Spring Training Grades for Every Top Atlanta Braves' Prospect

Daniel KockContributor IIIMarch 25, 2013

Spring Training Grades for Every Top Atlanta Braves' Prospect

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    Just one more week remains until the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies square off on Opening Day at Turner Field.

    Manager Fredi Gonzalez has started the process of forming his 25-man roster by sending players he is no longer considering back to the minors.

    At this point, most of the Braves' top prospects know where they are going to begin the 2013 season.

    Some will be pleased, while others disappointed with their performance during the 2013 spring training.

    Here are my grades for the top prospects for the Atlanta Braves.

Evan Gattis

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    Evan Gattis crushed in the minors in 2012. He crushed this offseason in winter ball. And Gattis continued to crush this spring training.

    In 49 at-bats, Gattis has posted a .388 batting average, .796 slugging and 1.200 OPS. He is tied for second on the team with five home runs and tied for third with 14 RBIs.

    Gattis has done enough to figure into the Braves' plans moving forward. The question is how?

    He should begin the year as the backup catcher with Brian McCann out for a few weeks. After that the picture becomes more cloudy.

    Would the Braves keep him on as a third catcher or extra outfielder for pinch-hit situations?

    Or does he go back to the minors to get more catching reps with the possibility of becoming the starter in 2014?

    He will continue to be a fascinating player to watch over the course of the year, but his spring training grade is obvious.

    Grade: A

Alex Wood

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    Alex Wood entered spring training with the opportunity to showcase his talent rather than make the 25-man roster.

    The 2012 second round pick has just 13 professional starts under his belt at the Single-A level.

    With that in mind, Wood had a great spring, posting a 1.29 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in seven innings.

    More importantly, he caught the attention of his teammates with his impressive arsenal of pitches.

    Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen described his stuff to MLB.com's Mark Bowman as "nasty" and "insane."

    That's pretty high praise from MLB pitchers, and you can bet Gonzalez also took notice of the big left-hander.

    Grade: B+

Sean Gilmartin

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    Sean Gilmartin entered a pseudo-competition with Julio Teheran for the fifth spot in the Atlanta Braves' starting rotation.

    While Gilmartin would have only won the job if Teheran imploded, he didn't hold up his end of the bargain.

    He allowed 11 earned runs, including five home runs in 13 innings, for a 7.62 ERA and .386 opponent batting average. Not good.

    Any chance he had at the fifth spot is long gone, and Gilmartin will get the opportunity to correct what went wrong this spring, while getting ready to help the MLB team if called upon.

    The 2011 first round pick does not overwhelm with his stuff, so needs to be excellent with his command and location to get outs.

    That's what he needs to get back to doing in the minors (likely Triple-A Gwinnett).

    Grade: D

J.R. Graham

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    J.R. Graham faced a similar situation to Wood to begin spring training.

    While Graham had a slim chance to make the team if certain dominoes fell his way, that was not his goal.

    The Braves did not include Graham in the blockbuster trade for Justin Upton, and it's easy to see why.

    The right-hander finished the spring by throwing six-hit shutout baseball over nine innings of work (five appearances).

    He consistently hits the mid-90s with his sinking fastball and mixes in a plus slider and changeup. Graham is aggressive in going after hitters and works quickly to keep his defenders on their toes.

    There has been a lot of buzz about Graham, and it's well deserved. I look for him to make an impact on the 2013 team at some point.

    Grade: A

Christian Bethancourt

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    The 21-year-old and No. 2 prospect in the Braves' organization, according to MLB.com, has been anointed by fans as the catcher of the future, beginning in 2014.

    If that's the case, Christian Bethancourt will need to develop over the course of the 2013 season at the plate.

    Defensively, Bethancourt is an MLB catcher. Offensively, not so much.

    He finished this spring with just two hits (one double) in 15 at-bats for a .133 batting average and .235 on-base percentage.

    Even for an elite talent on defense, those numbers will not cut it at the plate.

    This 2013 spring doesn't take away from his future with the team or the potential he possesses.

    It's a reminder to the team and fans that he's just 21 years old, and has some growing to do before he makes an impact on the team.

    Grade: D

Julio Teheran

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    This was the Julio Teheran Braves' fans expected to see in 2012.

    Teheran has locked down the fifth spot in the rotation with phenomenal outings, and has easily been the best pitcher for the Braves in the spring.

    In 26 innings, he has a 1.04 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, .082 opponent batting average and a MLB-leading 35 strikeouts.

    His last outing was a six inning no-hit and 10-strikeout performance against the Houston Astros.

    He has regained his confidence with his old delivery, and is throwing a fastball with less velocity, but more movement, that has proven effective.

    This spring training for Teheran is making his ugly 2012 season look like an anomaly.

    The 2013 season looks promising for the 22-year-old.

    Grade: A