No. 1 Julio Teheran, Starting Pitcher
26 G (26 starts), 7-9, 5.08 ERA, 131.0 IP, 146 H, 81 R (74 ER), 18 HR, 43 BB, 97 K (Triple A)
2 G (1 start), 0-0, 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 5 K
Teheran has been at the top of the Braves' prospect list for three years running. But his stock has started to slide thanks to poor performances in the higher levels of the minors and, more importantly stalled development.
He can still bring a mid 90s-fastball, but it is very straight and easy to hit when he leaves it up in the zone. His changeup still has the makings of a plus pitch and gives him the weapon he needs to get lefties out.
However, the lack of consistency with his release and inability to command the curveball is holding him back. His delivery is clean and easy, though the ball is easy to see coming out of his hands. If he can develop even an average breaking pitch, he still looks like a No. 2 starter. The odds of him becoming the No. 1 he looked like two years ago are slim.
No. 2 J.R. Graham, Starting Pitcher
17 G (17 starts), 9-1, 2.63 ERA, 102.2 IP, 88 H, 34 R (30 ER), 6 HR, 17 BB, 68 K (High A)
9 G (9 starts), 3-1, 3.18 ERA, 45.1 IP, 35 H, 17 R (16 ER), 2 HR, 17 BB, 42 K (Double A)
Even though Teheran has more upside, Graham is probably a safer bet to reach his ceiling at the big league level. He has an impressive arsenal, which includes a mid-90s fastball, sinker, average slider and changeup.
The sinker is what will carry Graham. He has plus velocity on his fastball but the sinker is what he goes to when he needs to get an out. He allowed just eight home runs in 148 innings last season because the pitch moves so much and it is so difficult to elevate.
Graham also has terrific command. His delivery is very simple and easy without a lot of moving parts. He could earn a spot in the rotation at some point this season if Teheran struggles and he continues to excel in Double A.
No. 3 Lucas Sims, Starting Pitcher
Age: 18 (Turns 19 on May 10)
3 G (3 starts), 0-0, 1.29 ERA, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 1 BB, 10 K (Rookie)
8 G (8 starts), 2-4, 4.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 26 H, 14 R (13 ER), 2 HR, 12 BB, 29 K (Rookie)
Sims was the Braves' first-round pick in the 2012 Draft. He played right in their backyard, and the team has a knack for keeping Georgia products close to home.
There are still mechanical issues that Sims has to work out in his delivery, as he tends not to finish his pitches and loses control. But he is just 18 years old, so it is not a huge problem at this point.
At 6'2", Sims will likely continue to add muscle as his frame fills out and could see an increase in velocity on his fastball, which already sits in the low 90s. His curveball is more advanced than you would expect for someone his age, giving him a leg up on the competition.
He has the upside of a No. 2 starting pitcher but is years away from getting there.
No. 4 Mauricio Cabrera, Starting Pitcher
12 G (12 starts), 2-2, 2.97 ERA, 57.2 IP, 45 H, 23 R (19 ER), 2 HR, 23 BB, 48 K (Rookie)
Cabrera has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system, with the possible exception of Teheran. He is also the furthest away from realizing it, so there is extreme risk involved.
However, if Cabrera can iron out a few big holes he has, the sky is the limit for how high he can climb. He already has a mid-90s fastball and a good slider that projects to be a swing-and-miss pitch in the future. His changeup already looks like a plus offering.
As with most young pitchers, the biggest issue has been the command of all his pitches. He is still more of a thrower than pitcher, so it will take time before he becomes one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. The raw tools are there for him to reach that ceiling.
No. 5 Christian Bethancourt, Catcher
71 G, .243/.275/.291, 65 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 11 BB, 45 K, 8 SB (Double A)
Bethancourt has all the tools to be an elite defender behind the plate. He has an incredible, accurate arm, quick release and some of the fastest pop times you will ever see. In five minor-league seasons, he has thrown out 38 percent of base-stealers (via Baseball Reference).
He has reportedly had pop times clocked in the 1.8-second range, where anything around 2.0 is considered average. His blocking and receiving skills are terrific, though he still has young moments when he tries to use his glove to stop bad pitches instead of his body.
If he could just play defense, he would be one of the best catchers in baseball. Unfortunately you have to hit too, and it doesn't seem likely that Bethancourt will do a lot of that.
He does have some hitting tools, like above-average raw power, but his approach at the plate is so bad he is never able to show it. If he could find some semblance of pitch recognition to hit an empty .270 in the big leagues, he would play everyday.