Julio Teheran could break camp as the Braves' fifth starter, finally.
Despite an ugly showing while repeating Triple-A last season, Julio Teheran is still the gem of the Atlanta Braves’ farm system, though there’s now a host of promising pitching prospects breathing down his neck.
While there’s no other pitcher in the system that has as high of a ceiling as Teheran, the Braves are loaded with depth on the mound, which should yield a myriad of options—both in their starting rotation and bullpen—for years to come. In fact, seven of their top-10 prospects headed into the 2013 season are pitchers.
But after trading three of their better prospects (Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury) to the Diamondbacks this offseason in exchange for Justin Upton, the Braves’ system features a serious lack of position prospects, let alone projectable ones. At the same time, the club should still receive contributions from Christian Bethancourt and Evan Gattis over the course of the season, as well as several of their sleeper prospects.
Here’s a look at the Atlanta Braves’ top 10 prospects headed into spring training.
DOB: 09/04/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210
Drafted/Signed: 20th round, 2010 (Gonzaga)
Scouting Notes: Led all Division I pitchers with a 0.86 ERA as Gonzaga’s closer in 2011; Braves ultimately drafted Martin in the seventh round in June of that same year; pitched out of the bullpen exclusively during his pro debut and dominated with nine saves, a 1.08 ERA and 49/5 K/BB in 33.1 innings over two levels.
Four-pitch mix of average-to-plus offerings with pinpoint command; low-90s fastball bores into the hands of right-handed hitters; slider has the makings of a legitimate out pitch; throws it with velocity; creates a tight rotation; overall pitchability aided by ability to locate and sequence curveball and changeup; neither pitch is as developed as the fastball-slider combo.
Spring Training Forecast: Martin will participate in minor league spring training as he continues a potentially long acclimation to life as a full-time starting pitcher.
2013 Outlook: The Braves will continue to develop Martin as a starter until he falters. Still, even in that scenario, the right-hander has plenty of upside as a late-inning reliever.
DOB: 4/30/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 167
Drafted/Signed: July, 2010 (Venezuela)
Scouting Notes: For what he lacks in physicality at 5’11”, 167 pounds, Peraza makes up for with speed and quickness in all facets of the game. He's a plus defensive shortstop with outstanding range, aided by his instincts and first step; has the arm strength to remain at the position; tends to unnecessarily hurry his throws.
Has the foundation of an above-average hitter; will add strength over the course of his development; drives the ball from line-to-line and should amass his share of doubles and triples; impressive plate discipline given his age and lack of experience; advanced base-stealer who utilizes speed; skilled at reading pitchers and picking his spots.
Spring Training Forecast: Peraza will participate in minor league camp where he’ll have the opportunity to work with various members of the Braves’ coaching staff.
2013 Outlook: Given his advanced bat, plate discipline and impressive defense, Peraza could make the jump to Low-A to open the 2013 season.
DOB: 08/18/1986 (Age: 26)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 230
Drafted/Signed: 23rd round, 2010 (Texas-Permian Basin)
Scouting Notes: Committed to Texas Tech out of high school, Gattis opted to walk away from the game amidst battling an anxiety disorder. He spent the next four years traveling the United States, working odd jobs and living in his car. The 6’4”, right-handed hitter eventually found his way back onto the field, though, and was selected by the Braves in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft out of Texas-Permian Basin.
Since entering Braves’ system, Gattis has mashed at every stop; led Venezuelan Winter League with 16 home runs; effortless plus power to all fields; advanced bat-to-ball ability; plus bat speed; strong arms and wrists; promising hitter with advanced plate discipline; potential for an above-average hit tool.
Drafted and developed as a catcher; saw more time at left field than behind the plate last season—a testament to his quiet athleticism and potential production; better defensive catcher than receives credit for; above-average arm strength; will play anywhere that gets his bat into the lineup.
Spring Training Forecast: The 26-year-old will attempt to hit his way onto the Braves’ Opening Day roster this spring, and may even receive consideration as the team’s backup catcher.
2013 Outlook: Gattis and his mighty bat have little to prove in the minor leagues, and the Braves seem eager to get him into the lineup. While his role in 2013 may never be defined, his offensive potential should result in decent playing time in the majors throughout the season.
DOB: 1/12/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2012 (University of Georgia)
Scouting Notes: 6’4” left-hander’s mechanics are unorthodox and inefficient, but work for him; arm is choppy; stabs on the backside; fastball features plus velocity up to 94-96 mph; can maintain velocity relatively late into starts; impressive command of the pitch; able to pound strike zone despite his mechanics; throws his fastball too much at times; arm action adds deception to his changeup; plays up a grade when he’s locating the fastball; needs to develop some variation of a breaking ball, whether it be a slider or curveball; seems to be more likely to reach his ceiling as a reliever rather than a starter.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in major league spring training, Wood will have a chance to see how his stuff stacks up against more advanced competition.
2013 Outlook: After spending his professional debut at Low-A, Wood will likely head to High-A for his first full season.
DOB: 9/22/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180
Drafted/Signed: July, 2010 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Made his U.S. debut as an 18-year-old last year season in rookie-level Appalachian League; boasts a plus fastball in the mid-90s; early feel for manipulating the pitch for movement; tons of upside but present mechanical concerns; ability to develop a third pitch will determine whether he remains a starter; changeup is best secondary offering; considerable fade, throws it with convincing arm speed; slider is thrown with velocity; inconsistent but still generates whiffs; command of entire arsenal is shaky, but that's not unusual for a pitching prospect his age.
