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Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 16

Gavin AndrewsCorrespondent IIJanuary 8, 2017

Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 16

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    Former Braves prospect Alex Wood made his second career start on July 25 against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Mets were as eager to see Wood pitch as Braves fans were, jumping all over him for eight hits and four runs and sending him out of the game after one out in the fifth. 

    With Tim Hudson out for the year and Paul Maholm on the disabled list, though, both Wood and Brandon Beachy will hold a spot in the rotation for at least a couple more starts. 

    With a rotation of Beachy, Wood, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, the Braves rotation currently has an average age of 24.4 years old.

    Depending on how the first three names listed pitch over the next couple weeks, it's very feasible that Atlanta trots out that rotation the rest of the season. The young rotation and the performance of the Braves outfield are easily the most intriguing second-half storylines for Braves country.

    What happens when Paul Maholm returns from injury? What will Atlanta's postseason rotation look like? Weigh in below!

    *Prospect rankings courtesy of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Weekly statistics taken from Baseball-Reference.

10. Aaron Northcraft

2 of 11

    Level: Double-A (Mississippi)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 4-8, 3.99 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 97.0 IP, 96 H, 37 BB, 81 K 

    Last Week's Stats: 1-0, 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K

     

    Analysis

    With the reshuffling of Braves prospects, Aaron Northcraft finds his way into the top 10. The 6'4", 230-pound right-hander is an intriguing prospect. His age (23) and lack of dominant stuff prevent him from possessing top-of-the-rotation potential, but his highly projectable frame, the life on all of his pitches and his ability to eat innings give him a pretty good shot to crack a rotation someday. 

    The incredible amount of movement on his sinking fastball, changeup and even his mediocre curve and slider allows him to rack up the strikeouts and almost guarantees him a future big league role as a long reliever. Expect him in Atlanta sometime in 2014. 

     

    Stock: Up

9. Matt Lipka

3 of 11

    Level: High-A (Lynchburg)

    Position: Outfield

    Throws/Bats: R/R

    Season Stats: .272/.313/.398, 55 R, 25 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 18 BB, 81 K, 21 SB

    Last Week's Stats: .194/.194/.355, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 SB

     

    Analysis

    Matt Lipka's stock has taken a hit this year—a feat that his bat has failed to accomplish on a consistent basis in many stretches of this season, including this one. 

    With an alarming strikeout-to-walk ratio and a dangerously low OBP for a prospective leadoff man, it's fair to start showing a little concern regarding Lipka's offensive development. He's just 21 years old, though, so there is definitely still time for him to take strides at the plate. 

     

    Stock: Down

8. Todd Cunningham

4 of 11

    Level: Triple-A (Gwinnett)

    Position: Outfield

    Throws/Bats: R/S

    Season Stats: .287/.365/.361, 54 R, 12 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 36 BB, 51 K, 16 SB

    Last Week's Stats: .333/.429/.444, 4 R, 1 3B, 3 BB, 4 K, 2 SB

     

    Analysis

    A familiar face in a familiar spot, Todd Cunningham's production has pretty much been a constant for Triple-A Gwinnett this season. He brings to the table speed, defense and a great offensive approach. His power is the only thing holding him back. 

    At 24 years old, expect Cunningham to either be called up when rosters expand in September or dealt at the deadline in a package for a reliever. 

     

    Stock: Up

7. Cody Martin

5 of 11

    Level: Triple-A (Gwinnett)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 3-3, 2.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 67.0 IP, 63 H, 27 BB, 71 K (AA)

    2-2, 3.26 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 33 H, 19 BB, 41 K (AAA)

    Last Week's Stats: 0-1, 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 4 K

     

    Analysis

    Cody Martin's usually great control suffered in his last outing, as he walked four in just over five innings. 

    This should be just a blip on the radar of a rising prospect, though, as Martin possesses both command and a major league out pitch (a plus-cutter) that will allow him to succeed in either a starting or a reliever role. He could get called up to Atlanta down the stretch.

