Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 2
Throughout the 2014 season we’ll keep tabs on the Atlanta Braves’ top prospects, tracking their progress from week to week. As prospects graduate to the major leagues we’ll remove them from the prospect list. If a prospect misses time with an injury, we’ll remove them from the list temporarily.
The idea is that you can come to this space every week and find out how each of the Braves' best minor leaguers are doing. You’ll also be able to see the new prospects who make it into the top 10 throughout the season.
There are a lot of top 10 Braves prospect lists out there. Which one to choose as a starting point for this list could be a challenge, so I thought, "why not average them all together." Luckily, someone already did the heavy lifting for us. To get our first listing of Braves top 10 prospects we’ll use the Beyond The Box Score consensus list.
*Note that “week one” of the prospect watch is considered the first 10 days of the season. So really it’s a week and a half.
*No. 10 prospect David Hale started the year in the majors, so he is replaced by the next prospect in the 10th spot.
No. 10 Prospect: SP Wes Parsons, High-A Lynchburg
2014 Stats: 1-0 in 2 starts, 1.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.14 FIP, .231 BAA
The third part of the three-headed starting pitching prospect monster at Lynchburg, Parsons has matched the early work of Lucas Sims and Mauricio Cabrera. I predict that he will be marching up this prospect list as the season rolls along.
He’s got a classic starting pitcher’s build and a fastball that can rival Sims and Cabrera. It will be fun to watch the three of them push each other throughout the season (and hopefully beyond).
No. 9 Prospect: SP Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett
2014 Stats: 0-1 in 2 starts, 6.43 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2.34 FIP, .310 BAA
The Braves are watching Martin’s innings carefully and building him up slowly. He pitched well in three innings in his first start of the year, but got knocked around in the fourth and final inning of his second start.
Martin pitched poorly in his first major league spring training and was an early cut from camp. With all the great pitching prospects in the Braves system, Martin gets lost towards the back of that group. He’ll have to put up great numbers again this year to continue to get noticed.
Stock: Headed down
No. 8 Prospect: C/3B Victor Caratini, Low-A Rome
2014 Stats: .219/.297/.375, .222 BABIP, 13.5 K%, 10.8 BB%
Caratini exclusively played third base last season, though he was drafted as a catcher. This season he has split time between catcher and the hot corner. He’s a switch-hitter, though all but two of his at-bats this season have come against right-handers.
Rome has faced some tough pitching early this season, so Caratini’s numbers are solid for early April. His on-base and slugging numbers are good, and should go up as his average rises.
No. 7 Prospect: 2B Tommy La Stella, Triple-A Gwinnett
2014 Stats: .286/.385/.333, .316 BABIP, 11.5 K%, 15.4 BB%
The best hitter in the Braves system has started off a bit slow, but as you can see from his .385 on-base percentage, even when he’s not getting hits, he’s still productive at the plate. That productivity is also consistent, as he’s made it on base in every game he’s started.
La Stella’s got some unexpected competition from fellow Triple-A infielder and second baseman Phil Gosselin, who has started off the season 13-for-27 (.481).
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Jose Peraza, High-A Lynchburg
2014 Stats: .324/.375/.405, .387 BABIP, 15 K%, 7.5 BB%
One of the fastest players in the Braves system, Jose Peraza has gotten off to a “fast” start, stealing four bases in five attempts. Peraza is the seventh-youngest position player in the Carolina League, so this early performance is a good start to the season given his age and advanced level.
No. 5 Prospect: SP Mauricio Cabrera, High-A Lynchburg
2014 Stats: 0-0 in 2 starts, 3.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 4.15 FIP, .179 BAA
Mauricio Cabrera is hard to hit, and he’s been hard to hit so far this year, but far too often he is his own worst enemy. In his second start of the season he only allowed one hit in a little over three innings, but he walked four batters and hit two guys.
Like his rotation mate Lucas Sims, Cabrera is also very young for the league he’s pitching in. Mauricio is the second-youngest pitcher in the Carolina League. The Braves have a lot of confidence in Cabrera to push him to an advanced league at such a young age. We’ll have to be patient this season in our evaluation of Cabrera’s performance.
No 4. Prospect: SP Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
2014 Stats: 1-0 in 2 starts, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3.00 FIP, .222 BAA
The Braves skipped Hursh from Low-A to Double-A this season, and so far the results have been impressive. Hursh is rewarding the Braves for spending a first-round pick on him last season.
As a more advanced college pitcher, Hursh should be moving quickly through the system, but his good work so far at Double-A puts him ahead of schedule. Like J.R. Graham, the strikeouts aren’t there yet for Hursh (four in 10 innings). He throws in the high-90s, so we have to assume that the strikeouts will come.
No. 3 Prospect: SP J.R. Graham, Double-A Mississippi
2014 Stats: 0-0 in 2 starts, 0.00 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 3.51 FIP, .133 BAA
When Graham was cut from spring training camp there were reports, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, that he would switch from starting to relieving, but the Braves seemed to have changed their mind and are instead keeping him in the rotation. So far they have been rewarded by good results.
Graham only has three strikeouts in 9.2 innings of work, but after missing most of last season with shoulder tendonitis he’s just getting his pitching legs back under him. We’ll take the results, knowing that the strikeouts will follow.
Stock: Up, a healthy Graham could challenge for the top spot on this list.
No. 2 Prospect: C Christian Bethancourt, Triple-A Gwinnett
2014 Stats: .167/.167/.167, .267 BABIP, 37.5 K%, 0 BB%
There are no problems with Bethancourt’s defense. He’s the best defensive catching prospect in the minors, and that makes him a valuable prospect. But his hitting is another story.
He flashed shades of good hitting late last year in Double-A, which earned him a cup of coffee in the major leagues in September.
Starting this season off at Triple-A has been feast or famine for CB. He collected three hits in a game, but only one hit in his other five games combined. You can see from his rate stats above that he’s struck out way too often and hasn’t had a walk yet. He will no doubt go through a good number of growing pains at Gwinnett this season.
Stock: Even, but looking like it might drop.
No 1. Prospect: SP Lucas Sims, High-A Lynchburg
2014 Stats: 1-1 in 2 starts, 4.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 4.09 FIP, .206 BAA
Sims got a little wild in his first start, but settled in nicely with a dominant performance in start No. 2. Keep in mind that Lucas is the third-youngest pitcher in the Carolina League, so he’s well ahead of schedule.
As long as Sims stays healthy, there should be very little to dislodge him from the top spot on every Braves prospect list. He is the best high school pitching prospect to come through the Braves farm system since Adam Wainwright.