Spring Training Forecast: Cabrera will head to minor league spring training where he will continue to establish a feel for his arsenal, as well as a more consistent delivery.
2013 Outlook: The 19-year-old won’t be rushed through the Braves’ system, but is still advanced enough (relative to his age and experience) to open the season in the Low-A starting rotation.
DOB: 5/8/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Florida State)
Scouting Notes: Reached Triple-A in just over a year after his professional debut; has shown the polish that the Braves envisioned when drafting him in the first round in 2011; command-oriented left-hander with a three-pitch mix; profiles as No. 4 or 5 starter, though the Braves’ big-league rotation is already crowded.
Fastball sits between 88-91 mph; effortless delivery; attacks both right- and left-handed hitters; features deceptive arm-side action; changeup is his only plus-pitch, especially effective when thrown off the heater; will work in a mediocre slider that’s more of a show-me pitch used to keep hitters off-balance.
Spring Training Forecast: After reaching Triple-A in his full-season debut in 2012, Gilmartin essentially will compete for a role as an potential spot-starter throughout the 2013 season.
2013 Outlook: Blocked by a host of talented starters in the major leagues, Gilmartin will return to Triple-A next season as he prepares for a probable call-up later in the year.
DOB: 9/2/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220
Drafted/Signed: March, 2008 (Panama)
Scouting Notes: Physically strong and athletic catcher at 6’2”, 220 pounds; rocket arm should give him a chance to be excellent defensive catcher; catch-and-throw skills continue to improve; generates consistent sub-1.8-second pop times; has thrown out 38 percent of base-stealers over five minor-league seasons; blocking and receiving skills improved in 2012 but still need refinement; doesn’t pick at balls as much as he did in previous years.
Has advanced hand-eye coordination, also a detriment; flails at pitches outside the strike zone and fails to capitalize on mistakes; struggles to drive the ball with consistency; plate discipline suggests he’s almost unwilling to walk.
Spring Training Forecast: With Brian McCann doubtful for the start of the season, Bethancourt will receive extensive time behind the dish this spring as the Braves attempt to determine whether he will suffice as their backup catcher.
2013 Outlook: Having been rushed through the Braves’ system due to his defensive merits, Bethancourt was overmatched last season as a 20-year-old at Double-A. Regardless, he has an outside chance of making the Braves’ Opening Day roster as the backup catcher.
DOB: 5/10/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Brookwood HS, Ga.)
Scouting Notes: 6’2” right-hander is athletic with a live arm; inconsistent arm slot; mechanics will need to be ironed out as he develops; advanced enough at the moment to believe it will happen. His fastball registers in the 90-93 mph range; reports had him scraping 95-97 mph last season; flashes potential for a four-pitch mix of at least average offerings; both curveball and slider show plenty of potential but lack overall consistency; curveball was the better of the two in high school; slider was better-than-expected in his professional debut; changeup will be a work-in-progress; should be serviceable pitcher by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: Headed to minor league spring training, Sims will work on refining his mechanics, as well as the development of his secondary pitches.
2013 Outlook: Depending on how the Braves feel about his progress this spring, Sims could be held in extended spring training to start the year in anticipation of a full-season debut at Low-A.
DOB: 1/14/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’0'', 185
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2011 (Santa Clara)
ETA: 2014 (2013 as reliever)
Scouting Notes: He was excellent in his first full pro season at both High-A and Double-A; throws everything on solid downhill plane; induces loads of whiffs and ground balls; not a strikeout artist but will quietly miss bats.
He's undersized at 6’0", but gets tilt on his pitches; best pitch is a heavy sinker in low-90s that’s difficult to lift; mixes in a four-seamer that will register in the 95-97 mph range; late-breaking, sharp slider is a second plus-offering; will at least give him an opportunity as a big-league reliever; ability to develop a serviceable changeup will determine how quickly he reaches Atlanta.
Spring Training Forecast: Graham enters the spring as one of several Braves’ pitching prospects on the major league radar, and he will be auditioning for a role with the club during the second half of the season.
2013 Outlook: With a crowded major league rotation, Graham will head back to Double-A to begin the season with the potential to reach Atlanta by September.
DOB: 1/27/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 175
Drafted/Signed: July, 2007 (Colombia)
Scouting Notes: After registering a 2.55 ERA at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2011 as a 20-year-old, Teheran entered the 2012 season as one of the top pitching prospects in the entire game. However, the right-hander regressed across the board while repeating the level in 2012, posting a 5.08 ERA with 97/43 K/BB in 131 innings.
The organization tinkered with his mechanics throughout the 2012 season; reverted back to original mechanics this winter and pitched well in the Dominican Winter League; reportedly benefited from discussion with Pedro Martinez; outstanding arm speed; clean arm action; loose body; can open up with his front side at times.
Fastball was flatter last season; still in the 91-95 mph range to both sides of the plate; left up in the zone too often; changeup is still a plus-pitch; speed differential; deceptive arm speed; lack of a third legitimate pitch continues to impede the final stages of development; both curveball and slider are fringy.
Spring Training Forecast: Following the departure of Randall Delgado and Tommy Hanson via offseason trades, Teheran will have every opportunity to break camp as the Braves' fifth starter.
2013 Outlook: Expected to open the season in the Braves' rotation, Teheran could be in store for better-than-expected rookie campaign...finally.