.
13) Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Grade C+
Never a question about the stuff, always durability the issue here. Nine innings in the majors, 8/4 K/BB, six hits, one run.
14) Ricardo Sanchez, LHP, Grade C+: 5.45 ERA in 40 innings in Low-A, 31/21 K/BB, 37 hits. Has had trouble staying healthy and maintaining his stuff, has made two trips to the disabled list. Still just 18, loads of potential if he avoids the doctors.
15) Dustin Peterson, OF, Grade C+
: Hitting .253/.325/.356 with six homers, 35 walks, 73 strikeouts in 312 at-bats in High-A. Young for the level at age 20, still working to tap his power, adequate left field defense now after starting career as third base butcher.

16) Alex Grosser, RHP, Grade C+:
Sleeper Alert pitcher has stayed asleep, posting 5.38 ERA with 42/52 K/BB in 75 innings in Low-A. Command an obvious problem here, walk rate has doubled since rookie ball with large drop in strikeouts. Still young at 20.
17) Cody Martin, RHP, Grade C+:
5.40 ERA with 24/7 K/BB in 22 big league innings, then traded for bonus slot pool money to the Oakland Athletics, not doing to well in Triple-A with Nashville (6.48 ERA, 21/12, 28 hits in 25 innings) but he has had past success at that level. Still has a shot as a fifth starter or reliever.
18) Mauricio Cabrera, RHP, Grade C+:
5.71 ERA with 31/20 K/BB in 35 innings between High-A and Double-A. Still has a good arm, still a thrower rather than a pitcher.
19) Shae Simmons, RHP, Grade C+:
Tommy John surgery.
20) Mallex Smith, OF, Grade C+:
Excellent in Double-A (.340/.418/.413), not very good in Triple-A (.222/.267/.294) due to lack of power mostly. Has stolen 37 bases combined between the two levels and continues to stand out for his blazing speed. Could still develop along Michael Bourn lines.

21) Williams Perez, RHP, Grade C+:
4.14 ERA with 42/27 K/BB in 54 innings for the Braves, seeing action as both starter and reliever. I think he is capable of improving from this basis of work.
22) Johan Camargo, SS, Grade C+
: Hitting .257/.309/.330 with 19 doubles, 39 walks in 288 at-bats in Double-A. Bat looks weak at this point, defense is best attribute.
23) Max Povse, RHP, Grade C+:
Solid in Low-A (2.56, 50/16 in 60) but hit hard after moving up to High-A (9.33, 10/7 in 18 with 24 hits) then landed on DL last week.


No, I didn’t forget about Matt Wisler: he was still with the Padres system when this list was published. He’s holding his own in the majors (3.43, 26/12 in 42,44 hits) and looks like a solid inning-eater to me. They just need to keep running him out there, let him take the occasional lump, learn and adjust.

The rebuilding Braves have gotten promising but inconsistent work out of Jace Peterson, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, and Manny Banuelos among the rookie class. On the other hand, Christian Bethancourt’s inability to hit and his erratic defense landed him back in the minors and apparently the Braves are looking for a new young catcher, hardly a vote of confidence in him.

Prospects imported from other teams over the winter have brought mixed results but the farm system clearly has more talent than it did before all the trades. Summer trades have added more talent: Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks, Hector Olivera and Zach Bird from the Dodgers, at the cost of Jose Peraza.

Among holdovers, keep an eye on outfield prospect Connor Lien, a toolsy outfielder hitting .297/.351/.444 with 27 steals in High-A. He’s never hit that well before and at age 21 it might be a real surge, although his strikeout rate remains quite high. The Braves could use a boost of hitting talent in the system.

Youth was emphasized in the early rounds 2015 draft. Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka at the top of the class are excellent high school arms,followed by prep hitters Austin Riley (3B) and Lucas Herbert (C). It is a high-ceiling group but will need time to blossom. College picks rounded out the middle and later rounds, hopefully adding some useful depth to the organization.