Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for 2014

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Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for 2014
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
RHP David Hale set a franchise record with nine strikeouts in his major league debut last September.

The Atlanta Braves had a remarkable 2013 season, pacing the Major Leagues with a 3.18 ERA and leading all National League offenses with 181 home runs. More importantly, the Braves won their first NL East title since 2005.

However, the team’s regular-season success didn’t carry over into the postseason, as the Braves ultimately succumbed to the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

On a more positive note, the Braves received significant contributions from several rookies this past season.

Right-hander Julio Teheran finally realized his potential and emerged as the team’s most consistent starting pitcher, posting a 3.20 ERA with 170 strikeouts in 185.2 innings. Meanwhile, left-hander Alex Wood, a second-round draft pick in 2012 out of Georgia, reached the major leagues in May and went on to post a 3.13 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 77.2 innings while bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation.

Then, of course, there’s Evan Gattis, everyone’s favorite professional hitter and one of the more feel-good stories of the 2013 season. After making the Opening Day roster, Gattis captured back-to-back NL Rookie of the Month honors by posting an .875 OPS with six home runs in April followed by a 1.045 OPS with another six bombs in May.

The now-27-year-old’s playing time diminished after the All-Star break with Brian McCann's return from injury, but he still finished the season with a .243/.291/.480 batting line, 21 doubles, 21 home runs and 65 RBI.

Despite graduating Teheran and Wood to the major leagues last season, the Braves’ prospect pool is rich with projectable arms.

2012 first-rounder and Georgia native Lucas Sims emerged as the organization’s consensus top prospect thanks to an impressive full-season debut at Low-A Rome. The Braves’ first-round pick from 2013, right-hander Jason Hursh, also opened eyes with his lights-out, late-season pro debut alongside Sims in Rome’s starting rotation.

Perhaps the most intriguing arm in Atlanta’s system is flame-throwing right-hander Mauricio Cabrera, who possesses elite arm strength but employs a complicated delivery that limits his control.

After setting a franchise record with nine strikeouts in his scoreless major league debut last September, it’s a safe bet that right-hander David Hale will carve out a more significant role with the Braves next season. Like so many other pitchers in their system, Hale has little mileage on his arm and reached his high floor at an accelerated pace.

In terms of positional talent, the Braves lack an impact prospect but have an interesting blend of high-floor and young players.

Catcher Christian Bethancourt’s defense is ready for the major leagues; however, the 22-year-old’s offensive potential is an ongoing concern. Second baseman Tommy La Stella has raked at every minor league stop, demonstrating outstanding plate discipline and a knack for getting on base, and he conceivably could replace Dan Uggla—the team’s highest-paid player—at the keystone next season.

The Braves also house two promising young shortstops worth keeping an eye on next season.

Nineteen-year-old Jose Peraza enjoyed a breakout full-season debut at Rome last year, hitting .288/.341/.371 and ranking second in the South Atlantic League with 64 stolen bases (in 79 attempts). Meanwhile, 20-year-old Johan Camargo impressed during his stateside debut in the rookie-level Appalachian League, demonstrating an advanced approach and feel for hitting.

Here’s a look at the Atlanta Braves’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.

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