Braves Farm System: Top Prospects

Braves Farm SystemSpring Training is finally here. While we are getting ready for opening day, a lot of young players are getting ready to showcase their talents in front of big league clubs. With the excitement of baseball season comes the excitement of young players refining their skills in the minor leagues. Through this article, I’m going to break down what I think are the top two players at each position in the Braves farm system.

I’m going to start off with the position I feel like has the most depth of all the positions. Just sit back, and think of all the young pitchers that are already in the Braves clubhouse (Minor, Teheran, Medlen, Beachy, Wood, and Kimbrel).

 Pitchers:

 1. Lucas Simms

-Simms easily edges JR Graham as my top pitcher. I have a difficult time putting Graham as one of the top prospects since he did not play much last season. Simms pitched great baseball in Rome last season. He finished 12-4, with A 2.62 ERA in his first full season. The one thing to remember with Lucas Simms is that he posted those #’s at only 19 years old. I’m pretty sure we will see Simms in Mississippi for most of this season, if not all. Everybody was raving on Simms’ curveball last season. That should only get better with time. With the current rotation, the Braves will be in no hurry to rush Simms to the big league club. It’s going to be interesting to see how his pitches develop as he moves higher and higher in the Brave system. We will be seeing Lucas Simms name as one of the Braves top overall prospects for the next few years.

2. Mauricio Cabrera

Most people do not have Cabrera as even a top 3 pitching prospect for the Braves. Some are saying starter, but I would not be surprised to see Cabrera develop into a bullpen arm in the future. At just 20 yrs old, he already has a 97 mph fastball. I’m just not sure his arm will hold up enough to be a starter. Cabrera did not have a great season in Rome last year. He had a 4.18 ERA in 131 innings. Cabrera could be somewhat un-hittable if he could get his arm under control. He struggled with control issues last season, but has plenty of time to develop. I expect with the surplus of talent at the position, Cabrera will be back in Rome this season.  But I do not work for the Braves farm system. I just think Rome will give him the best chance to get his control issue taken care of.

Catchers:

Anybody with just a little knowledge of the farm system should know who the top two catchers are in the Braves farm system.

1. Christian Bethancourt

Everyone has been, and continues to rave about the great defensive skills that Bethancourt possess. The main problem with Bethancourt is the bat. I personally think the Braves will look past that if he can be great defensively at the big league level. Bethancourt’s biggest problem at the plate seems to be patience. It seems like he will just swing away at anything remotely close to the zone. Opposing pitchers knew that, and used it against him a lot last season. While I think unlikely, it is possible we will see Bethancourt some in 2014. My guess would lean more towards 2015 or 2016 before he plays a consistent part of the big league club. If Bethancourt can learn patience at the plate, he will be behind the plate in Atlanta for a long, long time.

2. Victor Caratini

While he does play 3rd some, Caratini’s future will probably be behind the plate. Caratini excel’s in the things that Bethancourt struggles with. Unlike Bethancourt, Caratini has great patience and can hit to all fields. It would be great if we could just make them both into one single “Super Human Catcher”. Caratini does need some work behind the plate. He’s nowhere near the great defensive guy that Bethancourt is. If Bethancourt pans out, I see Caratini as being more a trade bait guy or back up in the future. The Braves should take their time on Caratini. I think we will probably see him split time between Rome and maybe Lynchburg this year. The Braves need to take it slow and really help him refine his skills these next few years.

1st Base:

After the Braves signed Freddie Freeman to a long term deal, I’m not sure that it even matters who the top prospects are at the position. No 1st Baseman ranks in the top 30 of any prospect list. Because I think it’s irrelevant, I’m going to skip the top 1st baseman prospects.

 2nd Base:

1. Tommy La Stella

With the struggles of Dan Uggla, I believe its sooner rather than later before we see La Stella in an Atlanta uniform. The main concern regarding La Stella is injury. He has only totaled 241 games the last few season’s. The good side is that when La Stella has played, he’s been really good. Unlike Uggla, La Stella will not bring the potential for power to the position. He will bring a better overall approach to the plate, as well as a higher % of contact. La Stella’s defense is ok. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. I think his approach and patience at the plate is what sets him a part from a lot of hitters. My personal opinion is that we see La Stella filling Uggla’s spot by the end of the 2014 season. If he does not start the season in Atlanta, I do not think it will be too long before he is called up to fill in for someone. Do not be surprised if Tommy La Stella is the everyday man at 2nd base come 2015.

2. Tyler Pastornicky/Phil Gosselin

I’ve put both of these guys in here because I think both of them will be in Atlanta as utility guys this season. They remind me so much of each other. Pastornicky is not even really considered a prospect anymore. Both of these guys provide ok defense with similar styles at the plate. They are nothing fancy but will be decent bats coming off of the bench. Both may see some time in Gwinnett, but I think at some point they will both be in Atlanta as utility guys who will be used to give guys rest and pinch hit.

 Shortstop:

Like 1st base, I believe it is somewhat irrelevant who the top prospects are at the shortstop position. If he avoids any major injury, Andrelton Simmons will be holding down that position for some time.  Unlike 1st base, the Braves do have some pretty good prospects that fill the position in the farm system.

