Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 5
It was a good week for Atlanta Braves prospects. Lots of good pitching performances and consistently good hitting. Starting pitching continues to be the clear strength of the Atlanta minor league system.
To view last week's Braves prospect stock watch, click here.
With No. 5 prospect Mauricio Cabrera currently on the disabled list, we'll move everyone below him up a spot and add the next prospect in line from the Beyond The Box Score consensus Braves prospect list. Begin the slideshow to see who joins the prospect watch.
No. 11 Prospect: SP Aaron Northcraft, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0 in one start; no runs allowed on two hits and one walk with six strikeouts.
Northcraft is new to the prospect watch this week, but he's not new to the Braves system. He's on the 40-man roster and has been in the system for six years after being drafted out of high school in 2009. He started the season out on the disabled list, but rejoined Mississippi in mid-April.
He's having a good start to the season while repeating Double-A. He should probably be in Triple-A by now, but the rotation there is too crowded. Northcraft is half a dozen guys down the starting pitching depth chart, but could draw some interest from other teams if the Braves need to make a trade.
2014 Stats: 2-1 in 3 starts, 3.24 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 2.70 FIP, .161 BAA
No. 10 Prospect: SP Wes Parsons, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: No record in one start; three runs allowed on one walk and five hits with six strikeouts in four innings.
Parsons returned as expected from his brief demotion last week. The team had only demoted him because the Hillcats needed some extra pitchers after several extra-inning games.
His start last week was not great, but to be expected from a pitcher who had been skipped in the rotation and possibly had some rust on his arm. Parsons' batting average against and FIP are positive signs that he's having a good season, despite a high ERA.
2014 Stats: 1-1 in 4 starts, 4.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.18 FIP, .250 BAA
No. 9 Prospect: SP Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in one start; five earned runs allowed on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six innings.
Cody hit a speed bump last week, but it should not diminish the good season he's having. His .196 batting average against is especially pleasing. That, along with his low FIP, tell me that Martin is pitching even better than his ERA indicates.
With plenty of starting pitching in Atlanta, Martin continues to be prime trade bait or a candidate to move to the bullpen.
2014 Stats: 2-2 in 5 starts, 3.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.66 FIP, .196 BAA
No. 8 Prospect: C/3B Victor Caratini, Low-A Rome
Last Week’s Stats: 5-for-19 (.263) with a triple and four strikeouts.
The biggest news for Caratini this week came from Atlanta, where Chris Johnson was extended for three more years by the Braves. Caratini continues to split time between third base and catcher, and will most likely continue to split time.
The Braves won't let the extension of Johnson determine the best defensive position for Caratini. As we saw with Evan Gattis last season, the ability to play two different positions can be helpful when breaking into the major leagues, and Caratini's versatility will be an asset to him as he moves up the minor league ladder.
At the plate, he continues to put up solid numbers in his first full professional season.
2014 Stats: .273/.327/.386, .311 BABIP, 15.2 K%, 7.1 BB%
No. 7 Prospect: 2B Tommy La Stella, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 6-for-24 (.250) with four strikeouts and a walk.
It was an average week for La Stella, though he was still better than the guy occupying the second base job in Atlanta (Dan Uggla). In fact, the three hottest hitters in the Braves system are all second basemen.
Below La Stella at Double-A, Elmer Reyes is hitting .351/.393/.544. Below him at High-A, Jose Peraza is hitting .348/.368/.429.
At this point, with Uggla once again below the Mendoza Line at .198/.257/.292 in Atlanta, the Braves may be forced to make a change at second base.
2014 Stats: .316/.375/.337, .333 BABIP, 7.1 K%, 8.9 BB%
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Jose Peraza, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 10-for-20 (.500) with two doubles, a triple and three stolen bases in four attempts.
Jose Peraza was en fuego last week for the second consecutive week. He has still walked just three times in 118 plate appearances, and as I pointed out last week, for a guy like Peraza who profiles as a light-hitting leadoff guy, walks need to be a part of his game.
2014 Stats: .348/.368/429, .398 BABIP, 12.7 K%, 2.5 BB%
No 4. Prospect: SP Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: No record in one start; six innings allowing three runs on six hits.
This week's start was Hursh's second quality start of the season. That continues the good work that Hursh has put in this year.
When assessing Hursh I have to remind myself that he was drafted less than a year ago, has only made 15 starts in pro ball and has already reached Double-A.
2014 Stats: 1-2 in 6 starts, 3.07 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.72 FIP, .257 BAA
No. 3 Prospect: SP J.R. Graham, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: No record in one start. Four innings with four hits and two runs allowed while striking out six.
It was a much better week for Graham. He was coming off some poor performances where he had lost some of his composure on the mound.
He racked up six Ks this week, and it's worth pointing out that while he has a high-90s fastball, he's never really had gaudy strikeout numbers. He's more of a pitch-to-contact guy and reserves the strikeout for when he needs to escape jams.
2014 Stats: 0-1 in 5 starts, 1.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.15 FIP, .211 BAA
No. 2 Prospect: C Christian Bethancourt, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 5-for-16 (.313) with a double.
Bethancourt had his best week at the plate, pulling his average above the Mendoza Line. However, his walk rate and power continue to languish. The double he hit last week was only his third extra-base hit this season in 71 at-bats.
His defense, which is the hallmark of his prospect star, has also been a bit rough so far this season. Already he has six passed balls in the season's first month. He has not had more than 15 passed balls in any previous season.
2014 Stats: .225/.267/.268, .302 BABIP, 24 K%, 5.3 BB%
No 1. Prospect: SP Lucas Sims, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: One win in his only start; he allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Braves' top prospect had a good week and got back in the win column with a solid start.
For the season, Sims' K rate is down. In his previous two seasons his K/9 was around 10, but this season it's down to 6.12. That's a big enough part of his game to be a bit concerned, but it's still early in the season and there's time for it to climb higher.
One aspect of his game that hasn't skipped a beat is his batting average against. Last season it was .198, and this year's .192 number continues his good work in that department.
2014 Stats: 2-3 in 6 starts, 4.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 4.96 FIP, .192 BAA