Where Does the Atlanta Braves Farm System Rank Among NL East Teams?

Matt PowersCorrespondent IIFebruary 26, 2012

Where Does the Atlanta Braves Farm System Rank Among NL East Teams?

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    The farm system is a vital piece of every organization, as it gives a team hope for the future as well as trade chips to acquire a missing piece in order to make a playoff run. The farm systems of the NL East are pretty loaded, and include the top prospect in the game.

    This article ranks the farm systems of all teams in the NL East and also continues my series of ranking all areas of the Braves with their competition in the NL East. Outfield and the starting rotation are already complete, with looks at the infield, bullpen and management/coaching staff yet to come.

5. Miami Marlins

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    The Marlins farm system starts with outfielder Christian Yelich. Yelich, the team's first round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is a kid that hits for high average, decent power and uses his average smarts along with decent speed to become a threat on the bases. This kid has few issues other than that he has a weak throwing arm.

    Beyond Yelich the Marlins only have a few other players of note. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna, relative of former big leaguer Pablo Ozuna, is an all-or-nothing power hitter that racks up homers and strikeouts. Third base prospect Matt Dominguez looks like a future Gold Glove Award winner, but his hitting has continued to be below-average. JT Realmuto is an athletic young catcher, but he is only set to start this season in High-A ball.

    The Marlins have a few pitchers of note. Last year's first round pick, Jose Fernandez, is a high-risk high-reward type with four professional innings under his belt. Chad James is a left-handed pitcher with the potential to be a middle of the rotation starter, but may need another two years to develop. Rob Rasmussen is another left-hander with the to become a potential back of the rotation starter in time.

    Overall the system is the weakest in the NL East. Yelich is a high-level prospect, but he's the only potential impact player in the system without major question marks. There are a bunch of guys that project to be Major Leaguers, but the system lags behind the rest of the division.

4. New York Mets

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    The Mets' farm system is headlined by pitcher Zack Wheeler, the prospect acquired from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran deal last July. Wheeler is the type of front of the rotation starter that the Mets have lacked since Johan Santana got hurt in 2010. He's likely to begin the year in Double-A and could make his debut in September.

    The Mets don't have many big hitting prospects. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the team's first round pick out of a Wyoming high school last year, is the top bat in the system but has a long way to go. Outfielder Cesar Puello has some potential, but also has a bunch of question marks. Second base prospect Reese Havens could become a solid starter if he can ever stay healthy, but that's been his biggest issue in his career. Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a potential fourth outfielder with a shot at being more.

    The rest of the talent in the system is on the pitching side. Matt Harvey, the team's 2010 first round pick, has the potential to become a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter and is already in the upper minors. Jeurys Familia has the potential to become a middle of the rotation starter, though some see him as a future late-inning reliever. Jenrry Mejia is still a high-ceiling arm, but his injury history means it will likely be as a reliever.

    This system really got a boost from adding Wheeler, and could take a major step forward this year if Nimmo and other 2011 draft picks like Michael Fulmer live up to their draft hype. Overall the system does have some potential.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

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    After the Phillies traded away Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton in July to get Hunter Pence and Dom Brown used up his rookie eligibility, the top prospect in the Phillies' system is pitcher Trevor May. May passed out some of the other pitching prospects after a big year in High-A ball last year. May struck out 208 hitters over 151 innings last year and projects as a middle of the rotation starter.

    The Phillies system is a bit weaker in positional players at the moment. The top hitter in the system is catcher Sebastian Valle, a potential starter that will begin in Double-A this year. Freddy Galvis is a glove-first prospect that could eventually take over for Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. Outfielder Jiwan James and third baseman Maikel Franco are high-upside guys, but each have significant risk.

    The Phillies drafted some high upside players last June worth mentioning. The top prospect from that group right now is power hitting outfielder Larry Greene, though he was a high school player that will take plenty of time to develop. Roman Quinn has a bunch of tools but is a bit raw. Shortstops Tyler Greene and Mitchell Walding are also worth a mention.

    May is the top pitcher in the system, but that could change next year because he has some competition. Jesse Biddle, the team's first round pick in 2010, could break out this year in High-A. Brody Colvin will head up to Double-A this year and is a player with the potential to emerge this year. Jon Pettibone is another starter that will reach Double-A with May and Colvin this year and could be a middle of the rotation starter.

    The Phillies also have some high upside relievers. Phillippe Aumont is a potential closer or setup man down the road, and could debut this year. Justin De Fratus is a potential setup man that is expected to begin the year in the big leagues after debuting last year.