1. Jose Peraza

This guy is FAST. Speed is what sets Peraza apart from the other players in the farm system. Peraza also plays great defense that only seems to be getting better. If Peraza makes it to Atlanta, he would be a guy that would scare opposing pitchers while on the base paths. He is always a threat to steal a base. Peraza is decent with the bat but it’s his speed that helps him out a lot. He’s the type of guy that turns singles into doubles, and doubles into triples. With Simmons holding down shortstop, the Braves have plenty of time to just slow down and develop Peraza. My guess would be that Jose Peraza will turn into a utility guy for the Braves down the road. To be honest, I think we will see Peraza taking the field in Lynchburg all of 2014.

2. Johan Camargo

Camargo impressed a lot of people in his 2013 season. He most impressed people while at the plate. For him to be young, he has showed more patience and awareness at the plate than some veteran players. Most people believe that Camargo will not be a shortstop for long. His defense is just not good enough to be a shortstop. Do not be surprised if moves to 2nd base in the next few seasons. He did ok in Danville last season but it is really hard to judge a guy’s potential in Rookie ball. I think that we will know a good bit more about Carmargo after the 2014 season. I would assume that we will see Camargo move to Rome, to take the place of Peraza who will move to Adv. A ball in Lynchburg.

 3rd Base:

1. Edward Salcedo-

A few years ago, people were talking like Salcedo was going to be “the next big thing” at 3rd base. There is a little bit of that talk still going on to start 2014. Some people, including myself, have almost given up on Salcedo. Deep down inside him somewhere, Salcedo has power. He has shown bits and pieces of it during his time in the minors but struggles to show it consistently. He does have slightly above average defense. He’s not the best but has a great arm. Salcedo, like many other young players, struggles with patience at the plate. I can tell that I’m doing an article on farm system, as I feel I have used “patience at the plate” for every player. Salcedo played in Mississippi last year and showed flashes of brilliance. I hope that this is the year that things just click for him. He’s got so much raw talent and would be a great replacement for Chris Johnson down the road. I would say that we should expect to see Salcedo in Gwinnett this season. That will make way for Kyle Kubitza to be the everyday 3rd baseman in Mississippi.

2. Kyle Kubitza

I personally do not believe that Kubitza deserves the # 1 3rd baseman prospect in the Braves system just yet. That is not the thought of a good bit of others. Last year, it seemed like Kubitza really struggled at times in Lynchburg. But then there was the Arizona Fall League where Kubitza looked great. He went from batting .260 in Lynchburg to a .305 average in the fall league. Now, we must take in to consideration that he only played 19 games in the fall league compared to 132 in Lynchburg. However, I watched a few different games from the fall league and it seemed like a different guy. He drove the ball to the gaps well and had a .431 OBP. I was worried about the strikeouts however. In just 19 games, Kubitza struck out 22 times. In the games I watched, it looked as if he was swinging for the fences when he did strike out. Defensively, Kubitza is better than Salcedo. I think that Kubitza could leap frog Salcedo if he could just make better contact over the course of an entire season. He had 132 strikeouts in 132 games last year in Lynchburg. Kubitza is young and has plenty of time to get better. I think next year at this time, he will still be here as one of the top 2 prospects at 3rd base in the Atlanta system. I’m sure that we will see him in a Mississippi Braves uniform to start 2014.

 Outfield:

This one is really a toss up for me. I’m going to stick with the top 2, but there are several good outfield prospects in the Braves system. I’m not saying these will be the fastest to the big leagues, but I feel as if these guys will have the best pro careers.

1. Josh Elander

Last year at this time, I had hardly even heard the name Josh Elander. Last year, he made sure that everybody who keeps up with the Brave system knew who he was. In Rome last year, it seemed like he was hitting a homerun every game. Then when he was promoted to Lynchburg, he came to earth with the rest of the roster. While in Lynchburg, he still showed great patience at the plate. Elander’s bat is what makes him such a good prospect. His defense is mediocre at best. I just really hope his struggles to end 2014 were not because of getting promoted. If he struggles in Adv. A ball then he’s really going to struggle as he moves higher up in the system. Because of last year’s struggles, we may see Elander stay in Lynchburg for part or all of 2014. If he can produce at that level, then I believe he will be in Mississippi by the end of 2014. The Braves outfield is locked for a good while, so Elander has plenty of time to develop.

2. Kyle Wren

“Of course he got drafted by the Braves, his dad is the GM” seemed to be the consensus last year. That was until people actually started to see him play. Kyle Wren could become the leadoff man that Braves have been without for years. After just a few games in Danville last season, Wren was promoted to Rome. The promotion to Rome did not stop Wren from producing. Wren ended up hitting .328 in Rome and stealing 32 bases. I would say that is pretty good in his first season of professional ball. The one thing that I really love about Wren is his contact. The guy only struck out 21 times in almost 200 plate appearances last season. With that being said, it’s his speed that gets him on base most of the time. The main question with Wren is, “Can he keep it up as moves higher in the system?”. As of now, Kyle Wren looks like something special but let’s not get our hopes up just yet. We must remember that he is young. I would expect Kyle Wren to play all of 2014 in Lynchburg. I think he made Rookie ball and Single A ball look relatively easy last season.

Well, there you go. You know how these things work. A few of these guys on my list may turn out to be really great MLB/Braves players in the future. The reality is that most will not. Injury and lack of development will hurt some of these guys. If all goes well, we will revisit this and see what changes can be made halfway through the 2014 season. I hope to keep you up to date on the minor league prospects and teams throughout 2014.

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