     

    Stock: Even

6. Mauricio Cabrera

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    Level: Low-A (Rome)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 2-6, 4.31 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 104.1 IP, 96 H, 55 BB, 88 K

    Last Week's Stats: 0-1, 6.0 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

     

    Analysis

    Mauricio Cabrera's volatility was on full display last week.  The week after he turned in 12 innings of two-run, 11-strikeout ball, he got lit up for 11 hits over six innings, only striking out two. 

    Much patience will be required with this 19-year-old enigma. But it will be given, as that Cabrera is one of the few high-upside arms in the Atlanta system.

     

    Stock: Down

5. Jason Hursh

7 of 11

    Level: Low-A (Rome)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9.2 IP, 3 H, 6 BB, 8 K

    Last Week's Stats: 0-0, 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K

     

    Analysis

    With the graduation of prospect Alex Wood, Braves first-round draft pick Jason Hursh assumes the No. 5 spot in the prospect list. 

    The righty from Oklahoma State possesses a 95 mph live fastball to pair with respectable secondary pitches (a changeup and a slider), but his future role—starting or relieving—will be determined by how well his health holds up, as he is two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

    Expect aggressive movement from Hursh through the Braves system, with examples of Mike Minor, Alex Wood and Sean Gilmartin setting the precedent for college arms drafted by Atlanta.

     

    Stock: Even

4. Sean Gilmartin

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    Level: Triple-A (Gwinnett)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Left-handed

    Season Stats: 3-7, 5.83 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 71.0 IP, 89 H, 30 BB, 47 K (AAA)

    0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (Rookie)

     

    Last Week's Stats: 0-0, 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (Rookie–Rehab Assignment)

     

    Analysis

    After a disastrous first half, Gilmartin received some grace from MLB.com prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who didn't drop the southpaw in the Braves prospect rankings. 

    Gilmartin's rehab assignment has been so-far, so-good as Gilmartin threw two scoreless innings last week in Rookie ball. He'll look to join Triple-A Gwinnett soon.

     

    Stock: Even

3. Christian Bethancourt

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    Level: Double-A (Mississippi)

    Position: Catcher

    Throws/Bats: R/R

    Season Stats: .271/.301/.429, 28 R, 14 2B, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 12 BB, 44 K, 7 SB

    Last Week's Stats: .313/.389/.313, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K

     

    Analysis

    Anytime Christian Bethancourt takes two walks in one week, I'm more than happy to give his stock a boost. He didn't collect any extra-base hits, but with an OBP of nearly .390 for the week, the Braves will let that slide.

    The second half of this season will be crucial for Bethancourt's chances at a 2014 catching gig in Atlanta, so watch his offensive performance—especially his walk rate—closely down the stretch.

     

    Stock: Up

2. Lucas Sims

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    Level: Low-A (Rome)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 5-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 77.1 IP, 53 H, 31 BB, 83 K

    Last Week's Stats: 1-0, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K

     

    Analysis

    Moving up a spot in the reordered prospect list, Lucas Sims has given the Braves a lot to look forward to as he continues to develop and impress. By the end of this season, Sims could be the Braves' top prospect.

    The 19-year-old shook off two subpar starts totaling 9.1 innings and eight earned runs to toss 6.0 innings of scoreless, six-strikeout ball last week. 

     

    Stock: Up

1. J.R. Graham

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    Level: Double-A (Mississippi)

    Position: Starting pitcher

    Throws: Right-handed

    Season Stats: 1-3, 4.04 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 35.2 IP, 39 H, 10 BB, 28 K

    Last Week's Stats: Seven-day disabled list; no action seen.

     

    Analysis

    The Braves are taking their time with the rehab of top prospect J.R. Graham, who could be imperative to either the future of the Atlanta bullpen or the starting rotation.

    The hope, obviously, is to keep Graham in the rotation, but should his frame not allow it, he has the ability to become a lights-out reliever in the National League East.

     

    Stock: Even

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