Spring training is finally here and with it comes roster battles where some exciting young players get a look at potentially making a roster. Even those who don't have a real shot at making the roster get a chance to show the team what they can do against big league competition, which can bring out the best in some guys.
This applies to the Atlanta Braves, who not only have a few of their upper-level prospects competing for a roster spot, but also have some intriguing prospects getting their first big shot to impress management. This article takes a look at the four exciting prospects in camp for the Braves.
The most exciting prospect in Braves camp is also the one who will be watched the closest. That is because at his best Julio Teheran looks like a potential future ace, but he is also coming off a very disappointing 2012 season. He did rebound a bit in winter ball, but there are still some who want to see what he will do in big league camp.
The trade of Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton deal gives Teheran a clear shot at the final spot in the Opening Day rotation. The youngster with electric stuff would have to completely implode to not win the spot, especially considering the lack of proven competition for the spot until Brandon Beachy returns.
While Christian Bethancourt may not be ready for a spot in the big leagues today, he actually enters spring training with a shot at making the club. Obviously, his odds are helped because he is one of three catchers on the 40-man roster, and Brian McCann may not be ready for Opening Day.
Bethancourt hasn't really shown much with the bat in the minors, but he does have some potential to eventually mature into a decent hitter—though that would be at least a couple years down the road based on how raw his offensive game is.
Still, Bethancourt is impressive behind the plate and has a cannon for an arm. Though he is still improving behind the plate, his explosive arm could help him become a temporary backup in Atlanta if McCann isn't ready to go.
By now, all Braves fans know the Evan Gattis story: A former top prep prospect who had some issues with marijuana and spent some time away from the game returned in time to become the Braves' 23rd-round pick in the 2010 MLB draft. He is now a 26-year-old catcher/outfielder who has ripped apart minor league pitching.
Gattis may not ever grow into a star, but his story makes him someone you have to root for as an underdog. He's also one of the Braves' best power-hitting prospects, which helps put him in position to earn a roster spot either as an outfielder or as a backup catcher—if Brian McCann does have to miss some time at the start of the season.
The one exciting prospect in camp who doesn't have a real shot to make the Braves is JR Graham. The former college reliever was moved to a starting role by the Braves after being selected in the fourth round in the 2011 MLB draft. Since then, he has done nothing but dominate minor league hitters by limiting hits and walks against, as well as home runs, and forcing ground balls.
Graham may be a little undersized at a listed 6'0", but he can get his fastball up to the upper 90s and has other pitches to go with it. He has a chance to potentially stick as a starter in the big leagues, or he could be a late-inning reliever. He should spend most of the year in Triple-A this year, but there is a chance he gets to make his debut in Atlanta.