    This doesn't even get into the likes of pitchers Lisalberto Bonilla, Julio Rodriguez, Perci Garner, Austin Hyatt, Joe Savery, Michael Schwimer and Austin Wright and hitters Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan and Gauntlett Eldemire. All of those guys would be receiving more attention in another system, but the Phillies' system is just that deep.

    The Phillies have dealt away so many top prospects over the last few years. In addition to Cosart and Singleton, the team has dealt away Anthony Gose, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis D'arnaud. Still because of the depth of the high ceiling prospects in the system the team has a solid farm system despite lacking some of the top level prospects it usually has.

2. Washington Nationals

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    Earlier this offseason the Nationals had the top farm system in all of baseball, but dealing away four of their Top 10 prospects to get Gio Gonzalez brings them down a bit. The system is headlined by outfielder Bryce Harper, the most hyped prospect in the history of the game and possibly the top power prospect in the history of the game.In what should have been his senior year of high school last year saw Harper reach Double-A and hit 17 home runs between Low-A and Double-A.

    Harper isn't the Nationals only top hitting prospect, as they stole the top hitter in the draft with the sixth pick last year. That player is third baseman Anthony Rendon, a player that only slipped in the draft because he played his whole senior season with a shoulder injury which hurt his numbers and also had a pair of major ankle injuries in his past. Outfielder Brian Goodwin was also a 2011 draft choice, and although he will need time he is a five-tool prospect. Second base prospect Steve Lombardozzi hits just enough to be a potential regular if the team decides to move Danny Espinosa to short. Outfielders Destin Hood and Michael Taylor also has upside.

    The pitching depth is led by a pair of draft picks apiece from 2011 and 2010. From 2011, Alex Meyer is a guy with elite upside but will require plenty of developmental time. Meyer was very inconsistent at the University of Kentucky until last season, but even when the results weren't there the stuff was. Matt Purke was a guy in the running for the top pick in the draft a year ago, but battled injuries for his whole college season and slipped in the draft. If Purke is healthy, he could be an ace, but there are major question marks there.

    Of the 2010 draft choices, Sammy Solis is an advanced pitcher that should move quickly through the minors but projects as more of a back end of the rotation starter. Robbie Ray had a nice debut in Low-A, but reports on him are mixed. Ray could end up becoming a middle of the rotation starter in the future.

    The Nationals would have had the top farm system in the NL East if they hadn't dealt AJ Cole, Derek Norris, Tom Milone and Brad Peacock to Oakland. Still their system is very solid and could be the top system in the division next year, once we get pro data on Rendon, Goodwin, Meyer and Purke.

1. Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves own the best farm system in the NL East, although that is in large part because of the Nationals dealing away a bunch of their prospects to acquire Gio Gonzalez. The Braves' system is headlined by 21-year-old pitcher Julio Teheran. Teheran is a potential ace who was the International League Rookie of the Year at age 20 last year and already made his big league debut. Some question his breaking ball, but I have studied tape of his May start in Arizona and saw a curve ball with potential.

    The weakness of the Braves farm system is hitting prospects, as the top two guys are each more known for their gloves than their bats. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons gets at least a 70 grade (20-80 scouting scale) for both his glove and arm, and surprised with the bat last year by winning the Carolina League batting title (High-A). Catcher Christian Bethancourt has elite arm strength, but is still developing his bat—even though he made some strides within the last year in that department.

    The Braves also have third base prospect Edward Salcedo, a high ceiling prospect that is more tools that talent right now. Fellow third base prospect Brandon Drury hit .347 last year, but it came for Danville in short-season ball. Tyler Pastornicky will be the starting shortstop for the Braves this year, but scouts are divided on whether he's a starter or utility player in the long run. Joey Terdoslavich, a first base prospect who could potentially play third, set a record for doubles in the Carolina League last year- but his value depends a lot on his future position.

    Teheran isn't the Braves only big time pitching prospect, as they have two more. Randalll Delgado is another talented pitching prospect, and he made seven strong starts down the stretch for the Braves late last year. Delgado is likely to start the year in Triple-A because of the Braves' pitching depth and the fact he only made four starts at that level last year. Arodys Vizcaino has a very high ceiling and has already made his big league debut as a reliever last year, but there are some questions on whether he starts or relieves long term.

    That's not all the pitching depth in the farm system however. Sean Gilmartin was the team's first round pick last year out of Florida State, and could make a solid mid-to-back end of the rotation starter. Zeke Spruill has middle of the rotation potential but gets overlooked because of all of the other talented pitchers within the system. Carlos Perez has major upside as well, but took a step backwards in Low-A ball last year.

    The Braves have the best farm system in the NL East because they have the three talented arms at the top, a guy likely to be a future starter at short in Simmons and a host of other promising prospects.